INTRO: In this ep, I talked to Teri Yuan, an active advocate for ending gender and sex-based violence, specifically criminalising coercive control. She also is the host of the engendered podcast that acts as a platform for survivors of domestic abuse and allies, like myself, wishing to gain more information on ways to actively support victims. As a survivor herself, Teri believes that one of the first steps in ending gender-based violence is learning the same language, especially in terms of the legal language used in domestic violence cases that can be very misleading and detrimental to the wellbeing of victims, who majority of the time are womxn and children.
Agrita: Why does coercive control need to be criminalized? A lot of people, including myself, had no idea that it’s still not a criminal offense in the US, um, and a lot of people just don’t understand the extent of damage that can be done because of coercion. So why does it need to be criminalised?
Teri: Well, I think that, um, you know, I just spoke with Jess Hill about this topic, actually, coincidentally yesterday, I’m re-interviewing her for my podcast, and she’s part of a group of people in Australia that are working to criminalise coercive control and, uh, support it’s criminalization. And I think, yeah, you know, one of the biggest issues is that criminalisation sends a cultural signal to society that we care about mens’ violence against women. That the gendered impact of coercive control matters, especially now in the wake of this post-COVID quarantine that we’ve experienced, where all over the world there’s been, not just the increase in domestic violence rates because of quarantining in abusive situations, but also the negative impact it’s had on women in terms of exacerbating gender inequalities. So, in the workplace, uh, you know, pay gap in equities, the fact that healthcare workers on the frontlines are disproportionately women. The fact that, um, you know, all of these economic negative impacts are hurting women more than they are men, especially in their retail sector, you know, where most of the people there are women.
And so, the health care impacts also are disproportionately hurting people of colour and communities of colour.
Teri: So, you know, the fact that, um, we are in this, at least in the US, you know, in this post-George Floyd, um, highly sensitive to systemic racism and police brutality and racist policing that’s been happening for decades. There’s been so much talk, rightly so, fully justified, around the importance of integrating inclusion and diversity and anti-racism efforts and policies everywhere, not just in criminal justice systems, but also in the workplace, right? That when I speak about why we need to have anti-sexism trainings as well, and an anti-sexist lens, in other words a pro-feminist lens, especially and starting with the institutions that interact with survivors, so government law enforcement, and of course, nonprofit agencies that work with survivors. And these groups of people –
Teri: – come to the table with deaf ears. Um, I think even though people who are closest to the survivors and the people who are being victimised, if they don’t see the need, we definitely need a signaling that shows we care because a lot of them I think have become resigned from giving up, year after year, recognising that there’s so much systemic sexism, they feel like it’s too big a burden to respond to on their own. And so, this cultural signaling will provide a set of tools and a mechanism for enforcing all of the laws that we have in place, but also for helping to bring awareness that abuse isn’t just about physical violence. That it’s a form of enslavement I believe. That it’s a form of torture. That is a human rights violation, and that it’s gendered.
Agrita: Yeah. In your Medium article, you mentioned that women of colour are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and men of colour are disproportionately being the perpetrators against women. So why do you think that’s the case, especially being a survivor yourself?
Teri: Well, I wanna, um, qualify that. So, the statistics that I was using were with regard to violent homicides. So, in New York city, the homicides, about half of them in, you know, recent studies that we were, recent statistics that we were looking at are men of colour, uh, are, are 50% of them are domestic homicides. And then the majority of those domestic homicides are men of colour committing it against women of colour. So, because coercive control has not been criminalised, all the other sort of what we might call low, you know, Evan Stark might call low level harms, physical harms, like the slapping and the shoving, you know, those aren’t really, um, enforced necessarily.
Teri: They might be considered battery, but they’re not going to be taken as seriously. And therefore, maybe the arrest and the convictions, you know, may not happen. And certainly, the psychological, you know, enslavement kinds of behaviours are not going to be captured in our current criminal law system. And so, I believe, and many people have theorised that the more privilege you have, meaning the more wealth you have, the less, you need to use physical violence as a form of threat and intimidation. And so, you know, the people who are disproportionately going to be using violence are going to be people and communities of colour. And, um, and so from a homicide perspective, you know, those are the people, those are the communities that are going to be interacting with the criminal justice system. And so, they’re the ones who are, um, being impacted on multiple levels through systemic racism and through poverty. Um, and, and so those are the communities that are. Um, and in some ways, you might say, you know, unable to voice their concerns about, um, how they would like criminal justice reform, you know, what direction they want it to go.
Agrita: So, this statistic is basically a product of systemic racism, essentially?
