Of Course It's About Protecting Abusers

Punk Transformative Justice Rant III

Let's talk about something reaaaaally bad. Protecting abusers. That's a accusation one is bound to face when advocating for transformative justice or against leftist ostracism. "You're trying to defend abusers!". And I've yet to see someone responding something other than "But I'm not!". And I get it. We're all against abuse here, and we want to push against the suspicion that we'd be not. But there's a catch.

Everybody here conflate protecting abusers from accountability with protecting abusers from abuse.
But that's not the same thing. At all.
Of course, we shouldn't protect abusers from accountability.
But we should protect abusers from abuse.

If this idea scares you, I get it.
That's a frightening idea, indeed.

Because, for starter, where is the line?

Where is the line between protecting an abuser from accountability and protecting an abuser from abuse?
And honestly... I don't know.
I guess we'll have to find out.
But I know there is a line.

Trying to find it is hard, and scary. It require us to make sometimes bold decisions, like, for example, saying to a victim of abuse that she's being unreasonable and unnecessary destructive when it's needed to say that.
It requires us to make decisions that won't be accepted by everyone, and that we might regret one day.
It requires us to dirty our hands and lost a little bit of our certainty to do make the right decisions or be on the right side of things.
In comparison, side with whichever we perceive as the victim and fight against whichever we perceive as the bad guy of the story is incomparably easier for the mind.
It's easier to deal with harm and abuse between people when we believe some of them deserve to be harmed because they're bad, or cannot logically be abused because they embody abuse in our minds.
And if there's something I learned these last years, is how far people are ready to go to protect their innocence.

Because, also, won't this be weaponized?

Won't abusers weaponize what I'm saying to avoid accountability, or to be even more abusive with the full support of the community?
And the answer is: yeah. They will. 100% they will.
But what's the alternative?
The alternative is saying that once we've proven someone is bad enough, then it's ok to be abusive towards them.
That it's actually isn't abuse at this point, but a much needed violence that makes the world safer.
And the bad guys should accept it, otherwise they're even worse and deserve even more violence.
And nobody should defend them and care for them, because that would make them bad and deserving violence too.
And so I ask: how that discourse cannot be weaponized by abusers?

There's a lot of gruesome and horrifying stories out there of relationships where one partner is accused by the other of abusive behavior, and subsequently accept constant mistreatments for the rest of the relationship. And they accept everything because they believe they deserve what is happening to them, because it's their bad behavior who caused all of this happening to them. And they believe the whole queer, feminist or anarchist community would condone the abuse they receive, because as abusers, they don't deserve much better. These stories usually end when they realize they should leave and/or stand up for themselves. And usually, this realisation takes the form of a flipping of categories: "oh, i'm not the abuser here, i'm actually the victim".

As much as I empathize with the authors of these stories, I think they repeat the same ideological pattern that informed the abuse they received in the first place. Because when they claim they actually weren't the abuser but the victim, they imply the way they were treated would have been fair if they were "the abuser".
And you know what?
I'm almost entirely sure their partner didn't saw themselves as abusers weaponizing a victim status.
I'm almost entirely sure they saw themselves as victims.
And sometimes, they are not even wrong about that.

So, I guess what I'm saying is: if you're against "protecting abusers", and you're comfortable with the ambiguity of what this means, then you are, plain and simple, advocating for abuse.
I'm not only saying that you are believing too much in your ability to distinguish who's the "abuser" and who's the "victim" in a given situation -- including your own ability to realize when you are abusive.
I'm also stating the fact that being abusive towards "an abuser" is still being abusive.

You can be radically against "abusers".
Or you can be radically against abuse.
You cannot be both.

And I don't care so much for what you think about that.

At some point, that's not even political for me.
It's just about survival, you know.

Because I'm both a victim of abuse and an abuser.
And as a victim, I need friends, lovers, and a community where I'll find protection, care and justice.
And as an abuser, I need the exact same things.

And you might believe I don't deserve protection, care, or justice.
That's all right. You do you.
It won't prevent me to look for it, though.

As for Transformative Justice, well... I lied.

It's not at all about protecting abusers.
It's not about protecting them from accountability, of course.
But it's not even about protecting them from abuse.
It's not even about distinguishing one from another.

Most of the most prominent voices for transformative justice explicitely state that they "don't want to protect abusers". Which means that I'm not safe with them. That's as simple as that.

Transformative Justice advocates itself as better than "punitive justice" because it's more healing, less destructive, more able to build strong communities. And it is.
But the problem with punitive justice (at least the way it is usually done in anarchist and feminist spaces) is not that it is punitive. It's that it's not justice. It's abuse.

Justice needs conflict.
And there cannot be any conflict if one side cannot be defended, and has no right to defend itself.
There cannot be justice between humans and monsters.
And there cannot be justice if we don't protect everyone claiming their humanity.

If we don't protect abusers, then we don't protect them from abuse.
And if we don't protect them from abuse, then "community accountability" and "transformative justice" only means exposing them to abuse in a way that protects and keeps clean community's collective conscience.

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