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Transcript: Season 2, Episode 6, Abolition Addresses Sexual Assault

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Crystal: [00:00:00]

Abolition is for Everybody is a podcast of tackles the sometimes-difficult conversations around prison abolition. I’m Crystal,

Ra:

I’m Ra

Adam:

and I’m Adam.

Ra:

And this season of abolition is for everybody. We talk about harm,

Adam:

what creates it, what recycles it and how we can. Find our way to meaningful means of repair.

Ra: [00:00:35]

Just a reminder friends in this episode and every episode we dive into very sensitive issues. This season is Frameworks around violence and though, the title of this episode may give you some warning, remember that harm itself tends to create situations of alternate harms.  There will probably be other painful topics brought up too. Take care of you.

Ra: [00:01:13]

Before we get too deep into this conversation. I just want to clarify or explain, I guess, why, for this episode, we don’t have someone who actually caused this harm. And if you’ve been listening along, through the other episodes you’ll see that we have that sort of balance going but there were a few things that made the situation a little different.  For one, we come from a place where we work with system impacted people– formerly incarcerated people, currently incarcerated people– so we’re deeply aware of the culture inside prisons and it is a dangerous place and we didn’t know if we could protect the people who came onto this program to talk about their harms, no matter how honest, no matter how much accountability they’ve taken, no matter where they are in their life right now, because that stigma is one of the one of the situations that’s mirrored pretty well on the outside and inside.  It’s one of the dark prison environments that we actually have out here on the outs. And we want to make sure everybody is protected and safe. We also didn’t want to highlight what, as we talk, you’ll realize it’s a very small percentage of the people who have caused this harm, because the widest population is out here with us and they haven’t done time, and they haven’t been reported, and hopefully, we’ll talk a little bit about that. I just wanted to lay it out there. So we all could see it. And also remind anyone who’s listening that there is a resource for anyone who has experienced sexual assaults called the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The number is . And because I know it’s scary to just dial a number. I want to explain what happens when you call you call. It sees the first six digits of your phone number. That’s the only thing it saves about you. Everything else is totally confidential and it connects you to local resources that can provide you with confidential support referrals in your area, basic information about medical concerns and things like that. Take care of you.

Ra: [00:03:28]

All right, guys, let’s get started y’all.  Hey Sarah. I am so glad you were able to be here with us today on this side of the mic. Season two is about harm and this episode is called abolition addresses sexual assault. Can you tell our listeners a little about you and why you’re with us today?

Sarah: [00:03:51]

Yes, thank you so much Ra. My name is Sarah. I’m the Policy Coordinator here at Initiate Justice, but I also help with a lot of our culture shifts to abolition. So I host Abolition Corner, which is a companion, space to this podcast to help us work through, you know, some of the hard to understand concepts of abolition so we can learn together as a group and also because I myself have experienced sexual assault and, in this podcast, we see that we’re using stories to show a larger narrative, when I was 15 and a half. I started working at Subway. It was one of my first jobs. I loved it so much to this day, I still identify as a Sandwich Artist who graduated from Subway University.

Adam:

Eat fresh. [laughter]

Sarah:

Yes. All of you have heard me say that I am a Sandwich Artist. I was really close with all of my co-workers. And when I was seventeen, we all went out for our Halloween and we with a bunch of our other friends and our co-workers and we went back to one of my co-workers house and we stayed the night out afterwards and everything was fine. But in the morning, I was sexually assaulted very violently and aggressively by one of my co-workers partners and in the morning, and in the events that followed next, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if there were any structures in place that could help me, but I quickly found out that there weren’t. I do want to mention that my story is in no way unique. It just reflects some of the many more stories that we will kind of allude to and talk about with statistics and different data throughout this episode.  Our systems right now, they don’t address or protect us from things, like sexual violence and sexual assault. But abolition gives us a framework for actually addressing these things and rooting them out and preventing them. And really centering survivors. So I’m excited to unpack all of this with you. But I just want to really mention that this is no way specific. This is a larger cultural issue that we have with sexual violence.

