Community organizer discusses alternative justice for sexual assault survivors

Alexis White, Reporter

Community organizer and educator Mariame Kaba spoke about societal systems that enable rape culture and alternative ways for sexual assault survivors to get justice at a Monday event co-sponsored by the Center for Awareness, Response and Education.

Kaba, who has taught at Northwestern, founded several organizations aimed at reducing violence against women, especially those who are minorities. About 100 people attended the lecture, titled “Transforming Rape Culture: A Discussion on Community Accountability to Address Sexual Violence,” in Annenberg Hall.

Sekile Nzinga-Johnson, director of the Women’s Center — which also co-sponsored the event — said Kaba was invited to share her perspective on rape culture and how to address it.

Kaba criticized the U.S. criminal justice system, citing examples of sexual assault survivors who have been penalized for reporting perpetrators or defending themselves. She suggested that community accountability be used as an alternative to the current system.

Social worker and Chicago resident Kelin Hall told The Daily she agreed with Kaba that survivors want to be heard.

Hall, who leads sexual assault counseling with young survivors at the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, said she also agreed that people should rely less on the criminal justice system. She said she would use the idea that rape culture is a systemic problem to help divert blame victims may place on themselves.

“Hearing her narrative will help me to, when working with young people, contextualize their struggles. Say it’s not about you, it’s not about your uncle, or your dad or your teacher or whoever,” Hall said. “It’s about this system.”

Kaba elaborated on other problems with the criminal justice system, saying that people who commit violence don’t always change in prison because it does not offer effective rehabilitation tools.

Weinberg senior Liam White told The Daily after the event this idea made him consider better ways to work with college students who act violently.

White, who is a member of Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, said he would bring the idea of community accountability back to the organization.

“The way that we punish violence helps neither the survivor nor the offender,” White said. “There are ways to create a community culture that allows for both those people to feel better about the way that the healing process plays out.”

Kaba presented community accountability as a new system to replace adversarial criminal justice. She said community accountability opens up voluntary conversation to empower survivors to share their needs.

She added that community accountability is not a quick solution, doesn’t require forgiveness by the survivor and does not work in every situation. Nevertheless, Kaba said it can help give survivors justice they might not find through a formal resolution.

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