Teri: Well, it’s also, I think a product of systemic sexism, because we haven’t criminalized course of control, you know? And so, the racism part, yes, because we aren’t arresting, you know, white men and middle-class menand middle class and upper-class white men. And so those people get basically, um, a pass, because their behaviours, which are equally harmful, and some people consider more harmful, you know, they don’t have any accountability at all. And yeah, you know, in terms of research, of course coercive control is the leading indicator, right, of future homicide. And so, if we were to criminalise it, we would actually prevent future homicide.
Agrita: What really disturbed me, when I was kind of doing my own research around all of this, is that it’s a horrendous norm in the US to create safety nets and support mechanisms for abusers. You also attended a talk, which I don’t know how you sat through it!
Agrita: It focused on helping abusers instead of survivors. So, it was like sympathy was being showered over the people that have literally tortured women! So yeah, could you explain that to me? Because I do not understand why there is so much of, a momentum kind of, in humanising abusers.
Teri: I think from the perspective of, um, the ones who are interacting currently with the criminal justice system, they are men of colour. And so if you are to say that they have been historically oppressed through systemic racism and poverty, you know how racism has impacted poverty, uh, and they have been, you know, through racist policing, uh, disproportionately arrested and harmed through the criminal justice system, through mass incarceration, yes, it is true that we need to, uh, reform the criminal penal code so that men of colour and people of colour are not being policed because of their race right? We don’t want to weaponise poverty against communities of colour, and so these people who are going to jail, however, are not going to jail for domestic abuse crimes, um, they’re going to jail for other crimes that they’ve been, uh, that, you know, over the course of the past many, many decades have been deemed more severe than even domestic violence. Uh, and so, um, you know, it is, it is important to recognise that we should not further use race as a way to, uh, add, you know, additional trauma on these families and communities. However, if you take away the race part and you, and you say, well, you know, as a system, all of these systems can be improved and there’s an opportunity for us to build a culture of accountability, that culture can mean multiple things. It doesn’t have to be black and white the way the media has portrayed it. It can mean that we reform the police and criminal justice systems, so that police brutality is no longer accepted and tolerated. So that there’s a means for rectifying when it happens.
Teri: Uh, at the same time, we can also, um, create, uh, opportunities to put people who are committing the most severe crimes, coercive control is one of them in my opinion, um, you know, have a tool for law enforcement to use to, you know, basically a stick, um, that says, you know, we don’t want you to engage in these behaviours because we know that domestic abuse, when it’s tolerated and excused, is a precursor to other forms of crimes in society. That the individual will likely commit, if they’re going to be a growing in a situation of domestic violence, we have found that that can lead to potentially, you know, future robberies or larceny or other kinds of, you know, um, disruptions to society because of the trauma and the economic and the educational impact that it will have. Uh, and so I think that, um, so putting that aside, you know, the talk that you reference, is part of this movement in the US that we are exporting to Britain, Australia and other English speaking countries, called restorative justice, which works, um, from what I understand, with one time incident crimes, right? So if a crime has been committed where someone is going to the bodega and, you know, stealing a gallon of milk for their baby, because they can’t afford it and they end up, you know, defending themselves and using their weapon in it, you know inadvertently, because the bodega owner takes out his weapon, you know, and he accidentally has to shoot the bodega owner, yes we can have restorative justice in that incident because there’s been no history between the two people and, um, the perpetrator in that particular example, has a history of trauma from systemic racism and poverty potentially, that has contributed to their engaging in such extreme behaviors out of survival. Right? But that’s different from when a perpetrator in a coercive control relationship engages in behaviour deliberately to harm on a mass, um, in a repeated and consistent basis over time that has the impact and effect of limiting someone’s freedom and ability and sense of self and denigrating them and harming their self-worth to the point where they can’t make decisions for themselves and are scared and intimidated and fear for their life potentially. So that’s a completely different situation. And so, you do not want to have restorative justice because the nature of power, control and the power differential, or the power hierarchy, makes it really, really hard to distinguish if someone is, um, really remorseful or not in, um, you know, and understanding that their behaviour was wrong. And in domestic violence, you know ideally, we don’t want to change behaviour, we want to change attitudes and mindsets, right? Because behaviour can be performative, you know, people can pretend to be nice in certain situations, and then when you go home, they can go underground, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. And that’s usually, that’s kind of like, you know, the myth of the domestic abuse perpetrator, that he’s a nice guy. Right? But nice is a performative word. Uh, and so, so yes, this, this is a very troubling trend that’s happening in the US that not enough people are aware of, and I’m glad that you’re asking about it.
Agrita: Yeah, that’s a problem though. How do we know if somebody really wants to reform and if they’re pretending?
