strip searches make us all less safe

In early April, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone can be strip searched for any offense upon being arrested. This is devastating news for those of us who are survivors of sexual assault and/or police violence, as well as anyone who is in jail or could be arrested for any reason. We don’t want anyone in jail or prison – our long-term goal is to get rid of the system that locks people up. But as long as jails and prisons exist, we have to speak out against rulings like these. According to the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties ban the procedures that the Supreme Court just approved. Regardless of whether you are in police custody or not, there are basic human rights that everyone has, and basic respect that everyone deserves.  Strip searches are humiliating and unnecessary.

The ruling extends this humiliation beyond the walls of prisons and jails — noted sites of sexual violence where strip searches are already used regularly without cause under the transparent pretense of creating safety.  People imprisoned at Pennsylvania’s Rockview and Somerset facilities recently reported guards performing harassing strip searches, sexual groping, fondling, and making rape threats.  Strip searches are a police weapon used outside prisons too.  Consider the 2003 case of Ana Nogueira, a reporter for Democracy Now!, who was stripped by male police at a demonstration in Miami, Florida.  Nogueira was able to access sufficient resources to successfully win a lawsuit.  That expensive post-violation legal option is now gone, further discouraging free speech among current and would-be activists and journalists.

With the already numerous examples of stripping and sexual humiliation being used by the state, the Supreme Court ruling creates a slippery slope.  It’s not a far jump from strip searches to sexual violence being used as a way to control and victimize people in police custody.  It also allows for a culture of normalized sexual humiliation, making it easier for corrections officers and other prisoners to enact sexual violence.

This practice also inordinately affects people who are already marginalized in society.  People who have histories of sexual and/or police violence  will may have strong emotional reactions and relived trauma while being strip searched.  Queer and trans people may be singled out and humiliated for not fitting social norms and will potentially be at risk for more sexual violence from arresting officers. Trans people in particular may be exposed to additional violence if their trans status is discovered when strip-searched.

The Florence v. County of Burlington Supreme Court decision is a way of scaring all of us so that we don’t challenge state power for fear of being arrested and sexually humiliated.  This is another way that the state uses sexual violence as a means of control. This chilling effect is particularly strong for those of us who are more likely to be victims of police violence anyway, because of our race, class, sexual orientation, trans, HIV or immigration status, work in the sex trade, or any number of other reasons. Philly Survivor Support Collective believes that all of us deserve to live lives free of sexual violence.  We believe that courts, police and prisons do not help us end sexual assault and rape, but rather increase it. We can only hope that this ruling will be a wake-up call for our allies in the fight to end rape and sexual assault, so we can come together in agreement that as long as we embrace policing and prisons as responses to sexual violence, we will never get there.


“We’re Called Survivors Because We’re Still Here”

“Pain is a message. You are probably going to experience a fair amount of it, so it’s important that you know this. No matter how bad it is, pain is not a judgment, or a punishment, or a weakness: pain is a message, from the part of you that wants to live, telling you that something is wrong.

I don’t care which jerk told you to “handle it” “better”; you are receiving a message, right now, from a very necessary part of yourself. The message is, “I want to live. Get me some help.” It’s urgent. That is why it hurts.” (from We’re Called Survivors Because We’re Still Here)

We think this is a great article for people who are, or know, sexual assault survivors …
… so that’s everybody (unfortunately).

It is good enough that we recommend it despite the brief mention about involving the legal system — which we do not support.

Survivors in Solidarity with Prison Abolition — Anthology Call for Submissions — DEADLINE EXTENDED


Survivors in Solidarity with Prison Abolition


Working Title: Challenging Convictions: Survivors of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Writing on Solidarity with Prison Abolition.

Completed submissions due June 15, 2012.

Like much prison abolition work, the call for this anthology comes from frustration and hope: frustration with organizers against sexual assault and domestic violence who treat the police as a universally available and as a good solution; frustration with prison abolitionists who only use “domestic violence” and “rape” as provocative examples; and, frustration with academic discussions that use only distanced third-person case studies and statistics to talk about sexual violence and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). But, this project also shares the hope and worth of working toward building communities without prisons and without sexual violence. Most importantly, it is anchored in the belief that resisting prisons, domestic violence, and sexual assault are inseparable.

