Body Sovereignty: Reproductive Health, Sexual Violence, Environmental Just

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Body Sovereignty, The Sexual Abuse to Maternal Mortality Pipeline (SAMM)

About this Event

The powerful concept of Body Sovereignty emerged out of centuries of organizing by women of African-descent, internationally against a shared social location of strife, vulnerability, neglect, and sexual and reproductive abuse inflicted by state and private market actors alike. The right to body sovereignty encapsulates a Black feminist ethos which calls for "reflection and action directed at specific structures to be transformed" (Paulo Freire). Much like movements for land sovereignty, often described as “the right of peoples to have effective access to, use of, and control over land and the benefits of its use and occupation, where land is understood as resource, territory, and landscape” (Transnational Institute, July 6, 2012), body sovereignty speaks directly to the struggle by Black women for ownership of their own bodies inside a historical context driven by profit motives, centuries of forced physical, sexual and reproductive labor, as well as the legalized sale of generations of their offspring under chattel slavery.

Understanding how cultures of non-consent are created and preserved is fundamental to holistic, culturally specific and gender-responsive skill-building to dismantle the sexual abuse to maternal mortality pipeline. By further expanding the frame, this webinar will make the link between historical contexts, relational, environmental, systemic and contemporary legal, medical systems of abuse and neglect. Persons survive unthinkable abuse by “accommodating” to the abuse in ways that changes them developmentally. Survivors of sexual violence face increased adverse obstetric outcomes especially within marginalized populations. The trauma experienced from sexual assault and abuse has long-lasting effects on a survivor's ability to fully engage with their body’s need for medical care. Relational, societal, systemic and environmental factors contribute and even exacerbate those challenges and survivors’ entire sense of the world and themselves is turned upside down by continuous disorienting and terrifying experiences.

The webinar will provide a framework for how abuse happens and is perpetuated through the neglect of marginalized communities using case studies focused on localities like Louisiana which ranks first in the nation for maternal morbidity and mortality.

In this webinar, we will:

  1. Offer strategies for addressing the sexual abuse to maternal mortality pipeline with a focus on the developmental trauma experienced within and by communities that have been historically marginalized, impacted by environmental and ecological factors.
  2. Present the research on the contexts which allow gender-violence, including sexual violence across the spectrum—child sexual abuse, incest, sexual violence, sex trafficking and sexual coercion, rape, and show how these result in health related issues like obesity, cancer, high-blood pressure, fibromyalgia, fibroids which are often the cause of hemorrhaging, preterm labor, miscarriages, fetal growth issues, placental abruption, and frequent C-sections.
  3. Provide a framework for how cross-sectoral work among environmental justice, reproductive justice and anti-violence fields represents a critical intervention.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Participants will learn the ecological and psychological connection between brain and body in order to understand how development and trauma are inextricably linked in our assessment of vitality and mortality, attachment theory, polyvagal theory and somatic interventions for developmental trauma.
  2. Participants will be able to develop skills for identifying the ways individuals who have been impacted by trauma and life-long challenges. Participants will develop skills for identifying how childhood trauma from pre-pubescent, adolescence and into “child-bearing age” is formative for one’s survival physiology and threat response system.
  3. Participants will understand intrauterine trauma, prenatal and perinatal trauma, its potential impacts, and the formative moments in the development of a fetus’ survival brain formation.

About the Institute for Gender and Culture at Black Women's Blueprint

Black Women’s Blueprint administers culturally relevant information and resource center committed to solutions that make a real structural cultural change that benefit communities and people. Black Women’s Blueprint facilitates training, collaboration and communication steeped in social justice movements that are integral to the continued strength and sustainability of the work of organizers, activists, and organizations. In growing partnerships, strengthening relationships, and convening to identify promising practices and emerging trends, Black Women’s Blueprint’s approach to structural cultural change lays the foundation for trainees to better tap the transformative power of moving beyond “cultural competency” to interrupt inequity and create structures that produce and sustain justice.

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