“This gathering and the subsequent statewide conference track are the culmination of twenty years of my life, including working in nonprofits focused on sexual violence, youth organizing, LGBTQ rights, and health education.
Sacremento, CA — On August 7th and 8th, Mirror Memoirs, an oral history project that’s committed to using its resources to end child sexual abuse against members of the LGBTQ community, will host the first ever gathering of survivors of child sexual abuse from across the country. The goal is to use the stories that survivor’s share as a starting point to build community and strategize on methods of struggle.
Enthusing over this monumental accomplishment, MM founder Anita Swadhin called this gathering “the culmination of twenty years of my life, including working in nonprofits focused on sexual violence, youth organizing, LGBTQ rights, and health education.”
If any of you are survivors or family/friends of survivors who may be interested in information on this historic event, we encourage you to contact Ms. Swadhin at one of the following:
Read the full press release below.
“For the first time in documented history, LGBTQ people of color who survived child sexual abuse from across the United States are gathering to share stories, build community and strategize about how to organize using their struggles and resilience as a starting point.
The gathering is organized by Mirror Memoirs, an oral history project centering the narratives, healing and leadership of LGBTQ survivors of color in the movement to end child sexual abuse. The project was founded by survivor-activist Amita Swadhin when they were named a Just Beginnings Fellow in 2016. Thirty survivors at this intersection of identity and experience will convene in Sacramento, CA on August 7 and 8 at a national summit sponsored by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
The US Centers for Disease Control estimates 20% of all adults (1 in 4 female-assigned-at-birth and 1 in 6 male-assigned-at-birth people) experience rape or sexual abuse by an older child or an adult by the age of 18.
New studies suggest that gender non-conforming children may be at even greater risk. In fact, a 2011 study of more than 1,000 transgender people found over 50% had experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, and of those who were adult sexual violence survivors, 72% had also survived child sexual abuse.
Convening participants will listen to excerpts of stories from the Mirror Memoirs archive (including 33 audio recordings to date), experience somatic healing led by Niralli D’Costa (an Oakland-based therapist), engage in presentations on the sex offender registry by Nicole Pittman (Center on Youth Registration Reform) and on mental health institutionalization by Elliott Fukui (Transgender Law Center) and Luna Merbruja (Mirror Memoirs), and have an opportunity to lobby California elected officials to reform the California sex offender registry.
Several of the convening participants will go on to lead workshops and speak on panels August 9 and 10 at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault Statewide Conference, a gathering attracting direct service providers and victim advocates. Workshops in the Mirror Memoirs conference track include:
- Cages Will Not Set Us Free: Janetta Johnson (TGI Justice Project) & Bamby Salcedo (TransLatin@ Coalition)
- Embracing Negative Survivorship, A Harm Reduction Approach: emi koyama (Mirror Memoirs)
- Sex Work Can Help Us Survive: Santos LaRose Chavez, emi koyama (Mirror Memoirs), Van Levy, Ignacio Rivera (HEAL Project)
- When “Help” Hurts, Survivors Speak Out Against Mental Health Institutionalization: Elliott Fukui (Transgender Law Center) & Luna Merbruja (Mirror Memoirs)
- Storytelling as a Tool for Transformative Justice: Aishah Shahidah Simmons (#LoveWithAccountability), Amita Swadhin (Mirror Memoirs), Sulakshmi Vaid
Mirror Memoirs Founder Amita Swadhin reflected, “This gathering and the subsequent statewide conference track are the culmination of twenty years of my life, including working in nonprofits focused on sexual violence, youth organizing, LGBTQ rights, and health education. In all of my work, I hardly heard child sexual abuse discussed as a cornerstone issue of oppression, even though it happens at epidemic rates and disproportionately affects marginalized populations. As an organizer and advocate, I am excited to co-create this space with so many seasoned activists. As a queer, genderqueer woman of color who survived years of incestuous rape as a child, I am eager to experience the collective healing in community that can only be felt when surrounded by your own reflection en masse – an experience I have been seeking for decades.”
Ignacio Rivera of the HEAL Project remarked, “The Mirror Memoirs gathering is vital! Holding space and centering the experiences of LGBTQ child sexual abuse survivors of color is rare but necessary. Society often obsesses with the genitals and sex lives of queer people, and dismisses our humanity. Often isolated, seen as strange, or even mentally ill, transgender and gender non-conforming children are disproportionately targeted by sexual abuse. It’s time we see the connection between these forms of violence.”
#LoveWithAccountability Creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons remarked, “QTPOC (queer and transgender people of color) child sexual abuse survivors face multiple pathological stigmas, which are rarely connected to the abuse we experienced as children. The Mirror Memoirs gathering is groundbreaking because it places QTPOC at the center of the critically needed dialogues about child sexual assault. We will not have to contextualize our sexuality, our gender identity, or our survivor status. Instead, we will be able to dig deep *with* each other to unearth our stories, and strategize about how we can end this global epidemic.”
Mirror Memoirs Board Member Luna Merbruja added, “I’m excited to attend the Mirror Memoirs gathering because I’ve always wanted a space where I can show up with my full self and have my ideas, dreams and expertise be respected and used for social change. It’s an honor to collaborate with fellow QTPOC survivors to heal from and end child sexual abuse. It’s important that the movement to end child sexual abuse is led by black and brown, trans, queer, disabled, formerly or currently sex working and low income communities because our lived experience is crucial expertise.”
Bamby Salcedo, CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition and Mirror Memoirs Board Member, added, “Mirror Memoirs is a groundbreaking organization that has supported me and many others like me to heal from the trauma of being a victim of child sexual abuse. There needs to be more intentional support in all ways to support individuals who have been victims of sexual abuse, an issue that still lives in the shadows.”
Elliott Fukui, Director of Community Engagement at the Transgender Law Center, stated, “I’m excited by the opportunity to build with and learn from survivors who understand our vulnerability, resilience and love are the greatest sources of power and strength in our movements for liberation.”
Finally, Mirror Memoirs Board Member emi koyama reflected, “I have been working within the movement against sexual violence for many years, but never before shared a space with that many queer and transgender people of color with a history of surviving childhood sexual abuse. I’ve participated in a support group for adult women survivors of child sexual abuse at a local rape crisis center, and while there were some white queers or straight women of color in the group, I didn’t meet any other queer or trans person of color in the group.
Within mainstream media, child sexual abuse is represented as the “loss of innocence” for white, middle-class, presumably straight and non-trans young girls (and boys in the case of churches and the Boy Scouts). Meanwhile, queer and trans people of color are heavily criminalized, and are even represented as potential predators who need to be kept from using public restrooms.
We don’t often see our experiences and stories reflected in materials intended to help survivors, which is why it is so important for us to come together at the Mirror Memoirs gathering and hold ourselves as mirrors to reflect each other’s stories and experiences. I don’t know what to expect because I’ve never been to a space like this. But I’m sure that it will be magical, fun, intense, validating, triggering, healing, and so much more.”