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16 Days NYC Is Shifting The Narrative Around Gender-Based Violence

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Gender-based violence (GBV) affects a wide variety of people around the world on a daily basis. Survivors of sexual violence are often silenced and their stories are frequently surrounded by stigmatization. In 1991, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership started the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. This international campaign takes place between November 25th (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and December 10th (the International Human Rights Day). The founders of this campaign chose November 25th and December 10th as the start and end dates in an effort to work towards bringing an end to violence against women; in other words, they wanted to make a statement that violence against women with a violation against human rights.

While the 16 Days Campaign has done and continues to do highly valuable work, it is 2018 and it is time to expand the conversation around GBV. The 16 Days NYC committee is a group of dedicated prevention coordinators, advocates, and survivors who have come together to change the Gender-Based Violence narrative; a narrative that often silences the voices of people of color and LGBTQ+ folks. The 16 Days committee in New York is expanding the original campaign message by recognizing and supporting intersectionality and people of all identities; violence against ALL people is a violation against human rights. 16 Days NYC strives to “engage and mobilize the NYC community through survivor-centered events and spaces that incorporate art, education, and allied action.”

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Video produced by Shallow Graves (@shallowgravesny)
Music "Guess Who's Back" by Misty Mtn (@mistymtnmusic)

The entire 16 Days NYC committee is doing incredibly important work, and they shared some information with us about their work and upcoming The Believening event on Monday, December 10. The committee was made up of the following people:

Shimi Shimabuku (she/her), Campus Sexual Assault Coordinator, Safe Horizon
Eric McGriff (he/him), Prevention Coordinator, Crime Victims Treatment Center
K. Richardson (they/them), Coordinator of Campus Engagement and Prevention, Anti-Violence Project
Amy Northup (she/her), Facilitator, OutSmart NYC
Mikayla Bobrow (she/her), Senior Program Coordinator, NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault
Whitney McWilliams (she/her), Youth Educator, DayOne
Anthony McGriff (he/him), Educator & Activist

Here's what they told us: 

What does gender-based violence look like to you?

Gender-based violence is a spectrum of violence—verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and sexual—that is used to commit harm against individuals or groups of individuals because of their actual or perceived gender identity. But to us? It’s really a lot more than that. The narrative of gender-based violence has been that these incidences are only happening to cis women, and mostly cis white women. It’s that cis women are victims, and cis men are perpetrators. And queer and non-binary individuals? Aren’t even included in that narrative. Gender-based violence is gender norms that deny people the ability to live a whole, complex, nuanced, and honest life.

Are there aspects to gender-based violence that people ignore or that people are often unaware of?

It’s misgendering people. It’s North Carolina and bathrooms. It’s toxic masculinity making it entirely unsafe for men to report that they’ve been hurt, because the stigma of homophobia makes it too unsafe. It’s that it’s standard policy for survivors of sexual assault to be questioned by police with questions like “what were you wearing?” and “how much did you drink?”

It’s the fact that legally, a survivor of assault can’t find out if they had been drugged unless they choose to report to police. It’s erasure and censorship of bodies on social media. It’s that the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community makes up the largest group of trafficked individuals into the US. It’s conflating issues trafficked individuals face with issues sex workers face. It’s how gendered, homophobic, and violent language is so normalized we don’t even register how it reinforces physical and sexual violence being acceptable. It’s the narrow idea that people have of GBV just being rape; it’s not just a penetrative act. It’s groping, stealthing, catcalling, rape jokes, sexual harassment, outing someone, revenge porn—and a complete lack of accountability for these actions. 

It’s Betsy DeVos’s new Title IX regulations using non-inclusive gendered language and rolling back protections for survivors, and re-defining sexual assault in a way that further colonizes popular understandings of harm. It’s FOSTA/SESTA. It’s sex workers feeling like they can’t report, because if they do, police officers can and do arrest them. It’s white feminism. It’s the way white feminism demands to be centered. 

It’s forced sterilization of Latinx, Black, Indigenous and immigrant people and incarcerated mothers or parents facing incarceration. Did you know that birth control and/or sterilization can be used as a tenant of probation? Or that men are often told getting someone pregnant would be a violation of their probation? It’s about how state and structural violence are a part of GBV, yet we often don’t know it’s happening because of class privilege. It’s drug-testing people who give birth, with results showing equal drug use among parents of color and white parents—but folks of color are being reported at staggeringly higher rates to child welfare services. It’s how our well-intentioned community-based organizations and service providers are ineffective in the way they engage survivors and understand harm—not because they don’t mean well, but because the American sociopolitical context is so colonized (whitened, male-dominated, capitalist). 

It’s the erasure of trans folks. And folks with disabilities. And undocumented folks. And hospitality folks. And incarcerated people. And black women. And the API community. And men. And sex workers. And that’s honestly just the beginning.

How did you get involved with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign, specifically the 16 Days NYC committee? Are there ways other people can get involved?

We all work for various organizations around the city that work to prevent and respond to sexual violence. We love the #16DaysCampaign, and we also saw the need for the conversation to expand.

What are some of the ways people in the NYC community and beyond can create a culture of healing and support, especially for individuals with many intersecting identities who are often silenced?

Heal. Understand resources. Know your rights. Believe and validate lived experiences. Engage in community accountability. Check your friends when their language is problematic. It doesn’t have to be angry or aggressive; a call-out doesn’t have to be relationship-ending. It’s about engaging in tough conversations. Do the hard work—truly—of evaluating the communities they operate in and how they normalize violence. Be a bystander that intervenes. Check your privilege. Don’t center yourself in conversations when there’s opportunities to center more marginalized folks. Normalize consent conversations. Normalize consent conversations. Normalize consent conversations. Hold space for the fact that we can all be both survivors of violence and perpetrators of it. Understand that, statistically, you will come across survivors every single day. Understand that healing and survivorship looks different for everyone, and it’s no ones job to decide what someone else’s healing should look like.

Are there organizations or groups in the NYC community that survivors can turn to for support?

To start with, here’s our orgs!

Safe Horizon: Domestic violence hotline: 1- 800-621-HOPE (4673); rape and sexual assault hotline: 1-212-227-3000

Anti-Violence Project: 24 Hour English/Spanish Hotline: 212-714-1141

Day One: Crisis Hotline: 1-866-223-1111

Crime Victims Treatment Center: (212) 523-4728

The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault: Confidential counseling and information helpline: (212) 514-SAFE (7233)

Are there any upcoming events that people should be aware of?

We are having an event called The Believening on Monday, December 10 at the Hotel RL Brooklyn Lounge, from 6:00—9:30PM. This is our last event of the 16 Days—an evening about believing survivors and those impacted by gender-based violence, and making a commitment to building communities of healing and support. The event is FREE, and the first 100 people to RSVP on Eventbrite will get a drink on us!

Follow 16 Days NYC on Instagram to see the latest and to learn more @16daysnyc.

Photo courtesy 16 Days NYC

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Allie Lawrence recently graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and English. She is thrilled to be an editorial/blogging intern at BUST Magazine! Feel free to email her at allie.lawrence7@yahoo.com.

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