Tag Archives: Sexual violence

February: the Pinnacle of Intersectionality

For being the shortest month of the year February certainly packs a lot into its 28 days. I apologize in advance if some of this is discombobulated. Of course February is Black History Month, and it’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and a time for LBGTQAI+ visibility. So how do all of these factors interact? I’m glad you asked! Unfortunately the data on dating abuse amongst black queer youth is practically non-existent, so that’s something to get on before next February rolls around. Here’s a quick primer on why feminists need to talk about race (as if Black Feminists haven’t been), and a good list of books covering race, gender, sexuality, class and culture. Don’t tell me you’re colorblind either.

health relationshipsFebruary started off with 68 survivors of human trafficking being rescued before the Super Bowl, including sixteen teens between ages 13-17, with epic timing the nation’s first home for sex trafficked boys also broke ground this month. Of young Queer people who have sex for survival a startling 89% identify as people of color, with homelessness amongst Queer youth being a leading cause of needing to trade sex for food or shelter. Transwomen are especially likely to be targeted in prostitution stings, even if they are not actually sex workers. Even though transgender folks can safely use long-term hormones and can no longer be discriminated against in receiving help from federally funded shelters, the Ali Forney Center in NYC for homeless LGBT youth remains a rare safe haven.

Additionally rates of abuse and domestic violence in Queer relationships have increased, but help for Queer folks seeking shelter hasn’t. Here you can check out some things that make abuse and domestic violence invisible in the Queer community. And while reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence is low in most communities the fear of reporting is confounded by systems of racial and class bias, making Asian-Americans are very unlikely to report either. Luckily the newest (and second in history) Asian-American TV comedy Fresh Off the Boat has already tackled how to teach consent, and it was funny! In other domestic violence news NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch indefinitely for violence he allegedly committed against his girlfriend in September. Abusers who strangle their partners are twice as likely to kill them, so to see NASCAR react in such a responsible way is refreshing.

#BlackLivesMatter, a movement that started more than three years ago with the murder of Trayvon Martin and was fueled by Ferguson, churns forward with San Francisco’s Queer #BlackLivesMatter Action today in the Castro, and Americans across the nation waking up to realize the Prison-Industrial Complex is a terrible idea. While the police in this country are killing more people than ever–unidentified womenveterans, Queer Latina girls, black boys, Native Americans, black women–Trayvon Martin’s murderer (like so many other killers who start with violence against the women in their lives) seems invincible.

Zimmerman Always Arrested AliveWhile trans visibility is becoming more of a reality and some women’s colleges are adjusting their admitting policies, the sickening rate of murder of trans women this year has been overwhelming. You can donate here to Sumaya Dalmar’s legacy. And while young people are more likely to see gender as a spectrum rather than a binary, trans kids are apparently ruining the bathroom situation for everyone else *massive eye roll* and high schoolsuniversities, and Indiana are still discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Kids throughout the Queer community are also committing suicide at alarming rates, which is one reason visibility matters. Hopefully something from the 2015 Rainbow List of books for Queer young people will help, and efforts like Transforming Gender and these photo essays on transgender elders can show young people that life after 25 is possible, for some.

leelah-alcorn-suicide noteNative American children have also been committing suicide at terrifying rates, and were showered in racial slurs and beer at a hockey game this month too. But Native American Queers are reclaiming history in pushing for marriage equality, and Native American women are reclaiming history in A Thousand VoicesDiane Humetewa made history this month as the first Native American woman appointed as a federal judge and other Native Americans are fighting back against assimilation in their own ways, quietly, everyday.

Black women in both the anti-racism movement and the unfortunately often separate white feminist movement are doing amazing things this year, like creating #WeAreBlackHistory, running companies in corporate America, sharing thoughts on being black women writers, launching the “Because of Them We Can” photo essay, examining the state of black girls in education and juvenile justice systems, spearheading the Manhood Development Program for black boys, defending their hair and their culture with nothing but class, dropping the mic on rape culture, and superimposing bell hooks quotes over 90s pictures. Check out a discussion on wage equality, glass ceilings and interracial dating here.

