Trigger Warning for descriptions of police violence and forcible miscarriage, as well as discussions of racism and victim-blaming.
LaDonna Dixon claims that last June, an Indianapolis police officer beat her severely after she argued with him — even though she was in handcuffs, and even though she says that she told him she was pregnant at the time. As a result, she received two black eyes, numerous other bruises, and miscarried her pregnancy shortly thereafter at the jail processing center, after being refused medical treatment. (Note: links contain graphic images of Dixon’s injuries.) Local NBC affiliate WTHR reported on the alleged assault a month and a half ago, but wider dissemination of a local television report has produced new interest. From the WTHR report:
An Indianapolis woman is suing the city in federal court. LaDonna Dixon claims the officer beat her so severely during an arrest that she had a miscarriage.
“[He was] punching me, kicking me, after he maced me,” Dixon said.
“This person was angry, was enraged and just beat her,” said Dixon’s attorney, Everett Powell. “I would say it’s a crime.”
LaDonna Dixon is suing the city over what she claims happened in her yard last June. She says she was helping a friend who collapsed from a seizure and needed medicine.
When police arrived, the complaint says Officer Scott Childers told Dixon she was disrupting emergency crews and that she needed to get in her house.
Dixon admits she argued with Childers, but says that’s when the officer turned violent.
“He says I was resisting arrest, but I don’t see how I’m resisting when I’m already handcuffed and maced,” Dixon said.
Dixon claims that the beating continued even after she told the officer she was three months pregnant. She says she miscarried at Marion County’s arrestee processing center, just hours after her arrest.
“She was beaten so bad that she passed out,” Powell said. “She was hemorrhaging directly after getting beaten like this.”
Dixon says she was refused medical attention at the jail.
Police officers should never enact violent assaults against the citizens they are hired to protect. They certainly shouldn’t enact them as a response to a citizen’s supposed audacity to verbally disagree with them. That “talking back” is what apparently prompted the officer’s outrage and beating shows the extent not only of police authority and power, but also of the expectation that this authority and power will not ever be questioned.
It’s unclear what, exactly, Dixon was being arrested for, but it’s only relevant inasmuch as the arrest itself may have been another act of corruption. What is known is that the kind of beating Dixon endured is never acceptable, and especially not once it is taken into consideration that Dixon was handcuffed and on the ground at the time of the beating. Even if Dixon had been neither restrained nor pregnant at the time of the assault, it would have still been monstrous. That she was apparently both only makes the facts all the more egregious. The assault was not only an act of violence against a woman, it was an act that also showed a deliberate and specific disregard for her health as a woman.
The video makes clear that Dixon is still deeply mourning the loss of her pregnancy. The miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy is always a tragedy, but a violent, forcible miscarriage is an even more profound trauma. With his alleged actions, Officer Scott Childers decided to override LaDonna Dixon’s bodily autonomy and make her reproductive decisions for her. With his fists, he took control not just of her body but also of her reproductive life.
Dixon is a black women, and so there is little doubt regarding the perpetuation of racist state violence in this case. The fact is that there is a long, continuing history of police violence against communities of color, especially black communities. I do not doubt for a second that a white women — and especially, a white middle-class woman — would not have suffered the same fate under otherwise identical circumstances.
I do not need to know the alleged assailant’s race (which is currently unknown) to make that assertion. As I’ve said before (and as many others have said before me), racism isn’t just white people being mean, or even cruel or violent, to people of color. Racism is bigger than that. It’s the structures that makes such violence easy and acceptable. It’s the structures that keep non-white people disproportionately poor. It’s the social attitudes and structures that keep reinforcing that people of color are lesser people than white people. Structures like the law enforcement system as a whole. Racism is bigger than any individual person. And while white people are the most culpable for upholding racist systems, they’re not the only ones who can and do actively participate in them.
In response to all of her claims and their wider implications, LaDonna Dixon is not exactly receiving unconditional sympathy from the pubic. She is, largely, being treated like a rape victim. No, I don’t mean that she’s being treated with sensitivity and compassion and tenderness. I mean that in comment sections across the interent (trigger warning) she’s being treated like a liar who made the whole thing up. A liar who should have come forward sooner if all of this really happened. A liar who just wants money. A liar who was never even pregnant, and certainly never really believed she was one way or the other. A liar who is black, and therefore deserving of racialized scorn, slurs, and stereotypes, who must be a liar, because just look at the color of her skin. A liar whose boyfriend probably beat her up, anyway, and yet is still not a victim. A liar who is incapable of being genuinely victimized.
I’ve written before about how many women — all women, really, but marginalized women most of all — are viewed in our culture as unrapeable. Women like LaDonna Dixon — and women like Duanna Johnson, for that matter, whose on-duty assailant just pleaded guilty after his first trial resulted in a hung jury and is likely to receive less time than lots of individuals do for drug possession — are apparently similarly unbeatable. So repulsive just by being who she is that she is seen as not worth anybody’s time to beat, and certainly not worth getting all upset about if she was. She’s perceived by countless misogynistic, racist bigots as simply unable to be abused, because any abuse committed at her doesn’t matter.
It’s these attitudes that make assaults like this alleged one possible. It’s these attitudes that makes them absolutely guaranteed to be committed again.