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In Our Homes


In most cultures, the notion of home is rooted in extremely profound and naturalized assumptions about its nature. Our doors close. Here is something that lies so deep in the human heart that it underwrites the very fact of private property.

Like most of the basics that make the world go round, the public/private divide often doesn’t work in the interests of the more vulnerable/dependant members of the human family. For those whose freedom is particularly limited by lack of (public) power, the construction of the domestic sphere as a private space sets the stage for danger and silence and shame. What plays out is a personal (secret) drama of problems that are seen as individual, not social, and (at least somewhat) the fault of the victim.

Most people—and so most educators—assume that home is safe, a refuge from a hostile world. When home is hostile, acknowledging its brutality brings extreme discomfort to all concerned. And so sometimes, despite the best intentions, educators and classmates collude with an ethic of silence. To name and respond to violence in the home, we have to rattle against one of the oldest taboos in human history. Difficult to do.

But once this work starts, thorny questions arise immediately: Am I interfering? Are they better off without my making noise that may result in the intervention of state-sanctioned institutions? Am I respecting the agency and the privacy (which is still a value despite its frequent abuse) of all the players?

Having a strong commitment to non-violence will not make these questions easy to answer. But in our learning spaces, an unequivocal message must be constantly transmitted: Here there is no shame. It’s not your fault if someone hurt you. And it’s never okay.

Though violence in the home can and does occur against everyone, three groups in particular are most vulnerable to violence: Children; Intimate Partners; and People in Caregiving Situations.

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