Ra: [00:06:07]

I do want to say every experience is, it’s a unique experience and the fact that you’re able to take yours and package it in a way that is helping the world is super meaningful. And I know our listeners who attend Abolition Corner have had nothing but really positive feedback about your guidance through that. So I– it was an individual experience and it sounds like a harrowing one, but you know, to your point, it is unfortunately, a really common one, but common seems like a terrible word to apply to something, so upsetting. But it is very prevalent in today’s society for a lot of different reasons and I think we were just we were just talking about the numbers. Crystal do you..

Crystal: [00:06:57]

Yes, I want to take a moment and emphasize just how prevalent this is. Every 68 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted.

Adam: [00:07:09]

Yeah, to kind of connect with these numbers is just it’s just terrible to see that, you know, every 68 seconds, you know, this is happening and even to break that down a little bit more. I was reading the other day, that one in three females experience it for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17 years old and that connects to what you were sharing within your story, Sarah. I believe you said you was around 15 and a half.

Sarah:

I was 15 and a half when I met them and I was 17 when the, when the incidents occurred.

Adam:

You know it’s unfortunate and it shouldn’t be common, right? And and that’s something that we are here to talk about today. So thank you for being here and thank you for sharing that.

Ra: [00:07:47]

I know that we talk a lot on this podcast about how abolitionists journeys pick up at certain points and not everybody is on that, you know, train from the get-go. And in this time in your life, did you identify as an abolitionist? Were you aware of that concept? I guess I’m eventually trying to get to what were you seeking as help? What what kind of containers were you looking for? Were you looking towards the police? Were you looking towards prisons?

Sarah: [00:08:19]

Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question. I think at the time I didn’t have language or framework, I didn’t I hadn’t really interacted with the Abolitionist world, but my brother had been incarcerated since I was 13, so I knew that there was no possibility for prison to be a chance of Rehabilitation. And I knew that sending someone there was not going to protect me. It was just going to cause me more harm and that it wasn’t going to in the long run, protect anybody else. So at the time, I didn’t even consider turning to police. And I think that that is so that is more than common. That is the norm. Right? And it’s so really, it’s so common. It’s it really is the norm when you see people who are inflicting harm on your community and your loved ones, why would you turn to them for safety or protection? Right? So it’s actually really natural that we’re not going to go to the police when harm has been caused to us. If you’ve been, if you’ve had interactions with the police that aren’t helpful, right? And I think that that also help it helps explain why when we’re talking about how prevalent this is, right? So y’all mentioned every 68 seconds somebody is sexually assaulted but when we look at in the larger picture we see this 68 seconds statistic, we see roughly one in six American women have been raped and one in thirty-three men have attempted or actually completed sexual assault or rape in their lifetime. At the same time, so we see it happening all the time like in my story, but like my story, people aren’t reporting. So we see all these large numbers of it happening all the time and it being cultural. But then we also see statistics showing that less than 1% of the time the people who, the harm doers in these situations, actually end up incarcerated and I want to be clear that we’re not advocating for them to be incarcerated in any way. We’re just saying that this is a cultural problem. It’s happening so often and the system that we have now is only addressing that less than 1% of the time. So as abolitionists, we’re just trying to build something better. So I think I didn’t have any of the language that’s all to say, I didn’t have any of that language at the time, or any of those statistics, but at the time I definitely saw this is happening everywhere. The system isn’t helping now. Now I see ways to build those systems and other places that it is already starting. But at the time, no, I didn’t have any of that language or knowledge. And I think that that’s probably the norm for most people.

