As a woman survivor of childhood sexual and other violence, and the founder of Safe Communities, I am committed to changing the cultural conditions that allow the sexual violation of children to continue, and survivors to be disbelieved and shamed. But as heavy and challenging as that work is, it is not enough. As a white leader of a nonprofit, its critical I also work to change the cultural norms that allow racism to continue, the most extreme and heart wrenching examples being the killing of unarmed Black people, including children, at the hands of police and extrajudicial groups of white men. And that means living more fully into the complicated intersection of ending sexual violence and racism.
While legislative changes are necessary, and police reform is critical, we simply can’t criminal justice our way out of this. We can’t just get rid of the “bad apples” in policing or the “predators” in churches, schools, organizations and communities. No amount of police reform or mandated reporter or diversity or anti-sexual harassment training will change the fundamental problem. To stop sexual and racial violence, we must change the cultural historical norms that allow them to operate. Problems that are systemic cannot be fixed using the same systems and mindsets that created them.