Letter Writing to Incarcerated Survivors

Monthly letter-writing events provide participants with the opportunity to write letters of support to incarcerated survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and human trafficking. Participants can write a loved one or hear and select a survivor’s story. All ages are welcome. These events are held on the second Wednesday of each month from 7pm-8pm. Letter Writing Night is held over Zoom for the time being. These events are held in collaboration with MCPL’s NonProfit Central, New Leaf-New Lifethe Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project, All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, the IU Middle Way House Chapter, and Bloomington PRIDE. For more information, including the Zoom information to attend, contact kyla@middlewayhouse.org.

Because support for incarcerated survivors is critical, our prevention program launched monthly letter writing nights in October of 2017. Incarcerated survivors report that receiving letters and cards from the public decreases their risk of violence while incarcerated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that social connectedness, which letter-writing builds, is a protective factor against violence.

While progress has occurred in the areas of recognizing and addressing domestic and sexual violence, this support often comes to a screeching halt when a survivor defends themselves or their children from an abuser’s violence. It is important to understand that incarcerated survivors, especially incarcerated women, are overwhelmingly survivors of domestic and sexual violence. This violence typically plays a significant role in their incarceration. This is especially true for women of color, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, and members from other oppressed and marginalized communities. One study in New York’s Rikers Island found the majority of survivors interviewed reported engaging in illegal activity directly in response to experiences of abuse, the threat of violence, or coercion by a male partner. Survivors need healing, not punishment.