Multicultural Efforts to End Sexual Assault

Posted on January 24, 2016


Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez

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There are social forces and systems at work in our country that not only permit but promote a subjugation of the bodies of women and children, especially women and children of color. We see this in the objectification that is part of the patriarchal, white, mainstream culture—a culture that values men over women and children. Preventing child sexual abuse is our highest calling and priority. We cannot end child sexual abuse without dismantling this systemic oppression.

The Challenge: Migrant communities are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual violence and face unique barriers to effective child sexual abuse prevention. Girls and young women—especially in families with “unauthorized” workers—are targets for abuse, as well as unlikely or unable to report their abuse for fear of arrest and deportation. Due to multiple systemic, linguistic and cultural barriers, child sexual abuse in migrant farm worker communities is hidden; due to cultural taboos around sexuality, it is usually not even considered.

The Solution: Leverage the powerful history of organizing around social justice issues in migrant farm worker communities to develop models for ending child sexual abuse. Through community-defined solutions and community mobilization, the social norms that enable child sexual abuse and sexual violence can be changed; by shifting institutional policies and deconstructing systemic racism and gender-based oppression, child sexual abuse can be prevented.

The Strategy: MESA organizes and mobilizes farm worker and low-wage [email protected] immigrant worker communities in Indiana, California, Pennsylvania and Arizona to prevent child sexual abuse. There is a tremendous need in these communities to address cultural norms around sexuality—including a culture of placing excessive blame on women—that are detrimental to children and harm families and the entire community. MESA works to empower and strengthen the capacity of farm worker communities to prevent sexual violence through leadership development, grassroots community organizing, engaging community partners, and advocating for services that reflect the unique needs of this population.

MESA created the first culturally relevant tool for facilitating dialogue and community organizing on the issue of child sexual abuse in migrant farm worker communities, while promoting and addressing the unmet needs of adult survivors. MESA carries out this work utilizing a culturally competent model of education, awareness and trauma-informed healing for survivors of sexual abuse. MESA also works to hold men accountable for their actions and engages them in efforts to end child sexual abuse. Finally, MESA examines cultural concepts and norms that have allowed child sexual abuse to be the “unspoken” topic in these communities and how dialogue can be used to shift these cultural norms.

Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez, MSW, a nationally recognized speaker and trainer, is the Founder and Director of Multicultural Efforts to end Sexual Assault (MESA) at Purdue University. Kimber works at the national, state and local levels engaging communities and organizations in the use of culturally relevant models for promoting healing, healthy relationships and preventing child sexual abuse and sexual violence. She has been an advocate for multicultural and farm worker communities for over 20 years. Kimber brings a high level of energy and enthusiasm to her work and is skilled at using an arts-based approach to engage communities.

Kimber was awarded the 2013 Woman of Distinction Award by the YWCA of Greater Lafayette for her work serving immigrant and farm worker communities. She is the advisor for Delta Phi Mu (a Latina-based sorority) and served as the president of the Purdue Latino Faculty and Staff Association for five years. She currently serves in various leadership positions at the state and national level. Additionally, she is the founder and creator of Mujeres del Movimiento, a national resource and support network for Latina women who work in violence prevention.

Kimber has worked as a consultant for many organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Victims of Crime, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Office on Violence Against Women, Praxis International, Southern Poverty Law Center, California Rural Legal Assistance, state sexual and domestic violence coalitions, and the U.S. Department of Army.

Kimber is a first generation college graduate who completed a Master’s in Social Work at Indiana University as a single mother of three children. She comes from a farm worker background and spent many years working as a maid. Her experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse/domestic violence and a bilingual therapist provide her with insight into barriers and challenges in creating culturally relevant healing and services for individuals, organizations and communities.

Multicultural Efforts to end Sexual Assault (MESA), a fiscally sponsored project of Purdue University, focuses on reaching and engaging underserved communities in sexual violence and child sexual abuse prevention.