Survivors Agenda Call
Thu, 6/25 · 6:58 PM Duration: 1:04:40
Moderated by Nikita Mitchell
Panel: Ai-jen Poo, Fatima Goss Graves, Mónica Ramírez, Tarana Burke, Nim
Good evening everyone. Welcome to the survivors agenda call tonight. It is such a pleasure to see everyone who is online, watching us on Facebook Live, watching us on Zoom, being a part of this courageous and important conversation tonight. My name is Nikita Mitchell. I am a Black, queer woman. I am a mother of a four-year-old, and I am a survivor. I want to begin by saying that this is an intimate conversation tonight. Right? This is a conversation that deeply impacts a lot of us in our homes and in our communities. So we want to begin by saying that if you need to take care of yourself, we invite you to do so. We want to begin by saying that we know that at times this is difficult. We know that at times we are courageous and going beyond our comfortability to be in deep conversation, and that this is a moment for us. This is a moment for us. This is a moment by us. So take care of yourself in this conversation. We’re coming together tonight as survivors, as people who have experienced sexual abuse, and as advocates of survivors. We’re coming together because we who are intimately aware of the long term impacts of violence and abuse, are committed to using our voices to make change in our communities. We are in a pivotal moment y’all- a moment of resistance, of beautiful resistance, where communities across the country, led by Black folks, led by The Movement for Black Lives, are fighting against police brutality; are fighting against the interlocking oppressions of white supremacy and racial capitalism; are calling to defund the police and fund programs that actually produce community safety. And we know that in this moment, that demand, that that fight has gained traction in beautiful ways. We understand that safety is an important thing for us to be grappling with in this moment. We also understand that in this moment, we are, you know, within the light of ‘me too.’ Okay? So survivors across the country, across the globe have stepped into naming that “I, too, have experienced sexual violence,” and “I, too, deserve justice,” “I, too, deserve to live in full dignity and humanity.” So we are in a key moment of interlocking oppression and a key moment of interlocking resistance. And we, as The Survivors’ Agenda, a coalition of organizations focused on survivor justice, understand that violence is not just between white men in uniforms and folks on the street corners. Violence also looks like intimate partner violence, domestic violence, sexual abuse. It also looks like the intimate ways that it lives in our home, in our communities. We also understand that sexual abuse is a public health crisis. Too long, it has been told that it is a personal issue. I know growing up, it was one that you talk to yourself about. You don’t bring it to your family. You don’t take it outside of your home. But we are here saying that it is a public health crisis. So that as we’re talking about how we re-imagine a world without harm, how we re-imagine a world without violence, we too need to answer that question for survivors who experience violence on a more intimate level. And so tonight, we are compelled to ask ourselves the question, how do we imagine safety and wellness that is not grounded in upholding white supremacy, racial capitalism and state sanctioned violence? What do we need to feel safe, loved and cared for by our communities and by lawmakers? And we’re so excited to create that space with you all tonight.
We’re so excited to create an agenda that reflects the needs of survivors, the voices and experiences of survivors. And tonight is a first step in that conversation. Before we go any further, we want to take a moment to arrive here. Yeah? And arrive here in brave and vulnerable community with each other. So we want to share some community agreements that we ask for everyone who’s joining us in the conversation to uphold to make sure that we’re creating a vulnerable space for survivors to be in. So I’m going to share with you all three agreements. The first is be curious, right? We are listening with open ears and open hearts. We want to pause and get curious about the things that might confuse us that we might have questions about. We want to take the moment to actually lean into the conversation. The second thing that we want to do is respect ourselves, and we want to respect each other, right? We want to create a space that is free from blame, that is free from shame, that’s free from attack, and that’s free from harm. If you’re coming to this call, that means that you’re tired of those conditions. So we want to take the responsibility of creating a safe space. And then lastly, we want to remind you to take care of your body and your soul in this moment, if that means turning our voices down, taking a walk, dancing a little bit, going to the bathroom, hugging on your babies, do that. Do that. Take that moment, to be in your full spirit and your full body. We hope that you can hold these agreements with us, as we’re in this conversation tonight. And I want to also, in the spirit of arriving here in full body and spirit, we at ‘me too.’ believe- and most likely Tarana will speak to this- believe that there is healing in action, and action in healing. So we don’t want to go too far without actually taking a moment and get a moment to be in some healing practice with each other. So I’m going to invite Shanee from Girls for Gender Equity, to lead us through a healing activity so that we can be prepared for this conversation.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much everyone for being here. Thank you so much for having me in the space.
