continues to reveal and compound the challenges families face. Among them
is domestic violence, which escalated under the
economic and emotional stresses of the pandemic.
of color are more likely to face economic instability during the Covid crisis,
with a loss of income intensifying worries about paying rent and putting
food on the table. With many childcare facilities and schools closed,
parents are grappling with how to care for and supervise the online
education of their children. And all of this is happening at a time when
public health authorities are urging everyone to limit their activities
outside the home to reduce the risk of infection.
the nation, domestic violence calls for help are surging in what the New England Journal of Medicine
calls “a pandemic within a pandemic.” But
tragically, the nation’s responses rely almost exclusively on police and
punishment, which does nothing to address the root causes of violence or
foster healing, accountability for harm, and safety. In fact, by relying
on state violence as our primary response to partner violence, we
reinforce patriarchal norms and inherently racist institutions that
produce violence, while denying communities billions of dollars in
funding needed to create real safety.
why we must reimagine the nation’s response to domestic violence toward a
model rooted in public health and racial equity, one that listens to the
voices of people who have been harmed and provides support for all who
are impacted — survivors, children who have been exposed to violence, and
people who have caused harm.
response also must acknowledge that family violence doesn’t occur in a
vacuum. From the individual causing harm to the family, faith
institutions and communities, to public institutions, patriarchy,
capitalism, and colonialism — all these actors and systems play a role
and should be examined and accounted for in a strategy to end violence.
As a country founded upon white supremacy, genocide, slavery,
imperialism, and segregation, we must also account for the violence that
was and is used to construct this nation and understand how that
violence shapes our lives.
first step toward shifting our approach is to stop the overreliance on
police as first responders to family violence. Strong relationships are
the key to ending violence in relationships and in our communities. By
investing in resources that facilitate relationship building and healing,
we can get families the help they need before violence occurs, create
alternative approaches to intervention, and support people who have caused
harm — who are often survivors themselves — to end cycles of violence.
than relying on a badge and a gun or the criminal-legal system, these
approaches should be grounded in community. When police are called, they
prioritize making arrests and reports that lead to family entanglement
with the criminal-legal and child welfare systems. Many survivors don’t
trust police, which is why almost half of intimate partner violence went
unreported to law enforcement from 2006 to 2015. And for
survivors who do call the police, about 75 percent found their
involvement to be unhelpful or left them less safe. The lived experience
and data are clear: families need better options.
don’t always treat victims with respect,” said California Assemblymember
Sydney Kamlager, who has told her personal story of surviving an
unhealthy relationship in advocating for Assembly Bill 2054, the
#CRISESAct. This legislation, which was vetoed by Governor Newsom, would
have created community-based, police-free responses for people who are
experiencing emergencies (including partner violence, mental health
crises, houselessness) and need care, not punishment.
shared, “The bill forces us to re-engage in real, non-carceral solutions
to many of the social implications of poverty and sickness that we have
ignored. A good friend of mine declared that AB 2054 is a love letter to
the possibility of what transformative public safety can look like,
trusting that communities know how to self-police and hold themselves
if people who report the violence are also those who are more likely to
be targets of police violence, they are more easily arrested and
recriminalized, as Survived and Punished highlights in its new #DefundPrisonsDefendSurvivors campaign.
This happens most often to those who are Black, undocumented, poor,
transgender, queer, disabled, of color, and sex workers.
of continuing to spend tax dollars on criminal-legal system responses to
domestic violence, the nation should invest in community-based responses
that support all people affected by violence. These support services
should be culturally rooted, grounded in an understanding of gender and
state violence, focused on prevention and intervention, and made
available to all people, not just those in an immediate crisis. This
approach would address racial inequities in access to supportive services
and create the conditions required for everyone to be safe.
good models to build on. For example, Fathers and Families of San
Joaquin, California, leads the Stockton Trauma Recovery Center, which
supports the healing of entire families in a manner that acknowledges the
burdens of racial and social injustice that families of color have
carried for generations.
Through Healing Together, a campaign led by
PolicyLink and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, more than 80
organizations have come together to end partner violence by engaging men,
and people of all genders, to shift system responses toward
community-based healing and equity, and away from the punishment system.
philanthropic allies such as the Blue Shield of California Foundation are
supporting innovative thinking to address domestic violence. More funders
concerned with health and wellness should consider joining them to build
momentum for addressing these important needs.
October, millions of advocates and survivors are acknowledging Domestic
Violence Awareness Month against the backdrop of Covid-19. The community,
health, and social service resources we need for healing and relationship
building should be a cornerstone of the nation’s Covid response and its
approach to ending family violence. When our relationships are safe and
healthy, so are our communities.
Philpart is a Managing Director at PolicyLink.
from the News, Analysis, and Commentary
A Just Economy
debut episode of #Unfinished
Live, a new online show, Angela Glover Blackwell joins a
discussion on what makes a just economy. You can tune in here and get the schedule for future
episodes on democracy and voice, technology and humanity, and culture and
Jim Tankersley tells the podcast Pitchfork Economics that
inclusion is the key to rebuilding the economy and the middle class.
"What history shows us is that the American economy grows and
thrives when women and men of color and immigrants are given more
opportunity — when we reduce discrimination and give them more pathways
to contribute their talents to our economy."
Arts and Culture
Covid / Take 6!,”
a sprawling “social impact” installation conceived by artist Carrie Mae
Weems, uses her iconic photography to educate communities of color about
the disparate impact of Covid, highlight preventive measures, dispel
myths, and celebrate essential workers. The project originated in
Syracuse and has expanded to 10 other cities, including Atlanta, Detroit,
Philadelphia, Durham, and most recently, New York. You can read about it
in the online arts magazine Hyperallergic and check out this 2-minute video of the project
taking shape in Philadelphia.
hope you find the COVID-19 and Race Series an important tool for keeping
up with news about the virus and its impact on communities we serve. As a
nonprofit organization, PolicyLink is honored to provide resources to
support the needs of our nation's 100 million economically insecure
individuals. Generous partners like you make our work