Tomorrow is my last day as a Training and Technical Assistance Specialist at CALCASA. For the past two years, it has been a joy and honor to serve in the movement to end sexual violence as part of the CALCASA team. As many of you know, I began my work in this movement at UC San Diego as an “It’s on Us” activist and campus sexual violence researcher. The time has come for me to me to return to the San Diego sunshine. I have accepted a position as a Research Manager at the Center on Gender Equity and Health (GEH) in UC San Diego’s School of Medicine, where I will once again focus on sexual violence on college campuses.
During my time at CALCASA, I had the opportunity to affect Policy change, contribute to the development of the document that will guide sexual health education across the state, and behold a learning community of brilliant preventionists. For me, this moment is as bitter as it is sweet; I couldn’t be more proud of the impact that California preventionists have made, but I’m also thrilled with this new opportunity to “create good” in the world.
I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around the impact that being a prevention-focused TA has had upon me. So in true TA fashion, I am reflecting on this educational experience using a framework of analysis from my favorite training activity, “Square, Triangle, Circle.” Using the three questions from that activity (pictured), here’s what I’ve come up with:
What squared with your values?
Violence is learned and violence can be unlearned. Culture has changed and culture must continue to change. We must never accept violence as normal, and the moment we do, we too are perpetuating violence. As we can all cause harm, we are all responsible to continuously challenge ourselves to be better.
What point(s) stuck with you?
I am in awe of the strength and resilience of the fire-filled people who make up this movement.
In August, I had the opportunity to deliver opening remarks at the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) Plenary Session. Something I’d like to reiterate from that speech:
I stand before you as a researcher, activist, coalition staff member, but first and foremost, a survivor of sexual abuse. And as a survivor looking into the faces of 1,900 people who give so much of themselves to do this work, I’m overwhelmed. Thank you for fighting for us, the survivors. Thank you for your optimism, and believing that what happened to us is not normal or acceptable, and in the face of that ugliness, believing that the world can change. Thank you for your sacrifices. You are heroes. From the depths of my heart, thank you for what you do.
What questions are still circling in your mind?
How do we assert our boundaries without losing our empathy?
How can we address harm without taking on that harm ourselves?
How can I remember the wisdom of my youthful boldness, while growing into the grace of a seasoned preventionist and researcher?
Especially in this difficult work, how can we put aside our egos, but cherish our self-worth?
My heart is lifted to know that my path will cross with many of yours again as we continue our work to end all forms of violence and oppression. I’d like to share this bit of my Hawaiian heritage with you who have shared so much with me: a hui hou kakou, which means, “until we meet again.”
With aloha and gratitude,
It’s quite the head-scratcher: how do we prove that something didn’t happen? As a public health-oriented preventionist I always have questions about programmatic efficacy and have learned (the hard way) that traditional pre/post surveys and quantitative data collection are not always the most appropriate forms of evaluation. Often, quantitative analyses of programs do not capture the full, rich picture of what was learned, internalized, and developed in primary prevention programs. Our work to end rape culture is dynamic as it is complex, thus our efforts to evaluate and continuously improve our work must be creative.
Here are ten resources to help us expand our thinking about sexual violence evaluation:
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.
Sexual violence impacts people of all identities and walks of life, yet victimization data demonstrate that the prevalence of sexual violence experience is not even across ethnicities. Per the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), one in three multiracial women reported an experience of sexual assault, versus one-quarter of American Indian or Alaska Natives, one in five black women, and one in seven Hispanic women. These differences in prevalence have implications for prevention funding and culturally relevant programming.
Core issues, such as safe housing and economic opportunity must be addressed to end sexual violence. Race Counts is a database that uses an array of indicators to demonstrate the disparity in the following key areas: crime and justice, democracy, economic opportunity, education, health care access, healthy built environment, and housing. From the CDC’s STOP SV report, we know that many of these indicators are modifiable risk factors that we can tackle in our mission to end sexual violence.
“Consent is sexy.” Campaigns like this can be found in many youth-centered spaces. This pithy slogan aims to reframe the affirmative consent standard amid the backlash against the “Yes Means Yes” legislation, a law criticized for being intrusive and putting a contractual burden on intimate activities. A shift from the previous “no means no” standard, the affirmative consent law legally established that consent cannot be assumed and that individuals must opt-in to sexual activity.
Consent must be explicit and integral, not just sexy. Asking for consent must never involve coercion, yet “wearing down” is still a common experience that young people report about their sexual encounters. Rather than educating young people on communication, empathy, and coercion-free healthy sexuality, some educational programs focus only on the legalities of consent. To be clear: we must all have an understanding of the legal requirement, but we must also educate youth on much more than legal compliance. The legal perspective in isolation is not primary prevention of sexual violence, as tremendous harm can occur in situations in which verbal consent was coerced and/or individuals felt “worn down.”
Consent must be more than sexy. Verbal affirmation is insufficient, even if it is adequate to avoid legal issues.
This New York Times article discusses the experiences of young people and the need to expand the conversation about consent.
The research is clear, sexual violence is preventable. Educational programs that teach young people skills to develop healthy relationships and create protective environments are key to preventing harm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been a leader in the effort to reduce rates of violence by impacting multiple levels of the Social-Ecological Model.
Housed within the Guide to Community Preventative Services, the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) is made up of public health and prevention practitioners who provide evidence-based recommendations to support the improvement of population health. Based on a systematic review of 28 studies, the CPSTF recommends the use of primary prevention strategies in the reduction of youth intimate partner violence, aligning with the CDC’s STOP SV Technical Package. This additional support for the use of primary prevention strategies, such as addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors, substantiates that our prevention work with youth moves us closer to a world free from sexual violence.
Follow this link to read the full report from the Community Preventative Services Task Force.
Follow this link to the summary of findings from the Community Preventative Services Task Force.