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.

#LoveWITHAccountability at WomanPreach!, Inc. & Children of Combahee's For the Sake of Our Children: Confronting Sexual Violence in Church Spaces

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What an honor for me to present about #LoveWITHAccountability, share and learn at WomanPreach!, Inc. and Children of Combahee's For the Sake of Our Children: Confronting Sexual Violence in Church Spaces gathering. It was a sacred, safe, and welcoming space for this Black queer Sufi Muslim raised, Vipassana Meditation practicing child sexual abuse and adult rape survivor woman to wade in very deep conversation with my Christian sisters and brothers. We listened, shared, and explored how to best address those horrific sexual violations of the body/mind/spirt that, if spoken at all, are often spoken in hush tones and on the margins. Full body deep bows to Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Sister Rev. Jené Colvin, and the entire organizing team for their unwavering commitment to break the unspeakable silences.

Love IS a Verb

LOVE shout out to my beloved partner Sheila who, without my asking, took a 2 ½ hour drive to hand deliver flowers, supported my getting out of the literal and metaphorical bed of depression to attend my 30th High School Reunion, and lovingly bared witness to part of my slow climb back up from the child sexual abuse legacy downward spiral.

I would not be able to do my public NO! The Rape Documentary and #LoveWITHAccountability anti-sexual violence work if I weren't doing my private anti-sexual violence work. All of this work is possible because of 25-years of therapy with a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist, 15-year practice of vipassana meditation, AND the cultivated/chosen village.

Love IS A Verb.

#LoveWITHAccountability Goes Global

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In 1994, when I first envisioned what is now known as NO! The Rape Documentary, I was solely focused on rape and other forms of sexual assault in Black communities. Never in my wildest imaginations did I ever think that the documentary as a work-in-progress, rough cut and completed film would resonate with and educate many individuals in. Canada, and multiple countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, South American and the Caribbean.

Similarly and despite the fact that (like adult rape) child sexual abuse is a global pandemic, I didn't know if Love With Accountability would have a global reach. It was not a part of the original vision.

Thanks to Ghanaian-based producer/host/visionary Esther Armah, #LoveWITHAccountability has gone global through her weekly podcast The SPIN: all women media panel syndicated radio show.

Part one of The Spin's two-part #LoveWITHAccountability series featuring my mom Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and me aired last night at 9pm in Ghana on Starr103.5FM

The show will aired in Nigeria and it is airing on several NPR affiliates in the United States. It is also available on sound cloud and iTunes via TheSpin1 channel.

If you missed it, you can also listen to part 1 of #TheSpin's #LoveWITHAccountability special series podcast in its entirety via this soundcloud link.

“Blooming from the wound where I once bled.”

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I first saw this image on December 9, 2016, which for me is Toni Cade Bambara ascension day on Sis Tisa Bryant's Instagram page.

"I am blooming from the wound where I once bled."

That sentence is one of my truths.

I experientially know this truth from my adult rape and multiple romantic heartaches over the past two decades. However I never ever in my best dreams thought that I would be able to know this truth in response to my child sexual abuse. I have been a #phoenixRISING since January 2015 when I drew a non-negotiable line in the sand with both of my divorced parents. But, I didn't fully believe there would be full accountability from either one of my parents...just when I truly believed I essentially gave up attachment to their loving me accountably, my mother came to grips with and named how she nor my dad protected me as a child and forced me to engage with my harm doer without his ever being held accountable for over three decades. Her revelation happened less than four months ago, 37 years after I was first molested for a period of two years.

While I firmly believe that my healing cannot be contingent upon other peoples words and actions, I experientially know that the work that my mother and I are doing privately and also publicly is fertile ground from which new seeds are blooming.

I may bleed again and I am clear that it will not be a setback.

Healing is a multi-layered journey and not a destination. 

Toni Cade Bambara Ascension Day

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I have several photos of Toni Cade Bambara and me. This one, which was taken by my father Michael Simmons in October 1994 at the Hatch-Billops Collection in New York, is my favorite photo of the two of us.

Toni had my back in so many ways. The profundity of this reality is that I was one of so many who Toni taught, supported, nurtured, encouraged, and challenged. I am grateful that I am one of the many beneficiaries in the United States and internationally.

¡Presente Toni Cade Bambara Always and Forever          March 25, 1939 - December 9, 1995!

 

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Acclaimed Black Feminist writer, cultural worker, Toni Cade Bambara asked this timeless question over three decades ago in her classic road map (aka award-winning novel) The Salt Eaters. The question is as relevant now  (if not more so) than it was when she first wrote it.


I believe the foundation of my #LoveWITHAccountability work is deeply connected to and intertwined with Toni’s prophetic question. 

[Audio] Part 1 of The Spin’s #LoveWITHAccountability special

December 8th, 2016, THE SPIN launched a 2-part special #LoveWITHAccountability, (audio) conversations on childhood sexual abuse, its legacy and what it means to love, accountably. Love With Accountability is my Just Beginnings Collaborative funded multi media campaign for child sexual abuse and incest survivors of African descent to speak out in solidarity and to share their testimonies and solutions for creating accountability for the violence done to them within their families.

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PART 1: Features a powerful conversation between my mother Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and me sharing our individual and joint journeys in confronting silence, peeling off masks, facing shame, finding healing from my childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her beloved Pop-pop (through my work with Dr. Clara Whaley Perkins and my dedicated practice of Vipassana Meditation), and my mother’s initial inability to understand the legacy of her inaction on my life. My mother and I reflected, cried, held space, spoke openly, and read excerpts of our joint article in the #LoveWITHAccountability Forum on The Feminist Wire.  

Listen and share here.