Crystal: [00:10:56]

And when you’ve had any experience with the police, and most of the time, they’re negative experiences, why would anybody subject themselves to that. You know, I had a loved one who was harmed and at the time, I also did not know where to turn. So I convinced them that we should go report this and we did, and it just made things worse. We didn’t receive help. And when it happened, when I loved one was harmed again. I remember, I told her, “Well, let’s go report it again. Maybe the second time, you know,” and she looked at me and she said, She looked at me and she said, “why would I do that? Nothing happened. I was just humiliated. I was vulnerable and I came back home with no help and knowing that this is going to happen to me again.” And at that time, Sarah, my brother was already incarcerated. So we knew that as soon as you talk to the police or get anywhere near them, things just get worse and best best case scenario. Quote, unquote, best case scenario. The person was going to be incarcerated. And at that time, it was somebody that she cared very much about and was a, you know, a close family member and my brother being incarcerated, we knew that the person who caused her harm being incarcerated was not going to solve anything at all. There are so many reasons why people don’t come forward when they experience harm. I know that with my personal experiences and when thinking about this topic at least a list of like 5 or 10 came to mind. I think we have created this society and culture where we’re always blaming the victim. Oftentimes the person who caused the harm is, you know, a close family member and we don’t want them to have to deal with police and incarceration because we know that that’s not the solution and we know that they’re only going to be further harmed and traumatized and then so is the person who was harmed. I know one thing that I was so shocked, when I first learned was– all of the different, like medical procedures that the person who was harmed has to go through and just like being further traumatized and you are asked so many questions and every aspect of your life is scrutinized. So that they can find some way, shape, or form to blame you, and why you were near that person. Why perhaps you were drinking or why you were out at 3:00 in the morning. And those are just some of the reasons why we see that 89 percent of victims, report some level of distress, including, you know, high rates of physical injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse. I know that with my loved one specifically, she experienced PTSD. You know, having a hard time sleeping. They’re experiencing substance abuse now. So it’s just a cycle that continues and, you know, the systems that we have now don’t provide any support, don’t provide any healing and don’t provide anything for the person who was harmed and the person who caused her harm,

Adam: [00:14:34]

Right? Yeah. And somehow people have come to believe that, you know, prison just solve it right, incarceration, solves it. And actually, it doesn’t, it doesn’t prevent harm, right? It only really, really adds to that because the person that may have done things, right is going to become perpetuated because of how the system itself is designed on the inside. And I was actually reading something the other day that talked about knowing that the system doesn’t work in that most people that get put in the system and up returning just as worse because it’s not a lot of resources, it’s not a lot of things that’s taking place and even talking about sexual assault from being in prison, right in and then many many times, I’m sure it’s happening right now where someone is getting getting assaulted where they have to be forced to take off their clothes, right? Going to visitation or, you know, getting ready to get transitioned to another part of the facility and have to get strip-searched and have to get violated in so many different ways and somehow in the system, that’s okay, but when you really look at it from a different perspective, that’s not okay. Because that’s actually enabling what the harm is doing. Or excuse me, the harm that has been done is just continue to enable that in perpetuate.

Sarah:

Yeah. Thank you so much for speaking to that Adam and, Ra, you might have something to add as well. I know that you’re also formerly incarcerated, but I just I think Adam what you’re speaking to is just how integral sexual assault is to the system of incarceration in general. So when we’re talking about how abolition addresses sexual assault. We’re talking about what we started with, how prevalent it is, we’re talking about how most people don’t report it, how, when they do, like Crystal’s story shows, tt causes more harm for for the survivor. But then also for the harm do-er, it also causes more harm, right? Like Adam is saying, there is no rehabilitation. There are no resources and then also for this is for everybody, right? So, no matter why, or what led you to be incarcerated, you’re going to go through these things and so, I just wanted to kind of sew that thread throughout the different topics because abolition is a container for all of this. Right? And abolition is really the only container for all of this.

Ra: [00:16:49]

That was super helpful. Thank you. Because I think getting lost in the weeds of conversations like these are often where people kind of bow out.  Like they start, but there are so many different details and unique stories and caveats. But one piece, I think of Container that really strikes me, every time I hear it is how few people report. And I know we’ve talked about some of the reasons.  We talked about, like, in your case, not knowing what types of solutions might already exist or where to access them or who to tell, particularly in an environment where most Americans live, which is to say an environment where police are not the people on your side. So then it still becomes like what what else though– because out of 1,000. Instances of sexual assault, they say 230 are reported to police and that’s probably an underreporting of that. So it’s likely twice that what you know, it’s probably 230 out of 2,000 people or something along those lines. And why do you think– where are the gaps?

