By: Ignacio Rivera
My work to help end child sexual abuse (CSA) came to a screeching halt Tuesday November 8, 2016. It was the day a racist, white-supremacist, sexual predator, immigrant hating, people-with-disability bashing, LGBTQ hater and all around problematic human, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of these United States of America. What has helped me begin to move forward, engage with folks and jump back on the important work I’ve dedicated myself to is community support and collective healing. What has transpired has been amazing. Love has shot across the world wide web, phone lines and cellular devices, to hold me/us. We are supporting each other, as we do when tragedy strikes.
To witness the unfolding of the election was a shock. Simultaneously, it wasn’t. The people of the United States of America have shown their true colors and idiocy. This “win” was “payback” for Obama winning the presidency. Remember the videos of white-shock and fear after Obama won? We are there, tenfold! This is a political/societal “putting us in our place.” Basically, there was no way a woman was gonna win after a Black man took office for two terms and boy did they show us!!!! As a trans person of color who is a survivor, I’m overwhelmed by the overt hatred spewed by our next President. It’s been an absolute struggle to get out of bed since the election. How can I move forward when THIS, on top of everything else, is happening? We are witnessing major struggles in several movements– Black Lives Matters, Say Her Name, Standing Rock, immigration rights, Trans rights and (insert marginalized groups of people fighting for their rights here). Why would CSA eradication be relevant when so many are struggling to survive and scrambling to figure out what will happen next with this new regime?
My inability to move forward has been in part due to extreme triggering. As a survivor of CSA and rape, I’m deeply disturbed by Trump’s response to sexual assault allegations and society’s acceptance of that behavior. It feels like the many people who’ve worked tirelessly to end violence against women, slut shaming, rape culture, victim blaming and violence against children were violated as bystanders watched and in some cases, approved of these violations, with their vote.
Are we on our own?
After this initial post-election shock, will we all dig deep into our own work, lose connections to our collective struggle and fall to pieces in the reactivity to survive this? There is a collective trauma felt ‘round the world and everyone is on edge. In addition to so many struggles happening in this country, this election casted a shadow on them, us and the future of our work.How do we focus on the work that has fuelled our spirits to struggle for a better tomorrow? How do we continue to talk, organize and make change around issues that affect the most marginalized of us in the midst of this atrocity?
What’s CSA got to do with it?
Doing the work to address and ultimately end CSA is a struggle to say the least. CSA is typecast as an issue affecting children and their families or as an invisibility to current movements. As an adult survivor of CSA, the threat isn’t accepted as imminent. My pain is, at times, viewed as an event that happened long ago. An incident, however horrible, which I’ve had ample time to get over or heal from. Even when people accept that long term effects of CSA–like PTSD, anxiety, drug abuse, insomnia, depression and stress– it’s deemed a private matter. Thus and yet again, the issue of CSA is not associated with our struggles or movements. CSA prevention, organizing and advocacy is experienced in a narrow political framework. It is that thinking, that added to my reluctance to post news, an Outing CSA or Sex (Ed) is video to The HEAL Project website. I’ve been dwelling on the ”What’s CSA got to do with our current movement struggles?”
All about Trump?
This stuck feeling is also due to the fear of refocusing. Now that Trump will enter office, will “the work” be about him? Will all our energies go to fighting Trump; taking our focus off of these struggles? What happens so often, especially with CSA, is the fight to end violence that we know will span generations gets discarded or put on the backburner when a more urgent catastrophe happens. Many are organizing on how to deal with the regime to come and how to stop it. The real work of preparing for this inevitability is daunting but it is not what should consume us. This is not the time to go to our respective corners and work by ourselves. We need to keep the momentum going in our movements as well as coordinate our efforts to keep Trump from destroying the progress we’ve worked so hard to attain. We don’t’ have to drop what we are doing to focus on Trump. We have to continue our work while simultaneously joining together.
If you think that reproductive justice, economic justice, racial justice, children/youth rights, criminal justice /juvenile justice System, LGBTQI and Anti-violence movement are not connected to CSA, think again! CSA and generational traumas live in our cells and inform how we move in the world. The residual scars effects our LGBTQI relationships, how violence manifest in our relationship, and our understanding of children/youth rights and criminal justice /juvenile justice system. If we can not make these connections in our current work it becomes hard to create holistic sustainable solutions to the issues we are fighting against.
It has been written about and learned time and time again our movement work is incomplete if we do not make the needed connections and alliances. Ask yourself how is CSA connected to reproductive, environmental, and health justice? Has your work taken into full account CSA and its lingering effects on your coalition partners? Is CSA silenced or ignored in your work and if so who does that serve?
As many oppressed people and movements struggle to clarify why their fight is relevant against the Trump backdrop, consider that this, more than ever, is the time to connect our hearts and our work. All of our work is relevant. All of our work is connected– if only by this declaration, “An oppression to one is an oppression to all.” My work to address and end CSA will continue. The importance of the work will not be diluted by Trump. It will thicken from dashes, pinches and splashes of brewing movements. Together we are stronger. We aren’t starting a revolution. The revolution has been happening. It just got kicked up a notch.
Special acknowledgement to the following people for supporting me/my work, lending ideas and words when I had none, editing help and all around love in creating this blog post. I appreciate you!!
Monique Meadows (jg)
Luz Maria Marquez Benbow