We live in the United States of America in the 21st century – when our laws and our rhetoric are moving towards civil rights for all. That movement is not yet complete, and we know that the right to live free of rape and sexual assault is still not consistently embraced by our culture or our laws. We believe that we must be a people who reject rape in any form and who value sexual autonomy and freedom from fear of sexual violence in every circumstance. Sexual autonomy is the recognition that sexual intimacy must always be preceded by affirmative, freely given permission of all parties. We are committed to justice for every person.
To protect all people adequately, we must revolutionize how we understand and value sexual autonomy. Deciding whether and with whom one shares physical intimacy is a primary right. Coercing sex acts from a person violates the fundamental human need and the right to bodily integrity. Violations of free choice in the realm of sexual intimacy carry grave and often lifelong consequences for victims, as well as for families and communities.
Our intention is to do nothing less than change both the laws and the culture. We are writers, lawyers, advocates, educators, and activists. We are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers. On this day, we declare that we will work to change the hearts and minds of the people, and the laws of the United States, so that we can live in a world in which the following basic truths are recognized:
- The freedom to decide whether, when, where, how, and with whom to have sexual intimacy is a civil right that should be upheld in our nation’s laws and culture.
- Violations of sexual autonomy – by force, threat of force, fraud, intoxication, exploitation, or any type of coercion – should be condemned by both public opinion and our laws.
- Full responsibility for the violation is that of the rapist, not the victim.
- Our laws exist to help make whole victims of rape and sexual assault. We must ensure victims’ rights in education, employment, housing, immigration, medical, privacy and other arenas of their lives.
We, the undersigned, are committed to a three-fold strategy:
- We will engage new allies to reach out to victims and advocates from every community to ensure that our work is inclusive, and that its efforts reach all victims of sexual violence.
- In a world in which the media are ever-changing, we will identify new ways and places to talk about rape and sexual violence.
- We will work to enforce current laws, to pass new laws, and to implement all these laws, so that sexual autonomy and freedom from fear is recognized as a civil right for all.
Executive Director, End Violence Against Women International
Houston Baker, Ph.D.
Distinguished University Professor, Professor of English, Vanderbilt University
Professor of Journalism, Columbia University. Author.
Clinical Professor, University of Texas School of Law. Co-Director, Domestic Violence Clinic.
Treasurer and Director, End Violence Against Women International
Karen D. Carroll, SANE-A
Associate Director, Bronx SART
Visiting Professor, William Mitchell College of Law. Citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Founder and Director, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law. Author.
Research Director, The Voices and Faces Project
Rev. Marie Fortune
Founder and Senior Analyst, FaithTrust Institute. Author.
Program Director, Center for New Words. Writer, performer, activist.
Director of Policy and Outreach, Justice Project Against Sexual Harm
Monika Johnson Hostler
Executive Director, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Colorado Cobras football team. Author.
Director of Advocacy, Chicago Foundation for Women
TK Logan, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky. Author.
National Director of Training and Technical Assistance, Victim Rights Law Center
Legal Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Board of Directors, Victim Rights Law Center
Director, Immigrant Women Program, Legal Momentum
Charlotte Pierce-Baker, Ph.D.
Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and English, Vanderbilt University. Author.
Founder of Esperanza, The Immigrant Women's Legal Initiative, Southern Poverty Law Center
Senior Research Fellow, Family Law Center at the DePaul College of Law. Author.
Founder, The Voices and Faces Project. Writer.
Clinical Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School. Director of Family Advocacy Clinic.
Gail Burns Smith
Former Executive Director, Connecticut Sexual Assault Services. Co-founder, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
R. Clifton Spargo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English, Marquette University. Author, literary critic.
Director of Consulting, Education and Training, Catharsis Productions. Co-author and co-producer of "Sex Signals."
Founder and former Executive Director, Victim Rights Law Center
Executive Director, Victim Rights Law Center
Director, Sexual Violence Resource Center
Tina Chanter, Ph.D
Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University
Author, feminist scholar
Emilee I. Coulter-Thompson, MSW
Jennifer C. Escalante
Sexual Assault Justice Project Staff Attorney, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Executive Director, Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center
Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape
Founder/Director, Speaking Out About Rape, Inc. (SOAR)
Trustee, William H. Donner Foundation
Executive Director, Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, state of Oregon
Kaethe Morris Hoffer
Justice Project Against Sexual Harm. CAASE
Founder, Time to Tell; author and performer of "What She Knows: One Woman's Way Through Incest"
President, Union Theological Seminary
Executive Director, Rape Victim Advocates
Executive Director, Victim Rights Law Center
The Honorable Hardy Myers
Attorney General of the State of Oregon
Amnesty International USA, Women's Human Rights Coordination Council
Founder and Executive Director, PAVE - Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape/National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Robin R. Runge, Esq.
Director, American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence
Editorial Director, Feminist Press at CUNY
Chaitra "Chai" Shenoy
Attorney and Activist.
Wendy Verhoek-Oftedahl, Ph.D
Adjunct Assitant Professor of Community Health, Brown University