Learning about Intersectionality and Sexual Violence on Campus

By Ainsley Feeney

Last Monday, April 17, Bystander Revolution Against Violence (BRAVe) and Peer Allies hosted an information session on Intersectionality and Sexual Violence. The event was part of a month-long series observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The session was hosted by BRAVe coordinators Grace Stensland (‘23) and Rene Donnes (‘23).

Stensland and Donnes opened their presentation with some shocking statistics about the effects sexual violence has on marginalized groups. They reported that gay and bisexual men are over ten times more likely to experience sexual assault than straight men, and “34% of multiracial women, 27% of Indigenous women, 22% of Black women, and 15% of Hispanic women are survivors of sexual violence.” As staggering as these statistics are, they are likely underestimated as only about 20% of survivors will report their assaults to law enforcement. This holds particularly true for women of color, who are victims of racial profiling by the legal system.

The presentation then covered the long history of the sexualization, fetishization, and dehumanization of women of color, all which stems from the fundamental belief that women of color are “less than human” and therefore “unrapeable.” Stereotypes such as the Asian “China Doll,” the Jezebel caricature often applied to Black women, and the Japanese schoolgirl all serve to create very real, very threatening violence towards women of color.

Stensland and Donnes asked us to consider our own positionality in the discussion of intersectionality and sexual violence. Since the genesis of the MeToo movement, the face of coming forward about sexual violence has often been straight, white women without physical disabilities. By decentering whiteness in discussions surrounding sexual violence and bringing marginalized voices to the table, the prevention of violence against women of color could be achieved more easily. In general, Stensland and Donnes encouraged a Social Justice Framework in addressing sexual violence, which involves interrupting the status quo and fostering critical thinking.