Survivors Speak: turning pain into power
Each year, crime and trauma survivors gather at Survivors Speak, a two-day event sponsored by Alliance for Safety and Justice, to find healing together. More than 700 people made the trip to Sacramento this year, and dozens of residents of A New Way of Life and members of All of Us or None – Los Angeles/Long Beach were among them.
Why exactly do we go to this event? It’s important to understand that America’s jails and prisons hold hundreds of thousands of people whose experience of trauma ultimately led them to engage in behaviors that society considers criminal. In other words, their trauma was criminalized. This is especially the case for women. The statistics vary, but researchers agree on one thing: the vast majority — anywhere up to 90% — of incarcerated women have suffered physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse during their lives.
According to Ingrid Archie, that’s the reason A New Way of Life shows up to Survivors Speak en masse.
“A lot of women have suffered from traumatic events that led to incarceration. Our system is housing trauma instead of healing it. Once we leave prison, we become retraumatized by the barriers we face to making a successful reentry. There’s no way to move forward from the trauma that led us to incarceration in the first place. Going to Survivors Speak allows formerly incarcerated women to understand where we can place our pain.”
Survivors Speak encourages attendees to talk about what it means to identify as a crime survivor, and to dialogue with people who have a criminal history of creating harm in order to foster healing for both parties. Survivors also come together in small-group discussion sessions, brainstorm new policies that could promote shared safety, and engage in leadership-building activities. On the final day of the event, everyone marches to the capitol building to demonstrate and speak with legislators.
For Ingrid, Survivors Speak is all about taking the pain of trauma and turning it into power.
“Survivors Speak has been an outlet for me, a way to understand how important it is for me to identify as a survivor. If I didn’t, I would still be angry about traumatic events in my life. Being able to understand that healing is even possible has helped me to heal. It’s helped me to become a leader and an advocate for other people who may not have the same opportunities to speak up.”