Rape is not…

6 11 2007

Rape is not an occupational hazard

Rape is not “theft of services”

Rape is not justified by the way a woman keeps food on the table as a single mother

Rape is violent

Rape is a community problem

Rape is not inevitable

Rape is something you can help to stop

Sex workers are not expendable people

Sex workers are not less entitled to make decisions about their own bodies than anyone else

Sex workers are not less human than you

Sex workers are particularly targeted by rape culture

Sex workers are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and precious loved-ones

Sex workers are speaking bravely in solidarity with Our Sister Survivor in Philadelphia

Sex workers deserve peace and justice, even if Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni thinks otherwise

People you know are sex workers

People you know are survivors of sexual violence

People you know are targets of sexual violence even now

What are you going to do about it?

Find out more here:

~~~
PRESS CONFERENCE

Thursday November 1, 2007

1pm

Outside Municipal Court (Criminal Justice Center)

1301 Filbert St, Philadelphia

Monday October 29, 2007

To the Editor:

We were appalled to learn that on Oct 4 Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni dropped all rape and assault charges in the case of a woman gang-raped at gunpoint. Because the woman was working as a prostitute, Judge Deni decided that she could not have been raped and changed the charge to “theft of services.” Deni later said that this case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

As groups organizing against rape and in support of victims, we could not disagree more. All women have the right to protection from violence. The idea that any woman is “asking for it” is a lie that we fought for decades to destroy. It is especially offensive to see it revived by a female judge, who reached her position as a result of the women’s movement and is now using her power to deny justice to the most vulnerable women.

Deni told Daily News columnist Jill Porter that the victim met another client before reporting the rape. We have learned that this is completely untrue; the transcript of the hearing proves it. For a judge to make a false (and self-serving) accusation against a victim in the press, in addition to her prejudiced and reckless contempt for women’s safety, confirms that she is unfit to serve. The outcry following Deni‘s decision shows how out of step with public opinion she is and that most people believe that prostitute women deserve the same protection from violence that we all have a right to expect.

No woman is safe when prostitute women aren’t safe. Serial rapists and murderers often target prostitute women knowing that they are more likely to get away with it. Labeled criminals by the prostitution laws, women are less likely to report violence for fear of arrest themselves. When sex workers do report, the violence is often dismissed. Here, the same man and his friends gang-raped another woman four days later. Decisions like Deni‘s are a green light for further attacks.

The victim in this case was a Black single mother with a young child. In Philadelphia, where one in four people lives in poverty and welfare has been almost completely dismantled, many women have been forced into prostitution to survive. This should not make them fair game for rapists.

We are glad that the District Attorney is pursuing the original rape charges. The public can make our voices heard in the November 6 election: vote “No” on the retention of Teresa Carr Deni as Judge of the Municipal Court of Philadelphia.

Mary Kalyna

On behalf of

Global Women’s Strike

Philadelphia, PA

and

Women Against Rape

US PROStitutes Collective

Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP)

Legal Action for Women

Every Mother is a Working Mother Network

Wages Due Lesbians

Payday Men’s Network

Posted on November 2, 2007 by staceyswimme

For immediate release

Contact: 877-776-2004 info@DesireeAlliance.orgRape is NOT an Occupational Hazard!

Sex Workers Join Women’s Groups and Sexual Assault Survivors’ Groups to Urge PA Voters to Vote ‘No’ on the Retention of Judge Teresa Carr Deni

Judge Teresa Carr Deni spawned outrage from all directions after ruling on October 4th that a sex worker that was raped at gunpoint by multiple men was NOT sexually assaulted, rather she was just robbed. Deni commented in an Oct. 12th interview that this case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

Grassroots activists around the country, including nationwide sex worker-led organizations such as the Desiree Alliance and regional advocacy groups from coast to coast responded with anger and disgust for Deni’s disregard of the basic human rights of the rape victim in this case. “Deni’s decision in this case sends a message that sex workers can be targeted for violence with impunity. Rape of sex workers is common, alarmingly under-reported, and rarely taken seriously by authorities,” Kitten Infinite of Sex Workers’ Outreach Project said. “Violence against sex workers is perpetuated by the state through discriminatory laws and judicial rulings such as this.”