Teri: Well, I think that the question is, uh, is irrelevant to the goal of accountability. I think that, um, we need accountability for domestic abuse and coercive control needs to foreground the safety, wellbeing, and ultimately the freedom of the victim, uh, so that individual can do, for herself and her children, you know, have the choice to leave, potentially to say if they decide, um, but really do so from a place of agency. And she can’t do that unless she has the economic means to take care of herself, right? And so, um, if financial disparities and inequality are at the root of a lot of these relationships, um, which keeps people from leaving to begin with, you know, if they’re not remedied, it’s really hard to be able to decide whether there is remorse or not, even if it’s, you know, if it’s stated. Um, and so the key is making sure that the victim is safe and has the choices that, you know, she has the ability to make choices for herself and whether or not the person who’s the perpetrator changes or feels remorseful or rehabilitates is a secondary question. That can happen after there’s accountability for, from a societal perspective and maybe from a legal system perspective, for what that person has done.
Agrita: Yeah. So essentially, putting all focus on the survivor and what they want.
Teri: I always use the example, you know, when we’re talking about gender, I like to use race or religion examples, because if we were to, you know, place the same power dynamics in a different social construct, people have less tolerance for apologising for the perpetrator’s behavior. Right? So, for example, for a Jewish person, who’s a Holocaust survivor, um, you know, if that person, I mean, first of all, you know, obviously Nazis fell under, you know, crimes of humanity and war crimes. And so, there’s an international set of laws that govern what happens and for war crimes and crimes of humanity, the sentencing is life in prison or death, right? And so, so there’s no like, let’s have a discussion between you know, the Holocaust survivor and potentially the concentration camp guard, the person’s grandmother, you know, I mean the, most of the Nazi concentration camp survivors, Holocaust survivors now are probably near their end of life. Uh, and so, you know, you wouldn’t have that conversation because of course you want to have accountability. You want to signal that these behaviours are wrong, but, and similarly for race, like you wouldn’t have, you know, you wouldn’t ask Brianna Taylor’s family, you know, to have a talk with the officers who killed her, you know, and try to forgive them. You know, you want accountability. Everybody, you know, even people outside of that immediate situation, what for them to be put in jail, right? We want them to have their license suspended and not to have their pension, access to their pension. And so why is it that in an intimate partner violence relationship, only when men, you know, who are, um, engaging in “bad behaviour” do we bend over backwards to try make excuses for them and call for empathy and compassion, and yet in any other circumstance, you know, we don’t. Well, the answer is because in these circumstances, women are mainly the victim and society doesn’t value the safety and the wellbeing of women.
Agrita: That’s, that’s a great comparison, um, to give to people that if we won’t compromise with racism, why are we compromising for female rights, female safety, um, and also the safety of children, of children involved in the relationship that’s abusive.
Teri: Yup. And, and so hopefully, you know, these are, and that’s why we’re going back to your initial question of why should we criminalise coercive control, it’s because we need to show society that we actually care about women and children. And, uh, and it’s the way of normalising that it’s not okay to be sexist. It’s not okay to be a misogynist.
Agrita: Um, so when I was watching the film that you recommended to me, What Doesn’t Kill Me, first of all it was amazing film, thank you so much for recommending it. Um, just learning about the pain and torture that women, especially mothers have to go through when they want to separate from their abusive partner, but they have their children in question. Um, and a lot of times, which I really didn’t get, is that the abusive father gets custody over the children that he can potentially or has abused in the past. And that mother, that’s the protective parent, doesn’t get their custody. So yeah, could you explain that to me? Because none of them makes sense and it was so heart wrenching to see all of the different stories that women were sharing. So, yeah. Why is it that family courts are supporting abusive fathers so much? What benefit does it have to them?
Teri: Well, I mean, there’s multiple reasons for this. As you saw from the film, there were many, many, um, intersecting theories that basically are rooted in the fact that historically women and children, um, because of patriarchy, are property, we belong to men and marriage is a way of enforcing that property ownership. Uh, and, and so, you know, especially in certain religions, like in an Orthodox Jewish community, you know, if you leave, if you want to divorce your husband, you don’t get your children at all. You, you’re excommunicated, you know, and your children belong to the “religion” and similarly for other religions as well.