Here are some of the black feminist authors and Queer Black Women you should know, and here is an A-Z children’s book of Radical American Women, and a short history of four Queer African BAMFs. Here is an amazing Black woman scientist. Black girls are making history too, in sports, and in education. And an African-American military history museum in Mississippi is honoring women veterans through March in honor of both Black History and Women’s History months. Here you can take a look at what has and hasn’t changed for African Americans since segregation was law.

Catwoman-bi.0

Catwoman, like these badasses, is a bisexual woman of color now! And everyone is talking about her. High school girls are also talking about the subject of slut-shaming, and even though ridiculous violations of girls’ privacy are apparently legal and politicians don’t seem to understand sexual assault girls understand #TheresNoPerfectVictim. Twitter admits that they “suck at dealing with abuse” but the social media giant can do good, with #50ShadesOfAbuse spurring a movement to give to local domestic violence agencies.

President Obama’s immigration reform actions, expansion of FMLA, and creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights have been good, but not enough. Freeing transwomen–hell, all women–from immigration detention centers, and granting amnesty to the women and girls fleeing violence, child marriage and abuse around the world is the right thing to do. New York is also finally doing the right thing by putting a stop to asking about students’ immigration status in admittance paperwork.

Although science has made massive leaps in reproductive technologies which benefit everyone, including the Queer community, Latinas are still dying from breast cancer at an alarming rate. Some thoughts on being Afro-latin@ address intersectionality in race and class that can compound discrimination in healthcare. Here are a few Latinas making history today.

10616064_812322468823418_3635888886299626207_nOne hand washes the other as some politicians are pushing for college campuses to take action against sexual violence while students are lobbying for a bill which would educate young people about sexual violence. Indiana is also in the news this month for punishing a(nother!) Asian-American woman for having a miscarriage. Want to hear black voices in the Reproductive Justice Movement? They’ve always been here, it’s time we stop silencing them.

Reproductive Justice is the term created by black women in 1994 to bridge the gap between reproductive rights and other social justice movements. Reproductive Justice, the human right to not have children, to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and the human right to bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely, insists that we see abortion and reproductive health in the larger context of the overall health and wellness of women, our families and our communities. – Monica Raye Simpson, SisterSong

Female Genital Mutilation, a clear violation of human rights and good medicine, is a problem that’s not usually discussed in an American context, unfortunately that’s probably because it’s more likely to happen to immigrant women of color. This new law book on reproductive justice is the first of its kind and shockingly a Texan politician is pushing for medically accurate sexual health education in the Lone Star State, because as we learned in Colorado, it works. And we’ve talked about them before, but we really don’t need a reason to push the Native Youth Sexual Health Network‘s awesomeness on you, but Teen DV Awareness Month is a good excuse. Here’s a coming of age film centered on black girls for you and a short film history on Arab feminism, because after reading through all that’s happened this month, you deserve it.

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Day 4 of 16 Days of Activism: Aotearoa/New Zealand

#Day4 of #16Days takes us to Australia’s Pacific neighbor, New Zealand, Aotearoa in the native Maori language. In 1893 New Zealand’s women earned the right to vote, the first in the world to earn national suffrage, and Aotearoa is considered the fourth most peaceful country in the world, but as recently as 2011 New Zealand had the shame of landing near the bottom of the UN’s list–near the USA–when it came to the number of women suffering from intimate partner violence as well as the rate of maternal mortality. According to the organization Women’s Refuge police are called to a domestic violence scene every seven minutes, and yet the police estimate that only 18% of domestic violence incidents are reported. What that means is that like the US and Australia, one in three women in New Zealand will face abuse in her lifetime.

Womens Refuge

Aside from helpful statistics Women’s Refuge also provides education to survivors of violence, support for their family and friends, and operate a youth site with the message that real love doesn’t hurt. Their crisis line can be reached at 0800 REFUGE.