As you heard, I’m Shanee Smith from Girls for Gender Equity, and my pronouns are they, she and I will be leading you in a grounding exercise to get you planted and seated in this moment in time. And so this exercise has been inspired by and from my colleagues at Columbia School of Social Work, and it will help you to be present in this time together with one another over the duration of this program.
So, if you can, we’re going to take a few minutes to sit comfortably. Find a position that feels best for you in your seat. And then also, close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, you can divert your attention to the floor, whichever is most comfortable for you and then listen and imagine as I kind of take you through this healing journey.
So once you’ve found your comfortable position and shifted your gaze, take a few deep breaths to ground yourself in this moment. You can use this moment to place your one hand on your heart and the other hand on your stomach, and this will help you to really feel the rhythm of your breath as you exhale and inhale.
So as you’re breathing, I’m going to ask folks to imagine that there is a box underneath either your chair, underneath your couch, underneath- wherever you are laying or seated. I’m going to ask that you imagine yourself, leaning down and reaching down and pulling out this box and placing it on your lap. Take some time to open this box within your imagination in this moment. This box will signify the letting go of everything that could possibly prevent you from truly being here and being present in this space. I’m going to ask you to imagine that you are placing these things,-these things that might prevent you from being present- into the box and think about the intention behind this. Think about the releasing process that I’m taking you through in this moment. At the end of this time together, if you choose, you’ll have an opportunity to revisit all of the items in this box at your own pace, at your own accord, and when you see fit, whenever that’s appropriate and comforting for you to be able to do so.
So in this moment, the things that can possibly serve as distractions for you- we’ll give you a couple of examples: So thinking about, you know, possible interactions you might have had or things or events that might have occurred before you arrived here in this space; or a text or email that you still haven’t gotten an opportunity to send or respond to; or even a topic of discussion that you might have witnessed on your timeline on social media right before logging in here. Even thinking about the urge that you have to attend to something else in this moment, something that you might need to get done or people you need to show up for in this moment. Any anxieties, fears, concerns about delving into these topics that we’ll be exploring this evening, surrounding trauma, surrounding resistance, surrounding movement work- all of these things can go into this box. And so, know, as you’re thinking about all of these concerns and fears and anxieties, and the letting go process, allow yourself to slowly, release one by one as you place them into this box. To feel free to let this go, let these these things escape your mind and not feeling a sense of judgment if they do kind of return to you throughout this breathing and grounding exercise.
So imagine closing the box after you release these things, and placing and sliding this box underneath your chair, your couch or your bed, wherever you might be sitting or laying, returning to your comfortable position. closing your eyes. Continuing to take these deep breaths, inhale and exhale. And so I’m going to lead you through these deep breaths. I’m going to count for you and with you. And I’m going to have you inhale through your nose for three counts, hold for three counts, and then exhale for three counts.
So we’re going to begin by inhaling- 1, 2, 3, hold, two, three, and then exhale.
Inhale again, two, three, hold, two, three, and then exhale, again.
And then this is your last one. Inhale, two, three, hold, two, three, exhale one more time.
As you’re doing so, I would like to encourage all of you- we’ve released, but also think about what you want to call in in this moment. Think about who and what you might want to call in- your ancestors that have led in the survivorship centered movement in the past. Think about your ancestors throughout your own vision within your own community. Folks that you might want to lift up in this moment and envision standing with you and behind you at this time.
Continue to breathe.
I’m going to ring a bell as you’re doing so. And then, after I ring the bell, I’ll give you the opportunity to open your eyes whenever you feel most comfortable to do so.
I’m going to ring the bell three times.
I’ll invite everyone to open your eyes slowly and prepare yourself to continue to delve in to this evening’s program.
Thank you so much, Shanee. I didn’t realize how much I needed to arrive to this moment. So I really appreciate that offering that window and that glimpse into the importance of healing, and importance of doing body and spirit work in this moment.
So I want to name two kind of things about accessibility and language justice for folks before we hop into to the conversation, some general housekeeping. So first and foremost, we have the lovely Te’Bria who’s providing ASL interpretation for us. We also, as you all heard earlier, have Spanish interpretation available. And then the last piece is that this is a conversation between all of us. And so if you have a question, there will be time to ask that question, and for us to open up into discussion. And so, on the right hand side at the bottom of Zoom, you have a place to put in a question. And on Facebook, we also have folks watching the comments and so please, if you feel inspired, if you have questions that you want to ask, please do so by those means.
