National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA)
This was previously published in the RSP Executive Director Manual (2007)
Editor’s note: Although the report is over a decade old, we believe it continues to accurately reflect the experiences of Women of Color in the Anti-Sexual Assault Movement and as staff in coalitions. See also SCESA’s “Pulse Check” publication, 2010.
The National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) is a Women of Color led non-profit committed to ensuring that systems-wide policies and social change initiatives related to sexual assault are informed by critical input and direction of Women of Color.
How We Do Our Work
As a national advocacy organization, we utilize a multi-strategy approach of leadership development and support for Women of Color as well as technical assistance, training and systems advocacy regarding sexual assault in Communities of Color. Our organization helps to provide resources and access to historically underserved and disenfranchised Communities of Color, as well as ensuring the concerns of our communities inform decisions made at the highest levels of authority.
A significant portion of SCESA’s work is committed to enhancing and supporting the leadership of Women of Color. SCESA focuses on redefining the concepts of leadership and mentoring to allow for connections to our cultural roots. This includes the ideals of sharing, nurturing and the notion of cyclical leadership. Cyclical leadership acknowledges the responsibility of all Women of Color to work in community (and in sisterhood) with each other agreeing that no Sister is successful unless all Sisters are successful.
As anti-sexual assault advocates, SCESA works within Communities of Color to address the impact of culture on the occurrence and healing related to sexual assault. We also partner with other national and statewide organizations to seek strategies to end sexual assault and support survivors in the larger society.
As a new coalition executive director, SCESA hopes that you will recognize and actively support the leadership of Women of Color in the anti-sexual assault movement. In your position, you have an opportunity to set the tone and create an atmosphere at your coalition, in your state and across the nation that challenges institutionalized racism and recognizes that Women of Color should not be tokenized nor forced to choose between their race and rape. Further, you can help to formulate policies and procedures that provide guidance and leadership to coalition member programs that put the needs of Communities of Color as part of core services and not as an “add-on” or tokenized services.
One of the key tools that SCESA has provided to sexual assault coalitions to assist in their efforts of supporting Women of Color is a document titled “Addressing the Gap”. This document is discussed further in the following section.
Following this section is a copy of “Women of Color and Leadership at Sexual Assault Coalitions- Addressing the Gap: Report 2002.
The purpose of “Addressing the Gap” report is to provide a tool to assist sexual assault coalitions in creating a long term strategy or to complement an already existing strategy for increasing training and supporting Women of Color at their coalitions. It is a compilation of the experiences of Women of Color, and it provides a basic snapshot of some key critical coalition issues that need to be addressed. Although the report was completed in 2002, we believe that the issues are very pertinent to coalitions in 2006.
This report was conducted by surveying Women of Color at state sexual assault coalitions. Additional information was collected through focus groups and regional caucuses. Once this report was compiled, we presented it during a National Sexual Assault Resource Sharing Project Meeting of sexual assault coalitions and distributed a copy of the report to each coalition across the country.
Summary of report:
Racism has been at the foundation of many issues in society and as such is often the root cause for the absence of Women of Color in leadership in many arenas including the anti-sexual assault movement. There is an ideology that in addressing the issue of sexual assault we are all equal or that racism may confuse the real fight which is to end sexual assault.
Women of Color have been providing leadership in the anti-sexual assault arena since the beginning of the movement. However, the number of Women of Color in leadership and their access to influence policy decisions and social change has been limited. This limited number of Women of Color in leadership positions within the anti-sexual assault movement serves to thwart the movement’s ability to respond to victims of sexual assault in a culturally competent and informed manner.
Women of Color in the anti-sexual assault movement have held caucuses at national meetings and in various states; diversity projects, taskforces and groups have been formed at sexual assault coalitions throughout the country. However, taskforces and projects that operate without addressing the impact of racism on coalition polices, protocols and procedures are ineffective. If the anti-sexual assault movement is truly to create and facilitate change, we must first look to changing our own personal beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and assumptions. Many coalitions and white allies have been struggling with addressing individual and institutional racism for a number of years and most would agree that their work is far from over; if indeed it ever really ends. Addressing individual and institutional racism cannot be a one- time training or workshop; it requires consistent work and a long-term commitment.
The following five key issues were evident as common themes (not in any particular order) and are critical initial steps toward moving your coalition forward:
- Recruiting Women of Color
- Providing support for Women of Color
- Ensuring professional development and skills training for Women of Color
- Ensuring that Women of Color maintain leadership positions
Each coalition should commit to a long-term strategic plan that addresses not only individual and institutional racism but also commits to enhance and support Women of Color in leadership. Like all good strategic plans, this plan should include measurable outcomes and a time table to hold individuals and the coalition accountable. It will be critically important to the success of such a plan that there be an acknowledgement that although the issues of Women of Color in leadership and individual/institutional racism are intertwined, addressing each of these issues will require different strategies. Hiring a consultant or contracting with a culturally specific program can assist coalitions in this effort.
Please recognize that this report is not intended to create a quick fix or a checklist to check the boxes and pronounce yourself “fixed”. Each coalition should commit to a thoughtful long-term strategic plan that addresses not only individual and institutional racism but also commits to enhance and support Women of Color in leadership. While it is suggested that Women of Color at your coalition be offered further opportunities (if they choose) to offer insight and feedback to this information, they should not be compelled to validate the information provided within this report.
For more information about SCESA or technical assistance contact: Condencia Brade at our office 860-693-2031.