At a time when communities of color are under state-sanctioned attack, few people realize the ways structural and interpersonal violence simultaneously impact women, particularly AfroLatinas. Not this week’s #WCW, Alicia Sanchez Gill.
The queer part-Afro-Puerto Rican mujer has spent years fighting gender-based violence, from working at a rape crisis center and accompanying survivors in hospitals to studying the ways intimate partner violence (IPV) increases a person’s risk of HIV and researching new ways to eradicate violence against women – all through a racial justice, immigrant rights and LGBTQ lens.
Here, how the Miami-native, Washington DC-living mixed-cultured AfroLatina fights state and interpersonal violence to help crush the patriarchy.
So you recently started your position as Director of Research and Program Evaluation at YWCA USA. Tell us about the organization and your work there.
Yes! I came to YWCA USA because they really shared my focus on gendered violence, and how that impacts folks of color, harshly and specifically. Our needs are different. The impact of violence on our communities is both interpersonal and structural, and so our responses, and the way we support survivors, needs to reflect that history, that nuance and that intersectional lens. YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families and strengthen communities – and not just in theory. YWCA combines public policy advocacy with issue education and direct services to create systemic change and meet immediate needs. After working at many nonprofits, and realizing that queer, Latinx and other folks of color often don’t even have a seat at the table, I became passionate about using research and data to tell our own stories from our own voices. This is really the crux of my work at YWCA. Representation in research really matters, and simply being alive in my queer, fat, AfroLatinx body impacts my approach to research. We are here, and will not let you erase us.
Previously, your work centered on gendered violence, where you did direct crisis intervention, helped survivors in hospitals, police stations and court houses, assisted people in getting housing and so, so much more. When and why did violence against women become an issue you knew you needed to help eradicate?
I’m a survivor who was surviving before I had the words for what survival looked like. It wasn’t until I started working at a rape crisis center and saw folks like me making sense of their rapes, child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence, and understanding it as part of larger social constructs, that I realized this is something we could end together. My experiences doing direct services for many years brought some realness and healing into what would otherwise be just theories about our lives. I am acutely aware that we have to end all forms of state and interpersonal violence at once. One is not more important than the other. We want an end to violence now, and we will not wait.
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