Powerful By Nature - The Criminalization of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

Date:  January 14, 2019
Hosts:  Rhiannon
Guests:  Deepa Mattoo, Barbara Schlifer Clinic & PXN participant
Topic:  Criminalization of Women who experience, resist, or report Gender-Based Violence

We began by talking about the case of Cyntonia Brown. At the age of 16, Brown, a victim of sex trafficking, was charged in adult court for killing a Nashville man, despite telling police that she killed him in self defense after he bought her for sex. She was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole until she was 69. After activists across North America rallied for her release, the Tennessee governor office’s recently granted her clemency. She’s been in prison for 15 years and is set to be released this August.

While we may hear about it less often, women in Canada also experience criminalization because of state involvement due to gender-based violence. Indigenous women, black women, LGBTQ+ women and sex workers are more vulnerable to criminalization because of state involvement due to gender-based violence. In our first interview with Deepa, the Director of Legal Services for the Barbara Schlifer Clinic, Deepa talked about the clinic’s Criminilization of Women project and broke down how women are often treated as the aggressors or instigators if and when they report assault or intimate partner violence. This works as just one of many reasons women don’t report gender-based violence, and puts them at risk of child welfare involvement, criminal charges and more, especially if they experience other forms of discrimination like racism, xenophobia and mental health stigma.

We wrapped up the show interviewing a Powerful by Nature participant about her personal experiences of criminalization as a survivor of intimate partner violence. She shared how the failure of state institutions, like the police, to protect her and their treatment of her was a form or re-traumatization and actively put her safety as risk. We encouraged anyone who needs support escaping gender-based violence or criminalization to reach out to resources like the Assaulted Women’s Hotline, the Barbara Schlifer clinic, Elizabeth Fry Toronto, and Central Intake for Housing support. You are not alone.

To learn more about Jessie’s Centre and/or the Community Education Program, please visit:
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