As 2018 begins, we are encouraged and inspired by the activism and courageous actions of those in Congress, the Supreme Court, Hollywood, and many others in response to disclosures by victims of sexual violence and misconduct that range from verbal harassment to rape in the workplace. We stand in solidarity with our sisters in the entertainment industry and activists who wore black on Sunday during the Golden Globe Awards. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) is comprised of a large and diverse group of national, tribal, state, territorial and local organizations, as well as individuals, committed to securing an end to domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking. We strive to accomplish these goals by developing and supporting the passage and implementation of effective public policies locally, tribally, and nationally.
We have seen a new spark of commitment and action from those empowered to effect systemic change that builds on decades of groundwork by activists from all walks of life. Congress introduced legislation requiring harassment prevention training for members of Congress and their staff and is working to overhaul the complaint process for sexual harassment claims in order to increase transparency, accountability, and more effective responses. Chief Justice Roberts has ordered an evaluation to commence this month reviewing whether “the Court’s standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.”
NTF lifts up the leadership of Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo campaign in 2006, and acknowledges that the program she began centered the experiences of young women of color who were survivors of sexual violence. It is crucial to understand that, for nearly all women, the experiences of harassment and violence that are the focus of #MeToo begins long before they reach the workplace. We must support empowerment and prevention efforts in the K-12 and campus spaces. Additionally, we must demand accountability from political leaders, Congress, workplaces, and communities.
NTF also applauds TIME’S UP, which offers a myriad of supportive services to those who have been underrepresented, marginalized, and silenced in the workplace. The initiative will focus on policy, legislation, and employment agreements to change the current workplace cultures of institutionalized sexism, and provide greater access to legal remedies should one choose that option. TIME’S UP recognizes the power the entertainment industry has to shape our national narratives and understandings, because for too long that power has been used to silence victims. Now, those who have been silenced are empowered to use their voice, their numbers, and their platforms to assist all women who have been harassed, violated, and made afraid - from farms to restaurants, private homes to hotels, academic institutions to health care agencies, studio lots to government buildings.
The groundswell of stories from those who have suffered abuse and met silence, trivialization, and marginalization when they attempted to put words to their experiences highlights what has been all too clear for the NTF since its inception: violence against women in all its forms and in all its spaces has been covered up and protected with unchecked power and privilege. This is why we support all endeavors that communities devise to recognize physical, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse when it is happening, whether it occurs at home, on the street, in the workplace, or a place of worship and to address it with a multitude of options that are as diverse as the survivors who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, including men and LGBT individuals.
We know harassment, sexual violence and abuse are inexorably intertwined with racism, homophobia, and institutionalized poverty. We know that women of color have endured an undue burden of sexual assault and violence in this country; that LGBTQ people are systematically targeted, and that some boys and men are victimized by harassment, assault, and abuse as well. Thus, we know we need everyone at this table to participate in order to achieve a significant paradigm shift toward prevention and intervention strategies that honor everyone’s right to live free from violence. We affirm that we all have the right to fall asleep on airplanes without being sexually assaulted. We all have the right to do our jobs in the workplace without fearing we will lose our paychecks if we do not give in to sexual demands. We all have the right to pursue an education without being harassed or assaulted by other students, or by our professors. We all have the right to walk down the street without being subjected to catcalls. We all have the right to tell our stories without shame, or fear, or any kind of retaliation.
As we prepare for the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act this spring, we call on the Congress and other leaders to invest in early prevention so our young people can grow up with the expectation and reality of respect, equity, and safety. We will continue to collectively raise awareness of violence against women. We will collectively strive to prevent violence against all women and girls. We will collectively push back on antiquated and misogynistic notions of women’s value and worth. We will rise together so #MeToo no longer defines our shared experiences. We will transform cultural and societal norms to celebrate the gifts women bring without compromising our sexuality, our dignity, or our souls.