While 2014 was an incredible year for sexual assault victim advocacy and awareness, it also reminded us of the lasting impact of sexual violence and the challenges that survivors still face when accusing powerful or influential men. Allegations of incest, child sexual abuse, and rape taking place many years ago, made against Woody Allen, actor Stephen Collins, and Bill Cosby, were met with various levels of denial, victim blaming, and minimization. The confluence of racism and sexual violence also played itself out publicly as we saw the diverse reactions by public figures and within our own families, to the many sexual assault allegations against heretofore beloved celebrity father figure, Bill Cosby. While some people had already assumed a stance of 'neutrality' even before Mr. Cosby made a public plea for them to do so, and before his wife questioned who the victim is, others had already begun to question the cost of this type of identity solidarity, so automatically and faithfully bestowed.
"Due to a history of racism, and the desire to protect black men from white supremacy and imprisonment, black women have been conditioned to be their brother's keepers-and have allowed themselves to be perpetual victims by doing so. While acting as human shields for black men, we have left our daughters vulnerable."
Since 2001, Arte Sana's experience with community education presentations and pláticas in Spanish has revealed similarities with the rates of victimization of black women addressed by Ms. Charleswell, and Latinas. In the same way that black women fear being labeled a "traitor-to-the-race," Latinas also fear being called a "vendida" or (sell-out) by contributing to the ongoing demonization and oppression of Latinos. In some communities, historic trauma and distrust of police continue to impede the victim assistance process.
In the collective consciousness, some of our familias keep the memories of Jim Crow era "No dogs or Mexicans allowed" signs, when Mexican-Americans could be lynched for acting "too Mexican" or for speaking Spanish
, and a time when black and brown children were forced to use designated swimming pools. We also carry toxic levels of accumulated micro aggressions through an ongoing othering process in which even families with generations of U.S. war veterans are still considered less than American. Within our world of shared historic trauma and polyvictimization, even the former "perps" among us are afforded some respect for "todo lo que han (sobre)vivido" all they have lived (and survived). For Latina survivors in families with differing residency status, the weight of the possible consequences for reporting their victimization is also compounded.
Survivors should never be expected to self-sacrifice on behalf of others, our family members, nor our comunidades. Advocates of color who are themselves survivors need to support each other and our own healing, and hold both the agencies we work for and our social justice movements accountable.
"Incest and childhood abuse happens across racial and cultural lines, yet our major cultural and racial political organizations do not acknowledge it as a key threat to our communities. We need to change that." Deborah Romero
In 2014, many popular social media campaigns addressing sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, as well as victim blaming and street harassment, played a critical role raising awareness. 2014 was also the year in which sexual violence cyber-activism was community based, with most high-volume social media campaigns being spearheaded by survivors themselves and victim rights activists. Social media efforts like #DecolonizeSAAM and #DecolonizeDVAM called into question some of the mainstream grant-funded messaging perceived as exclusive or too focused on criminal justice solutions. Others have also called attention to the issue of privilege
within victim rights outreach efforts and campaigns.
"The focus on sexual violence against some of our most privileged young people has distracted us from the victimization of those enjoying less social and economic advantage." Callie Marie Rennison
The sad reality is that many victims of color still do not consider the rape crisis center hotline as an option, will never report their rape to the police, remain invisible, and will continue to suffer in silence.
The challenge for victim advocacy groups and coalitions in 2015 is to move beyond position statements and social media campaigns, to acknowledge and address the many systemic victim assistance barriers that continue to exist for male, female, GLBTQ, and immigrant survivors of color. By building on, or creating meaningful community collaborations we can empower all survivors to reach out for support and justice, regardless of who the abuser may be, or where the violence may have taken place. A major step for promoting Latin@ community engagement is to eliminate language barriers. GRACIAS to all state coalitions (sexual assault, domestic violence, and dual) that have added content in Spanish onto their websites!
|Arkansas +DV |
Connecticut +SA, DV District of Columbia +SA Florida +DV
|Kansas +SA/DV |
Massachusetts +SA/DV Maine +SA
New Hampshire +SA/DV New Jersey +DV
Rhode Island +DV
Virginia +SA/DV Washington +SA, DV Wisconsin +SA, DV