Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other: Supporting Queer Survivors of Sexual Assault
Saturday March 8th, Philly Survivor Support Collective was at the 5 College Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference doing one of our favorite workshops – Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other: Supporting Queer Survivors of Sexual Assault!
We had an awesome time, learned a lot, and were so grateful to be there! We’d like to give a Big Thanks to the conference organizers and those who participated in our workshop. During the workshop we had a great conversation where we shared personal strategies and tools around supporting ourselves, each other, and our communities around issues related to sexual assault.
Compiled below are a few notes from the knowledge we built together!
Things That’ve Worked: Success in Supporting Survivors or Seeking Support
–believing the person
–providing options and resources *giving back choice
–just listening: having a word to signal “I don’t need your advice”
*there are different ways to listen; asking people how they want to be listened to
–making room for silence
–allowing process to be survivor-led
–finding survivor communities
–books and print resources
–supporting each other as we support survivors (support people, need support also!)
–making space for emotions/anger/sadness
–understanding that trauma looks different for different people/situations
–how to deal with being triggered? *different for everyone:
- Creating a positive “response-trigger”: touching a place on your body, saying an affirmation, create some sort of ritual for grounding yourself
- Creating supportive spaces for yourself where you can go to
- Safety planning: be concrete, for example plan out your day on an anniversary or better plan out your friend’s day around you!
What’s Been Difficult?
–feeling like you need to disclose to get support
–“Oh but they’re my friend/a good person”
–issues of confidentiality/safety
–where the person who is giving support’s feelings go
–being “outed” as a survivor
–dealing with mandated reporting. How do we help people get support without outing them?
–people outing the person who caused harm without survivor’s consent
–belief that we have to defer to institutions and policy; that we don’t have the power ad skills to support each other because there are less models in our communities about the many (infinite!) ways that can look (this speaks to structural oppressions that divide us!)
–knowing when to say no
¬–Engaging with each other emotionally without asking for disclosure or explanation
–Delegating support to specific support people with specific roles
–Learning how to divert triggering conversations
–Seeking and giving permission and forgiveness
–Stay in your role: if you’re a friend, be a friend not a counselor. Ask questions, check-in with what people need from you in that moment.
We recently received a call for submissions for the second issue of “It’s Down to This” zine about survivor experiences.
Issue #1 is described as a compilation of stories, reflections, experiences, critiques, and ideas on community and collective response to sexual violence, abuse, and accountability. Issue #2 is an expansion on these responses. Submissions should focus on call-out culture, histories of responding to gender and sexual violence, or insights on consent culture and sex positivity culture. This zine will primarily focus on responses to violence within activist communities, political and social projects and people building communities of resistance. If you have experiences to share, positive, negative or in between, consider submitting them!
*The deadline for proposals is March 15th 2014*
To submit or for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can take a look at “It’s Down to This #1” here:
*** IMPORTANT UPDATE ***
DECARCERATE PA’s PEOPLE’S HEARING POSTPONED TO FEB. 12
The People’s Hearing was postponed due to severe weather. The People’s Hearing on Prison Expansion is rescheduled for 1:00 pm on Wednesday, February 12th. This is the date of the Appropriations Hearing for the Department of Corrections, who, according to Corbett’s budget proposal, will receive an additional $78 million in the 2014-2015 budget. It is the first time that Pennsylvania has ever spent over $2 billion on the DOC budget with state funds. This will be a great time for us to come to Harrisburg with our own message that PA should build communities, not prisons. Pennsylvania is currently embarking on the second-largest construction project in state history by building two new prisons in Montgomery County.
If your organization is currently not listed as a cosponsor and would like to join, please let us know ASAP.
The Hearing will still be in the Rotunda at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, and buses will be leaving at 10amsharp from the Youth United for Change offices at 1910 N. Front Street (Berks Station on Broad Street Line).
If you registered for the free buses to the People’s Hearing, please let us know if you can still make it on February 12th by emailing us at email@example.com or calling (267) 217-3372.
If you have not registered for buses, please do so at the link below as soon as possible:
Link to Facebook event:
The People’s Hearing is cosponsored by lots of incredible organizations, including:
Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, The Center for Returning Citizens, Juntos, Boat People SOS, Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project, ACT-UP, Haverford College: Rethink Incarceration Group, University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia at Temple University, Up Against the Law Legal Collective, Prison Health News, Philly Independent Media Center, National Lawyers Guild- Philadelphia Chapter, National Lawyers Guild-Temple Chapter, Philly Survivor Support Collective, ExitUs Reentry, Global Women’s Strike, Payday Men’s Network, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, the AIDS Policy Project, the Human Rights Coalition, the CHARLES Foundation, DreamActivist PA, 1LoveMovement, Reconstruction Inc., Books through Bars, the Teacher Action Group, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee, the NAACP-Pennsylvania Chapter, Artists for Recovery, Fight for Philly, Aids Policy Project, and Art for Justice.
