“It Takes A Village”: Afterword to the #LoveWITHAccountability Forum by Aishah Shahidah Simmons

I had big plans for writing the Afterword to the #LoveWITHAccountability forum, but the truth is I am worn out completely. In the spirit of transparency, I recently became consumed with so much internalized conflict about how my grandfather and also my father would come across in my mother’s courageous contribution to this forum that I couldn’t focus on how I would bring closure to this forum. I, the unapologetic BLACK FEMINIST, was initially unable to fully APPRECIATE that, per my 12th hour invitation to participate, my mother PUBLICLY held herself accountable in this forum. I was more worried that The Feminist Wire readers would think that my Pop-pop was a horrible person. He definitely did horrible things to me as a child but I do not believe he is a horrible person. I didn’t want readers to inquire why I didn’t invite my father to contribute to this forum. He and I are still on the journey. We are not in a place to publicly share about our process. I was still in protection mode.

As a result, I couldn’t accept the invaluable sacred gifts of my mother both privately and publicly articulating the decades long harm inflicted upon me, and deeply heartfelt apologies with meaning. As sister-survivor-comrade Luz Marquez-Benbow wrote in her article, “incest is some insidious sick shit.” The postscript that I wrote at the end of my “mother’s lament” was a brand new development in response to my deep angst. It was not a part of the original plan for this forum. As a result, I do not have the wherewithal to go any deeper right now. My gratitude for my mother pushing herself to get here on her and my journey is endless. I am personally reminded that it is never too late for accountability and healing.

My goal with the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire was to create a virtual space to both ignite and also continue dialogues about the taboo topic of child sexual abuse in diasporic Black communities in the wake of all of our heightened awareness about state sanctioned white supremacist violence committed against Black people and our communities. Twenty-nine intergenerational diasporic Black people disclosed and explored child sexual abuse, healing, justice, and love with accountability over a period of ten-days on The Feminist Wire. I’ve only been pregnant once in my life and had an abortion six-eight weeks later. Yet despite my lack of knowledge about carrying a pregnancy to term, I frequently used the analogy of being the thirty-four-week pregnant doula who actively engaged with supporting twenty-eight concurrent births. This was my journey with the #LoveWITHAccountability forum. This forum was hardcore work for many of the contributors to share their truths about what happened to them as children, and to also share their visions for a world free from sexual violence against children and adults in a public forum.

The #LoveWITHAccountability forum is a continuation of work that precedes this collaborative project, and it is also a beginning. As diverse as the forum is, I am clear that there is always room for more diversity. It is twenty-nine drops in the vast child sexual abuse ocean, which is not to take away from the individual and collective power of those profound drops. Every drop plays an important role in creating the waves of seismic change. It’s extremely important for me to acknowledge that there are additional marginalized voices from within the diasporic Black community that aren’t featured in this forum. This is a beginning.

Up until it was time to publish the articles and poems, I was a one-woman entity. This was intentional by my design and it has taken its toll. I thought I was going into the very deep end of the pool with this forum. Instead, I found myself in the middle of an ocean of trauma. Fortunately, I had many resources in the form of twenty-four years work with Dr. Clara Whaley-Perkins, a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist and founder of the Life After Trauma Organization, a fourteen year practice of vipassana meditation, and a trusted inner circle of sister-sibling-brother friends during this process including Mia Mingus, Jennye Patterson, Heba Nimr, C. Nicole Mason, Marie Ali, Josslyn Luckett, Heidi R. Lewis, Tamura Lomax, Luz Marquez-Benbow, Mari Morales-Williams, Nikki Harmon, Yvonne M. Jones, Kai M. Green, Sonja Ebron, Evelyne Laurent-Perrault, Jonathan Crowley, and Molly Broeder Harris. Even with all of human and spiritual resources, there were several times when my head went under the water. I didn’t drown because of the support of resources. The waters are calm for now. I hope I can mentally and emotionally rest a while before the ferocious waves return because they will return. This is the nature of personally and professionally tackling child sexual abuse as an adult survivor. There are so many layers of residual trauma.

