Before there Is a Table: Small Wins to Build a Movement against Sexual and Relationship Violence in a University Context
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Addressing sexual and relationship violence (SRV) on campuses requires coordinated engagement from all members of the campus-community; however, many campuses do not yet have the infrastructure or institutional commitment to build an all-campus action plan. In such cases, campuses lack the metaphorical table around which collaboration happens. This paper presents tensions and lessons learned so far from a faculty-staff-student partnership to build a movement toward university-wide collaborative practice. Through iterative, collaborative reflection on our context, practice, and intermediate outcomes, we identified recommendations for improving praxis in campus-based, intersectional anti-SRV organizing. Our analysis explores how our individual positionalities both open up and limit our potential to move this work forward. We share our guiding values and frameworks, including intersectional feminist attention to power and oppression; centering survivors and students; strategic collaboration within systems; and integrating self-care and other supportive practices for building a sustainable movement. Our emergent strategy, illustrated through ten lessons/tensions and four case examples, focuses on finding close collaborators with shared SRV analysis; making the best use of resources and spaces we control; identifying meaningful “small wins;” and pursuing opportunities to connect to others through positive collaborations. Efforts to intentionally raise awareness and grow strategic institutional connections build momentum toward institutionally-supported campus-wide evaluation and reimagining of prevention and survivor-support efforts. While feminist collaborative social change is challenging, we celebrate and learn from our “two steps forward” to sustain us through the inevitable steps back. We write to stir a conversation where we help each other interpret and learn across our varied contexts.
KeywordsSexual violence Relationship violence Campus Higher education Participatory practice Collaboration Feminist praxis Social change
This paper is dedicated to the memory of Anna Bui and every survivor of relationship and sexual violence at UW Bothell. We also want to acknowledge all of our colleagues who worked to raise the visibility of sexual and relationship violence practice on our campus. We cannot name everyone, but we are especially grateful to our collaborators in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and Student Affairs.
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