Prevention efforts are critical not only for the well-being of children but also to stop future family violence from...
Many practitioners, funders, and policymakers believe that accountability for people who use intimate partner violence can only be created by leveraging the power of systems, such as applying criminal legal sanctions. However, relying on systems alone to establish accountability perpetuates racial disparities that exist within all institutions. A punitive approach can also deprive children of the presence of fathers who love them and who may have the hope to develop healthier ways of being in their lives.
People who use intimate partner violence must be held responsible for their behavior, and the safety of their partners and children is and must always be a priority. Practitioners, treatment providers, family members, friends, and others can create a strong circle of accountability and safety with or without using formal systems. Institutions, like courts and child welfare, can also develop skills to employ relational accountability strategies with the person using violence and coercive control. Relational accountability leverages the power of human-relationships and personal-connections to find balance between consequences and support for positive change for abusive partners.
The Transformative Justice activists Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan created this graph that clearly shows an expanded version of accountability. In their workbook Fumbling Towards Repair, they write that consequences and limits without support for change are punitive and authoritarian and that support for change without consequences and limits is permissive and paternalistic. Of course, doing nothing is neglectful and irresponsible, but finding a balance among these elements creates genuine transformative accountability. The abusive partner’s risk and danger levels and willingness to change will determine if the balance leans more towards consequences or support for change. However, these elements should always be present.
Accountability is not only a personal concept. Systems also need to be accountable to survivors and communities. Institutions need to examine and acknowledge the harm they have caused to the people they are supposed to serve and take action to repair the damage and change the conditions that allowed it to happen in the first place. This kind of accountability can also be achieved by leveraging human relationships and balancing consequences and limits with support for positive change and healing.