Teri: So, um, so in many ways, like the nuclear family and marriage institution, to keep women, um, you know, under the dominion of men as a form of reproductive, as a reproductive engine. Right? And if you see it that way, um, once the children have been born, you don’t need the woman, right? And, um, and so the way it’s manifest over the years in family court is, family court is just a microcosm of society. You know, we, we have the same rates for, um, domestic violence convictions is almost the same rates as rape and sexual assault convictions, which is pretty much nothing because of rape culture, because there’s systemic sexism and racism everywhere. And, and also in particular in policing, I mean, the police officers are the profession with the highest domestic violence, and that’s no coincidence because in the US about 40% of police officers, potentially are domestic abusers, um, is partly because it’s a self-selecting profession. You know, the way that policing has evolved, in our history, um, from a very racist slave patrol, you know, patrolling the slaves to what it is today. Um, sort of policing communities of colour and poor communities is about power and control. And that’s what domestic abuse is. And so, if these people, you know, who are the most sexist and misogynistic, are expected to be the ones to respond to domestic violence, that’s actually a very, you know, big disconnect and misalignment. And similarly, in family court, people who are judges, people who are lawyers, um, you know, lawyers as a profession, are known to sort of, you know, within the lines of the, the boundaries of the law –
Teri: – bend as much as they can. Right. And, judges in family court, uh, in the US are not, um, are not considered a prestigious position. And, so it’s kind of like the bottom of the barrel, you know? And so, people who go to family court, you know, as judges their, the stereotype is, well, people who end up in family court, you know, they’re just high conflict people who don’t get along. So, there’s almost this disregard from the beginning, this bias towards the litigates. You know, if you end up here is because there’s something wrong with you. And then when you add that on top of the gender bias, where if women, you know, so just in terms of statistically, like people who end up in family court from a [litigation perspective, there’s there around like, 3 to, I believe, uh, 5% of all divorce and custody cases end up in litigation. So, most cases in other words are resolved amicably, you know, with both sides not having to go to court, where you have attorneys and they write a papers and everybody signs and move on. And those are the ones that stereotypically, um, maybe, you know, have the mother being the primary caretaker or, um, the primary custodian, the legal custodian. Uh, now the ones, the 3-5%, which are going to family court, which go to litigation, the majority of those cases actually have domestic abuse allegations in them. And part of the reason for that is because when you leave your abuser, when you try to leave, they use children as a pawn, as a weapon, and they know that, um, over the past, you know, 50 years there’s been this explosion of this misinformation tactic called parental alienation, that’s been used by the father’s supremacist movement to discredit, uh, the claims, the legitimate claims of domestic abuse and child abuse that are being raised by the women. And so, this misinformation tactic has gained so much popularity and, in many ways, has been institutionalized within the legal profession and the mental health professions that you automatically, you raise [the case] of abuse, you’re going to be disbelieved because they’re going to say, well, why didn’t you raise it while you were in the marriage? You know? And so they’re all of these factors of sexism and misogyny and stereotypes about women and misinformation about understanding trauma, and abuse dynamics play in, uh, to create, you know, this amalgamation of basically institutionalized abuse by family court. Joan Meyer, who was in that film, um, did a research study funded by the Department of Justice that looked at 10 years of family court data, and she basically determined that if you are a woman who alleges abuse or child abuse of any kind, and the father counterclaims with parental alienation, you are likely to lose custody in all cases, even when there’s evidence presented that is believed by the court, uh, in terms of the abuse.
Agrita: In the film they mentioned that, um, if a mother reports sexual abuse against the child, or even just child abuse or physical, mental abuse, 68% of the time she will lose custody over her child that has been abused by that partner.
Teri: Yeah, and then, you know, she didn’t, I don’t think she mentioned, because this came out after the film, but in the final report, Jone’s report, if you have a guardian ad litum, in other words, an attorney for the child, or if you have a forensic custody evaluator, an external mental health professional evaluating, the mother, um, is at 3 to 6 to 9 times, can’t remember the statistic, 3-6 times at least, more likely to lose custody when you have these additional players, because [with] these additional players, you have additional bias that’s interjected. Um, and, I want to say that, you know, I recently interviewed a survivor whose child she believes was sexually abused by the father, and she had to take pictures, you know, of the genitals and –
Agrita: Is that even allowed?
Teri: Well, to show the police.
Agrita: Ah okay.
Teri: To show the doctors, right? She’s trying to say, what should I do?
Teri: And, the father, the alleged abuser is like counter claiming that she’s engaging in child pornography, which you, you knew that was going to happen.
Agrita: Yeah, that’s true.
Teri: Right. But what is she going to do? Like she’s like, should I go, ‘cause even if you just go to take the child to the doctor, you know, they might turn you away, you know, obviously you don’t want to do it to the police. You want to, you know, but you want to have evidence preserved. You know, because if she’s going to use it [evidence], you have to take pictures. And so just everything is weaponized against you.
Agrita: It’s this whole heavy engagement in victim blaming, whether it is society, whether it’s institutions. From all angles, women, female survivors, are told that, you know, it is your fault and you have to pay the price and the children follow along, which is really, really, concerning and really upsetting to hear.
Teri: Yeah. I mean, in England you have Dr. Jessica Taylor, she wrote a book, she’s a radical feminist and she is a psychologist. She wrote a book called Why Women Are Blamed For Everything, and it basically chronicles, you know, her research studies and her PhD, uh, analyzing how sexual abuse and domestic violence survivors are treated in a way where even when they seek help from institutions, there’s a culture of victim blaming, you know, that keeps them from being able to get justice, from getting, um, the attention that they need from getting access, even to services.
Agrita: What do you think can be done to eliminate this victim blaming and engagement in rape culture? What do you think is like the main step? I know it’s a massive issue and it won’t change overnight, but it needs, there’s something that needs to be done.
