The Alliance has compiled a number of resources available for survivors, their friends and families, and professionals assisting survivors in New York City.
Newsletter: Winter 2005: Quarterly Meeting Review
What are the guiding principles of our work? Some of us approach the problem of sexual assault from a feminist framework, and identify patriarchy as the root of the problem of sexual assault. Others think feminism does not fully answer the problem, especially with regard to male victims. What does this means for service delivery, prevention and organizing our movement?
December’s meeting began with a presentation by a panel of service providers and activists:
Rita Haley, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) NYC Chapter, sees the feminist principles of organizing around sexual assault rooted in the work of Shulamith Firestone who, in her book Dialect of Sex, argued that women's oppression serves primarily as a means for men to regulate sexual reproduction. Rita sees violence against women as following this patriarchal model, and considers the model relevant to treatment. Clinical interventions could involve helping an individual understand her personal situation in the context of societal values and identifying her strengths.
Jeanette Kossuth of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP) finds there are limitations of this model, depending on the population served. At AVP, for example, ten percent of victims are male. Ninety-five percent of men who rape other men identify as heterosexual. In domestic violence cases, men who need shelter for protection against their male batterers have nowhere to turn because shelters often give women priority. AVP has also noted increased violence against lesbians. In the instances where women are raping women, violence increases because objects, as opposed to body parts are used. Men who are sexually assaulted tend to respond differently, and can become very difficult, angry and aggressive. Transgender persons who are sexually assaulted will often be mutilated in an attempt to eradicate the sex assumed. For these reasons, we are constantly challenged about what is male, and what is female.
Corey Tax says that the Safe Horizon hotline gets 4000 to 8000 calls a year. These survivors experience violations on many levels; often they feel like the have no choices, are helpless, powerless, their bodies stolen. They sense a lack of safety in their homes and communities. And it is not always gender that makes the victim vulnerable. Perpetrators leverage immigration status, marriage, and sexual orientation to victimize. Victims are varied in their economic status, race, and education level. Is there only one way to understand sexual assault? If feminism is the only way to understand sexual assault, it should be questioned and broadened in order to address all victims.
Ted Bunch, of the Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Accountability Program, considers confronting well-meaning men around responsibility to end violence against women as paramount. He sees that men have a belief that women have lesser value, are property and are objects. In some way all men have been socialized to believe this, which creates an atmosphere in which it is acceptable to violate women. Because silence is affirmation, and because all men benefit from violence against women, silence makes all men responsible.
The discussion was timely. With attacks on the need for federal funding to combat violence against women, service providers were challenged to review the basis for their services. Feminism, the original foundation of rape crisis programs, provides an anti-oppression framework. Speakers noted other forms of oppression experienced by clients. As programs have recognized the needs of and developed programs to serve male, gay and lesbian and other victims, it behooves us to understand the linkages between different forms of oppression and the program models that encompass them.
"A Look Back" By Anastasia, a facilitator