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1 Let’s start with a room. It is small and closed—the size of a broom closet. In front of me is a thick plate of glass. The walls are white cinder block. The carpet is worn. I wait in a cheap plastic chair. I am in the visiting room at a county jail in upstate New York. In collaboration with the NAACP, I am interviewing people who have come forward with complaints about heath care at the local jail. The woman on the other side of the glass is in her fifties. Let’s call her Andrea Watson. The interview is going slowly. Many of the people we speak to are voluble. They want to tell us what’s happening to them. This woman is rather distant and withdrawn. She stares off at some indeterminate spot beyond my left shoulder as she twists her cornrows between her fingers in what must be a habit, a gesture. She also shifts uncomfortably from time to time and rubs her shoulder gingerly. She tells me she thinks it was broken when the police arrested her because they beat her into submission and kicked her in the shoulder and ribs. She is in pain, but they will not take an x-ray of her shoulder, and now they have suspended her Advil, too. We have a mutual friend, someone I met through monitoring health care at the jail. She is speaking to me only because the friend has vouched for me. She won’t talk to my students. Our friend tells me afterwards that this woman’s sister died in this jail twenty years before. Her sister had a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy that burst, and she died of a hemorrhage when her transportation to the hospital was fatally delayed. At the end of the interview, I put down my pen and ask her if there’s anything I can do for her. “I’ve lost my glasses, and so I can’t read. Call Jimmy and ask him to bring me my reading glasses.” I learn later Jimmy never does bring the glasses. There she is, without her glasses, in her late fifties, nursing an untreated shoulder, bruised ribs, beat to the socks, sitting in a cell in the jail where her sister died twenty years earlier. Her relatives have not visited. This is happening now, in the town where I live.1 I take her as the starting point, because in this book I suggest that we need to redraw the map of violence against women. (Throughout this work, when I invoke Introduction 2 s tructur al viole nce “we,” I mean to include all who work to analyze and stop oppressive violence in its variegated forms. It is a heterogeneous “we,” because people’s perceptions are different; their ways of working to stop violence are diverse. Maintaining a sense of the plural, of the differences, is part of the project.) What would it mean if she were the first person one had in mind in thinking of violence against women? For many touched directly by the criminal justice system, incarceration is uppermost in their mind as a form of violence against women. For most other people, women who are incarcerated occupy only the margins—of their nightmares. Depending on their social location, people see different forms of abuse. This question of space and location is crucial. When one focuses on the spaces women are in, then one can see that women who work as prostitutes and women who are harassed and detained at the border face violence, though they are often not included in initiatives to stop gendered violence.2 Institutions such as the border patrol and the police are sometimes indirect perpetrators, when they collude with batterers by doing nothing or sending women back to unsafe situations, including deporting them. Sometimes, however, agents of the state are direct perpetrators of violence against women: because of their position, they can physically or sexually assault women with relative impunity. Women at the margins experience violence generated by structures, institutions, and histories, which make their experiences irreducible to the commonsense notion that violence against women is basically a question of “domestic violence.” In this book, I challenge that narrow notion of violence against women. I follow women in their understandings of violence, and of violent spaces, to take up a range that includes not only interpersonal partner violence but also institutional and structural violence. Consequently, violence against women is revealed as a...


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