Collective Memory and Intersectional Identities: Healing Unique Sexual Violence Harms Against Women of Color Past, Present and Future
57 Pages Posted: 19 May 2023
Date Written: May 5, 2023
For at least the last decade, at the urging of gender scholars and advocates, reconciliation initiatives started to recognize specialized harms of sexual violence against women and began to tailor redress to address these harms. Yet, although a step in the right direction, even those forward-looking redress initiatives did not specifically and forthrightly recognize unique sexual violence harms to women of color. This Article builds on this developing intersectional race-gender redress analysis with its focus on sexual violence by illuminating an important next step: recognition, through storytelling and collective memory, of sexual violence injustices against women of color. The collective memory of injustice is an important prelude to reconciliation initiatives. In the context of sexual violence against women of color, the shaping of an individual’s and group’s narrative and public image of the harms are vital to moving forward, especially as related to truth commission investigations and hearings. Where women of color who suffered sexual violence (and other forms of gender-based harms) are often silenced or largely rendered invisible in the redress process, voicing both individual and collective experiences of such harms may be an important step forward in healing such unique harms.
Yet in many transitional justice initiatives, those willing to come forward are frequently narrowly cast or categorized as “victims,” often in the context as witnesses in criminal prosecutions or for the purpose of determining legal eligibility for monetary reparations. However, recent studies reveal that women of color who have suffered sexual violence harms experience multiple, intersectional identities—as victims, survivors, political activists, fighters and much more. And many of them have expressed that they wish to be remembered that way—as more than just “victims”—in reparative justice initiatives and beyond. Through a mini case study of the experiences of Toufah Jallow, the Gambian woman who is credited with inspiring the #MeToo movement in Africa, this Article begins to illuminate what more is needed for comprehensive and enduring social healing through justice for both individual women of color and the polity itself. The time is now to listen to these women of color with empathy and understanding. The time is now to strive for more genuine and comprehensive social healing through justice.
Keywords: Women of Color, Collective Memory, Intersectionality, Sexual Violence, Social Healing Through Justice, Reconciliation, Reparative Justice, Reparation, Recognition, Transitional Justice, Race, Gender, The Gambia
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