Last week I had the incredible opportunity to join over one thousand advocates and activists at this year’s National Sexual Assault Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. #NSAC2014 was an incredible time of connecting, learning, and sharing. The theme Many Voices, One Movement set the stage of our time together, and this message came to life in keynotes, workshops and conversations.
NSAC 2014 set a goal to inspire, and I loved hearing from keynotes who had encouraging and challenging messages for us. Neen shared an incredible story of healing and reminded us it is imperative to see both the trauma and potential in everyone. Youth voices were the highlight as Scenarios USA shared about their project to engage youth in ending sexual violence. Youth activist Erin McKelle wrote a powerful blog on finding her voice through speaking at NSAC. Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality shared incredible stories of individuals who identify as trans with a call to action to make ONE movement inclusive of trans and LGBTQ survivors and activists.
A few highlights…
It was incredible to see the Rape Monument Quilt by FORCE on display at Point State Park. This exhibit is tremendous and moving. The voices of survivors are so important. These stories have so much to teach us, and the patchwork of stories created one message: Not Alone.
There were over 100 workshops at NSAC, and I heard lots of great buzz and questions about many. I had the opportunity to attend workshops spanning topics from organizational trauma to sexual violence and consent in BDSM and kink communities. At a session on ending harassment on public transportation, I had the opportunity to meet a law enforcement office who made #endSH history. Holly Kearl wrote a great reflection on this chance encounter.
I was also really excited to present on healthy sexuality and young people. Alison McKee of Planned Parenthood Keystone and I collaborated to create a workshop based on the SAAM 2014 campaign, and it was really energizing to connect with so many individuals who were passionate about healthy, happy young people. I ended out my time at the conference on a panel discussing the intersection of sexual violence prevention and healthy sexuality. It turns out many in our field and movement are as passionate about exploring this connection as I am. I’m excited to see these conversations continue.
I left NSAC feeling energized and inspired. I greatly appreciated being able to connect with people in real life, especially people I don’t often see or have only “met” online. I discovered a fondness for the city of Pittsburgh and the many eateries, bridges and locals full of hometown pride. I also left pretty tired from a week full of excitement, and it wouldn’t be a growth experience if I didn’t pack up a few questions to bring back with me.
There’s always room to grow our work and the inclusivity of this movement. This means asking the question, whose voices are missing? Do we see the individuals in our movement and in our communities who are in the margins? What are the barriers for those we serve and within our work? There are many, many voices still looking to be heard. What does it look to be an ally to these voices?