Sex workers in the US and abroad are organizing and becoming more vocal about the violence and discrimination that they face. “Because prostitution is criminalized, our human rights and our boundaries are clearly not respected,” Mariko Passion, a board member from the Desiree Alliance commented, she continues, “…forcing or manipulating sexual intercourse by fraud, fear or coercion is rape.” On Oct 30th, after considerable pressure from sex workers and feminists around the country, the PA Bar Association issued a statement condemning Deni’s action, stating that, “The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court.”

The Desiree Alliance applauds Association Chancellor Jane Dalton’s review of the matter and we find some satisfaction in the fact that the District Attorney’s office has re-filed rape charges against the perpetrator of this despicable crime. However, we still call on voters to vote ‘No’ on retaining Deni in the election on November 6th. The Desiree Alliance will hold a virtual press conference and rally on Monday, November 5th at 5pm Eastern for sex workers and allies to comment publicly about this case and how to prevent further discrimination against sex workers.

Who: Desiree Alliance and Affiliates

What: “Rape is NOT an Occupational Hazard!” Virtual rally

Why: Judge Teresa Carr Deni should not be retained as a Municipal Court Judge in Philadelphia

When: Monday, November 5, 2007 5pm Eastern, 2pm Pacific

Where: http://www.BoundNotGagged.com

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In These Times: “Stories of Survival”

6 08 2007

original article located here

Features > June 29, 2007

Stories of Survival

NO! explores rape within the African-American community and fights society’s instinct to focus on the racism outside while turning a deaf ear to gender violence within

By Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell

The documentary NO! chips away at the myths and silence surrounding sexual assault it he black community

Filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons didn’t miss a beat when a white, female student told her at a 2003 Boston College screening of her documentary NO!, “Until I saw your film, I didn’t know that black women could be raped.” Simmons, a Philadelphia resident, calmly asked the young woman why she believed such a thing. The student replied that she didn’t think black women, simultaneously praised and pilloried for their strength, would stand for such a violation—as if sexual-violence victims are able to negotiate with attackers or deter them with a hefty serving of attitude.That wasn’t the case with Simmons, now 38, who was sexually assaulted in 1989, when she was a 19-year-old Temple University sophomore on a foreign exchange program to Mexico. A clandestine date—outside the dorm and the curfew hours—turned into a rape that left her pregnant and so devastated that she dropped out of college. Nor was that the case with the women whose stories Simmons has included in NO!, which explores rape within the African-American community.

Among them is a woman who was raped by her mentor, the university’s highest ranking black administrator; another whose fraternity boyfriend wouldn’t take no for an answer; and yet another who struggles with bulimia decades after her first boyfriend beat and raped her after she refused to have sex outside.

For Simmons, NO! has been a labor of love to make the film she wanted, regardless of how long it took. Simmons began filming interviews in 1994 with co-producer Tamara Xavier, but the documentary wasn’t released until 2006, largely because of the struggle to find $300,000 in necessary funding.

With NO!, Simmons hopes to chip away at the myths and disquieting silence surrounding sexual assault in the black community, which has traditionally been so attuned to racism outside that it has largely turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to gender violence within.

“There’s this notion,” says Simmons, “that when black women come forward [and say they’ve been raped], that we’re a traitor to the race. I wanted to show these women, their faces, their names. I understand privacy and shame, but shame should be on the perpetrators.”

Simmons followed the case of Desiree Washington, the beauty queen who accused boxer Mike Tyson of raping her in 1991 in his hotel room. (Tyson served three years in prison.) Then came the campaign to “save” Tyson and discredit Washington—complete with T-shirts proclaiming his innocence. In NO!, Simmons includes footage of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan asking what Washington expected when she went to Tyson’s room as other faith leaders cackle in agreement.

Simmons wondered why those leaders and others never acknowledged that rape isn’t typically a crime committed by a stranger and that, for most black women, the perpetrator is an acquaintance who looks like them. The lack of critical reaction from the black community in the wake of the Washington case, combined with a 1994 trip to South Africa, where she met activists working on issues of sexual assault, galvanized her to make NO!. It is estimated that as many as half of all South African women will be raped in their lifetimes.

American women are also vulnerable to sexual assault. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control, one in every six U.S. women will be subjected to sexual assault or an attempted assault during her lifetime. The organization’s “Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey” estimates that 18.8 percent of black women will survive a rape or attempted rape—making them only slightly more likely than the general population (17.6 percent) and white women (17.7 percent) to experience such a crime, but much less likely to be raped than Native Americans.