So let’s hop into the conversation y’all. We have a really juicy one ahead of us. I want to welcome our panelists for tonight: we have the lovely Tarana Burke, the founder and executive director of ‘me too.’ We have Fatima, who is the president of the National Women’s Law Center. If you’ve ever seen any policy work, it most likely came from the National Women’s Law Center. We’re also joined by Mónica, who is the founder of Justice for Migrant Women. We are with Ai-Jen Poo, who is the Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, which y’all – amazing – can’t even explain how much amazing work NDWA is doing. We’re also joined by Nim, who is a part of Girls for Gender Equity, who is a youth organizer, in this moment, a part of the Sisters in Strength program. It’s going to be a really great conversation. And I want to start us off by a question for all of y’all, yeah?
So, what is the importance, right, in this pivotal moment for folks who are out in the streets demanding justice, right, about police brutality and police violence? What is the importance of organizing from the lens of being a survivor?
I’ll start then. I think that, what we’ve seen in the street, what we’re seeing nightly on the news, what we’re seeing in our communities are people who are most directly impacted by the injustices that they’re fighting against, Raising up to say, “we have answers”. So many people who are affected by these interlocking systems of oppression that you talked about, aren’t often the people at the table making decisions about their own future. And so what we’re experiencing now in this moment where the people are saying, “This is what we want, this is what’s best for our communities.” It’s the same thing for survivors. We, the survivor community, if you will, has been, not really defined. It’s been led by people who are supposed to have our best interests- whether they’re in Washington or in your city council, or even in organizations, sometimes they’re not not survivor-led or survivor-informed in any kind of way. So just like any other thing where the people who are experiencing, who are closest to the pain, who are closest to the trauma, who are closest to the experience, their oppression, whatever it is, should be at the forefront of creating solutions. And so, you know, I’ll let my other my comrades speak to the rest of it. But the impetus for this was to make sure that people understood that survivors are a constituency, we are a power base and inherently in survival as power, and we’re just here to exercise that power.
I’ll just build off of what Tarana just said beautifully, which I totally agree with. And just add that, you know, so many organizations have been doing incredible work. And so many survivors have been speaking out and organizing, and we’re still struggling to have our voices heard. And the dominant narrative still blames us and shames us at worst, or, at best defines us as victims without power, without agency and without leadership capacity. And so that means that when these solutions get developed, if they get defined, it’s too often without us. And so the only thing that really shifts that dynamic is us organizing as survivors together, building our power together. And that’s what this is all about.
This is Monica so great to be here with you all, and I agree with all that Tarana and Ai-jen have shared and you know, I think that my definition would be that. For many of us who are survivors, we know we see clearly how all the systems have failed us, we know exactly what gaps exist, we know exactly how our harm has been furthered because of the lack of support, and because of the lack of resources, and because as we have not been heard, or seen or allowed to lead. And so having organizers and individuals who are survivors, leading the movement, in order to end sexual violence is really training our eyes on what a future can look like that is informed by the people who are experts because of the lives and the lived experiences that we’ve had. And so you know, just really grateful to be here in conversation with all of you. Because we know everyone who’s tuning in, has a lot of wisdom to offer to this conversation and to this agenda as we build it.
Fatima Goss Graves
Now, I, of course, agree with everything they have said. But I’m just going to add one last thought. And that is, you know, survivors are everywhere. They’re in every movement. They’re in all institutions, but they’re not always very visible. And part of the opportunity here is to not only shine a light, but to have an agenda that is led by and birthed by survivors in a way that is visible, in a way that highlights power and presence.
