Patterson, Jennifer, editor. “Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement”, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016.
Hearing Our Voices
Members of the LGBT movement have been working at organizing anti-violence since the very beginning of the unification of the movement. In “Queering Sexual Violence” we learn that they have been creating a space for their voices to be heard. The book takes us beyond dominant narratives and the traditional “violence against women” framework and gives us a multi-gendered, multi-racial and multi-layered look at what has been done and what is being done today.
The volume contains thirty-seven pieces about sexual violence and connects them to “disability justice, sex worker rights, healing justice, racial justice, gender self-determination, queer & trans liberation and prison industrial complex abolition through reflections, personal narrative, and strategies for resistance and healing”. We become very aware that systems, institutions, families, communities and partners have failed them and here we see them looked at carefully and respectfully. We see the radical work that is being done outside mainstream anti-violence and the non-profit industrial complex.
By now, we should know that when there is outrage, we react and here is a look at how that takes place. Editor Jennifer Patterson has worked on this book for six years and it is an important contribution to our canon. It is also an answer to “the non-profit industrial complex,” that has continually and consistently overlooked and undervalued the experiences and insights of queer survivors of sexual violence and trauma. The goal here is to challenge reductive narratives that package sexual violence solely as violence against women. This simply reinforces and perpetuates “lessons about who experiences [sexual assault], who perpetrates it and who can heal from it.”
Basically, this book is a collection of diverse voices sharing the worst moments of their lives and often doing so with all the horrible details. That is not to say that there are selections without hope and there is some beautiful writing here. We are reminded of the power of being understood alongside descriptions of brutality that explore the honesty and resilience of living life as an “other”.
We read of those who are frequently subjected to direct and indirect homophobia in heteronormative social spheres and isolated incidents of violence often become inextricably tied to complex feelings about their outsider status and self-worth. We read the myths about who is and isn’t a victim, or what does and doesn’t qualify as sexual violence are routinely challenged by LGBT survivors in various stages of grief and healing. Each contributor to the collection offers valuable insight. Patterson makes the strongest case for her thesis that “the unique nature of queer experiences with violence requires a better-developed and more nuanced approach to treatment and support”.
“Queering Sexual Violence” allows those who know that queer sexual violence happens everywhere and is killing our community. We see here that speaking up and hearing each other is a way to resist and allows us to do away with shame, silence and isolation.