Sarah: [00:18:00]

I think there are so many gaps because a system that is created for harm to incapacitate people is not a system that’s going to hold survivors. Right? So I think it’s more than gaps. It is a major disconnect. We are trying to have a system that perpetrates harm as a system of care and that can just never be never be true. So I think it’s so underreported for so many different reasons, so like Crystal is saying, it’s often someone in your family.  Instances, where it is a stranger is actually less than 20% of the time. So it’s often in that– that’s another reason that we need cultural change, right? Not just punishment. But then also most of these– when you already come from a criminalized or marginalized background– I think that’s where the main gap is. Women, gender non-conforming people, LGBTQ folks are disproportionately affected by sexual assault. And so, I think that the combination of being already being marginalized and criminalized, why would you go to the legal criminal system where you’re already vulnerable?

Crystal: [00:19:05]

Yeah, not to talk about, you know, something them, my loved one, a keyword that she said was like, shamed and blamed. We have created this culture and you see it in the media all of the time. That as soon as somebody comes forward and says that this happened to them, all of the time you will hear: Well, what were they wearing? What were they doing there at 3:00 in the morning? Why were you drinking? And we have created this society, where we are blaming the person who was harmed and looking and deciphering, all of the you know, all the different aspects in their life and placing blame on them. So right off the bat you were harmed, you don’t want to subject yourself to that and one thing that I also think about is, for example, with my loved one is if the person who harmed her came forward, the solution is incarceration. Nowhere in there, would they’re be healing for my loved one, for the little ones that were involved.

Sarah:

Right? There’s no other option.

Crystal:

No other option

Sarah:

Just punishment.

Adam: [00:20:16]

just punishment. That’s something that we all need to try to to kind of break down collectively because once again, you know, in society, we’re taught that punishment is the way, right? Discipline is the way, and that’s not saying that somebody shouldn’t be held accountable right for their actions, right? That’s not what I’m saying, because a person should be held accountable, but should a person be held accountable, and be sent to sent to a prison or to it to a facility or something of that sort that’s not going to actually get to the root cause of how this is happening. Right? And how can we be able to kind of dismantle that from happening, and then going forward to be able to change the mindset and change– like we spoke about– the culture. Going back to what Crystal pointed out when someone does get harmed, right, we’re so quick to say. Oh, we’re what was she wearing? What was she doing, or he? And we have made that acceptable to say, you know, it’s they fault because they wore this. And that don’t just give a person permission, right? I spoke on the scenario, you know, growing up when I was younger and when I used to go to clubs and when I used to go to parties and it was, it was a certain way of dancing and because we was in the club or because we was there, you know, that, that was okay, but then it’s not okay. Until you come across someone that says, hey don’t touch me like that or hey, don’t push up on me like that. And I think the more I start to grow and start to see things from a different perspective, specifically an abolition lens, helped me understand like, wow, these are the things that that get done every day in every day society, that we say that it’s okay. And it’s not okay.

Sarah:

I appreciate you bringing that up so much, Adam, because when we say, one in thirty-three people commit or attempt this. That’s not– individual punishment couldn’t solve that.  It is a cultural thing. Like what you’re talking about Adam, it’s what as a culture we accept and we say is normal, and we say is okay, and right now in our culture we objectify women and we don’t value life in general and the way that we should.  I also while you’re talking about that, I was thinking of I was having coffee with my grandpa and my dad and they were talking about how my grandma when she was working, they would mandatorily have to do skirt contests. So they would just get up and measure their skirts. Right in this, isn’t that this long ago, this is like my grandma. So I think that that just shows what again, why abolition is the only container because individual punishment is not going to solve this, right? We need to culturally change and shift the ways that we view people, that we view life in general, and how we value those things.

Ra: [00:22:56]

What we have been talking about right now, I know we got a little data heavy, we get excited about some solid numbers and I think and — those are super important. I know this is a podcast. You can’t see us. And honestly, Adam does not look his age. So seeing him would not help, but we’re the older two.  We’re the elderly of the podcast crew here. [laughter]

Adam:

Well thank you.