Yeah, I agree with everybody. It’s important to organize from the lens of being a survivor because ultimately, we don’t want to feel alone. We want justice. We want to be able to tell our stories and not be scared to step foot outside of our own homes, into our schools and into other communities we may be part of. Cis and trans women, and gender nonconforming folks disproportionately experience sexual violence over the course of their lifetimes. This most especially includes young people. We are told that we should forget about it, ignore it. By organizing, we could help and support cis and trans girls, women and gender nonconforming folks by helping them use their voice to speak their truth to tell their story to teach others that it’s going to be okay. We could create a space to help survivors feel safe and welcome and most importantly, not alone. Through organizing, we could educate all people so that we can ultimately put an end to sexual and gender based violence and at GGE, Girls for Gender Equity, we work to combat the widespread gender, gender based and racialized violence that young people of color experience. Within Sisters in Strength, this looks like being in conversation with fellow survivors and allies around not only what it means to heal from sexual violence, but also how we can work to end it, and end these cycles before they even begin. This means engaging in conversations about consent and accountability. So that we feel confident to lead in these discussions outside of our healing circle and within larger institutions and organizing spaces.
Thank you. I think one of the things that is so inspiring about this moment is that oftentimes we talk about how do we interrupt sexual violence? How do we prevent how do we intervene? I think this moment is creating space for the question of how do we eradicate it? How do we end it? How do we make it no longer so? And so I really appreciate those comments around what does it mean, as survivors, to take it outside of our home, take it outside of our communities and make it a voice that must be contended it in the public realm.
Fatima, I would love to ask you. This is a significant movement moment, where there is a convergence of Trump’s presidency, COVID-19, and the uprisings against police brutality that disproportionately impacts Black people. From your vantage point, what are the linkages between this moment and the fight to interrupt and ultimately eradicate sexual violence?
So, we’re in this moment where the not new, but actually longtime fractures in our systems in society are being made so visible. And that was true with COVID, where we saw historically disproportionate rates of illness, disproportionate rates of death, disproportionate rates of unemployment hitting Black people so hard and unemployment hitting Black women in particular, hard. And we also saw what happened, at the same time, when those very same policies left out whole communities as they were crafting, they certainly left out survivors when rapid stay home orders didn’t begin to think about those who weren’t safe at home. We saw the same workers who have been saying for a long time that they were unsafe at work due to violence and harassment and more, working in conditions that were now also unsafe because of a refusal to give PPE or have paid leave or take any measures to ensure their safety and their dignity. And then as we steered into making more visible longstanding horrific police violence, we knew right away that it was critical that survivors not only be visible and their experiences with, policing, we also saw the very risks emerge as people both use survivors of gender based violence as a justification for maintaining systems of oppression. So, my last point is really that I think one of the things that’s been clear over the last few months is that there’s no clarity and looking to survivors for answers, clarity on the conditions and systems that actually lead to safety. Ideas on how we as a nation heal from trauma, and as movements led by Black folks have opened our imaginations to what is possible and provided accountability within movements when they fall short. It’s my hope, too, that in a time of rapid pain, but also change and possibility that we will continue to look to survivors for both clarity and for power.
Thank you. So, we are a collaborative effort building a survivors agenda, to talk to and speak to some of what you just named, right? And for me, growing up as a survivor of child sexual abuse, I’ve all oftentimes looked at my life and myself through the lens of the victim, right and victimhood. And so this is an intentional call to say “survivor.” So Tarana, I would love for you to share. How do you define survivor and survivorhood? How does that distinguish from the framing of victim? And can you speak to the cycle of survivorhood? Why is it important to understand?
