Question: “Hi Anbu, I wanted to inquire how/if you folks support people that have committed sexual violence. I am asking because I wanted to know how to support someone through a transformative justice lens.”
Answer: In short, ANBU does support people that have committed sexual violence.
ANBU is an organization that supports childhood survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We are guided by our principles within the anti oppression framework to always look at support intersectionally based on the persons needs, identities and experiences. As we work within an organization that supports a racialized demographic, we understand the importance of looking towards alternate forms of justice that people within our identities are not used too. Transformative justice looks to encourage rehabilitation, accountability and healing as it’s focus, rather than incarceration and punishment. Topics of sexual violence are of great stigma in our communities, and it is only when we work together with both survivors and perpetrators of violence to heal that we can grow as a community. The reality is that often times, perpetrators of violence have a history of trauma. It is our goal to continue to educate those who access our supports that are perpetrators, and ensure that they are given the tools to heal and learn, rather than being forced into isolation or punishment. Especially within the Tamil community, we must look towards transformative modes of justice to acknowledge inter-generational violence and trauma.
Question: “I have a relative who was sexually abused as a child by a community member and as a result, she was excluded from her immediate community. To cope, she self imposed an exile from the Tamil community – did not learn the language, rejected fair skin, thin, womanly politeness, and other ideals that are in Tamil culture. I notice now she is reconnecting with the Tamil community – rightly, through an apprehensive approach. But the Tamil community, including the Tamil youth, still shames her – for not speaking the language, for not fitting the gender and beauty norms. How can we address this second implied exhile – where elitism, may not make room for survivors ? How does Anbu make room for those without a high profile in the community ?”
Answer: ANBU operates with an anti-oppressive practice framework through a critical lens employing humility, differential responses, trauma-informed practice, and the promotion of individual and community empowerment and development. The issue of childhood sexual abuse is a topic which is relevant and evident in all communities and populations regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation(s), ability (e.g. physical, mental, emotional, cognitive), class, shade, ethnicity, culture, economic status, caste, spirituality, religion, etc. It is a social issue which often, if not always, brings with it a minimization and/or silencing of the issue due to its taboo designation within dominant society. Childhood sexual abuse is not a Thamil issue, it is a human issue.
All societies, regardless of background, subscribe to socially constructed discourses (dominant and subjugated), and survivors of childhood sexual abuse may find themselves at odds with subscribing to, and/or identifying with, these norms due to the transgressions they experienced at a very personal level which affects the way in which people navigate through diverse spaces, and through the world as a whole. The way in which survivors are impacted vary, therefore, ANBU does not essentialize any one experience to reflect all survivors – each individual has unique history(ies), and diverse ways in which micro-aggressions and transgressions may affect them in a personal and social manner. As such, we strive to promote and practice differential responses to reflect the subjective experience, perspective, and affects/effects of each individual. ANBU believes that each person’s journey to navigate through their experiences, trajectory, and personhood is specific to each individual, and a part of self-empowerment, is to support individual healing journeys. ANBU is a safe space for all Thamil survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It is important to note that all persons have the right to their authentic journey, and navigation of their cultural identity. For persons who are affected in a manner which may have encouraged them to step away from the Thamil community, or with engaging with Thamil people and cultural elements, it is important to acknowledge their experience, and that their reaction is not one of rebellion, but one of safety, and a symptom of trauma.
As Childhood sexual abuse is a human issue, and not centered on any one population of people(s), ANBU does not take a stance to demonize our Thamil people, instead, as Thamil people we promote and encourage learning, empowerment, and community development so that our Thamil community can rise together and work together to address this social issue, to safeguard our Thamil children and youth, and to create an environment where survivors are appropriately responded to and supported. When we as a community can better understand the issues related to childhood sexual abuse and the effects and affects of it, we can better understand the human lives affected by it within our community so that stigma, shame, and other negative results which further traumatize and victimize survivors can be questioned, and addressed. There are many misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the complex array of ways survivors can be impacted, and about the topic of childhood sexual abuse in general, and ANBU hopes to work with our community to build capacity on an individual, group, and community level. ANBU respects, acknowledges, and validates all survivors’ identity politics, and the way in which they identify as individuals.
ANBU strives to work with our community to look at prevention, intervention, and post-intervention supports to further strengthen our already resilient and strong community. We come from a culture which believes that it takes a village to raise a child, and in much of the same context, it takes a village, our Thamil community, to protect our children. யாதும் ஊரே, யாவரும் கேளிர் is a Thamil saying which means ‘every place is our village, every person is our family’, and ANBU believes in this Thamil belief. Every community has its share of human issues, and this reality which is found in all communities, should not villainize the Thamil community. Instead ANBU and our community should villainize this human issue.