I am still reverberating from our three-way (Accra, Ghana & Gainesville, Florida & Washington, DC) conversation filled with unadulterated truth, tears, love, accountability and healing. There are no words that will EVER adequately convey the depth of my gratitude for my mother’s willingness to keep struggling and pushing until we arrived at this place, 37-years later, of true #LoveWITHAccountability. She’s not only doing this hardcore work behind closed doors with me, but she’s also sharing publicly sharing her journey in writing in her our joint article  and now on  THE SPIN. You can listen to The Spin below, on SoundCloud and iTunes podcast via The Spin1.

Deep Bows to THE SPIN’s producer and host Esther Armah for  creating the space for this two-week special. 

The December 15, 2016 show will feature Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis and Luz Marquez Benbow.

Why #LoveWITHAccountability

Created by child sexual abuse survivor, adult rape survivor, and award-winning filmmaker/cultural worker Aishah Shahidah Simmons, #LoveWITHAccountability examines how accountability is a powerful and necessary form of love needed to address child sexual abuse (CSA). Funded by the Just Beginnings Collaborative, #LoveWITHAccountability also 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 overwhelming majority of us are taught from birth that regardless of any transgression we may experience from any bio/chosen family member, we must protect the family at all cost. When child sexual abuse survivors privately or publicly break our silences about the sexual harm we experienced as children by bio/chosen family, we are often accused of allowing negative forces to harm ourselves and others, not being mentally stable, not caring about, and/or loving those who “love us the most” – our bio/chosen family.  There’s a painful, uncanny irony that, in the name of familial love and loyalty, CSA survivors are overtly coerced, and covertly encouraged to remain silent. It’s that same familial love and loyalty didn’t keep us safe as children.

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#LoveWITHAccountabiltiy’s focus is on tackling the global epidemic of child sexual abuse through the lived experiences, insights and perspectives of  Black child sexual abuse survivors and advocates.  Similar to my film, NO! whose lens examines the global atrocity of rape through the experiences of Black/African-American rape survivors, #LoveWITHAccountability will be culturally specific and simultaneously accessible to many CSA survivors and advocates regardless of their race, ethnicity and culture.

Addressing and eradicating CSA must be placed on national race, gender and sexuality agendas as a societal (global) ill that impacts ALL of us either directly or indirectly. #LoveWITHAccountability is building and creating space for Black CSA survivors and CSA advocates to use their lived experiences, testimonies, and work as the foundation to co-envision how we can eradicate CSA. When we unapologetically shout and advocate for #BlackLivesMatter, we must be inclusive of CSA and other forms of intra-racial gender-based violence including but not limited to adult rape and domestic violence. 

#LoveWITHAccountability moves with the unequivocal belief that CSA must be eradicated and yet, it will not be eradicated through the prison industrial complex. Personally, I  believe transformative justice (TJ)  is one powerful way that we can move forward with addressing and eradicating CSA. I do not believe in a one size fits all model. TJ is not the only way. There’s also restorative justice and other accountability and healing actions that can be implemented. 
CSA must be addressed through compassionate, accountable transformative justice and understood to be one of the root causes of so much harm that is currently happening in the world.  I am transparent about my not wanting to be connected to anything that is advocating for the state to intervene in detrimentally racist, classist, sexist, heterocentric and transphobic ways. Based on painful her/histories and contemporary realities with criminal (in)justice in Black communities, I’m not interested in #LoveWITHAccountability becoming a part of some federally funded initiative that is attached to a bill that will legitimize locking up more Black and People of Color. I believe the current criminal justice system plays a pivotal role in enforcing the silence about the violence. Simultaneously, I am unequivocal in my unwavering belief that harm doers, including the bystanders, should be held accountable. 

Troubling the waters  -- I believe we have to move beyond this belief that CSA will end in our lifetimes. Ending CSA should always be one of the key goals for liberation. I fully believe we can make seismic shifts towards meeting that goal. Parallel seismic shifts have already happened in other anti-violence (rape and domestic violence) movements but not without detrimental compromises. 

This is deep, delicate, relentless, patient, compassionate, loving, transformational, and healing work to undertake. This is why I am unwavering in my belief that while we have an end goal in mind, we must also view this movement to end CSA as a multi-generational all people on deck effort. If we don’t, we will run the risk of “haste makes waste.”  I don’t want to win many battles while the war still ravages. I’m not interested in devastating compromises that leave any of our survivor siblings behind on the battlefield. I want to compassionately and accountably end this war that spans generations. 


The first #LoveWITHAccountability gathering is an online forum that will be hosted on the online feminist publication, The Feminist Wire from October 17, 2016 - October 28, 2016. Over twenty-five diasporic Black cisgender women, trans men and gender non-conforming people, and cisgender men CSA survivors and/or advocates were invited to share their experiences and perspectives about what accountability looks like when tackling CSA. 

 

[i] The mainstream anti sexual violence movement comes from a radical feminist grassroots herstory. In the early 1970s many rape crisis centers were founded by women survivors, many of who did not have social work, counseling, or psychology degrees. They were majority volunteer organizations with explicitly feminist politics whose work was directly linked to the personal being political. Depending on where we start and fast-forward twenty to forty years later, this national and mainstream movement (on and off) campuses has become extremely professional where in many instances activism is looked down upon.  Over the years, rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters have become more invested in gaining legitimacy with the criminal justice system, the medical industry, and the social service industry. Many have moved from being grassroots anti violence movement organizations that were accountable to the communities that they served to solely professional organizations that are accountable to their institutional funders. In many organizations, survivors are viewed as clients/consumers as opposed to their own social change agents.  (Janelle White interviewed by Aishah Shahidah Simmons for NO! The Rape Documentary, August 2000. This information is not included in the completed film. However, it is part of the NO! video archives.)