What's The Aftermath of #MeToo—At Home, At Work, In Our Communities?

 Photo by Illyana Bocanegra

Photo by Illyana Bocanegra

Produced by #bossbabesATX, SHE TALKS is an ongoing discussion-based personal and professional development series, tackling topics from finances to intersectional feminism. Our SHE TALKS feature the perspectives of women and non-binary folks. All genders are welcome to attend.

Last Wednesday on May 9, we joined forces with the Survivor Justice Project to chat about the aftermath of #metoo. Together, we discussed SJP’s involvement in successfully securing funding to test the City of Austin’s rape kit backlog and how coalitions like SJP can be a model across different industries. On top of that, we got real—how can we provide better support to survivors? How can we learn from #metoo and hold assholes accountable?


MEET THE EVENING'S PANELISTS:

Amanda Lewis, panelist representing Survivor Justice Project
Amanda Lewis is a social worker and community organizer with over 8 years of experience in the domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault fields. She believes that real, sustainable social change starts small, building upon close bonds within communities, and is best led by those most impacted. Amanda works for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, is a co-founder of Survivor Justice Project, and serves on the Austin Commission for Women and the Joint Inclusion Committee.

Kristen Lenau, panelist representing Survivor Justice Project
Kristen Lenau is a community advocate with over 10 years of experience working with populations experiencing trauma and violence.  She holds a master’s in Public Health and believes that effectively responding to violence against women requires a community-driven, holistic approach. Kristen is a co-founder of the Survivor Justice Project, and works for the SAFE Alliance as the Sexual Assault Response & Resource Team Coordinator for Austin-Travis County. Prior to this move she worked as the Director of Operations for Women’s Crisis Care International, combating Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking in the Arabian Gulf region.

Jane Hervey, panelist representing #bbatx
Jane Hervey is a creative producer, activist, entrepreneur, writer and performance artist. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley (956 por vida), Hervey moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas. After earning her Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and pursuing a career in freelance writing, Hervey began searching for resources and a space to ask professional questions. She hosted her first #bossbabesATX meet in 2015, hoping to foster community and connection between self-identified women in Austin, Texas. She now runs the nonprofit and its festival, BABES FEST, while managing her own production studio, Group Work, and maintaining a column on creative entrepreneurship and lifestyle design at Forbes. Her personal and professional life are dedicated to improving community infrastructure, retooling systems of collaboration and changing cultural economies to create equal opportunity for women and girls.

Isabella Toledo, panelist representing #bbatx
Isabella is a lover of all things yoga, feminism and digital-tech. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela she moved to Austin in 2013 to study at the University of Texas, graduating in 3 & 1/2 years with a BS in Public Relations and Minor in Business Foundations. Inspired by the persistence and hard work of her immigrant parents, Isabella dedicates her hustler mentality to her mom and dad. Aside from collaborating with the biggest community of babes, Isabella spends her free time furthering her yoga practice through Teacher Training, refining her skills in the tech space, and drinking a slightly chilled glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, curled up with a good book. Her daily intention is to make every interaction valuable, and hopes to leverage her opportunities to create new ones for marginalized groups in the Austin community.

Here are some takeaways and information to explore based on the night's conversation and the panelists' recommendations:

1.) We launched into the conversation with a little context on Survivor Justice Project. The organization works with like-minded nonprofits to advocate for survivors' rights and ensure survivors of sexual violence are considered in governmental policy and legislation. Although the coalition works on a variety of bills and initiatives, we mainly discussed their successful hand in securing funding to test Austin's rape kit backlog—a total of $1.4 million per year.

2.) We then discussed the general conversation around the treatment of survivors, as it pertains to the rise of the #metoo movement. Amanda, Kristen, Jane and Isabella each commented on #metoo's nuance and that the discomfort that arose from #metoo is an indication that we have a lot to go with sexual education and better defining cultural understanding around terms like "consent."

3.) We then talked about the importance of honoring each other's stories. We talked about the very real reaction many of us have when individually confronted with someone else's pain, discomfort or trauma. We often, no matter how well-intentioned or progressive we think we are, treat our own relationship to others' stories as inconveniences. When it comes to holding abusers accountable, this often means we do have to step outside of our own comfort zones and challenge the powers that be. This can be difficult.