It took a village to make this forum a reality. I want to share gratitude for many individuals who directly and indirectly made this forum a reality. The #LoveWITHAccountabilty project probably would not exist without the support of the Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC). I do not believe I could psychologically and emotionally focus on child sexual abuse day in and day out while simultaneously doing other non-related work to financially sustain me. JBC’s founding executive director Monique Hoeflinger was an important source of unwavering support during both the incubation period and the literal launch of both the project and the forum. John L Jackson, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) enthusiastically welcomed me as a Visiting Scholar. His support of me and my work has also been unwavering.  Director Susan Sorenson invited me to be an Affiliated Scholar at the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence, which affords me the gift of an opportunity to engage with graduate and undergraduate students whose research and scholarship is focused on addressing various forms of family violence.

All of the JBC individual fellows and two organizational grantees came together in the first quarter of 2016 and formed an ad-hoc collectively defined #SurvivorUnion.  We worked together to support each other both in response to an organizational crisis and with our individual projects, which focused on addressing and ending child sexual abuse. It hasn’t always been a crystal stair amongst us, and I am profoundly grateful for the community that we, Mia Mingus (Living Bridges Project),Luz Marquez-Benbow (Love in Sister/Brotherhood), Amita Swadhin (Mirror Memoirs), sujatha baliga(Impact Justice), Tashmica Torok (Firecracker Foundation), Sonya Shah (Project Ahimsa), Ignacio G. Rivera (The Heal Project), Ahmad Greene-Hayes (Children of Combahee), and Aqeela Sherrills co-created. I can’t imagine this journey without their presence, friendship, camaraderie, and support. Each of these individuals are doing incredible ground-breaking work to pull up the roots of child sexual abuse in marginalized communities. I continue to learn so much from them and their work, which inspires my own.

During the first six months of 2016, I had the amazing opportunity to be the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. My Africana Studies colleagues Rhon Manigault-Bryant and James Manigault-Bryant invited me to Williams College and quickly became my friends and spirit family. It is because of them that I was very fortunate to work with my former student and research assistant Aunrika Tucker-Shabazz.  In addition to Rhon and James, I also created a really important close-knit community with VaNatta S. FordRob WhiteSophie Saint-Just and Daniel GoudrouffeRashida BraggsWill RawlsMeg BossongFerentz Lafargue, Vivian Huang, Merída RuaAmal Eqeiq and Anicia Timberlake. I was able to share my work in process with each of them, and I also shared a lot of much-needed laughter and fun times with them in the metropolis known as Williamstown, MA.



I cannot think of any other online publication other than The Feminist Wire (TFW) where I would’ve been able to publish over twenty-five essays, reflections, poems on child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in diasporic Black communities for ten days. These pieces ranged from 700 to almost 4000 words. Since its co-founding by Tamura Lomax and Hortense Spillers in January 2010 and subsequent leadership by Tamura and her co-managing editors Monica J. Casper and Darnell L. MooreTFW has always gone deep beneath the surface with our work, most especially our online forums.

Since 2012, TFW has conducted multiple forums, allowing our readers to delve deep with TFW collective members and other writers on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to: PalestineWomen’s Filmmakers Muslim Feminisms; VotingViolence Black (Academic) Women’s Health; World AIDS Day; Masculinities; Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism;Assata Shakur and the Black Radical Tradition; the Aftermath of the (George Zimmerman) Trial;Feminist Theory: A College Forum Love As A Radical Act; Disabilities; Mass Incarceration and the Prison-Industrial Complex in honor of and featuring Mumia Abu-Jamal; Audre Lorde; Toni Cade Bambara; Climate Change and Feminist Environmentalisms; Campus Violence, Resistance, and Strategies for SurvivalShout Your Abortion; and June Jordan. The #LoveWITHAccountability forum is a part of TFW’s radical continuum.

There are very few, if any, online publications that provide the in-depth left of center, radical, multi-racial, pro-reproductive justice, pro-LGBTQ, anti-imperialist, anti-white supremacist feminist writings that The Feminist Wire has consistently provided for free. This volunteer work of curating, writing, editing, and publishing is almost always completed in our second and third shifts after working jobs, partnering, parenting, and/or, for many of us, being engaged activists for social change in our societies and in the world. I did not call upon support from my dear TFW comrades-friends until it was time to publish the forum because this was the first time that, thanks to funding received from the Just Beginnings Collaborative, I could solely focus on the forum work all day and every day. With that shared, Heather TurcotteTamura LomaxHeidi R. LewisHeather Laine TalleyMonica J. CasperTC TolbertJoe Osmundson, and TFW’s Editorial Interns Jazlynn Andrews and Angela Kong each played important roles with the publication of the forum. There’s the literal work of uploading, copy editing, resizing of photos, tagging, and hyperlinking. Then there are the personal extended texts, emails, and voicemail messages to check in and consistently send love and emotional support along the way that underscores the TFW community building that many of us work hard to sustain through the cyberwaves in the midst of it all.