Teri: Yeah, I think that we need to be able to normalize, uh, in our society and our culture, the discussion of just how pervasive sexism and misogyny is. Um, and just the way we do, at least in the US, with racism. Like everybody, you know, who, you know, says the N word, right? Nobody says that. Well, there’s a lot of sexist terms that people still say and use against women. So, there’s no stigma to use, um, expletives against women, but there is in race. So, there’s a level of, sort of, stigmatisation that exist if you’re a racist, but it doesn’t exist if you’re a sexist or a misogynist. And in fact, it’s the opposite. Like you get status in your community, uh, in your network of friends, if you actually do engage in stereotypical male, you know, women-hating behavior devotees.
Teri: So I think that’s the first step, you know, and we also have to call out people when it happens, because you know, there’s been studies, um, by the Anti-Defamation League in the US, you know, and others have studied how sexism and misogyny is a gateway to white supremacy because that’s the first kind of othering that we do in society, that we’re socialised to do, right? And all of the other tropes.
Teri: I believe, you know, there’s a, there’s a gender element to it, right? So, when you’re making fun of someone who’s not as masculine, who’s more ephemeral, and homophobia, that’s using gender stereotypes and tropes. When you, when you’re using, um, many racist terminology, you know, um, against black people or Latinos, Hispanics, again using gender terminology. Even ageism is a function of gender because as you’re old, as you become older, you are less, you’re less strong. You’re less able, right? Abelism is a function of gender.
Teri: You know, so all of that, these different kinds of bigotries and forms of discrimination are rooted in gender. Um, hierarchies around this male-female kind of strong, you know, passive, um, dominant, you know, submissive, um, full and someone who’s worthy of full personhood and someone who’s, you know, less than, right? All of these are played out and start with gender. And so, if we really want to address the systemic bigotry in our society, if we want to address poverty, we have to address gender first and more, you know, make it in, uh, do it in an intersectional way.
Agrita: I strongly believe that every single one of us are accountable for struggles of survivors. Women and men both engage in victim blaming, I have to agree with that, but I do think that men have a major role to play when it comes to reducing and eliminating, um, the occurrence of domestic violence by male perpetrators. So, I think those men that are really empathetic and labelled as “good men” have a massive role to play. Uh, this was also picked up in the film as well. Because if men aren’t setting role models for other men, how can we expect them to understand that their actions are immoral? They do know that, but they do need people telling them that as well. So, I think, yeah, the importance of men and the role that they play is so important and people don’t emphasize that enough.
Teri: Yeah. I mean, it’s the same thing with racism, right? I think there’s, um, enough said these days, that it’s clear that, you know, to address race, racism is a white person’s problem. You know, uh, they are the ones who are putting upon, you know, other people who are not white, these stereotypes and, um, policing, uh, racist policies to segregate, you know, to limit access etc. Uh, and so, you know, similarly for sexism and misogyny, you know, men are the ones who are exerting in using their power over others. And, you know, we can, um, the rest of us, you know, can create an equal and just framework, uh, and implement it amongst ourselves. But we can’t escape, you know, patriarchal society where half the world’s population are men. And so, if they’re the ones, and as you know, uh, in a position of power, to exercise their privilege or feel entitlement to have more power, right, that’s going to be a problem. Um, and so yeah, they have to be part of the solution as well. And it has to be, you know, it has to be just as much, uh, a goal for men to be anti-sexist and pro-feminist, as it is for white people, white, liberal people. To be anti-racist, I think what most people, at least in the US know, if you’re, if you’re someone who cares about humanity and the, um, equality and justice, like you, for sure you have no problem saying I’m going to try to be every day, and as a process, you know, engage in anti-interrogating, racist beliefs and stereotypes and try to be anti-racist, but you don’t have that same dialogue happening in men saying, “Oh, I’m going to try to be anti-sexist” you know? No one’s holding them to that standard.
Agrita: So again, it’s just everyone really. We need to be focusing on, um, the kind of day to day things men say, their actions. We need to be holding them accountable for absolutely everything that they do that is not right. Whether it’s being sexist to women or racist or anything. I think a lot of us kind of just block out some of the things that men do, um, which is really concerning.
Teri: Yes. And so, I think a big part of that is that, you know, as women, we are socialised to be selfless.
Teri: Right? That we’re always putting other people’s needs ahead of us. We’re socialized, right, to be compassionate and empathetic towards men and to put our own needs second, you know? And so a big part of what I think, um, can be a part of the consciousness raising for women and understanding how pervasive sexism is in our society is to really, you know, like the self-care kind of mantra, you know, floats around, but to really internalise that self-care means self-love. Right?