Ra:

And so what he was talking about is something that I want us to like sit it with for a little bit, which is– what makes the culture and how does the culture change? Because we are old enough to have lived through some, you know, Sarah’s talking about measuring skirts. And we think, oh my gosh, how archaic. But our kids in schools, they do that every single day, right? Teachers come down and see where their knuckles are in relation to their skirts. We objectify children in our Public Schools. So from this framework, I want to kind of bring it back to your story a little bit Sarah, because one thing that I’m old enough to remember– these numbers have been pretty true since I was in Middle School. The numbers haven’t really changed. But when I first heard them, everyone around me didn’t believe them and pushed back on how we were defining sexual assault, how we were defining rape. Does it count if it’s in the context of a marriage or whatever else? And just as someone who went through the experience, and I’m not just, I mean, there’s other women on this call, when I was in prison I experienced sexual assault from a guard, a CO, so I’m part of those numbers too– but I just wanted to ask: How did how did you feel? Did you feel like you would be believed? Did you feel like there were ways and structures that you could express it to the people around you that would make it make sense?

Sarah: [00:24:49]

I think it goes back to what Crystal was saying about the shame and the blame being so heavy and so internalized. So I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. I knew what had happened was wrong, but you still don’t feel like you will be believed, and even if you are, you know that they’re still going to be trauma. So it was just very recently that I told my mom. I know not everyone is as close with their with their moms, so not everyone might tell their mom, but that’s probably like the only thing that my mom didn’t know about my life actually. I’m very close with my mom. So, even in what I think to be like the most nurturing safest relationship in my life, because we are so deep in this culture, I didn’t feel like I would be protected, which saying now is, that I’m glad I learned about rape culture, I’m glad I learned about all of these things, I’m glad I learned about abolition, because now looking back, I almost, I know I shouldn’t, but I almost feel silly for not turning to my mom for not turning to these people, right? But it just shows me and everyone else how real victim-blaming is even when it’s not the verbal questions of what were you wearing or anything? It’s in our culture. It’s on all of our TV shows, like Ra was saying in our Public Schools, we objectify our children, we all are in the culture. So when you experience it, like we’re in a pool. If the culture was water, we’re in the pool. You can’t just suddenly be dry. You can’t just suddenly get out of the pool and be dry, right? You hit takes time to dry off and unlearn and relearn new things. I forgot what your original question was.

Ra: [00:26:28]

No, no, you answered it. And actually, your last metaphor reminded me one I had seen many years ago that said, like toxic masculinity, rape culture, we think of it as the shark in the water, but it is the water. Like, we’re all in this water. And, and I, yeah, I guess that’s what I wanted to spend some time on, like, just looking around and being like, how do we see it in the world? Like, where do we? So we’ve covered some things, like we’ve said, if you feel like the people who are charged to, air quotes, protect and serve, are doing neither of those things for you, then, of course, you’re not going to reach out. If you’ve seen the effects of criminalization, on a family or a person, of course, you’re not going to do that. If you’re trying to protect the person in your life and we’ve said, you know, it’s mostly people in your life, you’re not going to do that. If you can’t even assess, whether you are fair, like you were responsible, how do you do that? So we’ve like, we just listed like, a lot of problems. What are the solutions?

Sarah: [00:27:28]

First, I’m going to add to the problems a little bit.

Adam:

Right?

Ra: [00:27:31]

Yes. I love it, right? Give us a long list. We’ll tackle it all.