Numbers alone don’t express the full extent of rape or sexual assault in the black community—a topic that has probably been discussed more extensively in novels such as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple than in real life. Black women must deal with competing interests—protecting one’s self versus protecting the image of black men in a society where black men are the usual suspects of sexual crimes, facing the distrust of the police versus the need for personal security—that reduce the chance they will report rape.

With the help of anthropologist and former Spelman College President Johnnetta Cole, historian Beverly Guy-Sheftall and former Black Panther Elaine Brown, NO! examines the historical forces that foster sexual violence—and suppress dialogue about it—in black communities. In a country built on slavery, which was predicated on control of black labor and reproduction, black women have been regarded as perpetually sexually available or “unrapeable.” They have never fit easily into the “good girl” mold.

“I realized that I couldn’t talk about sexual assault in the African-American community without talking about slavery,” says Simmons. “If somebody owns you, how do you have the right to consent?”

NO! is generating discussion within the black community. In 2003, writer Kevin Powell (who is black) showed an unfinished cut to a crowd of hundreds—including many African-American men—on a wintry Friday night in Harlem. Men are a vital part of the solution, says Nia Wilson, the associate director of Spirit House, an arts and cultural nonprofit in Durham, N.C. “This is not about going after black men,” she says. “This is about uncovering something we need to address, and we need to address it together. Men are the only ones who can stop rape, no matter what we say, no matter how much light we shine on it.”

Wilson, who is black and a sexual-violence survivor, is also a member of UBUNTU, a coalition that combats racism and violence. Simmons allowed UBUNTU to use NO! to foster dialogue around North Carolina. Wilson recalls a screening for a white audience that was disengaged from the topic. All of the reactions Wilson had learned to expect—tears, outrage, personal testimonies—didn’t happen. The audience members acknowledged the violence, but their comments and lack of emotion told her that they couldn’t relate to this type of violence.

Wilson told the audience, “I can watch a Lifetime movie with a cast full of white people and cry because I’m conditioned to relate to you. But you are not conditioned to relate to me. You, especially this group who thinks you’re so politically correct, you cannot watch a movie with people with brown skin and see yourself.”

Bryan Proffitt, a 28-year-old white schoolteacher and UBUNTU member, says that talking about rape and race requires starting from a framework that acknowledges a history of interracial violence, white supremacy, male domination and myths that need debunking. “There’s always a good bit of anxiety about how white folks are going to see this film. ‘Oh, look, black guys are rapists. We knew that.’ We’ve always tried to be careful of framing this film beforehand because we recognize that white people come in with that particular narrative and we want to challenge that before they see it.”

Before each screening, the UBUNTU facilitator reads a statement that lists 27 reasons the film is being shown, including: “Because the stories of survivors of sexual assault are powerful and sacred.” “Because there are survivors here.” “Because this film holds us all accountable for the world that we comply with and perpetuate.”

This April, NO! was selected as a featured resource by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Everywhere I’ve shown the film,” says Simmons, “someone comes up and discloses she’s a survivor. I could be the only black woman in the room—me and the women on the film—in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, women stand up and say, ‘This is my story.’”

For more information on NO!, visit www.notherapedocumentary.org.





J: AMC Follow-up – thoughts on grassroots publishing as a response to sexual violence

26 06 2007

At the AMC this weekend, Lex and I ran a workshop called Wrong is Not My Name: Poetic Healing as a Response to Sexual Violence where we shared our experience creating our interactive anthology Wrong is Not My Name: A Tribute to Survival Via June Jordan. Here’s a description:

This hands-on workshop will highlight the theory and practice of grassroots publishing as a response to Sexual Violence. Participants will learn about how this form of media fits into the work of UBUNTU, a women of color/survivor-led coalition committed to replacing gendered violence with sustaining transformative love. Based in Durham, NC. UBUNTU is practicing a model of community creation centered around healing, expression, sustainability, internal education and awareness raising. Participants will experience the UBUNTU model of community creation, through the production of a group publication during this workshop.

In the course of preparing to lead the workshop, we had some really interesting conversations about grassroots publishing in the context of our work – I wanted to share some thoughts from these as well as some things I learned about zines and resources for exploring further.