Teri: And if you have self-love, you’re going to have boundaries. You’re going to have standards around how people treat you and you’re not gonna, you know, give people more and more chances because we define ourselves by our relationship status or how forgiving we are or how tolerant we are, you know, or thinking that we might be able to change or fix someone. And if we care about ourselves first, we’re not going to allow those things, um, to happen when it happens. And we’re also going to, you know, center our own economic independence, uh, because it’s a protective shield against toxicity if, and when we encounter it, and we don’t want that to be a barrier. But, I also want to say that, you know, it’s not just on men because back to the race example, I think if you were to ask, you know, people of colour, who to ask black people at least, forget about Asians and Latinos and other ethnic groups, black people in the US, I think most of them, if you survey them, they will say, yes, there is systemic racism that exists! (laughs)
Agrita: (laughs) Yeah!
Teri: You know, I do think that the majority of them will say that. If you ask women in the US if there is systemic sexism, the majority will not agree, that is why so many people are rejecting feminism because they think that we’re in a post-feminist society where we are equal or that achieving, or even wanting equality is going to hurt women who get, um, you know, rewarded for being able to, you know, adhere to the feminist and femininity, uh, sorry, not to feminist, but to femininity and to perform femininity. Right? And so those women who are rewarded based on their looks or how young they are, how desirable they are to the male gaze, they don’t want to give up that way of being defined as valuable in society. And those people, you know, um, very often stand in the way –
Agrita: – Yeah!
Teri: – of our collective liberation, our movement. I mean, I have to tell you, just, you know, in the context of last Friday, Justice Ginsburg passed, uh, and there are a lot of protective moms in Facebook that I’m connected to, that I see posts of, who are glad that she’s dead because there is a conspiracy theory, believe it or not.
Agrita: Yeah I was really confused about the whole –
Teri: Yes, that Justice Ginsburg is a pedophile, which is totally not true!
Agrita: Okay! (laughs)
Teri: Uh, and what happened was, you know, this is part of like, you know, just, it’s just crazy that these, um, I don’t know where it’s coming from, whether it’s from QAnon or, you know, other right wing conspiracy groups. But she had quoted, um, in a particular case in the past for supporting gender neutral language, and the language that she was referring to had been to quote this law in the books, which by the way, many states in this country still have child marriage laws.
Teri: So she happened, yes, so she happened to be quoting a child marriage law, which is, you know, you have to be 12 to be able, in that state, to be able to get married with the permission of your parents. And then, you know, these conspiracy theorists took that and ran with it and distorted it to the point where it was as if she’s supported, you know, um, child marriage. If you looked at the actual text of that case, not at all, but they just twisted it. And these are women who are advancing these theories.
Agrita: Yeah. I don’t, I understand it. It’s like we want liberation, but we’re snatching it away from people that are demanding it and doing the grassroots work to get to that.
Teri: Have you seen it on your threads? Is that how you heard about it?
Agrita: Yeah, I was very confused because I posted a quote from her and then I saw everybody just, you know, complaining about her. And I was like, what’s going on? I have no idea what was going on.
Teri: That’s crazy, I thought it was just in the US.
Agrita: It’s crazy!
Teri: But you, so I mean –
Agrita: It’s all over Twitter!
Teri: You could Google, you know, “Justice Ginsburg pedophile” and you’ll see Snopes, is like a, you know, a news fact-checking site and it’ll tell you it’s not true, and the sources that show you, it’s not true. And yet people keep, even when you give them those sources, they still repeat the lie (laughs).
Agrita: Yeah, I just don’t understand it.
Teri: (laughs) So see, I’ve actually come to the belief that, um, women are just as dangerous as men, you know.
Teri: In standing in the way of our liberation, because these women are agents of patriarchy and they’re the ones, they’re the people who you see, the rabbit Trump fans in those, you know, rallies. I mean, those people, they have this like rabbit-look!
Teri: You know, I mean, right! (laughs) They are like snarling and angry, and it’s really scary, um, that the level of basically fanaticism that they’re engaged in. And then, I don’t know if you heard now, but the woman who was, uh, is being, Amy Barrett, who’s being proposed as the candidate to replace Justice Ginsburg is from this religious cult called the People of Praise that was the foundation and the source and inspiration for the Handmaid’s Tale.
Agrita: I mean it’s in the Trump administration, so I’m not shocked at all! (laughs)
Teri: (laughs) It’s a very pivotal moment that we’re in right now in history.
Agrita: Yeah, it’s crazy. I also see how, how so many people hate the word feminism. I really want to make an episode just on redefining feminism because it’s become this really ugly and inaccurate term to be used against women that are demanding change and to see them as arrogant and nonsensical, privileged women that are demanding change, that they don’t need. That’s what it’s synonymised too.
Teri: Yeah. I mean, it’s like saying, you know, being an antiracist, like why is being an anti-racist not stigmatised, but being a feminist is?