As an independent community organisation we work at many levels. From our contact with individuals and families through to involvement with local community and government agencies, we strive to help prevent and stop domestic violence.

Shine–Safer Homes in New Zealand Everyday–te kakano tumanako, also operates a confidential domestic abuse helpline at 0508 744 633. They outline their values and their mission as follows:

Integrity / Rangatiratanga The koru unfolds – symbolising honesty, transparency and accountability

Excellence / Manaakitanga The koru reaches towards the light – striving for growth and better outcomes

Innovation / Whakatupuranga The koru adapts to its environment – symbolising creativity and openness to new ideas

Optimism / Whakapono The koru symbolises hope, growth and encouragement for the future

Unity / Kotahitanga The koru’s strength depends on sun and water — many elements working as one — symbolising the need for us to work as one team

Support / Tautoko victims to be safe and perpetrators to change

Learn / Akoranga from our clients, research and others

Act / Whakamahia to implement change

Reflect / Maumahara on our experience and develop our practice

Share / Mahitahi what we learn with others

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Te Ohaakii a Hine– National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together is another organization in Aotearoa designed to help victims, perpetrators and family and friends of anyone affected by sexual violence. They are available 24/7 at 0800 883300 and their services include:

  • Primary prevention: Promoting healthy and respectful social norms in whanau/families, hapu, iwi and communities
  • Early intervention: Crisis support for victim/survivors, including support in the criminal justice system, forensic medical services for victim/survivors and support for children displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviours
  • Recovery and support for victim/survivors
  • Longer term treatment for victim/survivors with high and complex needs
  • Harmful sexual behaviour services for people who have perpetrated sexual abuse or harm on others.
  • Specialist advice and training for government agencies and for professionals working with sexual violence e.g. psychologists, counsellors, GPs, nurses, health workers, teachers, social workers
  • Promotion of law reform to increase the accountability of offenders.

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It’s Not OK is a great example of an organization that encourages the entire community to act together to end violence. “Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The campaign’s vision is a community where each person believes there is something they can do to help and is likely to act when they know violence is happening.” In addition to their very interactive website they operate the Family Violence Information Line (0800 456 450).  “It provides self-help information and connects people to services where appropriate. It is available seven days a week, from 9am to 11pm.”

New Zealand, despite it’s small island size and population under 5 million, also has a ton of other great resources like Shakti, specializing in helping families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin, 0800 Whats Up, for kids and teens to talk about anything at all, Rape Prevention Education– Whakatu Mauri, working to prevent sexual violence through education, Te Kupenga – the National Network of Stopping Violence, a network or ‘he kupenga’ of 42 independent community-based organisations, the government-run Family Services Directory, and the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse. That’s a lot of resources all with the same goal: safer lives for everyone in their community. 


Global Reflections on Street Harassment

Since January I and other bloggers from around the world have been writing for the Stop Street Harassment Blog. For me participating in the conversation about street harassment has been a cathartic experience, allowing me to reflect on how I deal with being harassed and how I view the men in my community who are harassing me and others. To bring Sexual Assault Awareness Month to a close, I’d like to leave you now with an overview of the past four months of the Stop Street Harassment Blog.

CreeperMove-HollabackDesMoinesIn April I wrote about the clash of sexism and racism when someone is harassed by a member of a different race. Ultimately no matter how many people of any given race harass you, they are still acting alone, and it is crucial that their sexism does not fuel our racism. Rocio Andrés of Spain also explored the individualism of harassers, but delved more into their humanity than I. She reminds us that they too are products of the society that we create, so we must try to continue to view them as human. She urges that understanding street harassers is not excusing them, but it is crucial to learning how we can prevent harassment to begin with.

