Photo via @sashay_shaunte

How can anyone push survivors to report to the police this week?

The irony is nauseating. In major media outlets you could find, right next to each other, articles about the grand jury decision not to indict the cop who murdered Eric Garner and Virginia’s plans to push more victims into the criminal justice system. In the wake of Rolling Stone‘s exposé of institutional apathy after a brutal gang rape, state legislators want schools to turn over all gender-based violence reports to the police.

It always bugs me to see politicians and critics argue that we should give up on college adjudication of gender-based violence and turn all reports over to the police. At this point in the conversation there are just too many accounts out there explaining why this is a terrible idea for anyone to float it like an uncomplicated, brilliant solution. The proposals to integrate campus adjudication and criminal law ignore survivors’ lives and voices, they ignore history, and they avoid the multiple times over just in the last year that similar calls have emerged only to be soundly defeated.

But this week was different. This week attempts to force victims into criminal options aren’t just irresponsible: they are unconscionable. Too many people can never avoid intimate knowledge of state violence, but this week it was impossible to be a living, breathing human being in the United States of America and not recognize that the police are agents of violence. Connect the dots. Are you shocked people who watch a video of Eric Garner’s murder on the streets of New York don’t then call 911 when they are sexually abused?

12.05.14 blm I worry that these conversations about resisting criminal responses to gender-based violence shame those victims who do report to the police. For many, particularly those without means and private support systems, the cops are the only option. We should provide nothing but empathy and support for these survivors.

But it’s a tremendous collective failure that we, as a society, cannot imagine justice beyond criminal courts. Our country has gutted civil law remedies for survivors; we would rather replace campus adjudication with an even more dysfunctional system than try to improve it. There are, of course, bright spots of visionary organizing to create real alternatives. Yet, with these few exceptions, we leave survivors in an impossible bind when the only recourse we provide is a system of violence and discrimination. And that’s not only a question of conscience. Unsurprisingly, survivors, particularly queer and trans women of color, face tremendous personal risk of harassment, skepticism, and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officials.

Feminists, particularly women of color, have been saying this for decades. And the tolerated murder of black people is our nation’s history. What’s new is that mainstream American politics can no longer ignore the needs of survivors of gender-based violence and tolerated police violence against people of color. These aren’t the same fight, but we can’t allow them to happen in silos, either. The criminal justice system doesn’t work. So how will we care for ourselves instead?

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at

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