Bi-Weekly Sexual Freedom Newsletter

Wednesday August 8th, 2018


Woodhull Freedom Foundation is the only national human rights organization working full time to protect the fundamental human right to sexual freedom. Our work includes fighting sexual violence, eliminating discrimination based on gender or sexual identity or family form, and protecting the right to engage in consensual sexual activity and expression. We do this through advocacy, education, and coalition building.  

Every other Wednesday, our bi-weekly newsletter aggregates seven articles central to Woodhull’s mission and work. This past weekend, Woodhull hosted our 9th annual Sexual Freedom Summit! We welcomed over 350 activists, writers, policy makers, sexuality educators, researchers, and sexual freedom movement leaders to Alexandria, VA for 4 days of inspiring conversation and strategizing. From our day-long institute on the power of the erotic hosted with our 2018 partner organization, SisterSong, to our over 50 workshop sessions, Summit attendees were invited to challenge their assumptions, share concrete skills, sit with their grief, and celebrate their individual and collective victories. This year we presented the Vicki Sexual Freedom Award to two groundbreaking advocates; Caroline Bettinger-López and Mia Mingus whose keynotes can be watched here. This Summit season may be over, but we are already gearing up for 2019! Look out for updates and mark August 15-19 on your calendars for #SFS19.

Summit attendees celebrate after a day of hard work


Back to our newsletter! This week, the newsletter covers the following topics:

  • A migrant boy’s reunification with his mother after Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy, and the extensive trauma they must now reckon with;
  • The latest charge in a series of accusations of sexual abuse inside the U.S. federal government’s migrant youth shelters;
  • A brief overview of how rape became a subject of debate in pop culture;
  • The Ohio State wrestlers’ #UsToo story of surviving sexual abuse at the hands of their team doctor and physician;
  • How paid leave from work can help survivors of domestic violence leave their abusers;
  • A DC birth center’s fight for the health and wellness of Black women and children, during and after pregnancy;
  • ​Centering aftercare and support in the BDSM community. ​

(Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

A Migrant Boy Rejoins His Mother, but He’s Not the Same (The New York Times)

With reunification of migrant families separated by the Trump administration (albeit all too slowly) underway, migrant families reckon with the pain and trauma of their experiences. Miriam Jordan talks to one such family. Jordan writes, “Before they were separated at the southwest border, Ana Carolina Fernandes’s 5-year-old son loved playing with the yellow, impish Minion characters from the ‘Despicable Me’ movies. Now his favorite game is patting down and shackling ‘migrants’ with plastic cuffs. After being separated from his mother for 50 days, Thiago isn’t the same boy who was taken away from her by Border Patrol agents when they arrived in the United States from Brazil.” Read more.


(Getty Images)

Worker Charged With Sexually Molesting Eight Children at Immigrant Shelter, New Records Show (Mother Jones)

The horrors of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, a policy that resulted in the separation of undocumented migrant families at the border, are innumerable. Topher Sanders and Michael Grabell detail the latest horror: a charge in a series of sexual abuse accusations in migrant youth centers. Topher and Grabell write, “Trump administration officials have repeatedly asserted that the shelters are safe, even fun, places for kids. But there has been increasingly intense scrutiny of the federally funded, privately run shelters after the administration separated some 3,000 children from their parents at the border and sent them to shelters and foster homes across the country. Last week, ProPublica reported that police nationwide have responded to hundreds of calls reporting possible sex crimes at shelters that serve immigrant children. One of those calls resulted in the conviction of a Tucson shelter worker for molestation. Now further documents have emerged describing alleged incidents in Arizona involving Southwest Key, the largest operator of immigrant youth shelters nationwide.” Read more.


(Ola Volo)

How Rape in Pop Culture Became a Matter of Opinion (Bitch Media)

While a sizeable amount of national dialogue on sexual violence this year has focused on the stories of survivors from the entertainment industry, Kate Harding complements this conversation with one that scrutinizes the pop culture artifacts produced by this very industry. And pop culture commentators, such as Laura Sessions Stepp, author of “A New Kind of Date Rape,” debate about “sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial.” Harding writes, “Sessions Stepp (and umpteen commentators since) have tried to blame “hook-up culture,” binge drinking, the decline of religious values, popular music, teenage hormones, poor communication, and bad parenting for sexual violence. In other words, they’ve put the onus for rape on anything except rapists. They encourage victims of all genders, but especially young women, to consider what they might have done to provoke their attackers, and whether there’s any possibility that those nice people just didn’t realize that what they were doing could be characterized as a crime.” Read more.