In March I explained why self-care after being harassed is so important. Joe Samalin of New York listed TWENTY-NINE THINGS men can do to stop street harassment. 29! Katie Monroe of Philadelphia gave a shout out to HollabackPHILLY’s dance party and fundraiser put on by Get Lucid! which took place on April 5th. Also in March Rocio wrote about a missed opportunity to travel to Cairo as sexual assault and bombings stood in her way of exploring street harassment in the motherland. Pallavi Kamat of India wrote about the underlying causes of street harassment in Mumbai. Kriti Khatri of Nepal explained how street harassment can escalate to other, more severe forms of sexual violence. Brittany Oliver of Baltimore interviewed a woman in her community about street harassment and how it affects her. Joe also wrote in March how men’s silence in the face of harassment makes them allies to the harasser, not women. Brittany also wrote about Hollaback! Baltimore and their efforts to utilize local businesses to fight street harassment. And early on in March Katie explored how street harassment affects women cyclists in Philly.

bike womenThough February is a short month a lot was written by the Stop Street Harassment Blog cohort. Kriti looked at how using public transportation contributes to women being harassed in Nepal. Rocio contrasted the realities of sexual violence in places like Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the good things that are happening to combat street harassment in other places. She wrote about violence in war stating, “We love durings. As if there were neither after nor before.” Powerful stuff that! Pallavi highlighted some of the successful community engagement projects of Blank Noise in India. I dove into the link between street harassment and teen dating violence for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Sandria Washington of Chicago challenged the idea that more crossing guards would reduce girls being harassed on their way to school. Jeanette R. of California talked about racial profiling of men as a form of street harassment.  Joe explored how men can start to realize just how pervasive street harassment against women really is. February started with Andrea Ayres-Deets of San Francisco tearing open the ever-important idea that street harassment limits women’s political participation and participation in strategic nonviolent action.

In January Brittany encouraged everyone from Baltimore to Cairo to Meet Us on the Streets and give voice to the harassment that overruns society. Kriti highlighted the organization Astitwa and its success in changing how Nepali police address street harassment. Katie contrasted the differences between gender-based street harassment and bicycle-based harassment. For the anniversary of Roe v. Wade I wrote about the harassment of women seeking abortions and abortion care providers as a form of street harassment. Rocio explored how things like Scotland’s “Single Woman Policy” are just band-aid solutions to the gaping wound that is sexualized gender-based violence. Finally, back at the beginning, Pallavi reminded us that the streets are not only full of harassment, but in India they are far too often where young women go to die.

I’d like to thank the Founder/Executive Director of Stop Street Harassment, Holly Kearl, for giving me this opportunity to learn and share and grow.


My Right to Bodily Autonomy

SA Awareness & Prevention Month

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence* Take care of yourself. If you need to talk to someone, contact RAINN.

Meet Us On The StreetThis week, April 7-13, is International Anti-Street Harassment Week and April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Abortion Wellbeing Month, an overlap that is very personal to me. I have been harassed on the street more times than I can count. I am a survivor of sexual assault, rape and childhood sexual abuse. I am also an abortion provider. Though these might not seem to have anything to do with each other, since my assaults thankfully did not result in pregnancy, they are intrinsically linked. Each assault I have endured and the violence I face as an abortion provider are affronts to my right to bodily autonomy. My tragedies, however, have shaped who I am as an individual: I am a warrior for equality.

Not Public SpaceThe restricting of access to abortion and sexual assault both serve one purpose–to control women by controlling their bodies. For women in the United States and around the world to be well, to be whole, equal and productive citizens women must first have the right to control their own bodies. The right to say no to unwanted physical contact and the right to make informed decisions about what medical procedures we choose to undergo are basic human rights. If I have sex and get pregnant and do not want to continue to be pregnant, I have the right to terminate the pregnancy because my body is mine alone and the responsibility for caring for the pregnancy would be mine alone. If I am a stranger, if I say no, if I stay silent, if I am crying, you have no right to my body. Consent is sexy and only an emphatic YES! means yes.

If rape were audible

While hapless pundits wonder if violence against women is something that women really worry about, from Stubenville, Ohio to Delhi, India rape and sexual assault happen every moment of every day all around the world.

