Safe(r) Reporting.

When I was a little girl experiencing child sexual abuse and incest, I didn’t want the police to kick down my door and take my father away for hurting me. I didn’t want to be taken from my mother. I didn’t want to be separated from my brother or taken from my home.

I wanted the violence to stop and never happen again. I wanted my father to heal so that he could be a safe person. I wanted my family to be together and secure.

A brown skin woman sitting at a counter with her laptop with a closed mouth smile looking at the camera.
At home preparing for an upcoming training.

I want to connect dope ass people to liberatory ideas so that we can all get free.

Even at a young age, I knew that speaking up would not help me get what I so desperately needed.

The state has never been central to survivors accessing safety. Survivors have consistently shared that they have avoided reporting because they are aware that a disclosure that invites the state’s intervention could raise the stakes on the violence they are experiencing.

When we consider the ways that policing, social work, foster care, and adoption have served as tools of white supremacy and systems of oppression by disrupting family systems, stripping communities of their cultural and spiritual lineage, and exacerbating the over-policing and imprisonment of Black youth, it is clear that —mandatory reporting is not neutral.

I recently developed and facilitated the design of a mission-centered and values-aligned internal mandated reporting policy for a youth-serving organization that:

📍 builds skills to prevent overreporting
📍 incorporates harm reduction, safety planning, and crisis intervention to the extent that their capacity allows
📍 identifies tools, resources, and alternative responses like transformative justice

You have the power to center the safety and well-being of youth and families experiencing harm, abuse, and violence by building or accessing community-based responses that serve as alternatives to state interventions that invite more trauma into their lives.

…it is our experience that communities are built over time and necessitate intentional effort in maintaining sustainable and healthy relationships among various people in a particular community or communities. Put simply, we do not romanticize the notion of community or render it as an assumed, preconceived or taken-for-granted entity. Being a part of community or communities can foster healing, supportive and beautiful experiences, but it requires efforts grounded in intentionality, process, compassion, respect and deep sense of belonging.

From Healing Justice: A Guide for Community Building and Collective Strategizing for Safer and Peaceful Communities.

What kind of community do we need to build in order for children to feel safe enough to ask for help?

Youth and families are already navigating violence without state intervention. They are already weighing the costs and consequences of calling the police or Child Protective Services (CPS) for intervention. They are already creating strategic responses within their communities.

The solution to this is not bigger budgets for state institutions. It is building community-based responses that are rooted in transformative justice and abolitionist practices.

Transformative Justice is a political framework and approach for responding to violence, harm and abuse. At its most basic, it seeks to respond to violence without creating more violence and/or engaging in harm reduction to lessen the violence.

The conditions of a youth’s individual circumstances can make this an even more challenging question. For more on this, you’ll have to attend a training or for sneak peeks of what I’m working on check out my Patreon.

It’s easy for people with privilege to wave these issues away as unimportant collateral damage because they believe that abuse, violence, or harm is far worse than any of the consequences that come from getting a child to safety. There are survivors of all ages who would argue that it can and does get worse. I can tell you that I know many adult survivors who are now safe that made a conscious choice to not report because the harm they were enduring at home was preferential to the alternative forms of violence offered by the state.

The situation is not hopeless. We have alternatives.

Abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.”

– Ruth Wilson Gilmore

As people committed to abolition, it is our job to interrogate our own instincts to turn to the state to solve our problems and find places where we can choose one another instead. It will be messy and it won’t be perfect but how is that different from what the state currently offers?

The idea that we have to be perfect is a symptom of white supremacy culture. This is not about building a one-size-fits-all approach that replicates the function of the state. We need to create strategic responses that address the needs of the youth and families that are coming to you for help.

If you’re curious about this concept and interested in hearing more about implementing something similar for your youth serving group, contact me for an initial consultation. For a sneak peek at this training and others, become a patron.

Designing safe(r) spaces,

Subscribe to my newsletter to get a look at what I’m learning, what I’m building, and what’s coming next. I’ve already started a few projects that I think you’re really going to love. Think of this as mutual aid but for learning.

Published by Tashmica Torok

Tashmica Torok is a survivor activist working to end child sexual abuse. As the founding Co-Director of The Firecracker Foundation, she incites riots of generosity and advocates for the healing of children and families. Tashmica is a published storyteller, kitchen witch, mother of three, and wife to a talented tile installer.

%d bloggers like this: