WID’s Dr. Saxton Delivers Keynote at Sexual Violence Conference

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA, USA–On Saturday, April 8, WID’s Director of Research and Training, Dr. Marsha Saxton, was the keynote speaker for UC Berkeley’s second annual Sexual Violence Conference. Its theme was “Strength through Healing” and its goal was to break the silence and bring the voices of marginalized communities to the forefront of the conversation around sexual violence.

One of the senators from the ASUC, UC Berkeley’s student government, Rosa Kwak, hosted the event in Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. This conference, “by students and for students,” was filled with dialogue, learning, and deconstruction of sexual violence and discussion of intersectionalities. There were numerous workshops, and Senator Kwak and her team encouraged healing through coloring, poetry, writing, and reflection. There were several certified counselors from BAWAR (Bay Area Women Against Rape) available all day.

Dr. Saxton opened up the morning with a keynote about the intersectionality between disability and sexual violence. She spoke about her experience at the World Institute on Disability, especially in writing both Sticks and Stones: Disabled People’s Stories of Abuse, Defiance and Resilience and Curriculum on Abuse Prevention and Empowerment (CAPE).

A woman stands on stage with a wheel of power and control projected behind her
Marsha talks about the CAPE wheel of power and control | Photo by WID

She first generally described vulnerable populations, saying, “Women are taught to be passive, even in the face of assault.” She explained her experiences with a self-defense class in her younger years in Boston where she first learned how to scream “no” at attackers until it became second nature to her. She eased into disability-specific challenges, such as the fact that women with disabilities are assaulted at a rate of three times or more than women without disabilities.

Dr. Saxton also described the need for better sexual education for all people. From her work around Sticks and Stones, she has come to believe that people with disabilities may have heightened risks of abuse due to potentially confusing boundaries in interactions with caretakers and personal attendants. For this reason, she explained that children with disabilities would benefit from sexual education and might even need more sexual education than children without disabilities.

She also spoke about her experience as a professor at UC Berkeley in the Disability Studies Department and how much she learned about the issue on campus from her students and from online resources, such as http://survivorsupport.berkeley.edu/.

She ended her keynote by lifting up the marginalized, the victimized, the silenced constituencies and promising that each person could do his or her part in ending sexual violence. “We need to talk more with the men in our lives, peers, professors, coaches, faculty. We need allies!” she said to a round of applause.

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