Teri: It’s because the right wing has spent the last 50 years through Fox News, creating and manufacturing, um, you know, stories and means against women who demand equality and Rush Limbo came up with the term feminazi.
Teri: So how could you, of course, this is a machine that has been discrediting the feminist movement ever since the sixties, um, since Roe vs Wade, ‘cause they were afraid that women were going to have access to, you know, reproductive freedom and do what we want with our bodies. And no, no, no, we can’t let them do that because then we can’t control them, you know? So, we have to, we have to discredit their home movement and it’s been going on for 50 years.
Agrita: (sighs) All I can do is sigh to that! (laughs)
Agrita: (laughs) So, clearly we’ve identified that abuse victims need so much more support. Um, a lot of support that we do give is not the support that they need. In the film, there was, I think an ACE study that really brought kind of tangible solutions to survivors to kind of help them understand that, if you get a score, I think above 4, you need to kind of focus on your mental health, maybe get counseling, do some things –
Agrita: – so it doesn’t affect you negatively in the long term. So, do you think these studies are really helpful? For survivors, or is there another kind of strategy that we need to look at?
Teri: Well, I mean, basically the history of ACEs, adverse childhood experiences, is that there was, it started out as an obesity study. Um, and what happened was the doctor and researcher on that study found that there were a lot of people in this study who would lose weight and then gain it back.
Agrita: Ah okay.
Teri: Uh, and he started interviewing these individuals and found out that there was this common thread that linked all of them, the people who would lose weight and gain it back, and that was childhood sexual abuse. So he made a connection, that was the beginning of ACEs, that, you know, you, unless you basically were able to resolve your emotional issues around trauma, it would have a negative impact on your body still, like your body won’t heal until you’re emotionally, psychologically, you know, healing. And so, the idea was that, um, you know, these, sort of different life events and experiences, you know, which include divorce or having your parent go to, you know, be imprisoned, um, or being a child witness to domestic violence, or having basically a series of either abuse or neglect experiences, could result in a child disproportionately, um, being at higher risk of adult problems. So chronic, you know, heart disease, higher rates of, likelihood to be substance abuse, susceptible to substance abuse, addiction, and, you know, obesity, uh, a whole bunch of different diseases and additions that we’re certainly not going to be healthy for you and would potentially reduce your lifespan, you know, increase your mortality and certainly have a negative impact on your wellbeing of life, right? Your quality of life. So, the idea is that, you know, if you were to put, in the film, if you were to put children who are exposed of number one, children who are exposed to domestic violence is a form of child abuse in itself, that is traumatic. Because people think that unless their child is hit, you know, there’s no negative impact and that there is, and because of that, um, we need to make sure that we’re protecting children, uh, and the survivors’ immediate conditions to the point where, you know, those conditions are not going to result in long-term negative health consequences. And, what they said in the film is that if you have at least one healthy parent that you are in a, uh, normal attachment to, um, safe attachment too, then that’s good. That’s what you need, because that will provide you with the resources and potentially the resilience that you need to get through the life traumas as a child. But if you don’t have that, then that’s going to put you at higher risk. And so, yes, we need to talk about trauma, um, and how it affects children. And we need to have a trauma informed practicewhen it comes to making decisions that impact children and survivors.
Agrita: So, do you think studies like this are really good for survivors to kind of look at and find those gaps in terms of their mental health?
Teri: Well, I think it’s an impetus for taking action, right?
Teri: It’s an impetus for making sure that you’re seeking, um, mental health support, you know, having a therapist who is trauma-informed that can help you develop practices that, um, really, are building healthy habits, you know, that you’re mindful of your eating and nutrition.
Teri: Because you might be at higher rates of risk in let’s say diabetes, you know, um, you, and that you basically are saying, you can care of yourself, you know, mind, body, and soul. And not that you wouldn’t otherwise, but if you know you’re going to be at higher risk of, um, you know, getting certain disorders, you wouldn’t want to be able to prevent it from happening right? Um, and yeah, so it’s a way of helping us to be proactive about centering our own health, but also it’s a tool for, um, people who are, you know, making decisions about our lives, like family court, players and judges, to see that, you know, placing children with abusers is not helpful for just the, not just the individual family, but also for society.
Agrita: What do you think that allies like myself, and other people, should genuinely do to help survivors and to get their stories across and to get that justice that they need? Whether it’s for themselves or for their children or for both.
Teri: So I think that we need to number one, I suggest everyone examine their own sexism or internalised sexismand, uh, again, to use the race example, like, you’re either sexist or anti-sexist and to be anti-sexist is to be pro-feminist. So, I think that we all need to have a gendered power lens for understanding and analysing how these behaviours show up in our society and in our lives. And so, I recommend that everybody learn about feminism, read about it, you know, when you have your next episode on feminism, men and women should listen to it.