Thank you. You know, we got a- just today- this is a part of the conversation we had today, and I was gonna say in our “office” in our “virtual office,” because we got an email from somebody who said, they don’t see themselves as a survivor, they see themselves as a victim, and not yet they don’t see himself as survivor yet. And I know for some people, there’s an intentional framing around victim and they don’t embrace the idea of survivor because of what and how they experienced it and and I don’t, this is not I don’t have, you know, it’s not it’s never my intention to critique anybody’s own self-identifying. But for me, and in the work that I’ve done over the years, it’s been important to talk to people who have experienced sexual violence who have a lived experience of sexual violence, about what the trajectory is. And when I was very young in this work, I had an elder explain the difference to me in this way and said that if somebody threw you into a body of water, and you couldn’t swim, right, you would drown. And ultimately, you would die from drowning. But if you can manage to keep your head above the water, then you’d be surviving. And you’d be alive. But our goal ultimately is to thrive, to not just survive, which would look like being able to get out of the water. And not only get out of the water, but turn around and help somebody else out of the water too. And then we’d be thriving. So I see survival as a journey. And for a lot of people to get to the place where you can identify as survivor alone by itself is triumphant. Keeping your head above the water and being alive is triumphant. In a lot of ways, it’s a choice. Having- I think people who have not experienced sexual violence don’t understand that the literally being able to live your life, to take another breath, to wake up, to function, to parent, to love, all of those things are inherently survival. That’s all a part of survival. And even when you do it with the albatross of this trauma around your neck, you are still surviving. And we have to, you know, the Christian phrase is count it all joy- You have to count every piece of your living, post this experience as survival that has been key for me and to the people who have helped walk through this process to continue. It does not mean you are healed. It does not mean you’ve arrived at a place and you have no more work to do. It means that everyday, you get up and you make a choice to survive. Sometimes we survive in small ways. And sometimes we survive in really big ways. But all of it counts, all of it matters, all of it as a part of our journey back to ourselves. Even though that stuff we’re coming back to is a new person, right? We’ve heard that phrase, a piece from broken pieces. Part of survival is looking at what has come out of this experience and loving that person too. And appreciating that person too. And surviving for that person too. And finding joy for that person too. And so, this work is about making sure that the people who govern for us, the people who are in leadership, understand who we are fully. I think a lot of what has been problematic about what we’ve seen in the last almost three years is that people don’t understand the life cycle of a survivor. And that language, I’ve tried to use that language to help people see the breadth and depth of what survivorship survivorhood, whatever looks like, because it is the dark place and the light place. It’s the angry place and the peaceful place. It is the complicated and confusing place, and it is the clear place, right? All of it is a part of it. And we used to tell young people in our program, don’t be afraid of just being even if that’s a different thing at different times. And so part of what this work is about, is helping to shape the identity of survivor, and people still won’t get it. We’ll never all look alike. We’ll never all look alike. We’ll never all talk alike, but we’re all kind of headed in the same direction. And that’s really what’s most important about it. And this agenda will help solidify the direction that we’re walking in. Even though some folks will jump off and jump back in. Some will run to the head of the line some will stay back but we’re all still moving in the same direction. So, I hope that’s helpful is the answer.
Thank you, Tarana. It makes me think about how oftentimes, in my own experience, how it can be moving forward in my healing journey, and get snapped back into the moment of abuse in the moment of violence. And both of those stages are important and are key and are deserving of love, and care and intentionality. So I think that really resonates with me.
I want to pass it over to Nim. So this agenda is an opportunity for survivors, again, to take it out of the realm of personal, and be like “you too, lawmakers, are accountable to survivors and accountable to the multiple ways in which we show up in the world.” The multiple ways in which are experiences drives the things that we need the material conditions that we need. And so I’d be really curious for you: What is the role of school administration and lawmakers in protecting survivors in your school? How can that be a model, right, for how those who are in power to be in relationship to survivors?
In all honesty, I feel like there aren’t enough administrators and lawmakers protecting survivors in my school and in schools throughout larger New York City. At my school, High School for Environmental Studies, HSES, we have a program called RAPP which stands for Relationship Abuse Prevention Program. This program caters to all kinds of students who are experiencing sexual and intimate partner violence. However, this is the only program that helps and supports survivors of gender based violence in my school. On a citywide level, HSES is only one of a handful of schools that even offer RAPP or a program like it to its student body, which leaves survivors very little support in navigating and healing from trauma. Like other schools, HSES does have a counselor for each grade, but one counselor is not enough to provide support for an entire grade of students. There are so many ways in which fellow peers, administrators, administration, and institutions on the whole, perpetuate rape culture and create hostile, unsafe environments for survivors. Right now we’re in a moment where more survivors are moving towards sharing their stories with others as a form of radical healing and solidarity. More programs like RAPP and Sisters in Strength, as well as adequate counseling and mental health support could work to protect survivors who intend to come forward. Additionally, they could support holding individuals and institutions who have caused harm accountable.
Thank you. The question, Mónica, that I have for you is: What systems must exist, right? You spoke to some of this and the levels of school, right? What systems must exist to interrupt and ultimately eradicate sexual violence?
