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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Welcome to
Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2021!

The Office of Equity is pleased to kick off SAAM with an opening message from Associate Vice President for Equity, TiShaunda McPherson.

 

Click here to see a full list of our SAAM Events!


SAAM Spotlight 2021

Throughout the month of April, the Office of Equity will spotlight students, faculty and staff across the Northwestern community, as well as non-profit organizations in the Chicagoland area, who are dedicated to cultivating communities free of harm. We were interested in hearing from these partners about their visions for harm-free communities. We hope you enjoy!

Healing to Action

Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP)

Bonsai Bermúdez, Executive and Artistic Director
Q:  Blurb or brief description of the organization you work for, or the team within the organization

A: YEPP strives to create a brave environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) youth experiencing homelessness to explore their history, investigate new ways to address their struggles and to celebrate their strengths through personal, leadership and community development programming that incorporate different art-expression forms. YEPP uses restorative justice, transformative justice, harm reduction, theater of the oppressed and education for liberation frameworks to contain and guide the work. While YEPP members participate in programming, YEPP supports them with resource advocacy pertaining to housing, employment, education, legal, medical, food, transportation, and other basic and essential needs.

Q:  How is your work related to sexual violence prevention?
A: To talk about this, let’s break down the context of both of these words. Vulnerability is a human experience not talked about a lot in our US culture, we are not Human driven, but a transaction driven culture. Through a trauma-informed and harm reduction lens how we show vulnerability in our culture is very colonized and an area for violence. Even at YEPP I have seen many people learn what accountability, and vulnerability can feel and look like in their bodies. Thinking about the word radical I connect that with bravery, and that bravery will come from the collective rather than the individual. I believe if we are brave enough to root ourselves in love, to be vulnerable in that way. We will affect each other with our vulnerability, and we can collectively have the community and experiences we are seeking for ourselves. Lastly, I believe accountability to play an important piece in this, for instance when harm is done and it is not seen or talked about, there is a space of vulnerability created in a bad context. Overall, I believe bravery, love, and accountability to be pivotal in thinking about a radically vulnerable future.
Q:  In your opinion, what would a radically vulnerable future look like?
A: Lack of brave spaces, and that connects with lack of access to basic necessities that people need to nurture their bodies. When someone is unable to nurture their body, it is harder to access vulnerability, it requires capacity that person may not have due to being houseless, lacking food, having violence enacted on them, and much more. As well we as organizations can continue to do work from lenses that might impede our progress, for instance when we receive funding to be able to hold space in the ways we do. This can let capitalistic realities dictate how we do the work, so the little spaces communities are able to create become compromised because of this need to juggle the realities of the work we need to do, and how restrictive the sources of funding to do it are. In my day to day work, the lack of awareness and disconnectedness of those who hold privilege, they bring their white, cis, straight agendas to the work and hold the power of funding. This ripples back to communities of color, to queer and trans communities, not being seen and unable to get the help they need because of the systems in place and where power is held. Lastly, restorative and transformative justice work is so hard and complex, it requires so much capacity. In order for folks to heal, restore, and transform, not only the person impacted, but the person who was the harm doer, it takes so much and I dream for more spaces, more resources, and more to be created for these communities to be able to heal.
Q:  What challenges do you see in getting to that radically vulnerable future? What challenges do you encounter in your day-to-day work?
A: Sexual violence is one form of violence out of so many other kinds of violence we look at through YEPP's work. We look at areas of violence in many ways, from trying preventatively, engaging in restorative justice, and to dismantle systems and pathways that cause it to happen to name a few. Sexual violence is a kind of violence that we see impact the young people we work with so often, and so much. All of our programs and curriculums we hold at YEPP, they've been designed and curated by the young people we serve. We provide spaces for them to heal themselves, heal with the harm-doers when possible, and find strategies to prevent the harm wherever possible.
Q: How do you care for yourself as you work towards that future?
A: As the years have gone by, as I decolonize my body from the many harms I've faced, and as I connect to my ancestors; I've found the strategies I've had to keep myself grounded are always changing and shifting. Self-care is a very radical practice I've developed and nurtured, slowing down and moving at the speed of trust are two of my biggest practices within the last year. As I learn to access different levels of kindness for myself, I learn to give myself the space I need to decompress, reformulate, and heal.
Q: What gives you hope in this work?
A: I believe the young people we work with to be so powerful and such incredible sources of wisdom for myself and others who work at, and with YEPP. It is so empowering to be in community with all the people at YEPP, especially the young people who we work with. They are forever teaching me oh so many things, and it is an honor to share space with them. That is what gives me hope at YEPP.