Survivor-Led Training

For the past 4 years, I have had the benefit of belonging to the Just Beginnings Collaborative inaugural cohort with other survivors of color and/or other marginalized identities working to end child sexual abuse. It has been challenging and transformational.

A diverse group of people gather in front of a sign that says Possibility Map. They are all smiling and looking into the camera together.

Like all transformational things, it has been disruptive and it has reshaped who I am and how I approach my work.

Recently, several members of my cohort were invited by Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez, Director of the Multicultural Efforts to end Sexual Assault (MESA), to participate in a series of PreventConnect webinars on our collective work. I always try to clear my calendar for an opportunity to work with my cohort so I said, “YES.”

Here’s what happened:

First, I participated in a webinar called Changing the Culture of Schools, Churches, and Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse where we discuss how shifting culture within the heart of organizations and communities can lead to great impacts on preventing child sexual abuse.

Participants included Linda Crockett, Samaritan Safe Church, Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Children of Combahee, and Meg Stone, IMPACT Boston.

Oh and here are my deets if you still need them – Tashmica Torok, The Firecracker Foundation.

Full disclosure.  There are technical difficulties at the beginning and they’re all my fault. Just fast forward past those and the whole thing is full of great things.

5 people of color stand with their arms around each others shoulders smiling at the camera.
Luz Marquez, Tarana Burke, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, me, and Ignacio Rivera

Adult Survivors as Movement Leaders: Lessons Learned from the Just Beginnings Collaborative where you can learn what it looks like to move toward a culture of healing and survivor-centered accountability by centering survivor leadership.

This webinar featured the illustrious Aishah Shahidah Simmons, #LoveWITHAccountability, Amita Swadhin, Mirror Memoirs, and Sonya Shah, The Ahimsa Collective.

Reflecting on our community’s experiences of MSU’s leadership and their unwillingness to listen to survivors on campus, I feel like this webinar might be the one you slide into their DMs.

9 people of color share a table. They're all smiling at the camera and the table is full of glasses and menus.
Celebrating our 2nd anniversary as a cohort together!

The final webinar was Mobilizing and Organizing Communities to End Child Sexual Abuse where you can hear more about community-centered approaches for mobilizing and organizing to end child sexual abuse.

Participants included Ignacio Rivera, The HEAL Project , Strong Oak Lefebvre, Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition, and Suguet Lopez, Lideres Campesinas.

All of these webinars were kicked-off by our Interim Program Coordinator Eb Brown, Just Beginnings Collaborative who is also currently fundraising for the Black Love Convergence. Check it out!

We all have so much to learn so take some time to learn from some of the people I love and respect the most.

Best,

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TW: I see you.

To all of the survivors who are not safe enough to speak up, I see you. I know that you are raising your children in a body that you constantly have to remind to relax. I know you are loving others and going to work every day with a secret like a pin caught in the back of your throat. I believe you.

To the survivors who have decided to be outspoken and are feeling the burn of the constant media cycle and social media chatter, I see you. I am you. I am so grateful to be in the trenches with you. Please remember to eat, drink water, rest, and exercise. You deserve the same love and care that you give to so many. I believe you.

To all of the survivors who are suffering layers and layers of abuse, I see you. I know that sometimes the sexual assaults are not trumped by the fists flying at your face or the way your partner keeps threatening your kids, your dog, and your family. I believe you.

To all of the survivors who are incarcerated or institutionalized, I know that sometimes what you are condemned for is rooted in days and days, histories and histories of trauma. Some of which started before you were born. I see you. I believe you.

To all of the survivors who have spoken and were not believed, I believe you. To all of the survivors who have spoken, and told, and shared, and reported, and went to court, and called the police, and told a coworker, and called Human Resources, and told a teacher, and told a pastor, and whispered it to a friend, and tried to tell your parents and still were not believed – I believe you.

To all of the survivors who were hurt by a doctor, a police officer, a coach, a therapist, a caretaker, or anyone meant to protect, teach, or care for you, I see you. I know you exist and I believe you.

To all of the trans survivors who have tried to report only to be beaten back by a crushing wave of transphobia, I am so sorry and I believe you. You deserve safety, protection, and justice.

To all of the people of color who have to report their stories to white people who judge your language, your accent, your style of dress, your education, and whether you belong here as a priority over protecting you from the person who hurt you, you deserve better and I believe you. You belong among us and when I fight, I am fighting for you too.

To all of the survivors who have a disability and have had that disability used against you, I am outraged with you. Your body deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. No one has the right to take your ability to consent away from you. I believe you.

To all of the native women and trans women who have disappeared or who have been murdered, I think of you often. I say your names, I light candles, and I pray for you. I see you. To you who are surviving, I believe you.

To all of the Deaf survivors who struggle to find a safe, accessible, and confidential space to come forward with your stories, I see you. I have learned about the isolation you face and I will continue to learn and grow my organization in a way that centers your needs because it’s the right way to be in this movement. I believe you.

To all of the survivors who are men and young boys, you are not alone. I know that there is an expectation of silence and you bear it heavily. I will listen to you because your story is important to me. I believe you.

To all survivors who are refugees and immigrants in this country threatening to deport you or place you in detention, I see you. I know that this country has placed you firmly between the choice of being a victim of a sexual perpetrator and being the victim of unjust immigration policies. This is no choice. I am sorry and I see you. I believe you.

To all of the children incarcerated with adults being violently sexually assaulted as a common occurrence, I know you exist. You are not forgotten. Your government may not be concerned for you but many others are. I wish I could offer more. I believe you.

To all of the survivors whose stories will never be covered by the media or see their day in court, your pain is valid. You are not disposable. You are not less important for being less honored. I believe you.

To every survivor, regardless of the details, I think of you during this time. You are who I refer to when I say ALL survivors. I know that the work we will never end sexual violence if we are not placing your name at the center of our calls for justice, healing, and accountability. When I fight, I am thinking of you. I try to influence my community to see you too. I am attentive to laws, policies, events, and spaces where you are not included and I call it out because I know you are there and I see you. I believe you.

And to the many, many children and teens witnessing adults go out of their way to cover up for famous and powerful perpetrators, I want you to listen to me.

I will believe you. This is important. Even if every person you know would choose your perpetrator over you, I will choose you. There are so many people in the world like me. I know it doesn’t seem that way from where you’re sitting but it’s true. I am friends with so many of them. They are real and they are so ready to help.

If you are a teen that wants to reach out for help but doesn’t quite know how you can call The Firecracker Foundation at 517-742-7224. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you want an advocate to support you, you can call 517-242-5467 and one of our volunteers will come to help.

If you cannot ask for help right now but you need to talk, we have a new statewide sexual assault hotline where compassionate people can support you. Call 1-855-VOICES4.