Knowing Violence and Violation
In returning to their past, I followed along as the women traveled uncertain paths. From their early journey through childhood to their lives as mature adults, I listened and watched as they recreated their life histories. In the telling of their stories, I heard what happened to them and could not help but notice what they thought and felt. But I also saw what they did as they engaged their cultural and social worlds. In the process of living, they walk with a sense of self-assuredness and purpose. But sometimes they stumbled over barriers that were in their way. Some only lost their balance, but a few actually fell. Yet they all gathered themselves. They took deep reflective breaths, drew upon the lessons learned, and, for those who had cuts and bruises, allowed their wounds to heal. Each of the women figured out how to proceed. And, now, they have continued on in their own particular journey of becoming the person they see themselves to be.
The women have moved on with their lives. But they leave behind rich and compelling stories of their struggles to maintain, sustain, and in some instances regain a sense of their own humanity as interwoven in their particular versions of what it means to be black-and-female in America. In the women’s struggles the perceptions, decisions, and actions of others were significant in shaping their experiences. However, their self-perceptions, decisions, and actions on behalf of their own needs, interests, and aspirations provide a starting point for a different kind of dialogue on women’s experiences of violence.
I began this inquiry knowing that if we are to better understand the role that violence plays in women’s lives, then a different conversation is needed; the starting point for this discussion must be rooted in women’s experiences. In asking that we shift our gaze, I argue that, rather than