Organizers of this anthology want to hear from survivors in conversation with prisonabolition struggles. We are interested in receiving submissions from survivors who are/have been imprisoned, and survivors who have not.  Both those survivors who have sought police intervention, as well as those who haven’t, are encouraged to submit. We are looking for personal essays and creative non-fiction from fellow survivors who are interested in discussing their unique needs in anti-violence work and prison abolitionism.

Discussions of sexual assault, domestic violence, police violence, prejudice within courts, and imprisonment cannot be separated from experiences of privilege and marginalization. Overwhelmingly people who are perceived to be white, straight, able-bodied, normatively masculine, settlers who are legal residents/citizens, and/or financially stable are not only less likely to experience violence but also less likely to encounter the criminal injustice system than those who are not accorded the privileges associated with these positions. At the same time, sexual assault and domestic violence support centers and shelters are often designed with certain privileges assumed. We are especially interested in contributions that explore how experiences of race, ability, gender, citizenship, sexuality, or class inform your understandings of, or interactions with cops, prisons, and sexual assault/domestic violence support.

Potential topics:
·      What does justice look like to you?
·      Perspectives on police and prisons as a default response to sexual assault
·      What do you want people in the prison abolition movement with no first hand experiences of survivorship to know?
·      How did you overcome depression/feelings of futility when dealing with these systems?
·      Critical reflections on why the legal system has or has not felt like an option for you
·      Perspectives on the cops/PIC participating in rape culture
·      Restorative justice and other methods for responding to sexual violence outside of the PIC? (if you are a settler be conscious of appropriations of indigenous methods)
·      How have you felt about conversations you’ve had about the PIC?
·      How sexual assault inside and outside of the PIC is treated by organizers against sexual assault, domestic violence, and the PIC
·      Police and prison guards as triggers
·      Responding to sexual assault and domestic violence when communities weren’t there for you
·      What the legal system offers survivors and what it doesn’t
·      Rants at manarchists, the writers/directors of televised cop dramas, and communities that let you down
·      Survivor shaming for reporting and for not reporting to police

Please submit first-person accounts, critical reflections, essays, and creative non-fiction to by June 15, 2012. Early submissions are encouraged. First time authors encouraged.

If you have questions, we welcome emails to with “Question”in the subject line. We are looking for both shorter pieces of writing and longer pieces, but if your piece is more than 20 pages consider sending us an email to run the idea by us.


Catharsis: Trans Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS due 7/31/12

Call For Submissions 4/3/12 **Please Share & Repost!**

Catharsis: Trans Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence is seeking written submissions from trans women who are willing to share their experiences of sexual violence and assault. The goal is to create a book-length collection of personal essays and stories from trans women about their individual experiences. Through compiling these stories, we hope to counteract the tendency of broader feminist dialog to deal with the subject of violence against trans women as hypothetical, ethereal, and comparatively minimal. We also hope that such a compilation would reinforce the place of trans women among all women and help to bring support and healing to our often overlooked communities.


What We’re Looking For: Stories of personal experience from self-identified trans women who are survivors of rape, sexual assault, or other sexual violence. Submissions should be roughly 2-5 pages in length and focus primarily on individual experiences and feelings. Because every individual processes these experiences in different ways, the “tone” of the collection will be left to the contributors. Anger, humor, grief, healing, indifference, etc. are all welcome themes. Those wishing to remain anonymous will have that wish respected and not be named in the final publication. Anonymity will be granted to the degree at which it’s requested, so please make your needs clear with your submissions.

Why Trans Women Only? The perception that trans women are less often targets of sexual violence is incredibly pervasive, even among allies to the trans community. This erroneous assumption is deeply rooted in cissexism, transphobia, and transmisogyny. While sexual violence affects many communities and is often taboo or “invisible” in those communities, trans women’s experiences are uniquely derided and ignored. This results in the isolation of trans women survivors, a culture of silence within broader trans communities, and a false pretense for the exclusion of trans women from feminist conversations about rape and assault. The purpose of this collection is to give voice to and encourage dialog around the specific reality of sexual violence against trans women. We are interested in work by trans women of all backgrounds, regardless of transition status, race, class, education, ability, age, orientation, or occupation. Any survivor of sexual violence that self-identifies as a trans woman is encouraged to contribute. To send submit your story, go to the Submission Form or mail your submission to:
Sawyer DeVuyst
Catharsis Project
195 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237

Anyone wishing to assist this project is encouraged to **forward this call for submissions widely.**

If you want to help further or have any questions please contact