My sister-friend C. Nicole Mason reminded me that I do not walk on water and my well-being would be at stake if I tried to do everything including promoting the forum. She connected me with two incredible Black women who helped me with creating the visuals for my work. Kathryn Bowser created the gorgeous #LoveWITHAccountability logos. Maura Chanz and her company Glitter and Hustle handled all of #LoveWITHAccountability’s social media sites. She created the beautiful images that brought some of Aunrika’s research to visual life. Maura also lifted excerpts from each of the contributors’ words to create beautiful collages with their images. The website was designed by my dear friend Jennifer Patterson who five years ago played a pivotal role with igniting my journey to address my own child sexual abuse.

Sister Valerie Ann Johnson invited me to participate in the Africana Women’s Studies’ inaugural “Heal the Healer” week-long residency at Bennett College. The residency unexpectedly coincided with the second week of the forum, which turned out to be a gift. My time at Bennett College was a much needed respite in the company of sistren, and for that I am most appreciative.

There aren’t any words that will articulate the depth of my deep gratitude and love for each of the individual twenty-nine #LoveWITHAccountability forum contributors who trusted me enough to take this public journey with me. It wasn’t easy for most of the contributors. Everyone’s plates were already full and yet, they accepted my invitation to revisit excruciatingly painful experiences in their lives and envision what accountability for child sexual abuse can look like. Despite my huge ask without a lot of time to reflect, re-member, process, write, and publicly share, they pushed through to participate. Their commitment to this forum is powerful commentary on their unanimity that we must break the silence and address child sexual violence in our diasporic communities.

The forum contents are listed below in chronological order.  There are over twenty-five individual archived road maps from which readers can explore and decide which routes, if any, resonate with part of their journeys.

The movement to end child sexual abuse is not a one size fits all movement. #LoveWITHAccountability is a call to action that doesn’t end with this forum, as there are many more road maps in multiple communities.


Publication Timeline for #LoveWITHAccountability forum:

  1. Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Digging Up the Roots: An Introduction to the #LoveWITHAccountability Forum
  2. Chevara Orrin, Soul Survivor: Reimagining Legacy
  3. Danielle Lee Moss, Ed.D,  Love Centered Accountability
  4. Aunrika Tucker-Shabazz, How I Built Community While Researching Accountability
  5. Ahmad Greene-Hayes, “The Least of These”: Black Children, Sexual Abuse, and Theological Malpractice
  6. Kai M. Green, Ph.D., Fast
  7. e nina jay, a place to live
  8. Thema Bryant-Davis, Ph.D., Our Silence Will Not Save Us: Considering Survivors and Abusers
  9. Adenike A. Harris and Peter J. Harris, [VIDEO] Pops’nAde: a Courageous Daughter & Her NonAbusive Father on Loving Lessons, Living Legacies (L)earned after Sexual Violence
  10. Worokya Duncan, Ed.D.,  Unfinished
  11. Zoe Flowers, Violation and Making The Road By Walking It
  12. Ignacio G. Rivera, Accountability to Ourselves and Our Children
  13. Tashmica Torok, Casting Aspersions
  14. Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Social Silence & Child Sexual Abuse
  15. Alicia Sanchez Gill, A Network of Care
  16. MiKeiya Morrow, We need Speak7 because Black Children Matter and Child Sexual Abuse Thrives in Silence!
  17. Liz S. Alexander, In My Mother’s Name: Restorative Justice for Survivors of Incest
  18. Tonya Lovelace Sunset: Seeking True Accountability After All of These Years
  19. Nicole Mason, Ph.D., Oh, to Be Free Again: Love, Accountability & Bodily Integrity in Response to Child Sexual Abuse
  20. Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D., The Coiled Spring First Grader Deep Inside: Sexual Violence and Restorative Justice
  21. Cecelia Falls, Self Love with Accountability
  22. Loretta J. Ross, Paying it Forward Instead of Looking Backwards
  23. Qui Dorian Alexander, Thoughts on Discipline, Justice, Love and Accountability: Redefining Words to Reimagine Our Realities
  24. Kimberly Gaubault, Safe Space: The Language of Love
  25. Thea Matthews, activist, poet, prison abolitionist, human rights advocate, incest and rape survivor
  26. Kebo Drew, It's the Whispers
  27. Ferentz Lafargue, Ph.D., On Moving Forward
  28. Luz Marquez-Benbow, Who is Accountable to the Black Latinx Child?
  29. Lynn Roberts, Ph.D., Becoming Each Other’s Harvest
  30. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Ph.D., with Aishah Shahidah Simmons, LOVE WITH ACCOUNTABILITY: A Mother's Lament & A Daughter's Postscript
  31. Aishah Shahidah Simmons, "It Takes A Village": the Afterword to the #LoveWITHAccountability forum

