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Incest AWARE Representation: Valor National Sexual Assault Conference

Updated: Sep 21, 2023



Here I am, Kesa Kivel, a proud Incest AWARE Alliance member who joined 2,000+

participants in San Francisco recently for the annual National Sexual Assault

Conference. In attendance were advocates and activists from different groups and

organizations invested in ending sexual violence. Representing the Alliance, I passed

out IA flyers and wore the IA pin you see me holding in the exhibit hall.


What I Was Hoping to Learn


I arrived at the conference seeking opportunities to help build a community of anti-incest

activists, as well as to broaden my thinking for the book I am writing, “Transforming the

Way We Think About Incest: How Incest Intersects With Sexism and Anti-Black

Racism.” In both of these regards, the conference was totally successful. To learn,

specifically, about how to hold people who commit incest accountable in nonviolent

ways, I chose to attend four sessions on Restorative Justice (RJ). Each session focused

on a different method that was thoughtfully explained.


Restorative Justice (RJ)


RJ s a nonviolent approach to justice that originated in several places, including in the

traditions of some Indigenous people in the United States. It has also been an important

part of some African cultures, especially in pre-colonial times, and many other cultures.

Sadly, the brutal carceral system for people who cause harm, which disproportionately

impacts people of color, is the favored, truly barbaric approach in this country.


RJ offers opportunities for incest survivors, if they are willing, ready, and able, and if

conditions for safe encounters are met to their satisfaction, to confront the person who

harmed them — or someone who stands in as proxy for that person. In this kind of

format, often with community members present, the survivor holds the person who

harmed them accountable for the impacts of the trauma. This may entail the survivor’s

telling that individual what they need to help them heal—for example, having the person

apologize, speak publicly about the harm they caused, and/or make some kind of

reparation.


Since RJ can potentially be retraumatizing, I was interested in what the presenters had

to say about this possibly serious outcome. I came away unclear, but hopeful. I will be

continuing my investigation.


Why I’m Glad I Attended and Why You Might Want to Attend Next Year


The individuals I interviewed for my book brought the incest data to life for me, and the

Valor Sexual Assault conference did the same for me with regard to the movement to

end sexual violence. Even though there is so much more work to be done, seeing the

large gathering of activists—all of them eager both to learn and to share—opened my

eyes to the good that is already happening. It was energizing and inspiring to be

interacting with other attendees.


After the conference, being able to dine with two IA Alliance members who live in the Bay Area was another reason I was glad I had gone. The next conference will be held August 14-16, 2024, in Washington, D.C. I encourage anyone interested in broadening their understanding of sexual violence to consider attending. We need more incest survivors at gatherings such as this one to bring the incest crisis into public awareness, to share our resources, and to build community with

all kinds of survivors of sexual violence.


- Kesa Kivel


Kesa Kivel is the author of the forthcoming book “Transforming the Way We Think About Incest: How Incest Intersects With Sexism and Anti-Black Racism.” She can be reached at www.kesakivelstudios.org.










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