Agrita: Of course.
Teri: They should pick up a book, the way that people are reading, you know, Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist, they should read. Bell Hooks’ “Feminism Is For Everybody, you know, and recognise that feminism is for everybodybecause when you live under patriarchy and the norms of patriarchy that put everybody in a box based on their gender roles and police their behavior, it doesn’t allow for them to be able to fully embody who they are, you know, and that’s harmful. That’s like diminishing yourself. That’s not, helping you to be, uh, um, fully actualised, and, um, the other thing I would say is that we need to build a culture of accountability. And so, if we have a culture of accountability, when it comes to, um, our personal lives, we’re going to be able to extend it to other parts of our lives. Our workplaces, our politicians and elected officials and vice versa. Right now, the media is a big culprit of, um, not supporting and building a culture of accountability because of their, their tendency to create false equivalences and to downplay behaviours. You know, the fact that they keep asking the question about what is Trump going to do X, Y, Z? He’s not going to do it because he’s an abuser, he’s a predator, you know? And so, if we recognise that, then we can have certain tactics and we have a certain lens too, exposing him so that other people can, you know, not wait for him to change, right? He’s not going to do better because that’s who he is. And when we start naming it, we can then start changing our tactics for what we do and how we it respond. And how we’re responding is this passive way of waiting for people to transform and believing that people can be transformed, but some people can’t be transformed, and we have to just accept that. And the culture of accountability has to include, you know, a space that some people don’t want to and will never transform, and we have to create space for them, and that could be jail! (laughs)
Agrita: (laughs) Most likely will be, yeah!
Teri: Hopefully jail! Yeah.
Agrita: Yeah, no definitely. I think the last question I wanted to ask you is the difference between reformative and transformative justice. Um, I’ve seen these two times come up quite a bit and the difference is kind of hard to distinguish. So, what is the difference between then and why is it so harmful to society, in domestic violence?
Teri: So, I don’t know enough to distinguish the difference between domestic, uh, between transformative justice and restorative justice. Um, I mean, I can postulate, um, that restorative justice is more about the victim and the person who was harmed, uh, and you know, restoring a sense of, uh, you know, providing agency to that individual to have the harm acknowledged. And from what I understand, transformative justice is more about, uh, into the full community, into building a culture where people who are harming are held accountable from this collective structure. Uh, and so, the from former restorative justice may not have that culture, uh, and the framework and the infrastructure attached to it. But transformative justice may, but I, you know, I don’t want you to quote me on this, please look it up. Uh, but just to reiterate, it does work for certain populations, like for juvenile justice –
Teri: – for one-time incident crimes for, um, sexual assault and rape. It works if it’s, you know, obviously someone who you would like, don’t have to have in your life in the long term, right?
Teri: Like not someone you’re sharing a child with who can manipulate you through your, the child and through the family court and other systems. Um, but in the domestic violence case where there is this very clear hierarchy, it is not something that I think it’s safe for survivors and can easily be used to continue the harm against us.
Agrita: Thank you so much Teri for coming on the show, it’s been a true pleasure! I’ve learned about so much within a span of a few weeks, so it’s amazing, thank you so much for your time.
Teri: Thank you for your work too. I think that it’s important for us podcasters to be diving deeply into these topics.
Teri: And you know, you are definitely one of the few who are doing so, and we’re not just, you know, you’re not there just to get the clickbait. Um, like some podcasts are about like having shorter episodes, and you know, more listeners. And I think with the topics that you’re covering it needs, it needs that in depth exploration, so that people can be ignited to recognise that things aren’t so black and white, it can’t be summarised in 10, 15 minutes. And, here’s the wealth of resources that you’re offering your listeners so that they can actually explore and learn more. So, thank you.
Agrita: Thanks so much and connecting with people like you is just so inspirational and that way everybody can learn so much more about something that they haven’t really looked into. So yeah, podcasting is amazing! (laughs)
OUTRO: Domestic abuse, sex/gender-based violence is something that I have been aware of constantly and do advocate for change wherever I can, but when talking to Teri, I could instantly identify the gaps in my knowledge of the harsh realities of victims, who are disproportionately women, especially within courts. I got to learn so much within a short span of time so I’m very grateful and thankful for Teri for coming on and sharing so much knowledge with all of us, to help us allies support survivors in the way they want and need. Head over to my website to access all the resources for the show, you can also find the transcript for this episode and previous ones as well. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, follow me on Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter and Pinterest. Please support Mind Full of Everything through giving reviews for the show and purchasing my eco-friendly merchandise. Thank you so much again for listening, hope you all stay and well during these difficult times, and until the next episode happy listening!
- Engendered Podcast website
- Engendered Collective – platform for survivors, practitioners and allies
- Teri’s Medium article on weaponising race for abuser accountability
- Collection of Teri’s articles on Medium
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