Sarah: [00:27:34]

So just to going back to my story and talking about how all of us are in the water. My friend at Subway, I actually considered her probably my best friend at the time. She married him. Like, we were a friend group, right? So, the two other friends, like, of course, they wanted to believe me, eventually like, people the next morning, like it kind of came out, you know, because it happened and it was very violent and aggressive. So there was no denying it– even then, I still didn’t feel like I would be believed by my family and whatnot. But so when we’re talking about the problems, I don’t know if my best friend even realized how underwater she was, how wet in the culture of toxic masculinity she was, right? Because if she was, she would have supported me. And even to this day, I would like like a community reparations, community accountability process, because I just want to know that he’s sorry, and that he won’t do it again to anybody else. And I think that from what I know, from my research for my reading and from just personal experience and my friends, that’s almost what every survivor is looking for. They’re looking for healing. They’re looking for accountability, and they’re looking for prevention. That’s what abolition offers and not what our current system can offer. So to add on to the problem, I guess what I’m getting at is it wasn’t just one person, and so I really want us to like when we’re talking about being wet in the pool of toxic masculinity, no one is on the sidelines. All of us are doing it in some way, like all of us are in the water. Some of us might be in the shallow end. Some of us might be in the deep end, but we can’t just like punish everyone, you know,

Ra: [00:29:10]

Yes, I think it’s so important to think about that context of us all being in the water and it’s on all of us. Like the numbers of these magnitude only make sense– the reason we went down that rabbit hole of numbers– is because they only make sense if we all have been a part of it, whether that was the friend who didn’t say anything or the person who’s committing it or the person who thought about it or saw it, or every single piece of us, the choices we make, contribute to this.  And so much of the words like that Crystal was using from her loved one like shame, those only exist in the dark, you know, and as soon as we start to bring these things to the light, talk about how we play a part in it. Every small choice makes a big difference. Every small solution can have a measurable impact, just acknowledging the fact that it’s not just happening to you, you know going back to you coming on the show, Sarah, and being willing to take it from a framework of like this is a terrible thing that happened to me, but it happens. It happens. And now we have to figure out why it’s happening and what we can do, which brings me back to the question, I’m sure you’re tired of me asking– anyone though., anyone here. What do y’all think we can do?

Adam: [00:30:22]

What can we do? Is like, like Sarah, and hearing you talk about, Ra, being in that pool, right? And whether you’re, you know, knee-deep in the pool or you’re, you know, stepping out of it and just understanding like my role, and my place, on how I have come to believe that things was okay, right? And this is me kind of getting into the pool and then now, I’m doing certain things that’s like, hey, this is what you do as a man, right? Air quotes, toxic masculinity. “This is what you do”, but then I go through the transition of learning like, yo, this is not what you do and it’s kind of hard when you want to address something that you don’t feel safe because everything is getting swept under the rug, right? And it seems like in culture, nowadays, and even growing up, we swept a lot of things under the rug and I think that’s something that I’m very, very focused on is understanding my role and my position, which is why I brung up that story about, you know, when I was younger and going to parties, not saying parties is bad or anything. But seeing how it was this, this mindset and that’s something that’s something that it really, really has to be addressing in know. We can’t address it through numbers all the time but speaking about numbers help us point out how serious and how this is always happening.

Crystal: [00:31:35]

Ra, for listeners who are hearing the words “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture” for the first time, can you really quickly explain what those means?

Ra: [00:31:47]

Sure, there are really good definitions for toxic masculinity out there, but I’m going to use a poet’s one. We say that if you want to write a poem, this actually from a course called Write Better by Donny Jackson, but it says, if you want to write a poem and you call it toxic masculinity, no one will know what you’re talking about. But if you write a poem and you say, there’s a woman on the floor and a man is standing on her neck and telling her to get up —  then you kind of understand the gist of it a little bit more, which is to say, toxic masculinity of is this idea of control and power in masculinized communities that gets exercised, generally violently, oftentimes subversively and prevents the counterpart from being able to participate. And that word comes up, we’ve been saying persons throughout this because sexual assault happens across the board. It happens to everybody, but it happens more to women and the trans and non-binary communities are often even more adversely affected, because of the layer cake of marginalization that they have going on. And I think the other one, I don’t remember. What was the other word you wanted me to talk about a little?

Crystal:

Rape culture.