Grassroots publishing (by which I mean to include a wide range of mediums that allow writers to share their words without going through commercial publishing institutions – independent presses, zines, community newsletters, booklets, brochures, blogs, etc.), can be a powerful resource in the context of personal and community healing because:

The process of creating and writing – ‘coming to voice’ on paper – can be an accessible and concrete way for survivors to engage in healing. For some of us, the processes of emotional and physical healing can feel intimidating (big, mysterious, painful) and we often cope by avoiding and shutting down emotionally. Survivors of sexual violence are sometimes silenced by feelings of isolation, shame, self-doubt, and fear. Talking through experiences of violence or their aftermath with another person or people that we trust is a crucial element of the healing process (click here for information on supporting a survivor of sexual assault). Writing is no substitute, but healing is an ongoing process and putting things down on paper can be useful at any point along the way. Writing – journaling, poetry, freeform, essays, or really in any form – allows us to acknowledge and express feelings and thoughts at whatever pace and time feels right. When it is just us and the paper (or the screen) we don’t have to worry about being judged, or blamed, or disbelieved. We can share our truths, or not share them – either way, in writing we learn to hear and honor our own voices.

    …and when we speak we are afraid
    our words will not be heard
    nor welcomed
    but when we are silent
    we are still afraid

    So it is better to speak
    remembering
    we were never meant to survive

    Audre Lorde
    ‘Litany for Survival’

    When we publish our writings (on blogs, in zines, or elsewhere) it is a way of meeting the world as a part of healing – this is important because we honor eachother’s humanity by speaking our truths, and because as Lex reminded us, “silence is already a form of death.” Speaking truth is also a powerful and transformative act of resistance within the context of a rape culture that demands our silence. Research tells us that there are an estimated 21 million survivors in this country today, and that every 2 1/2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted – yet, too often people speak about rape as though it were a rare occurrence and isolated to back alleyways and “other” people. When survivors speak up, we challenge popular misconceptions about rape. We also make it easier for other survivors to do the same.

      Being part of a writing community within UBUNTU has allowed us to connect to other survivors, to support and celebrate eachother. And in sharing our stories and experiences with eachother we are able to bring our analysis of sexual violence to a systemic (rather than individual) level. When we observe the commonalities between these experiences, we can clearly see the structural roots of sexual violence and understand rape culture as situated within the context of interlocking racial, gendered, sexual, and class-based oppressions. Taken as a body of work, the writings of survivors (in UBUNTU and elsewhere) speak to and document the prevalence of sexual violence and to the physical and emotional costs of rape culture for real people – both survivors and our loved ones. In this way, these writings are also a political resource or tool that can be useful in educating and calling for change. Through the use of grassroots publishing methods we are able to share our writings quickly, easily, and widely with little or no overhead costs – making the process accessible to all who know ‘it is better to speak’.

        What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
        The world would split open.

        Muriel Rukeseyer
        ‘Kathe Kollwitz’





        THANK YOU!!!

        29 04 2007

        Thank you so much to all who planned, attended, supported, believed in the Day of Truthtelling! I will post more in detail about yesterday’s events shortly, but it was incredible…thank you!

        In addition, we are so very grateful for the support and solidarity from the bloggers who have joined us in speaking truth – we are still learning how many of you all out there have been by our side this weekend. In particular, we are grateful to Brownfemipower for her constant support (and general brilliance) and for spreading the word about the DOT. Thank you! Thank you to:

        …who we know posted on the Day of Truthtelling as powerful voices for change. Thank you for moving the struggle to end sexual violence out in all directions on line, as we moved it down Main Street in Durham yesterday!





        Read This!

        26 04 2007

        Please go over to Black Commentator and read this important article about the impact of sexual violence on black women and the struggle to end it.

        In “Raped and Then?”, Jamala Rogers (leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, Black Radical Congress National Organizer, and Black Commentator Editorial Board member) speaks powerfully about the issues at stake and what it will take to make change. Thank you Jamala Rogers!

        She writes:

        When I read Bill Fletcher’s BC article last month on the rape of his friend, it was like déjà vu. “My Friend was Raped” underscored an all-too familiar response to sexual victimization of Black women by Black men, that of silent suffering.

        […]

