OUTcast: On Being Queer and a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor panel in DC

Posting a few photos from the October 12, 2018 OUTcast: On being queer and a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor moderated by Indira Henard (Executive Director, DC Rape Crisis Center), panel featuring Ignacio Rivera (Founder of The Heal Project), Ahmad Greene-Hayes (Founder of Children of Combahee), and Aishah Shahidah Simmons (Creator of #LoveWITHAccountability) discussion on the intersections of queer identity and child sexual abuse survivor-hood.

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Pull Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse

Below I am sharing the individual screen shots of my @Afrolez twitter thread on child sexual abuse and adult rape. 

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.

On Forgiveness

Too often child sexual abuse survivors, adult rape survivors and survivors of other of forms sexual violence are expected to forgive the harm doers (including the bystanders) without too much, if any accountability for the harm caused.

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Seeking accountable forgiveness is important. However, no harm doer should expect it just because they sought it.

It is the survivor who has the right to decide if and when they will accept the request.

Demanding or expecting forgiveness is another form of violence. Once again, the survivor is being asked to perform an action they may not be willing or even able to perform.

Forgiveness comes from within. It may happen in the absence of the harm doer(s) seeking it. It may not happen when the harm doer(s) seek it.

Forgiveness is an important journey and simultaneously, it is a complex process.

On Speed & Movement

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I call upon the wisdom of Toni Cade Bambara, who was one of teachers about speed and movement.

I'm grateful to live long enough to experience and witness parental accountability both last year and this week. This work plays a seismic role in my continued healing around child sexual abuse that first began in 1979. There are layers upon layers upon layers upon layers of this excruciatingly painful and radical self care work. It is consistently ongoing, often at a snail's pace. And yet, there's movement.

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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#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.