Tag Archives: activism

Making Safer Spaces for Survivors: SAAM and Beyond

As we are nearing the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), I have been thinking about the organization and implementation of sexual violence activism.  From large-scale demonstrations like Take Back the Night, to small coalition meetings, it is crucial to keep the experience of sexual violence central to activism in SAAM and throughout the year.

There is no doubt that we live in a culture that permits and excuses sexual violence and perpetuates the suffering associated with victimization (“rape culture”).  While it’s helpful to point out the problems associated with “rape culture,” it is so very important to think about how we, as activists, inhabit spaces dedicated to combating “rape culture” to make these spaces fully supportive for survivors of violence.  Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of ways to improve activist events to ensure they can be productive in combating “rape culture” while providing support for those who have experienced sexual violence.

1.       Ground Rules: Lay out some ground rules, write them down, talk about them, and make them visible. Ground rules will look different for various events/groups and should be based on a discussion with all participants.  Come up with them organically with your group. Covering ground rules first will help “break the ice” and to form a group consensus about how the event/meeting will proceed.

2.       Safety and Accessibility:  Make sure to plan ahead and think of ways to make the space more accessible and safe.  Think about the place the event will be held in. Is it accessible to everyone? Are the exits marked? How is the room set up? Is the event private? One of the most common feelings after experiencing trauma is being hyper-aware of the space around you. Make your space as physically comfortable and safe as possible for everyone.

3.       Be present:  It is really important to be present in discussions about sexual violence. Think about what being “not present” might look like (i.e. texting or using other devices throughout the meeting, drinking alcohol, getting up to do something non-essential, etc). Try your best to be present and look present out of respect for the sensitivity of the subject matter and to honor the courage it takes to talk about it. When talking about something sensitive like sexual violence it is totally okay to want to dissociate, or “space out,” and you probably aren’t the only person feeling that way.  However, be mindful of what your dissociation may look like to someone else.  Don’t let it be mistaken for apathy. And if you need step out for a bit to process what you are feeling, go for it.

4.       Check your privilege:  Think about what is informing your knowledge of sexual violence.  While your experiences may have directed your knowledge of sexual violence, it is important to understand that not everyone had those same experiences, and others may have different ones.  Use this time to learn from others about how dynamic of a problem sexual violence is.

5.       Speaking: Is everyone being heard? While everyone may not want to speak at your event, if someone does choose to speak, make sure their voice is heard. If someone says something that you believe is not appropriate, speak up if you feel comfortable enough to do so (chances are you are not alone in how you are feeling!).

6.     Process: Depending on the event (large scale event vs. small scale meeting / public vs. private) consider reflecting on the event with your fellow organizers and participants.  Use this opportunity to think of ways to improve and incorporate new ideas.

7.     Make support available: If there are advocates with experience working with sexual violence survivors at your event that would like to volunteer their support, let everyone know! Introduce them and explain their background and training. If possible, designate a place where the advocate can be available to talk. Also, try to find some local and national advocacy groups to share with the group. Here are some great resources:



What is essential to sexual violence activism is to create a space where survivors of violence can feel like they can participate and be in a safe place.  For many survivors who have suffered the trauma of sexual violence, engaging in activism may prove difficult. By making these spaces more supportive, survivors’ agency will be fostered, and these voices, which are so important to this activism, will be heard.

New Book! Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities

Victoria Law and China Martens have created a book-version of their long-running zine, “Don’t Leave your Friends Behind“, coming out in September 2012, and now available for pre-order from PM Press!

How do we create new, non-hierarchical structures of support and mutual aid and include all ages in the struggle for social justice? There are many books on parenting, but few on how to be a good community member and a good ally to parents, caregivers, and children
as we collectively build a strong all-ages culture of resistance. Many well-intentioned childless activists don’t interact with young people on a regular basis and don’t know how.
Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind is a collection of concrete tips, suggestions, and narratives on ways that non-parents can support parents, children, and caregivers in their communities, social movements, and collective processes. It brings in voices often missing in many social justice movements, including those from children involved in an occupation for a school library; trans and genderqueer parents; parents of children with developmental disabilities; doulas supporting incarcerated mothers; and childcare collectives across the country. Respecting, valuing, and sharing caregiving work builds a healthier community for all. Let’s build an all-ages, inclusive revolution that leaves no one behind!

The anthology features a chapter co-written by two For the Birds Members, Cynthia Schemmer and Kathleen McIntyre, entitled: “Parental Care Giving and Loss: Ideas for Care Givers and Their Allies.” Pick up a copy and save the date for the NYC launch to be held at Bluestockings Books on Saturday, October 6th.

About the Editors:
Victoria Law is a writer, mother, and photographer. She is also the co-founder of Books Through Bars—NYC and publisher of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison. Her first book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press, 2009), won the 2009 PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society Award).
China Martens is a proud single mother of a grown daughter and a founding member of Kidz City, a radical childcare collective in Baltimore. Her first book is The Future Generation: A Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends, and Others (Atomic Book Company, 2007).


FOR THE BIRDS is excited to announce that we will be presenting a workshop titled “Winging It: Nurturing Authentic Communication in Feminist Organizing” at this weekend’s Combating Latent Inequality Together Fest, being held in Highland Park / New Brunswick, NJ.