Ra:

Rape culture, yeah. So similarly, it’s like what we were talking about with the water. It’s just the idea that we have internalized the idea of good rape and that sounds terrible, and if you say that to someone in a casual conversation, they’ll say, oh no, I don’t believe in good rape. But then we watch TV, we listen to music, we go to schools and we hear stories about history even that aren’t directly addressed or pointed out as rape. We say charming things, like these communities of people invaded a tiny Island and they made families, and it’s no, they collected the women and raped them– and that’s different. And we don’t say it, and a TV show, sometimes movies, particularly, we even glamorize the expressions of rape, you know, forcing of sexual assault in different forms, you know, forcing a kiss can be considered romantic in a movie with the right soundtrack and the right lighting. We love to watch a good story of a woman being chased, whether she’s in fear or upset. In fact, that just makes it a better story. And until we learn not to love those stories and not to hold them in our hearts,  and until we learn to just be genuinely disgusted by them, that rape culture will still exist.

Crystal:

Because it’s been so normalized and romanticized.

Ra: [00:34:23]

And because we don’t know the signs, like what does someone in distress look like and what is it that we can be alarmed by?

Sarah:

And what’s acceptable?

Ra:

Exactly.

Sarah: [00:34:32]

And so I think when we’re talking about, what is rape culture, what is toxic masculinity? And these things, it kind of goes back to Adam’s example of how he walked into the water of toxic masculinity and what we mean by that is what are the things that are acceptable and why it’s okay to going back to Adam’s example of like, physically rubbing up against another person in a dance club. If you maybe not consciously, but if you’re subjectively thinking of that person is not a person, as not an autonomous person, but rather an object, or if in your mind, there’s a hierarchy, even if it’s not subjective, or I mean, even if it’s not like explicit, even if you don’t think that you treat people differently based on their gender, or their expression, it’s still happening because we filled the pool up with things that are normalized and accepted, that shouldn’t be. But I think Adam’s example of how he walked into the pool and walked out shows that that the culture of the water, we can change, we can drain that pool and we can fill it up with whatever we want. When we’re talking about the terms, they can seem really big but essentially, it’s the things that are not okay that we’ve made to be okay, regarding autonomy, regarding people and seeing them as objects instead. 

Adam:

And I want to ask you like, what did we miss or something that we may have discussed today that you want to add to, reflect on, you know, take a minute to think and please share.

Sarah:

I think something that we’ve all touched on a little bit throughout this is learning the signs. And how do we do that? So we know that we’ve been talking so much about how this is a cultural problem. So that means as individuals we need to change that culture because we make up culture with our actions. So since it is so prevalent, that means it’s likely happening somewhere in your life. Maybe not your immediate life, but bystanders can be so impactful. So learning the signs as a bystander like Ra was saying and that Ra, I think you have some tangible action steps actually w were discussing this earlier about learning the signs, and how do you step in and who do you reach out for help? Knowing that the police aren’t going to help you? That the law law systems won’t help you? But now there are more examples of people who and organizations that do help. There have been organizations that, as long as there’s been criminalization, people have been criminalized and finding systems of care outside of that criminalization. So the possibilities, the answers are all out there. We just need to figure out as individuals what are those answers that we can change the system? Ra, maybe you can do have a couple of little tiny action steps on your mind for reading the signs?

Ra: [00:37:05]

I guess the biggest thing for, for me, in terms of reading the signs is identifying– in my family, we call them a question with a question behind it. You know, sometimes people like to test the waters before expressing something to you that they don’t feel safe about. So these questions, tend to stand out if you’re really listening for them because it’s things like, hey, if I brought a problem to you that doesn’t have like an immediate solution, would you be interested in hearing about it anyway? And maybe, you know, it sounds away. And I think often times in our society we hear those questions and we just think the person hasn’t figured out their own mind yet, but just recognizing that people are constantly reaching out. Humans are community creatures and I think in their own ways, they are always reaching out and just being aware that, if something stands out to you, as abnormal from normal community connections, it’s enough to take a deep breath. Sit down. And try to make yourself into a safe space.