Save the date or take off work! Wednesday, February 5th in Harrisburg, PA
Register for the bus at: http://decarceratepa.info/peopleshearing
***The snow date for the Town Hall Meeting is Friday, January 24th 7:30pm, same location.***
On Tuesday, January 21st there will be a Town Hall Meeting in response to a young survivor who came forward about a recent sexual assault by a police officer who utilized racist “Stop and Frisk” laws to detain him.
This article contains information about the upcoming meeting and includes explicit descriptions of the assault and it’s aftermath.
There is a community crying out for support right now and mobilizing around this survivor who is seeking justice and safety. He still faces three misdemeanor charges from the arrest and requires continuing medical attention from the assault. This community of support is forming to help him as well as to address some of the major systemic conditions that allowed the police officers to assault him in the first place–racism and profiling, and police brutality and violence.
We are inspired by this survivor’s courage and the way this community is coming together. We will be attending this meeting at Catalyst for Change Ministries at 3727 Baring St. right here in West Philly to lend our support to this survivor and community. We encourage all our local supporters to come out to the meeting to show solidarity and see how we can be helpful in this struggle for racial justice and justice for survivors!
Emergency Town Hall Meeting
Tuesday, January 21st 7:30pm
3727 Baring St.
Convened by Techbook Online
Picture reposted from the Philly In Focus article.
In mid-November, West Philly Local’s “Crime Watch” had two posts on robbery and sexual assault. The first headline, posted on November 12, read, “Police release video of suspect sought in robbery, assault of woman at 50th and Hazel” and the second posted November 15, “50th street robbery, assault suspect caught.” Reportedly there were multiple robberies and assaults in this area around this time. As individuals committed to creating collective community accountability and supporting survivors these reports raise many questions. Perhaps most obviously are the racial implications of the video released of the suspect. Watching the video is chilling. Here we are ostensibly being presented with a tool for making our community safer by identifying someone who is causing harm so that he can be stopped, but what we actually see is a video that features an ambiguous subject walking on the sidewalk with no identifying features other than him being a young black male. We have to ask the question: how does this actually help us as members of this community enhance our safety and the safety of our neighbors and the survivor of this assault? And though it goes against the prevailing cultural norms of policing and prisons, we come to only one answer: It simply does not.
And so, sexual assault and the very real need for survivors and communities to regain a sense of safety incite other forms of systemic harm – in this case, the harm caused by policing practices that target black males. The institutionalization of racism through policing is particularly present in Philadelphia and the state of PA — where a $400 million dollar budget for prison expansion was recently approved amidst massive cuts to schools, job training, and other critical social services that actually keep our communities safe.
In no way do we mean to dishonor survivors’ experiences or the choices they make as they seek safety – especially given the limited scope of options available to them. We are not trying to shame survivors choices, but rather we want to ask questions that both honor the needs and experiences of survivors of sexual assault, as well as survivors of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), and all those implicated in systems of harm that structure and influence our relationships and communities. We lament the fear, isolation and scarcity of options that survivors feel when it comes to seeking safety and healing after an assault which makes going to the police and relying on a racist and violent Criminal “Justice” System seem like the only answer–even knowing how much more harm these systems will cause, often to the survivor themself.
But we can’t stop there. We want to incite communities to ask these same questions that we are asking ourselves: why do survivors feel they have no other choices than calling the cops, implicating the PIC and other systems of violence? And who is calling the cops even really an option for anyways? What can we do to create alternatives that could actually address the needs of survivors, that could actually help heal and make our communities safer? What would that look like? What is it made of? What can WE do!?
In The Revolution Starts At Home, UBUNTU — a coalition led by women and gender nonconforming people of color, queers and survivors based in Durham, NC — speak about their experiences supporting survivors through alternative community responses/strategies. In it Alexis Pauline Gumbs writes,
“In each case these responses were invented on the spot, without a pre-existing model or a logistical agreement. But they were made possible by a larger understanding that we, as a collective of people living all over the city, are committed to responding to gendered violence. This comes out of the political education and collective healing work we have done, and the building of relationships that strongly send the message, You can call me if you need something, or if you don’t. You can call me to be there for you… or someone that you need help being there for. Since we have come to see each other as resources, we no longer think our only option is to call the state when faced with violent systems.” (Gumbs, 82)
To truly support our communities, we need to ask questions that come from a place of critical compassion; questions that recognize differences and honor multiple stories and truths, so we can act from a place that builds community through supporting one another.
Note: The Revolution Starts At Home started as a zine, the full text of which is available online!