Yeah, thank you Nikita. You know, I think, when we consider the kinds of systems that have to exist to eradicate sexual violence, it in part, it’s an exercise in thinking about what are the changes that have to be made within the systems, and also re-imagining what justice and safety looks like? Because I think a lot of the ways that we operate now is sort of within the constraints of what currently exists and sometimes difficult for us to see beyond that. So at some level, we have to give ourselves the opportunity to consider new ways, and that’s part of what we’re trying to do here together- is to consider new ways. And what does- for different people wherever they are in the country and around the world- what does justice mean, and what does safety mean? And I think that, you know, on safety, we have to consider systems that really do promote, you know- Tarana talks about this all the time, and it’s really a part of the mission of The ‘me too.’ Movement- is what does healing look like for the survivor? What is a system that promotes healing? But we also need to consider what are the systems that promote prevention? And what are the kinds of teachings that we’re offering to people so that we can create a new world that is free of violence? And, you know, I think that when it comes to the eradication of violence, we have to acknowledge the fact that there are power imbalances that have allowed people to perpetuate violence without any accountability. And so we have to consider how do we create systems that are really focused on eradicating inequalities that have permitted people to perpetuate the violence without accountability. So when we think about gender inequality and the ways in which, we have, in the workplace sexual violence happening because people think that they can yield certain power over survivors. Well that exists because there is there are systems of discrimination and inequality that exists in workplaces and other spaces. And so, when we’re re-imagining what safety and justice looks like, part of that has to be focused on the eradication of some of these inequalities that currently exist. And that I would say, on the justice front, you know, a lot of what we talk about, currently is focused on, not on the healing of survivor and more focused on the punitive measures, sort of, you know, how do we ensure that perpetrators are held accountable without really giving a lot of thought about to what what the survivor really wants? What does justice really look like for the survivor. So we have to create systems that provide the space for thinking about justice from the survivor’s perspective. And you know that and that might include really thinking more about restorative practices and restorative responses. And I would say- Fatima talked about this a little bit earlier- you know, the legal system that we currently have, the administrative systems that we currently have, I think many people have said, many of us have had experiences where those systems have been harmful, and they haven’t helped us achieve the justice that we need or that we deserve. And so we need to really think about those systems and all the ways in which they’re flawed, and how to fix them. And part of fixing them also requires us having laws that are fair. And in order for us to have laws that are fair and that are fully informed by survivors, we need to make sure that we have a representative government that includes survivors in leadership to be able to craft the laws that are needed to make sure that survivors’ interests are prioritized. So I think, you know, there are many people who have lots of opinions about what it will take to create new systems, but I think these are some of them that we should consider.
Thank you, Monica. One of the things that I would just want to like uplift is you speaking to restorative practices, and restorative justice, right, which is a frame that a lot of folks have leaned into over time around how to deal with harm and violence. And one of the key things that really resonate with me is the analysis that the role of police and the role of prisons were never to create safety. Were never to create wellness in our communities, right. And so we must look beyond that. If we want to actually eradicate violence in our communities. And if we actually want to deal with the intimacies of harm, we actually need to step into how do we transform and not just restore back to normal, the systems that deeply impact us. And so thank you for speaking to the need to go beyond currently existing systems.
Ai-jen Poo, tell us more about the Survivors’ Agenda. What we’re here to talk about, we’re here to build and develop in this moment. What will it address? What is the significance of it? Why are we inviting people into this process with us?
Well, thank you for giving me the best question. And also, Nikita, thank you for moderating us. I wish you would moderate every panel I’m on because it’s just really excellent. Thank you for the way you’re holding this conversation. And, you know, the Survivors’ Agenda is basically what we make it. There’s so many of us on this call right now, over 700 of us, and maybe more. And the whole point of us bringing everyone together today is to invite you to be a part of this process. It’s a community-building and power-building process that we will draw real input on from all of you. And we’re going to ask you to help us define an agenda, a vision for survivors for the future. And through the process of your engagement, we’re going to be crowdsourcing this vision for a set of solutions that will actually support survivors and connect all of our movements for justice and change and so that we can get to that transformation that Nikita talked about, to begin to address the deep, deep roots of sexual and gender based violence in our culture and in our policy. It’s going to take all of us, all of our movements, all of our voices and all of our input. So we’re asking you to engage, and there’s going to be a lot of different ways to engage and be a part of this community. We’re going to do surveys, kitchen table conversations, we’re going to host events to hear from you directly, and get your input. And this process is going to be super important because I think we all know what it feels like to feel alone, unseen, unheard. At the National Domestic Workers Alliance, there’s so many domestic workers in our community who are survivors, and who have so much to teach us about what safety looks and feels like. And there’s so many undocumented immigrant survivors who’ve never been able to access any of the services available because they’re afraid of immigration enforcement and being deported away from their families. There’s so many issues and dimensions, and there’s solutions. And so we want to hear from all of you, especially survivors, who are not visible, incarcerated survivors, survivors working in all kinds of low wage jobs, trans and gender nonconforming survivors. We want to hear from all of you. And we’re hoping to reach into as many communities as possible to get those ideas, that wisdom, that inspiration, to inform the solutions and the agenda so that we can build an agenda that leaves no survivor behind. And that is what the plan is, and we really want to invite you to be a part of it and to bring in your community, your network. That’s what’s going to make this process amazing. And I do think it will be amazing, historic even.
