Created by child sexual abuse (CSA) and adult rape survivor, award-winning filmmaker/ cultural worker, and international lecturer Aishah Shahidah Simmons, #LoveWITHAccountability examines how the silence around child sexual abuse in the familial institution plays a direct role in creating a culture of sexual violence in all other institutions-- religious, academic, activist, political and professional.
The Just Beginnings Collaborative, NoVo Foundation-funded project grew out of Simmons's personal incest healing work. Demanding a conversation with her divorced parents about their lack of response to her being sexually abused as a child, Simmons signed "Love WITH Accountability" in virtually every communiqué to them. In doing so, Simmons was emphasizing that her deep love for her parents could not shield their lack of accountability for the sexual violence she endured as a child and their subsequent 30-year cover up.
#LoveWITHAccountability examines how accountability is a powerful and necessary form of love needed to address child sexual abuse. (CSA). Its' focus is on tackling the global epidemic of child sexual abuse through the experiences, insights, and perspectives of diasporic Black child sexual abuse survivors and advocates. The project is culturally specific but accessible to many CSA survivors and advocates, all treated equally regardless of race, ethnicity, and culture. There is space for sharing testimonies and solutions for creating accountability for the violence. #LoveWITHAccountability is part of a community response added to, but separate from the criminal justice system.
As a survivor, Simmons is unwavering in her belief that every victim/survivor must take the avenues, which best support their full recovery and total healing. Her strongly advocating for alternatives to the criminal justice system is to deeply interrogate how and why calling the police is presented as the only solution to the violence victim/survivors face?
Addressing and eradicating child sexual abuse must be placed on national race, gender and sexuality agendas as a societal (global) epidemic that impacts ALL of us either directly or indirectly. #LoveWITHAccountability is building and creating space for diasporic Black child sexual abuse survivors and advocates to use their lived experiences, testimonies, and work as the foundation to co-envision how we can eradicate child sexual abuse.
Simmons officially launched #LoveWITHAccountability in 2016, thirty-seven years after she was first sexually molested by her paternal step-grandfather. She invited intergenerational group of twenty-nine diasporic Black cisgender women, gender non-conforming people, trans and cisgender men to join her on The Feminist Wire to explore what “love WITH accountability” looks like in the context of child sexual abuse. The group included survivors, advocates, and one former bystander, Aishah's mother, who wrote publicly for the first time acknowledging what happened to Aishah and the three-decades cover up.
Since the launch of #LoveWITHAccountability, Simmons traveled extensively across the United Stated to engage in public and private intergenerational conversations. During her travels, realized that Simmons wanted and needed to go more in-depth than the online forum. She is presently in the near final stages of preparing her edited manuscript for Love With Accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse anthology, which will be published, by AK Press in Fall 2019. It will be a hybrid of the revised texts that were originally published in the 2016 online forum in The Feminist Wire, and original texts. The anthology will feature approximately 40- diasporic Black, cisgender, transgender, gender non-binary, straight and queer, child sexual abuse survivors and advocates who use transformative storytelling to explore how we can disrupt and end the global epidemic of child sexual abuse without solely relying on the criminal justice apparatus that has historically and contemporarily harmed Black and other communities of color.
The anticipated publication of the Love With Accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first pre-production meeting for NO! The Rape Documentary. To commemorate this 25th anniversary milestone, Simmons is partnering with the University of Pennsylvania to host a national conference titled, From NO! The Rape Documentary to LoveWITHAccountability: Building on a Movement (#FromNO2Love). #FromNO2Love will be a rigorous, intergenerational, multiracial conference and gathering that will both celebrate the milestone while lifting up the long-term, and new survivor-led work that addresses, disrupts, and works to end adult rape and child sexual abuse.