Luz Marquez Benbow

Posted on January 10, 2016


The experience of child sexual abuse can change how we love, how we parent, and how we form relationships. We live in a world that blames and isolates survivors. However, with unconditional love and support in sister/brotherhood we can change this reality for many survivors and leverage our collective power to end child sexual abuse.

The Challenge: Shame and judgment are significant barriers that can leave many survivors of child sexual abuse feeling isolated from their own community. In particular for communities of color that already live under the weight of oppression and state violence, this pervasive stigma prevents disclosures and hinders the critical dialogue we need about the complex roots of sexual violence against children. Further compounding this challenge, society in general is losing its sense of human connection; we no longer live in community with each other. This lack of community connections creates isolation that allows for child sexual abuse to continue.

The Solution: Establish a network of survivors of color to advance change. This project will create a space that does not currently exist—a network of support for activists of color who have chosen to share their experiences as survivors of child sexual abuse in service of larger social change and movement building.

The Strategy: This project will build a national network of survivor-activists of color who want to mobilize and share their experiences and wisdom to influence collective action to end child sexual abuse. The action agenda will be informed and guided by survivors themselves, and will include: (1) organizing around national and state systems advocacy with key policymakers, (2) building the capacity of social and traditional media outlets from communities of color to help change the narrative of how child sexual abuse is discussed in our communities, and (3) bringing together the collective voices of survivors of color to define unconditional love and support.

We know that a supportive community is a powerful force of intervention to stop child sexual abuse. In contrast, a fractured community blames victims and allows bystanders to feel powerless to stop the violence, which illustrates that the community itself needs support. For many survivors, disclosing is too painful to bear, especially in communities already bearing the burdens of systemic oppression and state-sanctioned violence. This project imagines how unconditional support can help revolutionize how communities deal with disclosures. Building powerful and safe community with authenticity and unconditional love—sisterhood and brotherhood—this project will draw on the historical successes and values that communities of color have had in bringing about systemic change and social transformation in this country.

While change is slow, much can be addressed by bringing survivor-activists of color together and building on our bond. This project will strive to provide hope and connection—giving communities the strength to take back our streets, homes and lives—and ultimately, help to bring an end to all forms of violence.

Luz Marquez Benbow is currently a Senior Training and Development Specialist at The Arc of Rensselaer in New York. In this capacity, Luz provides young adults with disabilities the unconditional support needed for them to connect to their communities. Through community networking and advocacy, the lives of these young adults are enhanced by connecting them to resources that include education, training and cultural programs.

For more than 15 years, Luz worked on issues related to sexual assault, in particular within communities of color. As a survivor of child sexual abuse and incest, she is very passionate about ensuring that the voices of women of color are included in all aspects of ending violence against women. Over the years, Luz has connected sexual assault to our history of slavery and the colonization of our lands in an effort to link our collective struggles as communities of color. Luz has provided statewide testimony to the realities of women of color, people with disabilities, and urban teens as it relates to sexual assault and police brutality.

Most recently Luz was a committee member for the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability with The Arc’s national branch. Luz is also the former Associate Director and Co-Founder of the National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA).

Luz is a Black Nuyorican from Harlem, NY who resides in the upstate NY area with her family.