@ Reformed Church of Highland Park
19 S. 2nd Ave. Highland Park, New Jersey

Winging It: Nurturing Authentic Communication in Feminist Organizing

In this workshop, For the Birds (a New York-based feminist collective and distro) will guide a community discussion about internal and external struggles in feminist cultural and social justice organizing, creating feminist spaces, and coalition building. The Collective maintains that it is imperative to communicate authentically in order to bridge gaps, and to grow, both interpersonally and between groups. The workshop will discuss commonalities, such as the way that the efforts of many marginalized groups coalesce around issues like safer spaces, grassroots modes of organizing, and artistic and political visibility. For the Birds invites questions about their own processes, and seeks to find out how other feminists work through these issues and towards similar goals in their own groups and communities. This is a participatory workshop.

For additional C.L.I.T. Fest details visit their website. The entire schedule is posted here. I (Kate) am also curating a zine reading Friday night and speaking on a panel entitled “Art Labor: A Discussion of Art Practice, Presence, Preservation and Perseverance,” but I wrote a fairly lengthy blog post about that on my personal blog. For the Birds will be tabling Sunday as well.

To pump you up for the Fest, listen to this “once-in-a-lifetime” podcast with the C.L.I.T. Fest organizers, in which they discuss their process planning the Fest, their own experiences in activism and D.I.Y. communities, and why conversations like these are so vital.

And, while you’re at it, check out these C.L.I.T. Fest mixes!



Can’t wait to see you there! Please do come say hi.

HYPERSEXUALIZED: A Photographic Timeline of Stereotypes and Women’s Resistance Against Rape Culture

* trigger warning for content about sexual abuse*

Reposted from Black Women’s Blueprint:

July 3, 2012 – August 10, 2012 | Museum of Women’s Resistance | 279 Empire Boulevard | Brooklyn, N.Y. 11225 | (347) 533-9102 | 

A groundbreaking installation by women of African descent, Asian, White, Latina and Native American women intentionally scheduled to open on the eve of the 4th of July at the Museum of Women’s Resistance (MoWRe) at Black Women’s Blueprint.

The installation features a series of photo images capturing historical and contemporary sexist and racist constructions of female sexuality in America that perpetuate rape culture, the violation of bodily integrity, violation of rights, and reinforce messages that the denigration of the female body is permissible. The installation juxtaposes narratives from various cultures in America, highlighting complex differences as well as similarities between women’s struggles against sexualized violence, educating the public about the ways in which women have mounted personal, collective and political resistance against it.

Presented by Black Women’s Blueprint In Collaboration with: AF3IRM, Since Combahee, Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa (Monsoon), National Organization of Asian Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV). Specialized tours are offered for youth 12 and over.  More details here


New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Annual Conference, May 9-10


This Thursday one of our members will be speaking at the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Annual Conference in Albany.  This year’s theme, “Weaving A World Without Violence,” signifies all of the tremendous work so many of the various organizations and presenters are doing to address violence in their communities.  Topics will include bystanders’ work to prevent violence, mobilizing men and youth to prevent sexual assault, and the use of art therapy in healing.

Leah Todd and Sarah Hanks, a member of For the Birds, will present a panel about the work of the Support New York Collective entitled “Community Accountability and Transformative Justice: An Alternative Approach to Responding to Intimate Partner Violence”.

Find out more about NYSCASA, how to become a member, find a crisis center, or take action by visiting their website.


Urgent: Act Now to stop the deportation of Yanelli Hernandez

The folks at Dream Activist have launched a campaign to stop the deportation of Yanelli Hernandez. Yanelli came to the United States as a 13-year-old and is set to be deported TOMORROW, TUESDAY, JANUARY 31!  Yanelli almost took her life while being held in detention by ICE and what she needs is treatment.  According to Dream Activist:

Yanelli’s case is urgent, we only have until Tuesday to stop her deportation. Yanelli came to the United States all by herself when she was 13, this means that, if deported, she won’t have anyone to support her.

We need your help to get Yanelli out, she needs to be at home with her family receiving treatment.  Things are not looking good  for her, ICE has already moved her to a different location. . . the last stop for detainees before they are deported.  We pretty much have 1 day to stop Yanelli’s deportation.

Please make a phone call to John Morton, Director of ICE :1-800-394-5855 or 202-732-3000 or 1-800-821-9358

Dream Activist has provided a script to use if you need it:

Hello I am calling to ask that Yanelli Hernadez (A# 205 012 525) be allowed to stay in the U.S. where she needs treatment. Yanelli is suffering from depression; she has attempted to take her own life twice and should not be deported. This is wrong.

Monday updates!

We have a couple items to post this morning, one of which is that Hollaback! launches their site in ten cities today at ihollaback.org. Hollaback! combats street harassment via mobile technology and now has blogs for multiple cities all on their website.  They are currently recruiting more activists for the next launch in April.  Check out ihollaback.org for more info!

We are also going to be tabling on Sunday, February 6 at Sound Wave, the first of a feminist performance series presented by Permanent Wave at Death by Audio.  There will be music, poetry and art, along with other groups tabling as well.

This is a benefit for the Center Against Domestic Violence in Brooklyn, and the theme of the event is Relationship Violence. Both showgoers and performers will have a chance to engage in activities relating to awareness and activism!

You can find out more about the event and performers at the Facebook invite, by clicking on the flyer below!