On Kevin Spacey & Recentering the Dialogue

For decades upon decades LGBTQIA anti-sexual violence activists have worked TIRELESSLY to stop the vicious homophobic and transphobic conflation of sexual violence with sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rather than focus on ending sexual violence routinely committed against children and adults, especially those who are the most marginalized, attention is focused on why someone is LGBTQIA.

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This is one of many reasons why Kevin Spacey's coming out of the celluloid closet responses to being accused of causing harm 30 years ago to a 14-year old boy are despicable and unprincipled. What the HELL does his (FINALLY) living as an out gay man have to do with his attempted sexual misconduct with a minor twelve years his junior? These are separate issues.

I do not want to hear about sexual exploration and I write as a unapologetic Black lesbian/queer woman child sexual abuse and adult rape survivor who also explored her sexuality as a teenager. I want to hear about adult accountability. PERIOD.

LGBTQIA children and teenagers are some of the most vulnerable to being sexually violated by adults.

If you are looking for resources to help you get a grasp of sexual violence outside of the heterosexual cisgender man/boy harming the cisgender woman/girl, here are three of several: sibling survivor/comrade/friend Amita Swadhin's Mirror Memoirs project has collected over 40 (to date) oral her/hxstories/histories from queer and trans child sexual abuse survivors of color. What they are uncovering through this groundbreaking work is mind blowing. Sibling survivor/comrade/friend Ignacio G Rivera's The HEAL Project aims to prevent and end child sexual abuse by making visible the hidden tools used to guilt, shame, coerce and inflict violence onto children. Sibling survivor/comrade/friend Jennifer Patterson's edited award-winning anthology Queering Sexual Violence features multi-racial, multi-gender LGBTQIA survivors and activists whose writings are at the intersection of survivor status, race, sexuality, gender identity, mental health and disability.

Let's work to end ALL forms of sexual violence committed against ALL humans.

Federal Roundtable on Ending Child Sexual Abuse

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On December 19, 2016, the Office of Violence Against Women, US Department of Justice in Partnership with the Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC) hosted a Roundtable on Ending Child Sexual Abuse, which was held at the Office of Justice Programs in Washington, DC. The brainchild and vision of JBC-grantee Luz Marquez Benbow, the purpose of the meeting was to engage in a critical dialogue with federal agencies about the work to end child sexual abuse, while highlighting the leadership of survivors and community-based culturally specific approaches to ending child sexual abuse.  

#LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons presented on Panel II: Survivors Organizing for Justice and Accountability. She shared the panel with JBC grantees: (L-R)  Strong Oak Lefebvre  (Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition),  Aqeela Sherrills  (The Reverence Project),  Erin Esposito  (IGNITE),  Sonya Shah  (Project Ahimsa), and  Sujatha Baliga  (Impact Justice)

#LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons presented on Panel II: Survivors Organizing for Justice and Accountability. She shared the panel with JBC grantees: (L-R) Strong Oak Lefebvre (Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition), Aqeela Sherrills (The Reverence Project), Erin Esposito (IGNITE), Sonya Shah (Project Ahimsa), and Sujatha Baliga (Impact Justice)

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Here's a brief excerpt from the statement that I read at the roundtable:

"My name is Aishah Shahidah Simmons and my JBC-funded project is called #LoveWITHAccountability.  It was conceived and born out of my own personal child sexual abuse healing work... What I have learned so far through this work, and through my own personal journey, is that love with accountability is hard—perhaps nothing is harder—but it is worth the struggle.  Child sexual abuse, by its nature, is complex and together we must demand accountability systems that honor that complexity.  Until we do, we will not end this epidemic. "

***

I had a lot of initial and also subsequent reticence about attending/participating at the Office of Violence Against Women (US Department of Justice) in partnership with the Just Beginnings Collaborative's Roundtable on Ending Child Sexual Abuse because I have always, always worked outside of government structures. I decided to take an intentional leap because I trusted JBC-fellow, sister-survivor Luz Marquez-Benbow's vision that was FULLY supported by JBC's executive director Monique Hoeflinger.

I was emotionally full after one and a half days of meeting, connecting, deep listening, deep authentic sharing, and co-envisioning a world without violence with sibling survivor comrades in the inaugural JBC cohort. It was also a powerful experience to share and engage with appointed and career staff who work on violence against children in U.S. Government Agencies. A huge part of that power was sharing the space with incredibly courageous child sexual abuse survivors and advocates whose lived experiences are different from my own, but who share a demonstrated commitment to addressing this inhumane epidemic humanely. We were a compassionate truth telling collective of individuals.

For many of us in the JBC cohort, it was the first time that we met each other in person. For all* of us who were able to attend, it was the first time that we gathered. I am exhausted and simultaneously invigorated, challenged, and inspired.

*Kimber J Nicoletti, Joanne N. Smith, Mia Mingus weren't able to attend.

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“Removing the Mask: AfroLez®femcentric Silence Breaker” in Queering Sexual Violence Anthology

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In late February 2010 white queer feminist sibling survivor Jennifer Patterson asked me if I would contribute an essay about my child sexual abuse for her anthology in process Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement (QSV) I didn’t know Jennye very well and she definitely didn’t know the details of my incest herstory. She reached out to me both because of [my film] NO!’s impact on her life, but also because of my publicly identifying as an incest survivor. I was both horrified and terrified at the thought and told her as such. I essentially told her that I would consider the invitation but doubted that I would be able to participate. Less than one month after Jennye’s invitation, the life of the beloved family member who molested me over a period of two years in grave danger.

That was a major turning point in my life. I began taking the small steps, which over time became giant strides and leaps in my own rebirthing process. I took an unflinching look at my incest herstory and its last imprint on my life. Through that process, I put pen to paper or key to screen and for the first time in my life I took an unflinching and yet, deeply compassionate look at what happened to me as a child and the subsequent latter years (three decades) of the man who molested me never being held accountable by my parents in his lifetime for what he did. This is not a mommy/daddy dearest narrative but instead an opportunity to reflect upon what #LoveWITHAccountability looks like in the most compassionately humane ways.

My essay “Removing the Mask: AfroLez®femcentric Silence Breaker” is one of over twenty-five essays and poems written by radically diverse LGBTQIA activists, scholars, healers, cultural workers who center queerness while we/they write about sexual violence. This anthology is a paradigm shifter in a society and dare I say frequently pathologizes queer survivors.

There are no words to express the depth of my personal gratitude that Jennye never ever gave up on her vision because there were many reasons along her six-year journey to just throw in the towel.

The anthology is hot off the press and available for purchase TODAY. For more information about the anthology and the upcoming readings (May 10, 2016 in NYC at Bluestockings is the launch), please visit the website.

SPREAD THE WORD and GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!!!!