May we all envision and work diligently to co-create a world without violence for the future generations…

Photo Credit: Daniel Goudrouffe

Photo Credit: Daniel Goudrouffe

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a Black feminist lesbian incest and rape survivor, award-winning documentary filmmaker, published writer, international lecturer, and activist. She is a Just Beginnings Collaborative Fellow, and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, where she is also affiliated with the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence. She is the creator of the film NO! The Rape Documentary and the #LoveWITHAccountability project. An associate editor of The Feminist Wire, Aishah has screened her work, guest lectured, and facilitated workshops and dialogues to racially and ethnically diverse audiences at colleges and universities, high schools, conferences, international film festivals, rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, community centers, juvenile correctional facilities, and government sponsored events across the United States and Canada, throughout Italy, in South Africa, France, England, Croatia, Hungary, The Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, India, Switzerland, St. Croix U.S.V.I, Germany, and Cuba. You can follow both #LoveWITHAccountability and Aishah on twitter @loveaccountably and @Afrolez.

Safe Space: The Language of Love by Kimberly Gaubault

Content Notice: The purpose of the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire and project is to prioritize child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in national dialogues and work on racial justice and gender-based violence. Several of the featured articles in this forum give an in-depth and, at times, graphic examination of rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual harm against diasporic Black children through the experiences and work of survivors and advocates. The articles also offer visions and strategies for how we can humanely move towards co-creating a world without violence. Please take care of yourself while reading. 

By Kimberly Gaubault

There is a practice of erasure that happens in traditional Christian church communities.  The systemic erasure of those who carry the weight of having such truths as sexual assault and domestic violence/gender violence forced upon them…those whose understanding of God, love, community and self is often structured around violations against body and spirit…this erasure makes the church a safe space for those who want to avoid the ugly reality that these behaviors and conscious decisions are made (often) by those we trust, in community and spaces we have designated as sacred. We are programmed to embrace spiritual rhetoric that shames and silences those who have been victims of sexual assault (regardless of gender identification).  This same rhetoric is often used to fill the uncomfortable space that exists in communities where sexual assault (primarily during childhood) has occurred.  The use of clichés such as:

 God is good all the time and all the time God is good,

God won’t put more on you than you can bear,

All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord…,

Just pray about it,

and other biblically based phrases and sayings rather than engaging violations and violators head on often discourage victims from speaking out about their abuse/abuser.  It is important that we provide space for these conversations to happen and truths to be shared proactively, with full understanding that there will be discomfort but, through honesty and full disclosure there can also be hope for healing.  To espouse a system of avoidance and silence is to espouse the alienation, physically, and spiritually of those who have been relegated to the margins of the intricate tapestries woven together to form the beloved community. The margins are the spaces that give value to the common space that is shared in the middle ground.  The margins have importance and relevance to the big picture. Childhood sexual assault is too common to be treated as anomaly.  By addressing it, in community, we can open up a space for healing for those living with the shame of being violated as well as those living with the shame of having violated another.  Love calls us to accountability in the ways we form community and responsibility in the ways we maintain it.

