The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities.

Author:Firth, Rhiannon
Position:Book review

Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarashina (eds), The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities

Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2016; 368pp; ISBN 9781849352628

The Revolution Starts at Home offers an important contribution to addressing the problematic of interpersonal violence within social justice movements. The edited collection raises awareness about the prevalence of interpersonal violence in the anti-violence movement with a focus on 'addressing the realities of women of color, queer women, and gender nonconforming people' (pxxvii). The book was six years in the making initiated through a call for contributions that developed into a supportive relationship with writers (pxxix).

The book espouses the methodology of storytelling, including individual stories by victims/survivors (the terminology is subtly different in each chapter) and by collectives such as the Challenging Male Supremacy Project (CMS), Communities Against Rape and Abuse, The Chrysalis Collective, and Philly's Pissed. All organisations in the book are based in North America, whilst individuals who compose these organisations and those who tell personal stories include migrants, people of Native American heritage and other ethnic minorities. The context and setting of the book is unequivocally North American, the rest of the world forms only a backdrop. As a British reader, I sometimes found the terminology and cultural assumptions hard to follow, yet the book is a compelling read and many of the stories provoke a range of emotions and effects from sadness and anger to hope and inspiration. The book is interspersed with humour that is unexpected given the subject matter, particularly Chapter 4 'It Takes Ass to Whip Ass', a roundtable discussion amongst sex workers on their experiences in confronting violence.

The book takes an anti-state, yet not explicitly anarchist approach, which highlights and aims to resist at the interface between state violence and interpersonal violence. This interaction complicates and magnifies the dynamics of violence in activist communities on many levels, which are explored in different chapters. Activists subject to interpersonal violence often become isolated from their communities and movements by force or necessity in order to preserve their safety. Interpersonal violence therefore splits and destroys movements and can prevent individuals from engaging in activism (p26).

It is argued...

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