Activism as Empowerment
Activism can be one of many empowering actions that survivors can take as a part of their self-care and recovery.
At the individual level, activism can represent resilience, healing, and a reclamation of agency. One study found that "activism helped participants find their voice and regain their power. They described a process of moving from silence and shame around their sexual assault to freedom and empowerment."
And at the community level, activism can facilitate powerful change that benefits and supports survivors throughout the community, particularly minoritized and marginalized survivors. Research has found that when sexual minority (LGBTQ+) women of color engaged in sexual minority-related collective action (e.g. protests, politics, being part of a sexual minority organization, donations), they were less likely to experience emotional distress caused by heterosexism.
Thus, collective action can be a crucial method to acknowledge and dismantle the cultural, institutional, and societal barriers that limit access to support and resources. As Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis has noted, "self-care must take into account the cultural context as well as the societal forms of oppression working against the survivor."
Caveats and Considerations with Activism as a Survivor
However, it's important to note that activism can be equal parts empowering and challenging for survivors. It can be retraumatizing, frustrating, and exhausting to engage with the politics and media coverage related to sexual and relationship violence prevention. So it's critical that survivors have the scaffolding of support and resources to help them discover the kinds of activism that feel comfortable and work to establish boundaries with their activism.
Ideas to Practice Activism
Below is a list of suggestions on ways to take action and get involved with sexual and relationship violence prevention. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to get support and additional ideas of how to get involved in activism by connecting with SHARE: Education Team professional staff members, checking out our Support Options page for various support resources, and/or exploring the Stanford community and cultural centers which could provide much needed identity-specific social support.
(1) Use social media to advocate for survivors.
Share statistics, graphics, policies, and more— see RAINN’s website for some examples on ways to effectively disseminate information and resources within your online communities.
(2) Request training from the SHARE: Education team for your community or organization.
The SHARE: Education team is empowering the Stanford community to end sexual and relationship violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and gender-based discrimination through collaborative education and healing. Request a customized training at this link.
(3) Get involved with SHARE.
Check out different ways you can work with our office to prevent sexual and relationship violence from happening on Stanford’s campus.
(4) Donate to or learn from non-profit organizations.
Here are a few organizations that work to end sexual and relationship violence on the national level.
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
- National Black Justice Coalition
- Lational Latin@ Network
- National Indigenous Women's Resource Center
- Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence
(5) Listen to and believe survivors.
Sometimes, even the smallest actions can be among the most important when it comes to sexual and relationship violence. When a loved one, friend, or community member shares their story of violence with you, consider using the “50 First Words”:
I’m sorry that you've been hurt. How can I help? Stanford has resources to support you and help you decide what you want to do next. Would you like to speak to a confidential counselor or a staff person about your resources or reporting options? We are here to help.
Check out these resources to learn more:
- Thriving in the Wake of Trauma: A Multicultural Guide, by Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis
- DeBlaere, C., Brewster, M. E., Bertsch, K. N., DeCarlo, A. L., Kegel, K. A., & Presseau, C. D. (2014). The Protective Power of Collective Action for Sexual Minority Women of Color: An Investigation of Multiple Discrimination Experiences and Psychological Distress. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38(1), 20–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313493252
- Strauss Swanson, C., & Szymanski, D. M. (2020). From pain to power: An exploration of activism, the #Metoo movement, and healing from sexual assault trauma. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 10.1037/cou0000429. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000429
- Activism for Healing and Thriving: Supporting Students of Color in Building Agency, by University of Michigan's Center of Academic Innovation (Youtube video)