Bending the Arc
It was an honor to take part in the first cohort convening of the NoVo Foundation’s Move to End Violence Initiative from May 15 to the 20 in New York. It was also powerful and inspiring. Powerful to be in the presence of such strong and dynamic leaders of the movement to end violence against women and girls, and inspiring to engage in productive dialogue and brainstorming with them about how to build on the critical work that so many around the country have done and continue to do, and how to strengthen and propel the movement forward with new energy and vision.
I was particularly excited to engage in discussions with cohort members about the need to place at the center of the dialogue the experiences of marginalized women – including women of color, low-income women, immigrant women, and LGBTQ-identified people – and an understanding of how the oppressions such women face intersect, compound each other, and impact experiences with and responses to violence. I felt much resonance within the group that a more robust intersectional analysis would enhance the anti-violence movement’s power to reach and positively impact women from marginalized communities and achieve meaningful progress.
These discussions were especially relevant to the work of our organization, the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project. Our Project works to reform criminal justice policies for women and families, decrease overreliance on incarceration as a primary response to the social problems that drive crime, and end the criminal justice system’s harsh and unjust response to domestic violence survivors who act to protect themselves and their children from an abuser’s violence.
I returned to my organization with a renewed sense of purpose in working with our allies and partners. Shortly after the convening, we released our new report, From Protection to Punishment: Post-Conviction Barriers to Justice for Domestic Violence Survivor-Defendants in New York State, co-authored with the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School. We also held a very successful Advocacy Day, where over 140 members of our Coalition for Women Prisoners, including many formerly incarcerated domestic violence survivors, traveled to Albany to advocate for the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.
We were thrilled and grateful that many Move to End Violence cohort members and many other leading anti-violence organizations that we deeply respect and admire signed on in support of the effort. Because of this widespread support and the willingness of women with direct experience with both domestic violence and incarceration to share their lived experiences and advocate for change, we were able to secure significant media coverage, including articles in the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, New York Law Journal, Legislative Gazette, and Associated Press, which was picked up in the Wall Street Journal and over 30 local, national, and international news outlets.
I often feel inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful remark that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I walked away from the Move to End Violence convening feeling that we are one step closer to bending that arc in its rightful direction – one step closer to a world without violence against women, girls and all people.
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