Sarah: [00:38:09]

That makes sense. And I think maybe not directly to related to that, but part of that also, while you were talking, I was thinking to learn the signs, to make the culture shift, to make those individual actions, the first thing is actually unlearning that the system we have now is addressing anything. Because if you still are using that, if you still believe that, then essentially, it becomes an excuse, right? Because that’s not true. If you actually care about the prevalent issue of sexual assault, of sexual violence, then you will be an abolitionist. You won’t, you will understand that first we need to accept that prisons are not helping. They’re actually making things worse. Right? And so, if we want to look towards solution, we stop pretending that prisons are helping and then we can start seeing. So, I guess, the first step is unlearning and being open to to the questions that Ra was saying, and to all the ways that we can build the systems that prevent this from happening in the first place, but then has tools to respond when it inevitably does happen.

Crystal: [00:39:15]

So, I know that this topic was a heavy topic for a lot of us here, and since sexual assault is so prevalent, odds are a lot of our listeners have also experienced this so to end this with a little bit of hope. What is one tiny tangible thing that we can do?

Ra: [00:39:43]

I think for me, after– I mean a lot of the stuff I already knew– but to hear it all together in one place like this, I guess for me, I’m going to try to find three really ugly instances of it in the world that I haven’t noticed before. I’m just gonna, when I’m scrolling through my social media feed today, I’m just going to keep my eyes open for things that are actually appalling from the framework of this rape culture, and this toxic culture and this violent culture, and just try to encourage and teach my brain to see, see it all the time, so that I can, you know, it’s always easier to fight the things in the light. So.

Adam: [00:40:30]

Yeah, I would say for myself is and I know I say this a lot, I just feel that is so so important for me to kind of really, really expand on actually speaking– finding someone that we can speak to, right? And being able to have a safe space because we know prison isn’t isn’t the way, right? So we need an alternative to that. In fact, if I could read something real quick, “Sexual assault in prison is the second most reported complaint against police officers proceeded by the use of excessive force,” and that’s very very frightening because we– not we, but in general– its culture feels like okay, hey, you know, just throw people in prison and then that would be it, right? But then these these these individuals are going to prison in, a lot of things is happening. So I would say, actually speaking up to to find an alternative way, right? To maybe have have someone that you can trust to be say, Hey, you know, this is what’s taking place and feeling confident enough and knowing that it is a community, many communities out there, that would that would support you and that will try to help and give as many resources for you to feel safe in be able to have that space to speak up and not not continuing to add to that, that pool that we talked about adding water by just sweeping, you know, incidents and things like that under the rug.

Sarah:

Yes. I think those are two great action steps. I’m definitely going to do a raw suggested and keep an eye out for things that I’ve become normalized to but should not be acceptable on my Instagram and different social medias, like people being objectified and maybe unfollow those accounts. But then also like Adam is saying, I’m going to make a plan. And I’m going to find– I’m going to– I have already done a lot of research on transformative justice– but I’m going to find some of those organizations in my area because as we’re talking about action steps and how common this is, it’s likely that this is happening. We mentioned it’s happening somewhere in the realm of your life. So, Instead of responding, let’s prevent and prepare. There are organizations that we can plug in with, to find the tools to prevent this from happening in the first place. Like Adam, I know not to speak for you, but I know that you’re the type of person now, where if you saw that behavior in a club, you would say something, you would protect that person and and you’re nodding now. The camera can’t see that, so I’m narrating. So I think it’s those little things from Instagram to your daily interactions, and it all goes back back to– what is it? And what is acceptable? And what tools do we have to respond? Get informed, find the resources in your area, learn about Transformative Justice, and I think transformative Justice really will give everyone but the hope to this darkness and the light that Ra is talking about to be able to drain that pool of toxic masculinity and rape culture and fill it up with things like Transformative Justice.

Ra: [00:43:41]

This isn’t the full story of the full humans involved. Evolved in these experiences or every complete community or person who has gone through experiences that parallel, we have walked this gently so as not to diminish the story, but to highlight and amplify the hearts involved.

Adam:

Thank you for listening to Abolition is for Everybody. If you want to continue supporting this podcast and our work overall, you can donate to support initiate Justice, at InitiateJustice.org/donate.