On First Times (*Trigger Warning: This is a rape story)

The first time I was raped

the act was not as painful

as the accusation

the implication that


I must be at fault

almost 29 years later

I remember what I was wearing

as if it were yesterday

I never wore it again

never washed it again

never trusted my mother again

and he was light-skinned

and this was the 80’s so

light-skinned was in

I was nervous

hadn’t seen him before

he thought I was cute

I didn’t believe it

I was dark-skinned

and skinny

and dark

and too Christian

and dark

and big forehead

and dark

and big lips

and dark

too dark to be the right shade

for light-skinned to holla at

I avoided eye contact

straightened my shirt

I remember what I was wearing

my favorite outfit

until that day

I never wore it again

I think I told you that already

I still don’t trust my mother

and she don’t like me

I don’t think she ever has

what was we talking about…oh yeah

he was light-skinned

and I just kept walking

because I’m not supposed to attract boys

this is what causes problems at home

why they calling here?

you don’t need no boyfriends

they calling because you just want to be fast

they only want one thing

don’t bring home no babies


I just want to be liked

at home and at school

don’t feel comforted, at 17,

about being a ‘peculiar people’

don’t want to have sex or be sexualized

don’t want to always be so different

all the time

don’t care so much for being the ugly girl at school

all the time

the one who can’t go to no parties cause she in church

all the time

can’t go to no friend’s houses and can’t have them come to mine

all the time

can’t be in marching band because THOSE kids…

feeling left out

all the time

my friend and I

he and I liked to talk

we couldn’t do it in school much because I’m smart

and I don’t go to school to make friends

I go to school to learn

he had to get up the nerve just to call the house

because he knows the chill of ice

even when it’s over a phone line

and even though it’s all related

I digress again…

the first time I was raped

I remember what I was wearing

remember walking home from school

remember walking up the stairs to our apartment

remember being grabbed

I remember being groped

I remember being raped

I remember being raped

I remember trying to convince my mind

that this was not so bad

that if I stayed still long enough

maybe he would get bored and stop

that at least he thought I was cute

that he was light-skinned

and light-skinned was a compliment for dark-skinned


I didn’t scream

didn’t call for help

I remember my body refusing to cooperate

refusing to allow easy penetration

I remember not fighting

not knowing how

and hating all 85 pounds of my lethargic flesh

I remember the silence of the house

how his voice reverberated off the walls of my ears

I remember what I was wearing

my favorite outfit

and believe it or not

it was not the act

but the after

that made it mourning clothes

the “you shouldn’t have been wearing THAT outfit”

that turned it into shroud

and this story was never told

because I was never asked what happened when that guy followed me home

not when I vomited up light-skinned’s touch for 2 days after

not when I was balled over in pain in the wake of light-skinned’s embrace

not when I was being treated for the gift that light-skinned left me

not when I missed a month of school because light-skinned’s visit

required hospitalization


and recovery time

I was never asked why I never wore my favorite outfit again

I was never asked

so I didn’t tell

and 29 years later

I still remember

how we celebrated the healing

but never talked about the hurting

and how the hurting

never fully goes away

© 2016 Kimberly Gaubault (Redefining Freedom)



Kimberly Gaubault is a mother, grandmother, preacher, poet, singer, musician, Social Justice activist, advocate, lecturer and educator. As a survivor of Domestic Violence/Gender Violence and sexual assault, Kim seeks to empower those who have been affected by such horrible acts of violation.  Kim served the Duke University Community as the Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center for 3 years and continues to work towards solutions in regards to matters of social justice.  She uses her art, knowledge and experience as a vehicle of intervention and healing in the church, the academy and the community, nationally and internationally.  Kim holds a dual BA in English and African and African American Studies with a certificate in Women’s Studies, from Duke University, and an M.Div from Union Theological Seminary, in the City of New York, with a concentration in Theology and the Arts, Interreligious Studies and Interfaith Dialogue. Kim’s philosophy of personal interaction is “If I’ve not positively influenced someone everywhere I go, I’ve not walked in my purpose.”

We need Speak7 because Black Children Matter and Child Sexual Abuse Thrives in Silence! by MiKeiya Morrow

Content Notice: The purpose of the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire and project is to prioritize child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in national dialogues and work on racial justice and gender-based violence. Several of the featured articles in this forum give an in-depth and, at times, graphic examination of rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual harm against diasporic Black children through the experiences and work of survivors and advocates. The articles also offer visions and strategies for how we can humanely move towards co-creating a world without violence. Please take care of yourself while reading. 