Laugh:Kill- M Atwood

And each attack transforms its victim and its perpetrator. The healing process for survivors can be long and painful but so many initiatives now exist to put an end to sexual violence that the tides may be turning. Women in Kenya have filed a lawsuit against their government for failing to protect them from rape! From tackling street harassment with Meet Us On The Street and Hollaback! to a mom taking on Facebook‘s “controversial humor” pages glorifying sexual violence to Denim Day to the No More, Who Are You? and Where is Your Line? campaigns to comics and cell phone apps, more and more people are realizing that the strength of our numbers will ultimately win.

Not in Kansas

Unfortunately in the US abortion rights are backsliding.

If men could get pregnant

While France has made contraception and abortion free for all women, here in the US we are still fighting for the right to buy prescriptions for birth control at our local pharmacies. North Dakota has banned abortion after 6 weeks, has only one abortion provider AND has a 72 hour waiting period. Ohio is working to make abortion illegal, as is Alabama. Iowa is trying to restrict abortion access for female inmates. Texas is seriously thinking about making it that much harder to get an abortion.  Kansas lawmakers have been granted the right to lie to their patients and disrespect rape victims while making all abortion basically illegal. And Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina are in on this racket too. Sadly, recent news has shown us, as has history time and again, that without access to abortion women die. The United Nations has recently declared that denying abortions is tantamount to torture.

ResponsibilitySome states are defending Reproductive Justice; Oregon is considering a bill that would require Crisis Pregnancy Centers (non-medically licensed religiously affiliated centers that lie to women to prevent them from having abortions) to disclose what services they actually offer and comply with federal medical regulations regarding patient confidentiality. Also, Washington is trying to mandate insurance coverage for abortion care, and New York is attempting to broaden the availability of abortion. One recent victory for women in the US is the ruling that Emergency Contraception, also known as Plan B or The Morning After Pill, must be made available over-the-counter for all women. Health professionals and activists have been fighting for this for years and even though some states still oppose regular daily oral contraceptives, making EC more available will reduce abortion rates, which ultimately is everyone’s goal. And though Christian and Republican arguments against birth control and EC defy logic, it is a reasonable assumption that if everyone had access to comprehensive sex education and contraception that the rates of unintended pregnancy, and by default abortion, would be lower. The voice of reason now, our voices, must be heard if we want to see any change in this War on Women.

Fierce FloresOne courageous lawmaker this week, Assemblymember Lucy Flores (D-Nevada), disclosed to the public that she has had an abortion. Her compelling personal story of abortion being a positive life-changing experience for her comes at a time when most women would never dream of telling anyone they had an abortion. Though more than 1/3 of all American women will have an abortion at least once by age 45, a good 80% of my patients believe they don’t know anyone else who has had an abortion. The trepidation that women feel at disclosing this is both maddening and understandable: Flores has received death threats since admitting she does not regret having an abortion. This stifling of choice, and backlash against women who exercise their legal right to abortion, is one more spark igniting violence against women in the United States.

North Dakota

If we want equality, and I know some people don’t, we must respect women. We must respect women’s right to bodily autonomy. If women’s bodily autonomy were respected the rates of sexual assault would plummet, and women who have abortions would not be demonized for their choices. For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, share resources with your friends, be supportive of those who have been assaulted, speak out against rape jokes, and volunteer with or donate to your local rape crisis center. For Abortion Wellbeing Month, share your stories with your friends, be supportive of women or couples facing unwanted pregnancies, speak out against politicians interfering in medicine, and volunteer as an escort at your local clinic, or donate to your local abortion fund. Below are some tips on respecting bodily autonomy: what constitutes consent and how male allies can get in on the good fight and stop rape and street harassment. As always any comments, links, ideas and critiques are welcome as long as they are respectful and constructive. Carry on, dear reader, the fight for human rights needs you!

Only Yes Means Yes

Teach Men Not to Rape

6 Things Men Can Do To Stop Street Harassment


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