(Andrew Spear/The New York Times)

‘It Can Happen Even to Guys’: Ohio State Wrestlers Detail Abuse, Saying #UsToo (The New York Times)

In the watershed moment of the #MeToo movement, countless survivors have come forward with their stories of sexual violence. Yet while these #MeToo survivors have unique experiences, they share something in common: the vast majority have been women. While sexual violence may disproportionately impact certain communities, all survivors are not cisgender women; sexual violence can (and does) impact people of all genders. In various interviews with former members of the all-male Ohio State wrestling team, Catie Edmondson and Marc Tracy share their #UsToo stories of sexual abuse at the hands of their team doctor and physician. Edmondson and Tracy write, “Nick Nutter, an All-American heavyweight wrestler at Ohio State turned professional martial arts fighter, sat watching the television last January as one by one, the young women, former gymnasts—some of them Olympians—took the stand in a courtroom in Michigan, and in wrenching testimony, detailed how their team doctor, Lawrence G. Nassar, had used his power to sexually abuse them. The memories that Mr. Nutter for so long had tried to bury came surging back, he said: how when he was in college, his team doctor groped him “19 exams out of 20”; how the doctor once called him to his house for an emergency treatment of a poison ivy rash, carefully laid down and smoothed out a white linen sheet on his bed, then repeatedly groped his genitals when he was supposed to be treating the rash—and how for two decades, the burly no-holds-barred fighting veteran had said nothing.” Read more.



Paid Leave from Work Can Help Domestic Violence Victims Leave Abusers (The Atlantic)

Upon New Zealand’s new legislation that grants ten days of paid leave from work to survivors of domestic violence, Caroline Kitchener turns attention to the lack of such a law in the U.S. Kitchener writes, “‘Just leave.’ It’s the advice many domestic violence victims hear most. But leaving—the meetings with lawyers, the court appearances, the apartment hunting, the counseling sessions, the all-consuming physical and emotional path to recovery—requires time and flexibility. Dawn Dalton, the policy director at the Washington D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said scheduling demands are consistently the largest obstacle standing between the victim and a different life: ‘I hear, again and again, ‘I just can’t get time off work.’” Read more. (More information on the New Zealand decision found here.)



How This DC Birth Center Is Building the ‘Answer for Black Women’ (Rewire.News)

Miriam Zoila Pérez begins with a fact: “The District of Columbia has the highest infant mortality rate of any capital city in the developed world.” D.C. is part of a national issue: the toxic stress of racism has adverse consequences on the health and wellbeing of pregnant and parenting Black women. Pérez looks at D.C.’s Family Health and Birth Center, an organization that has employed best practices to improve upon the health outcomes of Black women, during and after pregnancy.. Pérez writes, “It’s a Wednesday morning at the Family Health and Birth Center (FHBC), a prenatal clinic and birth center housed within a larger federally qualified health center called Community of Hope. The clinic is located in a shopping mall, across the street from a Safeway grocery store, next door to an Aldi store, and situated in a predominantly Black and low-income part of the city, that, like most of Washington, D.C., is rapidly changing. The lot on which the clinic stands is set to become condos, and signs outside the parking area proudly announce that fact. But today, seven Black pregnant women have gathered in a classroom for their two-hour prenatal care group, facilitated by FHBC’s group care coordinator, Paris Carter, a Black woman in her late 20s with long braids and a shaved undercut. As the women snack on fruit, yogurt, and muffins, they paint the plaster casts of their pregnant bellies that they made at the last session. Beyoncé plays in the background.” Read more. (A New York Times Magazine feature on maternal mortality and racism found here.)


(David McNew/Getty Images)

BDSM and Aftercare: How to Support the Tops and Doms in Your Life (them.)

Reflecting upon performing a scene of BDSM play with their friend and top, Dahlia, writer Davey Davis explains the necessity of centering aftercare and support into the BDSM community. Davis writes, “[Even] though our play feels good in the moment, a few hours later, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by a wave of shame. How could I have enjoyed something so sick? My partner makes me dinner, but I don’t want to eat. I feel like an insect sinking into resin, helpless against the weight of my sadness. As someone who’s been playing since my early 20s, I’m not unaccustomed to the mental and emotional repercussions of BDSM. Experienced kinksters know the scene doesn't end when the dust settles and the blood dries. Even when I play with someone like Dahlia—a dear friend and an experienced top who I’d trust with my life—more often than not, I can depend on what’s known as subdrop to temporarily take me down harder than any sadist could.” Read more.

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