Thursday, December 01, 2022
I am pleased to announce that my first monograph, Between the Street and the State: Black Women’s Anti-Rape Activism Amid the War on Crime, is now under advance contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press. It will be the latest addition to the Politics and Culture in Modern America series.
Across three decades, state funding knit the rape crisis center movement and carceral entities ever closer together. Beginning in the 1970s, policymakers who were fighting the federal “War on Crime” designated a series of government agencies and acts, such as the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), The National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape (NCPCR), the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), to support feminist anti-rape activity. These entities promoted the carceral tactics of policing, prosecution, and punishment as the only effective means of controlling rape. They expected anti-rape organizers to embrace them to the exclusion of all other forms of advocacy, such as community education, self-defense training, and therapeutic counseling. While the white leadership of the feminist anti-rape movement increasingly accepted this arrangement—whether out of financial necessity or sincere belief in controlling rape through law enforcement—it troubled their Black colleagues. They saw policing, prosecution, and punishment as contributing to the violence in their lives, not controlling it.
Utilizing the archival records of feminist anti-rape organizations, publications from government agencies that subsidized anti-rape work, state-funded research on sexual violence, and oral history interviews with individual organizers, it follows over a dozen Black women anti-rape organizers during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s as they cared for assaulted Black women and girls on the unfavorable terms of an increasingly carceral state. I argue that Black women anti-rape organizers declined the narrow carceral solutions to rape endorsed by state agencies and supported by much of the white leadership of the feminist anti-rape movement. Instead, they substituted practices that empowered Black women and girls and downplayed criminal justice responses to rape. These practices included restructuring white-led rape crisis centers, critiquing state-funded scientific research on the relationship between race and rape, developing progressive curriculum for Black school children, emphasizing emotional healing as a mode of justice that did not rest upon punishment, and resisting legislation that expanded police power over rape. This diverse arsenal of practices allowed Black anti-rape activists to critically engage the growing carceral state and the white-dominated feminist movement against sexual violence at the same time.