4.) Jane and Isabella, representing #bossbabesATX, then discussed the organization's newfound position on sexual assault, abuse and harassment within Austin's creative community. Over the last six months, the organization has fielded more than 30 inquiries regarding various venues' and organizations' conduct, the majority of which included accusation of abuse and violence. Jane talked about the difficulty in holding venues accountable for their behavior and the way many of these inquiries are disregarded as an inconvenience by the businesses who have been accused. To better mitigate these inquiries and protect survivors' interests, the organization is working on a forthcoming educational campaign and organizer toolkit called EVERYONE WE KNOW. This kit will be distributed among #bossbabesATX's partner organizations as well as utilized as a tool for those who want to protect and uplift survivors' voices in the Austin creative community. If you are interested in learning more about this campaign and keeping up with the dialogue, you can sign up for updates here. If you are interested in contributing or getting involved, please shoot an email to thebabes@bossbabes.org.

5.) The panelists then fielded questions from the audience, exploring topics such as restorative justice, the gray area around ostracizing identified abusers and things we can all do to help.

Here are a few action items:

1.) Request the code of conduct both at work and/or within community spaces (like the church, nonprofit organizations you are a part of, arts communities, etc.). If a policy does not exist regarding the treatment of sexual assault and harassment (and also covers what to do when a claim arises), engage with leaders to create one.

2.) Prepare yourself for allyship. We know that violence and abuse are a part of our communities, so what can we do to help? You can start by attending bystander trainings (the YWCA ATX and SAFE Austin regularly hosts events of this nature) and considering survivors' needs first. We are often motivated to step in without truly asking survivors what they want and the outcome they're seeking from coming forward. Refer to organizations like TAASA and the Texas Council on Family Violence for information and stats that can help.

3.) Believe survivors. Believe women. Believe those who are not in positions of power. When we are confronted with stories of abuse that involve friends and family members (or institutions we deem valuable / usually right), it can be easier to ignore the situation at-hand. It's also worthwhile to note that depending on someone's placement on the spectrum of privilege, they are less likely to be believed. Survivors who succeed in the legal system are well-connected or have highly visible cases. In reality, most survivors share their experience with family members and friends first—and they are simply seeking support. Practice empathy and consider the many intersections of power and privilege that might influence whether or not you believe someone's story.

4.) Get involved and stay informed! Organizations like Survivor Justice Project and SAFE Austin, who directly serve survivors of assault and abuse, need volunteers. They also need your help and advocacy when policies that endanger or silences survivor are on the table in our local and federal governments. (Organizations like Deeds Not Words are also doing good work around this issue; look into their #ClearTheKits campaign.) Be vocal about your beliefs and donate your time and/or money when possible.

5.) Do the work. Dismantling a culture of abuse is difficult—and there are many opinions/gray areas to explore. Invest in your education on these issues and determine when/where your help may be most useful. For example, you can help the Survivor Justice Project advocate for survivors at tomorrow's Citywide Budget Talk on May 15, or you can join #bossbabesATX for another conversation about inclusion within the arts on May 30.


You can keep up with the work of our panelists below:

Find the Survivor Justice Project on Facebook and Instagram.
Keep up with #bossbabesATX's EVERYONE WE KNOW campaign and work by signing up for email updates here.
Interested in attending another SHE TALKS? Stay tuned by checking back at our events calendar.


MEET THE PRODUCERS, PARTNERS AND VENUE

About #bossbabesATX: #bossbabesATX (#bbatx) is an online and offline space for women-identifying and nonbinary creatives, entrepreneurs and community organizers. Through our event series, showcases, strategic collaborations and professional development programs, we build educated, empowered and more equal creative communities. Within the last year, we've provided a platform of visibility, outreach and financial opportunity to 900+ Texas-based women artists and women-owned businesses and nonprofits. Learn more at bossbabes.org

Our events prioritize the voices of self-identifying women and nonbinary folks. We are not gender-discriminant; all are welcome to attend. This production has been made possible in part by presenting partners Resplendent Hospitality.