Prevention and Inclusion: The Gender Universe Model

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I host twenty-something primary prevention trainings a year and my essential training materials list goes like this: laptop, projector, flip chart paper, pens, and gender pronoun stickers. The latter is a recent addition to my training cart, but probably the most important. Like all disciplines, primary prevention of sexual violence is growing, expanding, and learning from past mistakes. As preventionists, we all must do better to include people who are gender non-conforming (GNC), trans, and non-binary in our work. The use of gender pronoun stickers is one small way that we recognize that the gender binary, and thus typical gender pronouns, does not represent all folks. Through our awareness, prevention, and intervention work we address gender inequality but must be careful not to exclude trans and GNC folks.

We know that trans and GNC individuals face discrimination and staggering rates of violence. From the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey:

“In the year prior to completing the survey, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed and 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender. During that same time period, 10% of respondents were sexually assaulted, and nearly half (47%) were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”

In their 2016 National Sexual Assault Conference workshop, “Applying the Universe Model of Gender in Prevention,” Liat Wexler discussed the importance of expanding our current models of gender to recognize the diversity of gender expressions and identities in our primary prevention work and the problems with exclusion. Liat’s workshop discusses strategies for using cultural humility in prevention programming and harmful beliefs about trans and GNC folks that contribute to violence. A recording of Liat’s workshop presentation can be found here.

The Gender Universe Model is one tool that we can use to educate others and ourselves. To be effective preventionists, we must design our programming to be relevant for folks who are GNC, trans, and otherwise left out of the conversation, as these are the people who are most vulnerable to experiencing violence. We must also respect and support the leadership of individuals in these communities, as they are the experts. For more on this, here is a webinar on building alliances with LGBTQ movements.

For a webinar discussing sexual violence prevention beyond the binary, click here.

For resources for transgender survivors, click here.

Meghan Yap

Meghan first became involved with the fight to end sexual assault as a research assistant with UC San Diego Medical School’s Center on Gender Equity and Health (GEH). Through her work with the “It’s on Us” campaign, Meghan speaks publically about her experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), rape, and recovery with the hope that her story will empower other survivors. In April 2016, Vice President Joe Biden awarded Meghan the White House “Champion of Change” honor for her efforts to address campus sexual assault and promote survivor-centered services and policies at UC San Diego. In her free time, Meghan volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for clinics in developing/underserved regions.

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