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What Do We Do After Sexual Assault?

The Call for a Global “Sexual Assault Pass” for Survivors Through Transnational Collaboration


Image: Serwaa Presenting at WCWS 2021


Abstract


What do we do after sexual assault? How do we, as women-survivors, navigate education and workspaces if we constantly find ourselves fighting a trauma largely unknown and misunderstood by the world around us? Despite the “roaring success” of #metoo, the disclosure of sexual violence has taken precedence over recovery and accommodations in daily public life for survivors. Bowdler (2020) contends that “The crime of rape sizzles like a lightening strike. It pounces, flattens, and devastates its victims. A person stands whole, and in a moment of unexpected violence, that life, that body, is gone....And what of those internal scars? Does time allow regeneration?...Since the injuries are largely unseen by others, how does the victim carry on? How are the scars attended to and softened rather than made hard and immovable? (p.2). In order to create a more “livable” world for women, I suggest that we must create transnational networks of participatory action research (PAR) groups made up by survivors for survivors to create unique accommodations for survivors during the “aftermath” of sexual assault. A hall pass allows you to navigate predetermined rules within a school system through a unique form of mobility. In the same measure, in this paper, through a documentary analysis of women-survivors’ “witness” (testimonies of personal struggles in dealing with trauma in daily public life); I propose that we need to create a global “sexual assault pass” to give survivors living with post-assault trauma a unique mobility which enables them to navigate trauma and recovery within public life (e.g. schools and workplaces) all with the purpose of creating safer communities and livelihoods for survivors.


Keywords: Sexual Assault, Advocacy, Accommodations, Transnational Collaboration

Themes: After #Metoo



Introduction

Despite what we know, and despite what we experience as survivors of sexual assault, “the powers that be” continue to relegate the needs and concerns of sexual assault survivors to “the margins.” In response, there continues to be a scarce reserve of literature that explores the lived experiences of women who navigate sexual trauma in daily life after they publicly disclose #metoo. In 2016, I wrote and submitted a course paper during my master’s degree entitled “Calling-In Sexual Assault: My Personal and Political Insurgency.” Within the paper, I created a “faux-motion” to present before the Canadian Parliament to advocate for the need for survivors of sexual assault who are unable to cope with trauma and everyday life at work, school, etc., to be afforded an identity-specific sick leave. Through personal lived experience as well as witnessing a chilling reality through grassroots activism, a pattern emerged which demonstrates that many survivors were in need of dire accomodation(s) “post-sexual assault.” But this conversation was never truly had.


Within recent years, there has been more pressure to address post-assault trauma and coping and the need for greater accountability and policy changes in and outside of university spaces. Within this paper, I call upon womanist and feminist activists, leaders, and scholars across the world. Can we join hands across the world in transnational collaboration to fight for a “global sexual assault pass” where both students and employees are able to obtain a short leave to recuperate the resilience and resolve needed to “re-enter” their old lives before the assault and “re-adjust” with the new baggage of trauma that was placed on their backs and psyches without their consent? In order to create a more “livable” world for women, I suggest that we must create transnational networks of participatory action research (PAR) groups made up by survivors for survivors to create unique accommodations for survivors during the “aftermath” of sexual assault. In this paper, through a documentary analysis of women-survivors’ “witness” (testimonies of personal struggles in dealing with trauma in daily public life); I propose that we need to create a global “sexual assault pass” to give survivors living with post-assault trauma a unique mobility which enables them to navigate trauma and recovery within public life (e.g. schools and workplaces) all with the purpose of creating safer communities and livelihoods for survivors. Stay tuned.


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