        Although the rape stats say that one out of every three women in the US will be sexually assaulted, those stats are higher in the African-American community where we have allowed a rope of silence to choke the voices of anger, outrage and healing that need to be expressed.

        The general consensus is that 9 out of 10 rapes go unreported. The National Victim Center has called rape “the most underreported violent crime in America.” The National Black Women’s Health Project affirms that approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact, of a sexual nature, by age 18.

        […]

        It means launching a multi-faceted struggle when and where we can. This calls for an overhaul of the justice system, because one of the main reasons Black women don’t report rape is to keep that Black man out of a racist criminal system. We have done so in the hopes of community justice that hardly ever seems to materialize. It means confronting, filtering and eliminating the misogynist and sexist toxins that have crept into our political, social and cultural environments. This means starting in our homes, honoring and valuing girls and women, teaching equality to all sexes so that we all become change agents in some way.

        It means developing and strengthening the support systems for victims of sexual violence so that they are not re-victimized and silenced, but get the spiritual, emotional and psychological support they so desperately need.

        It means struggling with our brothers, especially those in the progressive movement, to take up seriously, this issue with themselves and their peers. One of the stories in NO! involved “an avowed pro-feminist” rapist brother whose hurtful actions spoke more forcefully than his empty radical rhetoric.

        It means moving past the view that erroneously pits racial oppression against women’s oppression. It’s the old let’s-fight-together-to-eliminate-racism-first, then-we’ll-deal-with-sexism argument that has plagued the Black Liberation Movement for years. Homophobia, another oppression needing to be dealt with by the Black community, is rarely even on the radar screen.

        […]

        On April 28th, one such event will take place in Durham, North Carolina. It is the “National Day of Truth-Telling” to speak out against sexual violence but also to address its root causes. It has been the hotbed of confusion, resentment and anger since the rape occurred at a Duke Lacrosse team party. An organized effort emerged to untangle the web and educate the community towards a place of healing and empowerment.

        I fervently believe that we can create a critical mass of people who will bring a sense of urgency and justice to this issue that will ultimately transform our society. Further, I need to be able to look into that young girl’s eyes and assure her that a more humane world for women is coming.






        J: on public discussions about commercial hip-hop and/vs.? black women

        22 04 2007

        Amidst the cable tv pundits and Oprah shows “taking on” the misogyny of hip-hop music following Don Imus’ comments about the Rutgers women’s team, I was reminded of an earlier cycle through the hip-hop-is-the-root-of-all-negative-images-of-black-women discussion.

        Read the rest of this entry »





        South Asian Women Rally in Vancouver Against Violence

        8 04 2007

        From Lex @ kitchen table: women of color pressed for knowledge

        The Canadian Press
        Friday, April 06, 2007

        VANCOUVER — Murders and assaults of South Asian women are a backlash against the progress they’ve made in society, activists said Thursday as they rallied in Vancouver.

        Elders in traditional Indian saris and teenagers in jeans congregated in the heart of Vancouver’s Punjabi Market to put a public face on domestic violence within the Indo-Canadian community.

        Three Lower Mainland women have been murdered in the last six months and another was shot in the head, but survived.

        “A message is being sent to us [that] violent attacks against women are a backlash to our gains,” said Raveen Mandair, a member of the group South Asian Women Against Male Violence, which organized the rally.

        “They serve to remind us that we should not become too educated, not pursue successful careers, not try to live autonomous lives and definitely not have the power to leave the men who abuse us,” Mandair said.

        About 70 people clustered on a street corner in the mostly Indo-Canadian community.

        Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, a former B.C. attorney general, also attended the rally.

        “Women need to lead this fight,” Dosanjh said after the rally.

        “They know where it hurts.”

        ***************
        If you live in the North Carolina Research Triangle Area please remember to attend:
        SPEAKING THE UNSPEAKABLE

        The Orange County Rape Crisis Center has invited noted South Asian women’s activist, author and scholar, Dr.Margaret Abraham, to speak on violence against women in the South Asian community on April 19. Please join us as Dr. Abraham lifts the shroud of silence over the issue.
        When: Thursday, April 19th 7:00pm

        Where: UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapman Hall room 201 (behind Carroll Hall)


        Posted By lex to kitchen table: women of color pressed for knowledge at 4/08/2007 11:58:00 AM