How does intersectionality apply to understanding and acting against violence?

Introduction

A survivor of violence should never be seen just as a generic survivor, a casebook statistic – even though the laws and policies applying to her may not have any more nuance. As an anti-violence specialist, as a survivor-centred service provider, one must ask and understand the implications of these questions (and more): what is her immigration or citizenship status? Is she able to speak the language of the country she is in? Is she isolated and if so in what ways? What is her access to employment and to financial assets? Who makes decisions in her household? And then consider how all these factors meet and overlap to make her vulnerable to violence and exert influence on her journey out of violence; how do these factors make her vulnerable to re-victimization, perhaps not in the home but elsewhere, in the violent spaces created by racism and ethnocentrism outside the home?

Image: Intersectionality as a lens to approach intimate partner sexual violence[1]

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One must ask what it means to be a ‘racialized woman’ and ask how violence is made and experienced in an interlocking matrix of oppression at the intersection of  race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, etc.  The experience of a non-English speaking sponsored immigrant spouse experiencing violence from her husband, in-laws and others is not the same as that of a mainstream, able-bodied, white, middle-class and up, heterosexual, English-speaking, university-educated Canadian with access to employment, housing, legal representation, social supports, and relative cross-border freedom of movement and residence. Understanding the differences and knowing what to do with that understanding requires us to be attentive to nuance and detail.

Image: The interlocking matrix of oppression[2]

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Unless service providers take intersectionality into account, they will be of little use, and may in fact be harmful, for various segments of the population. They must be aware of the seemingly unrelated factors that can impact a person’s life and adapt their methods accordingly. For instance, according to intersectionality, urging all women to report their abusers to police is of little use. With immigrant women, calling the police is scary in itself apart from starting a cascade of events that the reporting person may not be able to deal with – the report to the police may start a slide into homelessness[i], increased immigration precarity, as well as revictimization not only in the specific community, but also just in the experience of narrating and then re-narrating the violence.

Image: Reflect on your application of intersectionality [3]

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Image Usage

[1] Image (recaptioned) from http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/learning-network-resources/learning-network-infographics.

[2] Image (recaptioned) from http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/learning-network-resources/learning-network-infographics.

[3] Image (recaptioned) from http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/learning-network-resources/learning-network-infographics.

References

[i] Gander, L & Johannson, R. (2014).The Hidden Homeless:Residential Tenancies Issues of Victims of Domestic Violence. Link

 

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