By MiKeiya Morrow

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A very loud silence surrounds matters of child sexual abuse in the African American community. This silence impairs healthy and appropriate dialogue on child sexual abuse in our families and communities. This silence dismisses and discredits the lived experiences of child sexual abuse survivors. This silence debilitates law, justice, and accountability for child sexual perpetrators. This silence also arrests the development and implementation of local and national initiatives aimed at fostering and expanding child sexual abuse advocacy, outreach, prevention, intervention, and treatment. The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program is a novel initiative that grew out of my discontent with this pervasive and painful silence, and my determination to speak out about child sexual abuse in the African American community. This brief reflection provides an overview of the Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program and the 5 Sexual Safety Affirmative Values that serve as a guiding framework in this intervention.


Child sexual abuse among African American children is a complex issue that warrants critical examination and the expansion of innovative and comprehensive solutions. The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program (Speak7) is a viable response to the crisis of child sexual abuse among African American children. Speak7 is a culturally sensitive and adult-focused child sexual abuse prevention program that was developed to enhance child sexual abuse prevention competence among adults who provide for African American children. This intervention integrates the best available child maltreatment, prevention, and African American cultural studies research to promote the safety and well-being of African American children. As a culturally sensitive initiative, Speak7 explicitly aims to foster a greater awareness of the scope and complexity of child sexual abuse among African American children, and to empower African American communities to exercise transformative agency to prevent child sexual abuse.


I believe adults bear primary responsibilities for child sexual abuse prevention and that a predominately child-focused approach unfairly places the burden of child sexual abuse prevention on children. With this in mind, Speak7 explicitly targets adults who provide for African American children as the subjects of this intervention. As adults, we create and sustain social and cultural norms that shape the environment in which we all live and directly impact child sexual abuse outcomes. Thus, we are responsible for challenging toxic attitudes and practices that foster child sexual abuse, and promoting healthy attitudes and practices that protect children and prohibit child sexual abuse.

The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program utilizes the 5 Sexual Safety-Affirmative Values, which serve as a guiding framework in this intervention. These values are vital to creating safe environments and preventing child sexual abuse among African American children. The 5 Sexual Safety-Affirmative Values include:

#1 Open & Honest Dialogue

We believe that child sexual abuse thrives in silence. We vow to regularly and honestly speak about child sexual abuse within our homes and communities.

#2 Child Empowerment

We believe in respecting and nurturing children’s personal power. We vow to educate children about child sexual abuse and to empower children to exercise agency over their bodies.

#3 Survivor Integrity

We believe that child sexual abuse survivors should be treated with respect, compassion, and dignity. We vow to acknowledge the lived experiences of child sexual abuse survivors and honor survivors’ voices and perspectives.

 #4 Perpetrator Accountability

We believe that child sexual perpetrators need justice and accountability. We vow to report child sexual perpetrators to the appropriate authorities and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and receive treatment.

#5 Collective Healing

We believe that healing is the work and responsibility of the collective. We vow to acknowledge the harmful effects of sexual violence on individuals, families, and communities, and support treatment, healing, and recovery for child sexual abuse survivors.

The 5 Sexual Safety-Affirmative Values establish a set of guiding principles that prioritize the health and safety of children and survivors, and promote the broader well-being of African American children, families, and communities. Furthermore, Speak7 is an emergent child sexual abuse prevention initiative that is centered on the experience and needs of African American children. I believe that the child sexual abuse epidemic can be defeated and that Speak7 makes a valuable and promising contribution towards this end.

The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program was developed by MiKeiya Morrow, M.A., Ed.S., doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Correspondence regarding the Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program may be submitted to MiKeiya Morrow at m.morrow “AT” uky “DOT” edu.


