The #MeToo movement has brought renewed visibility to issues related to sexual assault, harassment, and abuse of power, illuminating how even those women with significant amounts of social, political, and economic power experience gender-based harassment that, until now, has gone unreported for fear of social and professional repercussions. This celebrity advocacy builds on the work of feminist legal scholars who, in the 1980s and 1990s, drew attention to how sexual harassment contributed to gender inequality in workplaces. At the same time, there has long been a different tradition of analysis from Indigenous and women of color feminists who have noted that sexual violence is constitutive of white supremacist and settler-colonial societies. This tradition is the context for black feminist activists, such as Tarana Burke, who coined “me too” as an expression of solidarity and support for women of color whose experiences of sexual abuse may have otherwise been elided. As the chorus of the #MeToo movement has grown louder, scholars and activists have begun calling for an expanded focus. Sexual harassment and abuse are endemic, but if the origins and effects of sexual violence are so differentiated by historical and material structures of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship, and class, is there utility in subsuming all manifestations of sexual violence under one conceptual category?
CSW’s research on sexual violence is closely tied to our Feminist Anti-Carceral Studies project. Our research will propose intersectional, abolitionist interventions in sexual assault policy at level of university campuses and beyond. How, we ask, can we move beyond punitive and carceral solutions that only perpetuate violence, and instead work towards justice?