“Transformative justice argues that we are all involved in complex relationships of oppressors and oppressed, domination and dominated. I may be the oppressed in one situation, but I may be the oppressor in another situation. I may be the victim from one perspective, but I may be the offender from another perspective. Transformative justice is not about destroying and building anew, and it’s not about creating win-lose solutions common to social revolutions in which the oppressed become the new oppressors (Skocpol, 1995). Instead, transformative justice asks that everyone and everything change—we as individuals, as well as our systems, structures, and relationships…
Social justice activists often identify the oppressor as the enemy. While this is understandable, transformative justice actually challenges this perspective: no one is an enemy; instead, everyone needs to be involved in a voluntary, safe, constructive, and critical dialogue about accountability, responsibility, and the initiative to heal.” Anthony Nocella
After 10 months of separately doing deep work in harm reduction and intimacy nurturing based on the foundation of the Alive program, we are now two weeks away from our adoption triad meeting where we will account for the hurt and harm we caused one another, mediate new agreements, and begin restoring relationship between all parties. I am scared to face the pain I caused two people I love so deeply I shared my son with them, and I am excited because I anticipate being permanently reunited with my son and his parents once we are complete. I long with all of my heart to be part of his/their life again.
I would never wish for the breakdown in our relationship or the tremendous pain it caused our families and ourselves; however, I am immensely grateful for the personal growth and transformation that took place since. My relationships with myself and my husband are transformed. My beloved friendship with our facilitator has deepened beyond measure. I gained a whole new level of emotional stability this year. Having my relationship with my youngest son on the line compelled me to face myself like never before – to face my pain, my grief, my old traumas, *and* my capacity to cause hurt and harm when I am in pain. In facing my own violence I now have a deeper understanding of the all the ways we violate our own and one another’s dignity, how we try to coerce and control others to meet our needs and desires. I have a deeper understanding of how we cause one another pain and how we can heal when hurt and harm happen.
I see how criticism of my husband’s ways about the house violated his dignity as I tried to control our environment. I see how trying to bully the adoptive parents into mediation violated their sovereignty by coercing them into specific action. I see how withdrawing from friendship when I was hurt told people I loved that they no longer mattered and I did it because I felt some control over the situation when I walked away. Ouch.
I see the ways that because of previous traumas I chose the prison of my pain over the loving connection I might have had with people who deeply cared. They couldn’t understand the immensity and shape of my pain and grief partly because I didn’t share it with them. I hid away and dissociated. I wrote about it from my mind on Facebook instead of talking about it from my heart with my Beloveds. I mistakenly believed I was protecting us all from the bigness of it when really my avoidance was causing everyone pain. I violated myself by trying to navigate life altering grief on my own when I could have been witnessed, held, and loved. I let the story of my pain and past aloneness rule my experience and relationships.
And I see how the practice of harm reduction and transformative justice can safely address the fractures in my relationships, whether with my self, my partner, my coworker, or my community. While I cannot coerce anyone else into participating, I can offer the opportunity. I can own my part in fractures and offer amends. I can strive to make myself safe to be with. I can share that another ways is possible, not because I am an expert but because I am a lived example.
Transformative justice is possible even for the most intimate betrayals. We can navigate and heal relationships impacted by high emotional risk, big pain, and/or trauma with care and intention that honors everyone’s experience. I kind of want to shout it from the rooftops. There is power in this for us as a human family. But we have to be willing to face our own pain and our own violence in order to achieve the sort of intimate or social justice that we long for. It’s the hardest, hurtiest, scariest work we can do. And it is so very worth it.