MiKeiya Morrow is a doctoral candidate in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Kentucky. She received a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Oklahoma City University and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma. Her clinical interests include child maltreatment, sexual violence, PTSD, substance abuse, and serious mental illness. She has clinical training and experience working in residential substance abuse treatment, university counseling, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, and veterans hospitals. Her research agenda focuses on the primary prevention of child sexual abuse among African American children and the development of culturally sensitive prevention initiatives. MiKeiya is the creative developer of Speaking Spaces Org and the author of the Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program. She is a dedicated children’s rights and social justice advocate, and is active in various local and national organizations. You can connect with Speaking Space Org on Facebook and follow them on twitter. MiKeiya may be reached at m.morrow “AT” nulluky “DOT” edu .

How I Built Community While Researching Accountability by Aunrika Tucker-Shabazz

Content Notice: The purpose of the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire and project is to prioritize child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in national dialogues and work on racial justice and gender-based violence. Several of the featured articles in this forum give an in-depth and, at times, graphic examination of rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual harm against diasporic Black children through the experiences and work of survivors and advocates. The articles also offer visions and strategies for how we can humanely move towards co-creating a world without violence. Please take care of yourself while reading. 

By Aunrika Tucker-Shabazz

How do you search for what is intentionally hidden?

How do you look for what does not want to be found?

I stared at the keyboard and with each term combination, my hesitation grew. The anxiety towards what I might find grew and grew.


When I met Aishah Shahidah Simmons she was the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. To me and all of the students who engaged with her while she was at Williams, she was Professor Simmons.  It was spring semester 2016 and I recently returned from a semester abroad. Being her “research assistant” was all I knew I needed to be on campus to go to classes, make my money, and mind my business. I didn’t think it would be too difficult a task; I had researched her while abroad, reading through her biography and watching youtube snippets and I thought she had a pleasant disposition though sometimes abrasive. But no-nonsense, for sure.

So when I met Professor Aishah Shahidah Simmons and finally introduced myself, hastily at the end of our first class together on Black Women Filmmakers and Writers, she was perhaps exactly as I had imagined and simultaneously wholly revitalizing: open-spoken and straight to the point with subtle variations in the face that told all one needed to know about how she felt. She expressed a desire for clarity, constructive community, and most of all – accountability; the syllabus certainly foretold how accountable she would hold us. Her demeanor expressed how accountable we could hold her.

I knew we would get along then.


All I knew was that I needed to be her research assistant and I wasn’t quite sure what that entailed. I was out of my depth, for sure, but I wanted to do a good job no matter what. After all, two of my most respected professors – Drs. Rhon Manigault-Bryant and James Manigault-Bryant — had recommended me for the position. I had to do a good job just to make sure I didn’t discredit or disappoint them. It didn’t matter what she would ask of me, whether that was paper pushing or making copies of important womynist documents or searching through databases of some deep artistic material only attainable and applicable to an elect, I would do it. I expected our first meeting about her research to be similar to all other meetings where professors hand down the law and liberty and dictate hours of contact and other formalities, widening the gap between researcher and assistant.

Professor Simmons instead brought me in. She spoke of her background and her very non-traditional trajectory in academia and filmmaking. She spoke of her previous film NO! The Rape Documentary and sometimes went on a tangent. She asked me about my family and how my time studying in Senegal affected me. She told her story, saying the words, “I am a survivor of incest and child sexual assault, and this next project #LoveWITHAccountability speaks to that,” and I thought then how unprepared I was to work for her.

When she first told me the next project was focusing on child sexual assault, and she asked me to take notes about specific terms, and write down dates that worked for us to meet again, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I had done literature reviews before and child sexual assault was just another topic. I didn’t know what I was doing, and as I redid and reformatted the first document I sent to her – in fact at every step in the project hereafter – I realized more and more the nuances of what I was researching.

“Search combination after combination, across multimedia platforms, throughout history and up to the present,” she told me. “In the future, if you have questions, just ask and don’t hesitate to contact me,” she added and as the search, catalogue and analysis of literature and scholarship on child sexual assault continued to grow, I would come to rely on her heavily for guidance in how to bring shape to the topic as well as what conclusions to draw. In the conversation that changed everything, she told me to look for what wasn’t there and report on that.


`Child sexual assault Child sexual abuse Child molestation Family sexual assault Family sexual abuse Family sexual molestation Black children sexual assault Black children child sexual abuse Black children molestation’

There was no language for what I was looking for: most disciplines employed pedagogy that was wholly incomplete, and most lay-websites and non-profit organizations seemed too well-armed with binary dialogue to apply the research being done. Personal blogs and sites utilized inflammatory, provocative language, speaking to the multitude of negative constructions with which CSA, its survivors and aggressors live but speaking to the various testimonies of loss and survival so many people had to share. But there was so little! Hours upon hours and hours spent searching all combinations of the terms and I’d still only turned up one half-full excel spreadsheet.

