“It is our responsibility to collectively affirm the dignity and humanity of survivors and to ensure that survivors know that they are seen and represented in our democracy. In this moment of reckoning, we must use our collective power to demand policies that center our needs and advance our shared mission of realizing true justice for all survivors.”
—U. S. Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts
The Survivors’ Agenda is a new international collective for sexual assault survivors designed to help them to connect with each other and work to combat systemic sexual violence.
Launched by MeToo leaders (Tarana Burke, founder of ‘me too.’ International; Ai-Jen Poo, executive director of National Domestic Workers Alliance; Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Center; and Mónica Ramírez, founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women), this multi-racial, survivor-led collective aims to explore the reliant relationship between sexual violence and racial violence and “[drive] policy change and systems to build a world that is free of violence.”
The Survivors’ Summit: September 24-26
The Survivors’ Agenda is hosting its first-ever virtual Survivors Summit Sept. 24-26—led by Anita Hill, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, ‘me too.’ founder Tarana Burke and other activists, influencers and survivor advocates—in order for survivors to connect, find healing and work towards creating change.
- Anita Hill, professor of social policy, law and women’s Studies at Brandeis University;
- Rep. Ayanna Pressley, U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’s 7th congressional district;
- Tarana Burke, founder of ‘me too.’ international;
- Ai-jen Poo, executive director, National Domestic Workers Alliance;
- Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO, National Women’s Law Center;
- Mónica Ramírez, founder and president, Justice for Migrant Women;
- Breana Brave Heart, youth Indigenous activist; and
- Prentis Hempill, Founder, Black Embodiment Initiative.
This first-ever summit will highlight issues such as health care, public safety and workers’ rights—all issues central to the movement to end sexual violence.
“Survivors are powerful. We are workers, students, parents, corporate executives, teachers, lawyers, and constituents,” said Anita Hill. “We are in every community in this country, and it is long past time that we help form an agenda that creates solutions for our safety, dignity, and equality. Now more than ever, our elected officials must choose to model good leadership and embrace the lasting reforms we seek, rather than duck from them.”
Goals of the summit include:
- Using a lens of transformational and restorative justice to determine specific policy changes and community services that will reduce sexual violence in the U.S. and better support survivors;
- Building power among survivors as community organizers and giving them tools they need to be effective advocates and change-makers;
- Preparing survivors to elevate their voices in media and public spaces, and to be heard as experts on the issue of sexual violence and possible solutions;
- Assisting survivors’ capacity to continue their personal healing and transformation journey;
- Uncovering and addressing the systemic roots of sexual violence, including toxic masculinity; and
- Connecting survivors to a large community of people who know something about what they’ve experienced.
Register for the summit here.
What is the Survivors’ Agenda?
On Thursday, June 25, Survivors’ Agenda leaders hosted a national call with over 700 participants focused on the mobilization of survivors and the necessity of confronting systemic sexual violence.
The nation is now in “a key moment of interlocking oppression and interlocking resistance,” says Mitchel—engaged in a powerful wave of fighting against white supremacy, in the midst of a global pandemic. Simultaneously, growing numbers of survivors across the globe have taken brave initial steps, under the rallying cry of “#metoo.”
In confronting the systems and institutions built to uphold white supremacy and state sponsored violence, the Survivors’ Agenda’s message “healing in action and action in healing” holds great weight.
Burke highlighted the message of the survivors’ collective: People who are most impacted by injustices are not often at the table making decisions.
“In October 2017, the world shifted as millions of people raised their hand to say ‘me too.’ Almost three years later, we are still experiencing the ripple effects and more ready than ever to push forward into action and real change. In 2020, we are ensuring that the policies and services we need to protect our rights to dignity, safety, and freedom are not only part of the national conversation, but fundamental to it.”
Burke also emphasized that “…the people who are closest to the pain should be at the forefront of creating solutions.”
The Survivors’ Agenda was founded on the principle of authentically representing the diversity of survivors and prioritizing and uplifting suppressed voices.
“When we come together in the name of healing and restorative justice, we will do so with the needs and voices of the most marginalized at the center. We will work to uplift the experiences and demands of Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer, trans, and disabled survivors, knowing that when we serve survivors at the intersections, we strengthen and sustain a movement that will change perceptions and behaviors and shift culture for the greater good,” said Ramírez.
Goss Graves spoke to the importance of this moment in particular:
“At this moment when our country is grappling with its long history of systemic racism and the many ways that our existing systems and institutions are failing, it is all the more critical to elevate the voices of survivors.”
The coronavirus has sparked historic and disproportionate rates of illness, death and unemployment among Black individuals, specifically Black women, Goss Graves said. Rapidly enforced stay-at-home orders endangered many survivors, and the lack of personal protective equipment further put people at risk.
A nation looking to rebuild from trauma must prioritize and consider those who have experienced trauma.
“We’ve barely begun to address the systems that provide cover for this abuse. But tapping into the creative ideas, suggestions, and expertise of survivors will be key to guiding our leaders to work to build a world where we can work and live and learn with safety, dignity and equality.”
Burke spoke further about the power of survival: “Being alive is triumphant. To wake up, to function, to love—that is all survival.”
The work of The Survivors’ Agenda is shaped by the identity of survivors, explained Burke. Those who govern do not necessarily understand “the life cycle of a survivor,” or consider that surviving is about both the “dark place and the light place.” There is an essential healing component in the lives of survivors.
Ramírez continued by explaining the power imbalances that have allowed the perpetuation of inequality and violence, highlighting the fact that our current justice system focuses on punitive measures, and arguing that concrete change necessarily requires a survivor’s perspective.
Ai-jen Poo left the call with inspiring calls to action: “To begin to address the deep deep roots of sexual and gender based violence is going to take all of us, all of our voices, all of our input.”
She called on survivors and allies to amplify all voices, “so that we can build an agenda that leaves no survivor behind.”
Edited September 16 at 9:15 a.m. PT.