The Survivors’ Agenda is a community-driven guide toward the survivor justice that we all deserve. This is an offering of love for those who have navigated sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence. It is also a guide for those seeking to prevent and interrupt sexual violence, including sexual harassment.
Those who have experienced sexual violence are inherently powerful and resilient. We know what it means to arise out of struggle and face a new day. Survivors are more than our stories of trauma. We are family members, friends, workers, and leaders. This agenda is about what we are calling for, and what we will no longer stay silent about.
In October 2017, the world shifted as millions of people raised their hands to say, “me too.” Survivors—many for the first time—shared their stories of violence and how they have navigated harm to become resilient. This touched the lives of millions and catalyzed an unprecedented cultural moment. Nearly three years later, we are still experiencing the ripple effects of that moment and building a movement in its wake. The Survivors’ Agenda is about building power and changing the conversation, especially for those least seen and heard in our society.
We are a collective of organizations and survivors who believe that survivors should be the ones shaping the national conversation on sexual violence. We are moving forward a vision of survivor justice that precedes our work and one that will continue for decades to come. We are beginning our work in this formation in 2020, committed to laying the foundation for future movement building, policy changes, narrative shifts, and accountability efforts over the long term. We honor those who have done this work before us, especially the Black women1, Indigenous women, and women of color who have shown us the meaning of resilience.
As a steering committee of 21 organizations and 60+ community partners, we strive to serve survivors first. We also strive to remain accountable to the diverse experiences of those who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, and other forms of gender-based violence. Survivors are not a monolith, nor do we all agree on what needs to change and how to bring that change about, but we choose to move forward in community. We are most accountable to those who are often left out of conversations on sexual violence, or who are not even given consideration as victims, much less as survivors. Black people, Indigenous people, other people of color, queer, transgender, intersex, and gender non-binary folks, young folks, workers, immigrants with or without legal protections, those who are disabled, those currently or formerly incarcerated and other historically marginalized groups globally; we believe in the value and power of these voices, and are committed to being in active conversation with them. And, as most of us are survivors ourselves, we are also dedicated to supporting one another through the daily struggle of this work.
This agenda is derived from multiple sources.
- In June 2020 we released a survey to learn about what survivors across the country are calling for. We asked a variety of questions about solutions and policies. We also asked what makes them feel powerful, and what healing means to them. These 1,100+ responses were diverse and varied, but they started to paint a picture of what survivors need to be able to thrive.
- We also brought together a group of over 40+ individuals from our steering committee and community partner organizations to meet weekly from July-September, to bring to the table decades of expertise directly from those building the movement to end sexual violence. These individuals work as community organizers, legal and legislative advocates, counselors, researchers, and thought leaders. Each week we delved into conversations about our values, our framework for change, and interrogated the complexity of survivorhood.
- We held national town halls, kitchen table conversations, and workshops to focus on specific communities and issues relevant to our audience. We heard from Black femmes. We heard from Latinx organizers. We heard from adult survivors of childhood sexual violence and many more. And we are not done listening.
Above all else, we know that this agenda is a work in progress and a snapshot of what is needed to bring about transformation. The policies listed in this agenda are building blocks toward this transformation, but do not necessarily capture the entirety of the change we need. Nor has every organization that has engaged in the creation of the Agenda taken positions on the full spectrum of policies set out here, but we are united in believing that a comprehensive survivor-centered vision is necessary to achieve the changes we seek. The team pulling together incredibly varied— and sometimes competing—demands and experiences created a living and breathing platform that is far greater than the sum of our individual parts. What did not feel possible a few short months ago may soon feel within reach. Still, working on behalf of survivors to envision a world free from sexual violence means that our perspective changes, grows, and evolves. This is a platform that will be shifted and reimagined continuously.
Below you will see a list of our values in our current formation as a collective. At every point in this process we have strived for those values to inform our conversations and our work. We haven’t always gotten it right and, surely, we have much to learn.
How to use this agenda: This agenda is meant to be talked about and adapted for your needs. This agenda is meant to drive and inform policy change. With that in mind, we hope you will use it as a tool for organizing specifically in your city and state. We want decision makers and elected officials to see this agenda and know that it was created by the thousands of survivors who are demanding change and who will never be silenced.
We have immense gratitude for those who have helped to create this living, breathing document. It belongs to all of us.
– The Survivors’ Agenda Team
The Survivors’ Agenda Initiative operates in accordance with the following values:
- Our work is survivor-centered and survivor-led, focused on strategies and tactics that support those harmed by sexual violence to survive, heal, and take action in service of creating systemic change that interrupts, prevents, and ends sexual violence.
- We recognize that sexual violence is experienced by those of all gender identities, including cis- and trans- women, men, and children, and gender non-conforming and non-binary folks.
- We center the voices and experiences of those most marginalized and least visible. We look at the ways that multiple hierarchies of power and privilege shape our vulnerability to and experiences of violence, including the narratives and legacies of enslavement and colonization. We believe that the people closest to the pain of these systems and histories should be at the center of and driving survivor-centered solutions. This includes Black, Indigenous and other people of color. It also includes caste-oppressed, queer, transgender, intersex, and gender non-binary folks, as well as young people, workers, immigrants with or without legal protections, those who are disabled, those currently or formerly incarcerated, and other historically marginalized groups globally. We recognize that our solutions must be visionary in how we understand radical transformation.
- We believe that change must occur at multiple levels. Institutional, interpersonal, policy, and cultural transformation are all needed. We are pursuing goals and strategies that represent the best and highest use of our collective engagement.
- We do not believe that sexual violence exists within a silo. We believe that work on behalf of survivors is work that must reflect the inherent connections across the continuum of all forms of violence and oppression, which includes but is not limited to: domestic violence, harassment, coercion, and law-enforcement brutality. When we use the term ‘sexual violence,’ we see it as part of this complex spectrum. We also recognize that it takes places in ways that intersect with race, color, national origin, disability, immigration status and other identities that make some complaints of sexual violence even less likely to be taken seriously or believed.
- We seek to create a space that welcomes and holds the experiences of people at any point along their journey of being a survivor, as well as those who may not necessarily self-identify as such, but who, by nature of their personal experiences, deeply associate with the impacts of survivorhood.
- We practice language justice by ensuring multilingual access within our community spaces. We value and uplift our communities that do not use English as their primary language as storytellers, policy experts, and representatives of our work.
- We practice disability justice by ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities in our virtual and event spaces through, for example, the inclusion of sign language and captioning for our events, as well as ensuring that we lift up the unique experience and needs of survivors with disabilities.