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IowaCASA Connection: Anti-rape work is anti-oppression work

As an anti-violence organization, we are committed to ending all forms of oppression. We reject racism, white supremacy, bigotry, and antisemitism.

Oppression is the root cause of sexual violence. Sexual violence has long been used to marginalize people on the basis of race, gender, immigrant status, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, ability, and countless others.

It has been a challenging month. As a coalition, we have a responsibility to challenge oppression and discrimination in all forms.

On August 9, North Korea announced that they were considering a nuclear missile strike near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. Despite the fact that North Korea later walked back these threats, it served as a sobering reminder of the reality indigenous Guamanians and the Chamorros are facing in a territory occupied by the United States. This history of colonialism in Guam is the longest among the Pacific islands, and one most white Americans either ignore or have forgotten.

On August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists held a "Unite the Right" hate rally that attacked people of color, Jewish communities, LGBT individuals, and immigrants. A white supremacist drove a van into protesters who took an active stance against the rally, and protester Heather Heyer was killed while 19 others were injured.

All oppressions, from racism to white supremacy to domestic terrorism, are linked and continue to be used to gain power and control over groups of people. We cannot end sexual violence without ending oppression.

It is our work to join rape crisis centers across the state, coalitions across the country, and policymakers on local and national levels, to collectively and intentionally work to end oppression and sexual violence.

For those of us who identify as white, it is necessary to stand up, speak out, and hold accountable those who remain silent. We cannot stay quiet any longer. We must be vigilant in breaking down the institutionalized and societal structures that perpetuate oppression.

We call on the President of the United States and his administration to take an active stance against all kinds of oppression, and to lead the nation in a discussion of our collective responsibility.

Please take a moment to review some of the resources available below. These were shared with us by staff and advocates alike in the wake of recent events.

Self-care for people of color

"Being socially, politically aware and active is essential; ensuring our emotional health is critical. To inhabit a body with genes coded with the trauma of our ancestors, coupled with the constant barrage of video witnessing cold-blooded murder in real time, deposits knots in our stomachs and a tightening in our chests." Read the article from Essence discussing self-care in the midst of racial trauma.

"When people of color are exposed to repetitive acts of racism (racism has been shown to be processed in our brains as trauma) a kind of post traumatic stress syndrome can develop. Race-based trauma can come in several forms... If you or your loved one are showing signs of trauma you need to take active steps to care for your psychological well-being (and your brain)." Read the article from Just Jasmine blog on self-care for people of color after psychological trauma.

"When these highly stressful interactions occur it can be easy to forget to center yourself and do what is best for your mental health. When our newsfeeds are saturated with a constant feed of violence, it’s best to focus on nurturing yourself because for Black, indigenous and people of color, self-care is a form of resistance." Read article from Teen Vogue with self-care tips for people of color after Charlottesville.

"As a social justice activist, trauma is an ever-present factor in my work. In fact, witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event is often the spark that ignites people to take action in the first place. It was for me. And as you can imagine, steeping yourself in pain to effect change can get exhausting. To combat this, there’s a practice within the activist community known as “step up, step back,” which refers to activists and organizers taking turns being on the front lines of an initiative versus playing a more supportive role. This practice is necessary for the sustainability of movements—and for the sake of the people involved." Read the article from SELF Magazine.

What white people can do

Instead of condemnation, consider what you can do that might actually have an impact. As stated in this insightful article by Erin Okuno: "For our white allies, your job is to find your own ways to disrupt whiteness in your jobs and personal lives. Personal actions are important and we need to act in ways that make us uncomfortable. If we stay comfortable it means we're not pushing, we're not thinking harder, and we're not challenging ourselves and others to disrupt the current situation." She also recommends working on being okay with conflict and centering communities of color. "Focus on communities of color and allow them to take the lead," Okuno writes. "This means checking your assumptions, timelines, and desires for a project and allowing the community to say what they want." Read more from Erin Okuno by clicking here.

Educate yourself. Many have showed concern earlier this month over the nuclear threat facing Guam. But what do we really know about Guam, its history, and the the oppression Guam's populations face at the hands of the United States? Please, take a moment to educate yourself by reading this open letter by Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero: "Today you occupy nearly one-third of our island, and station bombers and nuclear powered submarines here to flex your might to our neighbors. You play endless war games emitting fumes and dumping waste into our air, water, soil, bodies." Click here to read the full letter.

Be of service. Columnist Sara Benincasa writes, "When I feel hopeless and impotent, the quickest cure is to be of service in some way." In her article, she talks about what to do about Charlottesville to help folks targeted by those who would erase them. Click here for some of her ideas and suggestions.

Further reading and resources

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