The current systems and institutions that shape our culture (such as the media, legal systems, corporations, and government) too often reinforce false narratives, such as a limited understanding of who is considered a victim/survivor deserving of our help and compassion (the “perfect victim”), and engaging in “victim-blaming”—presuming that the survivor, rather than the perpetrator, is at fault based on discrimination and stereotypes about the survivor’s identity and behavior.
These stereotypes and discriminatory practices based on the race, gender, caste, class, sexual orientation, and other identities, belief systems, and behaviors of the survivor promote a culture of sexual violence. The use of misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic language; the objectification of certain bodies; misogynoir where race and gender bias intersect; and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby create a society that disregards the rights and respect of survivors and perpetuate negative cultural norms that rationalize or excuse sexual violence.
These systems do not serve survivors of sexual violence in a way that promotes healing and accountability, and they also fail to acknowledge or affirm the identities and true power and resilience of survivors. In particular, this disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and other people of color who face inherent discrimination and additional barriers to accessing safety, services, and justice.
These same systems and institutions, and the wider society at large, can be a part of the solution. They can help turn the tide on sexual violence and create new narratives that support survivors and disrupt the culture of violence. We are calling for a transformation of culture that centers the experiences of all survivors; a culture that doesn’t tolerate or make excuses for the abuse, violence, and harassment by those in power; a culture that encourages being active in preventing and disrupting violence when aware of harmful situations (rather than being a bystander); and a culture that is supportive of survivors of sexual violence, going beyond just “believing” survivors to actively promoting and developing a culture of prevention, accountability, and healing.
WE ARE CALLING FOR:
- Promotion of survivor leadership in interpersonal, institutional, political, and cultural spaces, centering survivors and supporting them to embrace their strength and voice to bring about change.
- The creation of language and guidelines for how the media and other institutions talk about survivors in ways that center strength and not victimization, while holding perpetrators accountable.
- The elevation of survivors’ stories that are inclusive of survivors from diverse backgrounds, varied in their experiences and journeys as survivors, and in which survivors are portrayed as whole people with identities beyond that of their experience with sexual harassment or violence.
- Resources for community-based organizations led by and for survivors from marginalized communities to develop holistic prevention and response initiatives focused on survivor healing and well-being, and to support alternative approaches to accountability.
- A change in the social norms that currently reinforce patriarchal violence and a white, male-dominated culture, including the continued allowance of hateful and violent language and behavior directed at survivors who come forward or tell their stories.
- Following the lead of survivors who are often left out of conversations about sexual harassment and violence, including immigrant survivors, survivors who are disabled, survivors who are formerly incarcerated, and survivors who engage in consensual sex work.
POLICIES THAT MOVE US FORWARD:
- Consent education beginning in pre-school and elementary school to promote healthy relationships based on communication and the notion that we should respect one another’s boundaries and build healthy relationships.
- Consent education as part of a Comprehensive Sex Education program in middle school and high school to promote an understanding of romantic and sexual relationships in the context of healthy communication and boundaries, in order to be safe and preserve dignity.
- Significantly increase investments in prevention strategies to reduce sexual assault and promote social norms changes, such as programs that support active bystander approaches and those that engage men and boys as allies in changing social norms.
- Provide new and expanded access to grants with increased funding to support local communitybased programs to enhance their capacity to develop effective prevention efforts and community engagement initiatives to prevent sexual assault, particularly those focused on serving communities of color or traditionally underserved communities in a more holistic manner.
- Investment in programs that provide healing for Black girls and Black gender expansive young people and value their safety and bodily autonomy, along the lines of the National Agenda for Black Girls.
- Provide increased funding for planning grants and for research and evaluation to develop a wider range of innovative evidence-based practices focused on addressing the disproportionate impact of gender-based violence and the barriers of systemic inequities and systemic racism on survivors from marginalized communities.
- Increase efforts to promote culture change in the workplace and ensure that workplaces are free from sexual harassment and sexual violence, including a primary focus on industries such as the hotel and restaurant industry, domestic workers, migrant farmworkers, janitorial workers, and others who face a disproportionate impact of sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.