Thirty-seven students gathered for the Sexual & Domestic Violence at the Intersection of Gender, Race & Ethnicity event on Tuesday, May 13 in Moss Cove A and B.
The event was a collaboration between the Campus Assault Resources and Education (C.A.R.E.) office, the Cross-Cultural Center and the Gender Education Initiative.
The event focused on the impact of sexual and domestic violence on women and communities of color. These women who experience sexual and/or domestic violence face unique challenges as result of the attacks that people in other communities may not experience.
The event was tailored to address and raise awareness for these acts of violence and featured three speakers, Andrea Smith, Ph.D., Michelle Mar and Tselane Gardner.
“Within the mainstream anti-violence movement in the United States, women of color who survive sexual or domestic abuse are often told that they must pit themselves against their communities, often portrayed stereotypically as violent, to begin the healing process. Communities of color, meanwhile, often advocate that women keep silent about the sexual and domestic violence in order to maintain a united front against racism,” Smith said.
“Mainstream remedies for addressing sexual and domestic violence here in the United States have proven to be inadequate for addressing the problems of gender violence in general, but particularly for addressing violence against women of color.”
Smith went on to advocate for more creative solutions in dealing with sexual and domestic violence within a community of color. For example, girls at Columbia University wrote the names of sexual assailants on the bathroom walls as a warning to their fellow female students.
Tselane Gardner, a survivor of domestic/sexual violence, described experiences in her community and how her numerous rapes and assaults were handled by law enforcement.The first time she went to the police after an assault she provided DNA evidence and she recalled being told, “If you weren’t such a slut, you wouldn’t have been attacked.” The attacker never went to jail for assaulting her.
She also recalled that when she was 13, a pimp that lived close to her would tell her every day, “I can’t wait till you’re 18. You’re gonna be one of my best girls.”
The last experience she shared with the audience described an assault, which took place on a date. The attacker took her to dinner but instead of taking her home, kidnapped her, raped her and took her home two days later. She became pregnant as a result of the rape and kept the child. After she filed for child support, he stalked her. One night he came to the house, burned all her clothes, cut her hair and sliced her with a knife. She added that he never went to prison.
“We still hear men and women who are being abused and still nothing gets done – it is better now, but there is still work to do,” Gardner said.
Gardner concluded her story, “I want to encourage you all to go to the C.A.R.E. office, and if you are in an abusive relationship, get out because that is not love.”
The final speaker, Michelle Mar, educated the audience on how to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
“Everybody has a story, everybody has a background and we cannot judge them for it,” Mar said. “Everyone has their own experience and their own coping process.” She explained that the best way to support a survivor is not to sympathize with them, but to empathize with them.