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Sexual assault and calling the police

Johnny asks:

In our present system what should an anarchist do if (possible worse case) she/he is raped or a loved one is raped. Is it right to call the police? I’m baffled with scenarios like this. 


When a violent crime is committed against you or someone you know, and you’re an anarchist, the question of calling the police is never a simple answer.

If your loved one was sexually assaulted and does not want you to call the police, you shouldn’t. Ultimately, they are the person affected and what they want to have happen should be honored by their family, friends, and community.

Should they call the police? Can they? Sexual and personal violence is an unfortunate and devastating truth in all communities. Often in anarchist spaces the police are not called. We generally do not believe that state sanctioned justice is true justice, nor is it the first option we should consider.

Most people who rape know the person they are assaulting and so they are often part of the same community. Different communities/individuals have tried various responses:

  • They have asked the perpetrator to leave the community (ostracized)
  • They have retaliated with self determined retributive violence (though it can be argued that while this may feel cathartic in the moment, it may not truly be justice)
  • They have asked the perpetrator to seek support in counseling, therapy, and other restorative measures,
  • They have established accountability systems so that both the assailant and the assaulted can heal safely.

These are different responses that do not involve the police, are plausible, and point toward a future where we can use our own power to solve problems in society/communities.

It is difficult to know how to act when the only legitimized “justice” is carried out by the state. Calling the police should be a last resort after you’ve considered your own power and your community’s power in the situation and have realistically exhausted them. Even if our power has not been exhausted, there are times when our current society prevents or makes it dangerous for us to exercise it.

Though the above outlines different responses to sexual violence, I think the question is relevant to all types of personal violence and this becomes even more difficult to answer when a life is taken or a child is harmed. We may seek justice/restoration/correction but we are also limited in how we can act/make decisions in our current society. Because we don’t live in an ideal anarchist world, we will occasionally have to compromise in order to maintain/create safe communities. This will sometimes mean calling the police. You’re not betraying your ideals/principles if that is the decision you have to make.

We have to consider our goals when seeking justice and how the choices we make contribute to our long term goals. Police are a part of the system that made it impossible for you and your community to seek true justice and create a solution through your own power, so we don’t have to be thankful for the police or happy that they are there. But in the meantime, we should think critically about alternatives to our current “justice” system and take full advantage of our own power as sentient and capable beings.

I recommend the following resources for anyone interested in learning more in depth how to confront intimate violence in their communities:

  1. The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities
  2. The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities
  3. Generation 5s (G5) Toward Transformative Justice: A Liberatory Approach to Child Sexual Abuse and other forms of Intimate and Community Violence. A Call to Action for the Left and the Sexual and Domestic Violence Sectors
  4. The Community Accountability website for more resources about community accountability and toolkits.

Can you be an anarchist and a patriot?

Alex asks:

“Can you be an anarchist and a patriot? Like in the sense of you love your country or home and you would do anything for it but having the absence of government?”


To be an anarchist, you cannot be a patriot as you may know it. I hesitate to even call it patriotism. Your love and pride of your community/geographical area and the extent to which you act upon that love/pride should be something you are careful with. If you consider yourself a patriot, I think you should ask yourself  (at least) these questions:

  • As a patriot, are you hoping to further your community’s interests/goals? If so, what are these interests/goals?
  • Does your patriotic agenda infringe on the rights of other individuals or communities?
  • Does it restrict their access to social goods or natural resources based on their own association with the subject of your patriotism?
  • Does it align you with the state, the ruling class, or other oppressive entities which seek to maintain and benefit from the state and inequitable societal conditions?

For example, the USA uses the military to push forth its own agenda. However, widespread imperialism and violence in the name of profit is always at the expense of others. The victims of such an agenda likely have more in common with the working class men and women sent to war than those who have sent them and those sent to war rarely see the ‘profits’ of these wars.They are encouraged to participate, anyway, as their patriotic duty. This is an example where patriotism is a form of social control, used to manufacture loyalty to a nation state while the furthering of their agenda encroaches on the rights of others.

To anarchists, maintaining freedom of association (the right to leave or join groups freely) is important. In the ideal world, multitudes of communities, including political ones would exist. And indisputably, patriotism is political. The hope is that no group or individual will infringe on the rights of others or their access to resources in the name of patriotism.

If your patriotism leads to you defending privileges/interests associated with you and your compatriots but your pride and love denies access or rights to strangers for no other reason than their lack of association, you would be in conflict with anarchist ideals- at least in conflict with those of the communal anarchist.