Yes, amazing, historic, and a place for which a tool for which we can organize long term. So we’re going to shift to broadening the conversation to include some of the questions that folks have been giving us. I just want to name that in the chat box, an agenda is already being formed! Folks are like “we have opinions, we have desires, we have things that we want our communities and lawmakers to be speaking directly to.” And this is why we’re having this conversation, because we believe that we can build a new world together. So I’m so excited about what’s going on in the Q&A. I have two questions for y’all. The first is how can Black survivors, survivors of color, and I would add here, our queer trans, GNC family be heard here and in the movement in sexual violence, what can others do to make sure their voices are heard? Is there someone who wants to give us some wisdom? Give some nuggets on that question.
Yeah, I think, you know, this question comes up a lot, I get it a lot. And I think there’s a couple of ways to answer it. So part of it is that we part of what we feel- people of color, Black people, other marginalized groups feel- is not seen, right? Not in the mainstream. We don’t see ourselves in the media, we don’t see ourselves you know, not news unless it’s to benefit the media. And so it puts us in a precarious position of just just being left out all the time. Well, one, in this movement, in this moment, and in this process, this undertaking that we’re all taking on together, that is not the case. However, it may not still be in the media. On television, whatever, but we are prioritizing ourselves. We are prioritizing the most marginalized. This work is being led by folks who represent those groups. And it’s also in our principles to uplift and amplify those voices, our own voices, right? So there’s that’s sort of one of the ways. This inherently, this process is created, because of that. It’s not just survivors that don’t get heard, but as you add the intersections of who we are as survivors- disabled, queer, veteran, I mean, you can go down the list of people who, just, whose voices get pushed to the side. And so part of this is to make sure that we specifically- and one of our initiatives in this- is to pull out and focus specifically on certain groups. So there’ll be a, you know, conversations specifically with trans folks, conversations specifically with Black folks, conversations with specifically with particular groups who don’t often get to come to the table as a part of the solution for that. So, that’s what we’re doing. But I would ask at the same time, that- and I think this is general, not just not just in relation to this agenda- we have to kind of divorce ourselves from it. I don’t mean to say this to be controversial. And most people – our representation matters. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t. Representation across all media forms matters, and we should continue to fight for that. But we also have to divorce ourselves from the need to be validated only when we see ourselves in the media, because for many of us, it’s just not going to happen. And so what you’re seeing right now is what validation looks like from your community. When we come together, we organize for each other, about each other and lift each other up. We’ll create our own agenda and put those agendas forward, and collectively build together to move those forward. It may not get media attention, it may not be a special on CNN about it, but it’s going to happen by the power of us, by our will. So you are, so there is representation in that way.
Thank you, Tarana. I want to make sure we answer one more question. The thing though, that I wanted to just add is that we understand that violence against bodies and sexual violence is rooted in patriarchal violence. And at the same time, the face of a survivor is not just one face, right? It’s not just one type of person with one type of identity. So we’re striving to think about what is the common denominator for which the agenda can speak to in this moment, while uplifting those who are most marginalized, who lawmakers don’t talk to, right. For those of us who experience silence in multiple ways. We want to speak to that as well and invite folks into that process. So thank you for speaking to that. I have one more question from community, which is would we be able to connect with other survivors in our communities, do this work together to create agendas according to the needs of our community with each other in this process? If someone wants to answer that lovely and important question.
Well, I can start because one of the things that Ai-jen named is that we’re going to also make it possible for people to have what we’re calling kitchen table conversations. And that’s an opportunity to have some smaller conversations about the very specific needs in communities, in networks, within membership organizations, with people who are already in community with, as we build toward a common agenda, that’s a national agenda. So it’s our hope that we will see both happen.
