is an approach from the USA to deal with sexualized and domestic violence. It was developed by Black, Indigenous women, lesbians, and trans people of color because they had few options to get support without their community being targeted by racist police violence. Therefore, it was necessary to develop alternatives to the racist police and prison system in order to take collective responsibility as a community for dealing with violence. It includes four subsections: Supporting those affected, educating those around them, transformative work with the person perpetrating the violence, and political work for social change.
Empowerment “is a decolonial, community-oriented concept for self-empowerment, healing and (re) acquiring agency by people with experiences of discrimination” [Natascha Anahita Nassir-Shahnian: Powersharing: there is nothing good unless we do it!]. When people with similar experiences of marginalization join together and share their experiences, social power structures become visible. In this way, they can be recognized and an awareness of structural relationships of violence develops. In this way, room for taking action becomes visible in order to defend oneself against power structures. Strengthening each other is important in order to be able to deal with everyday experiences of discrimination and to fight for smaller, more self organized and self defined spaces.
Reflection is related to awareness and takes place on two levels: Self-reflection and reflection in the collective/group. We all are not simply “aware”, but have to actively establish this again and again and change ourselves and each other. This means to be aware of one’s own social positioning, to be open to criticism, to listen to others, to allow learning and negotiations to take place.
Content note refers to the naming of content and atmospheres in texts, discussions, films, social media, etc., so that people can decide which topic they want to engage with. It’s also about avoiding potential triggers. Triggers refer to triggers that lead to associations with traumatic events. These can be anything, such as touches, words, colors, smells, emotions or certain experiences. Therefore, it is hardly possible to predict individual triggers. A certain topic, such as sexual violence, is not necessarily a trigger per se, but it can be distressing and should therefore be marked. This is why we propose the term Content Note, so that people can decide for themselves what they want to deal with and what they do not want to deal with.
Analysing power is an essential part of the awareness approach. Because it is about acting in a way that is based on partisanship, and that is an approach that involves an analysis of power. Partisanship means taking the side of those who are marginalized within the dominant society. In order to be able to see and understand this marginalization at all as a non-affected person, an examination of the social conditions is necessary. For example, it is not simply a matter of supporting the person who comes first, but of thinking about marginalization and affectedness intersectionally. However, those who have hardly dealt with the relations of discrimination, intersectionality, and multiple affects of discrimination can also do a lot of things wrong and additionally hurt those affected.
Self-care is a strategy that Black feminists have developed to show that their health limitations are already a result of discrimination. Therefore, according to Audre Lorde, “taking care of myself [.] is not a personal luxury. It is self-sustainability and thus an act of political warfare” [Audre Lorde 1988, A Burst of Light]. In doing so, they created awareness of the importance of self-care in order to be politically active in a sustainable way. In terms of awareness, we see self-care as particularly important. Awareness work is often very stressful and usually involves dealing with violent and frustrating situations. Some issues of affected people can also trigger you yourself. Taking care of oneself and pulling oneself out of situations is therefore especially important. This includes mutual reinforcement and support in the team as well as good preparation and follow-up and external supervision.
Power of definition
Power of definition describes the approach that persons affected by violence define the violence they have experienced by themselves. Power to define includes taking individual boundaries seriously.
This means focusing on the fact that every experience of violence is experienced individually, because not every person has the same understanding of violence: What I experience as violence may feel different to you. Because we have different life experiences, grew up in different contexts, and use (and are used to use) different categories for ourselves, violations are very subjective.
Prevention is an important part of the awareness approach. This is because, in addition to supporting those affected, it is also about creating a broad social awareness of how much discriminatory thinking and action is anchored within us. By raising awareness, the problem of structural and individual violence becomes visible and does not just remain the problem of individuals. This is because being aware of it is what makes critical self-reflection possible in the first place, and thus an active acceptance of responsibility for violations of boundaries and assaults.
Transformative justice describes a learning process through which experiences and knowledge are expanded, and new perspectives are adopted. Individual experiences of socialization are analyzed and viewed in the context of structural relationships of violence. In this way, responsibility for one’s own actions is to be taken. In contrast to institutional punishment, acts of violence are to be stopped and the conditions under which violence can occur are to be worked through and changed together with the person committing the violence and the community.