Some searches returned gems and turned up five or ten books and articles investigating the long-term consequences of child sexual assault on health, social and emotional development, risk-behaviors and decisions, as well as family dynamics, while others produced articles only marginally related.

The research left me with several questions. I was out of my depth; I had no frame of reference for how to become approximate to the topic of child sexual assault. I didn’t know how to care and what to do to help. I was confronting a taboo subject and the scarce research findings reflected as much.  But in my conversations with Professor Simmons, and reading the literature, I became so much more well-informed along the way: I learned about the conditions that might incubate child sexual assaults; I learned about the cognitive and social obstacles children must face in order to come forward and use a voice and agency that was taken from them. I learned about the tyranny of silence. The long-term influences on decision-making and long-term effects on relationship evaluating, the struggles and successes of building and maintaining a healthy self-concept and image, and survival techniques of child sexual assault survivors that adapt in adulthood.

Professor Simmons helped me to operationalize what it meant to survive trauma, as a non-linear process, and the key contributions of a community that collectively cares. I knew she was doing honorable work and I, for my part, was helping her. So many times she emphasized accountability, responsibility. Accountability and love, with love, from love and I had no idea what she meant. I thought I did.


If I developed as a researcher with Professor Simmons, then my progress and development socially and emotionally do not compare. I began this project thinking I was objective and that was the best way to be: I could type in those key words over and over and read the results and testimonies and I could remain attached. But I couldn’t. I began this project, I realized a couple months ago when I first started thinking about what to type, believing I was at the point Professor Simmons was living in: forgiveness and desiring to love with accountability. I discovered I was all but impartial and rather ill-equipped to view survivors and aggressors in an equally loving manner. I demonized the aggressor and called them monsters and thought, “how could they?” and “how could anyone love them?” The more I learned, the more this solid boulder of negativity would coalesce in my stomach and explode in my brain – I, neither a survivor nor aggressor.

Every meeting I had it on the tip of my tongue to ask her if she still managed to be repulsed and if maybe I was too far from this margin to understand the dynamics; I bit my tongue because what if I, in my infinite ignorance, managed to say the wrong thing and offend? Professor Simmons kept emphasizing this “role of the community,” and “accountability,” and “responsibility,” and I would look at her and wonder how she could not be angry and boiling and bitter and hate.

I wondered, “how do you not hate?” Throughout our conversations she answered, working with a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist, one of her teachers, Toni Cade Bambara, sistren, her cultural work, vipassana meditation and sistren, I knew then that if following that truth was healing her and kept bringing her back to this honorable work, that indeed we were no longer student and professor, but mentor and mentee in an intergenerational sisterhood. It was then, at the end of the semester, that she went from Professor Simmons to Aishah.

I understood the scope and the breadth with which Aishah needed to work and in the beginning, and I constantly thought she would “find me out” as one of the people needing her work the most. How ironic? In the beginning I was worrying how to best produce work she might incorporate into her project, and by the end I was strategizing on how to best implement her work into my life, yes specific to child sexual assault in Black communities, but also in attempting to answer the larger question of how do I forgive those who trespass against me and yet exercise a restorative, comprehensive form of justice that allows the process of loss and recovery to take place without marginalizing another?

What are ways we can do this as a community?


By the end, Aishah challenged me to access healing without hurting and I remembered again how unprepared I was to work for her.


Aunrika Tucker-Shabazz is a rising senior with a dual major in Education Psychology and Francophone Studies and a concentration in Africana Studies at Williams College. Her research interests include migratory subjectivity, self-determination and rhetoric, and race-based economic discrimination in housing practices. As a Pohlad ScholarQuestbridge Scholar, and co-editor of the Williams College Africana Magazine Kaleido[scopes], Aunrika has expanded her cultural rhetoric studies into West African Francophone communities. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue a doctorate in Social Psychology and Stratification. She worked as a research assistant to Aishah Shahidah Simmons in Spring 2016.