I just want to, you know, lift up the fact that we have the honor of being here today to talk to you about this vision for the Survivors’ Agenda. But there are many partner organizations that have been working with us on this vision to build up to this moment and those organizations all around the country and those networks are going to be helping us make sure that we reach as far and wide as we possibly can. So I just wanted to make sure that we give a shout out to all of our partners who are also so instrumental in this process.
Thank you for that Mónica. So hopefully you understood by now, 55 minutes into this conversation, that this is a space for you. This is a conversation for you, and we welcome, we invite, and we need your voices in this process to build an agenda that authentically reflects the diversity of survivors in this moment. So I want to share some quick ways for which you can join into this conversation. First, is if you can go on right now on your phone, or your tablet, okay, send a pigeon over, you can go on right now to survivorsagenda.org again, survivorsagenda.org you will find resources for survivors, and for yourself. You will find a survey that we’re asking folks to take to help lend their voice to this movement and to building this agenda. You’ll also find the organizations that Mónica was talking about that are in your community. So take this moment right now, and type in survivorsagenda.org to learn more about how to be in this process with us. Also, on that website, you will see the guide that we’re talking about as far as kitchen table conversations. How do we take this conversation that’s happening now, and make it deep by bringing it directly and intimately to our families, to other survivors, to those that we feel comfortable and brave enough and safe enough to have conversations with? So online on survivors agenda.org, you’ll see a guide that also has resources about how to have a conversation that feels brave and feels safe that we invite you to be in conversation with. And tag us once you’ve had that conversation, to tell us how it went. Tell us what came up for you, tell us the wisdom and the nuggets that we need to be knowing as we’re building out an agenda. And then lastly, as Mónica mentioned, there’s a bunch of organizations that are putting together this effort. Please follow them, please get to know them, join them, be in the conversation long term, the work to eradicate sexual violence is a long term project that I find myself committed to. And I know that by coming to this conversation, you’re also committed to being in that conversation. So those are the ways in which we invite you to be in this process with us. As we close out, I’m going to give one to two folks on this panel, a moment to answer the question, as we build out this agenda, right? What does the world look like for survivors? What becomes more possible for people when we end sexual violence? What is your wildest imagination that we are organizing towards? Who wants to take us out with that question?
Um, so in this current moment, we are experiencing an opportunity for survivors to work towards healing and liberation to find things that make them happy. It’s a great time for self reflection. Since most of us are spending the majority of our time within our homes, just chilling and watching Netflix, it’s a great time to do just that. Do some self care, try new things better yet, find people just like you, communicate with others, make new friends and get your story heard because you’re not alone. Moving forward, I would like to consider what it would look like for us to continue to prioritize self care and as a component of our healing justice and organizing. Recently, through Sisters in Strength, I supported in building out a healing toolkit for youth organizers, survivors and those needing support during this time of transition. I would like I would like to envision a world where self and community care is a priority. Even when it isn’t direct response to trauma. I would like us to continue to think about the ways that we can show up for ourselves and others within the movement to end sexual violence and beyond.
Yes, yes, I feel like on that note, okay. Tarana, you have one more thing to say?
I didn’t realize that was off mute. But I will say that since I’m here, because I peeked into the questions that I saw this, about how this movement and this work can make more space for male survivors and survivors of child sexual abuse. And I hear that all the time and I find myself in places all over the world saying, The ’me too.’ Movement, and conversely, the movement to end sexual violence is not a woman’s movement. And we should be very clear even though when we speak, we oftentimes fail in this way and speak in very gendered language. And you see women all the time leading this because I mean, that’s just what we do. But there are men leaders, there are trans leaders, there gender nonconforming leaders, we recognize that not everybody identifies as a woman. This movement is not meant to be just for women or to benefit women and to answer that question, we certainly will do a better job of representing women and children. Many of us are survivors, like myself, of child sexual abuse, that’s where my work started. So that’s a really important thing, and I appreciate folks lifting it up. So on that note, my wildest dream, for us, of course, is healing for people and prevention so that we don’t have to have another generation being raised trying to figure out some of these questions.
Thank you. Tarana. Thank you to everyone who has joined us tonight. I want to name and close out by saying we invite you into building out our wildest dreams collectively. We invite you into thinking about and getting to the place where violence and harm is not a norm, it’s not something for which we need to be navigating. And so we invite you into that process with us. We thank you for being on this call tonight. We hope that we see you and the continued conversations ahead. Thank you very much.