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Community denounces violence against Black women by police/social service partnership



Police officers do not have the proper training, education and credentials to diagnose someone with a mental condition – and neither do these advocates. I am a victim of police brutality. I am a victim of domestic violence advocates.

The Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) held a rally on Tuesday to support Simone Phoenix, who was arrested by Providence Police after seeking support services as a victim of domestic violence. Phoenix and community supporters gathered outside Family Service Rhode Island at 55 Hope Street in Providence to “expose the collaboration” between police and social workers from Family Service and Day One that left her “bruised, battered, and charged with four misdemeanors.” Reporter Julia Rock detailed Phoenix’s experience and subsequent lawsuit here.

“My experience highlights what police officers should not do and also brings to light the partnership of social work and law enforcement,” said Phoenix. “Police officers do not have the proper training, education and credentials to diagnose someone with a mental condition – and neither do these advocates.

“I am a victim of police brutality,” continued Phoenix. “I am a victim of domestic violence advocates.”

Advocates expressed concerns that the way Day One and Family Service staff treated Phoenix reflects the bigger problem of entrenched racism within the domestic violence industry.

“Seeing what happened to Simone is triggering generationally,” said long-time community organizer Sheila Wilhelm. “So many women of color have suffered from being re-traumatized, first at the hands of their abuser and then from the system that’s supposed to protect them.”

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Those attending the rally called for the city and the state to defund Day One and Family Service.

“The policing and punishment of our women of color, especially Black women, doesn’t happen just because of law enforcement,” said PrYSM’s Vanessa Flores Maldonado. “You’ve got social services programs out here who, instead of thinking of different ways to help our community heal, instead of giving us the help that we actually need, are just terrorizing us further…

“We need to see these programs defunded. They’re not here to help us out. They’re not here to help our community.

“What we actually need is for the people who are affected by this to be the ones making and leading the changes. I do not want to see folks who are not directly impacted by this work leading this work. We’ve got to get our people, our community members, to be the ones leading this work,” continued Flores-Maldonado. “So here’s my specific call out to all the politicians. Y’all don’t get to make any moves – not a single move – without communities of color, low-income communities, youth, queer and trans people, directly impacted people being the ones who lead us.”

“If Simone had gone in, maybe, with her head held down,” said Wilhelm, “and had a different skin color, a different nature about herself, a different culture, a different race – maybe she would have gotten supportive services. Because they would have selected her to be okay, to be a victim. But instead, she was criminalized, brutalized and victimized again.”