Ignacio G. Rivera

Posted on January 12, 2016


Photo: Gabriel Garcia Roman

The belief that sexual violence only has to do with power and control has been a limiting ideology. When we eliminate the conversation of sex within these contexts, we subsequently invisibilize the huge impact the ‘sex’ act does in the moment and its future outcomes. Sex or sexuality is the pink elephant in the room. The effects of sexual violence very much have to do with sex/sexuality and how survivors navigate it. Therefore, the combination of power, control and sex with an intersectional lens must be accessible in order to help end child sexual abuse.

The Challenge: Our society’s view on sex is important to understanding, preventing and dealing with child sexual abuse. We live in a hyper-sexual society that exposes sexual imagery but does not talk about it. Sex education in public schools has almost been erased. In the midst of this silence, we are left to form our sexuality in secret. This culture of silence and shame around sex and sexuality creates a breeding ground for child sexual abuse.

The Solution: Broaden the conversation about sex and sexuality as a critical component to ending child sexual abuse. This project fosters open dialogue in the movement by promoting healthy understanding of sex and sexuality as a focal point of any work to end child sexual abuse. By making visible the hidden tools used to coerce and inflict guilt, shame and violence on children, we can eliminate the shame and secrecy that allows abuse to occur.

The Strategy: HEAL (Hidden Encounters, Altered Lives) envisions a radical and comprehensive sexuality and gender framework for ending child sexual abuse. Utilizing multiple platforms—theater, social media and workshops—this project makes child sexual abuse more broadly talked about, especially in other social justice movements that are sources of political experience, energy and activism. To engage parents, the project will create a caregiver curriculum about how to use sex education as a tool to end child sexual abuse, incorporating information about transformative justice, community accountability, intersectionality and tools for supporting children’s self-empowerment. Through video campaigns—featuring adults who were taught radical sex education, young people, and sex educators—this project seeks to demonstrate the critical need for sex education and how to have healthy sexual relationships despite surviving sexual violence.

The topic of sex must be at the forefront of ending child sexual abuse and the discussion of sex, sexuality and healthy relationships beyond the heteronormative must be central, especially for those most marginalized. This project supports a shift from practices making children responsible for their own safety—or, as so often happens, the elimination of children’s voices altogether—to communities that are transparent and empowering around issues of sex and sexuality.

Ignacio G. Rivera, who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” is an activist, writer, educator, filmmaker and performance artist currently living in Baltimore by way of New York City. Ignacio has over 20 years of experience on multiple fronts including economic justice, anti-racist and anti-violence work, as well as Mujerista, LGBTQI and sex positive movements. Inspired by the lived experience of homelessness, poverty and discrimination, Ignacio’s work is also driven by the strengths of identifying as transgender, Two-Spirit, Black- Boricua Taíno and queer.

Ignacio’s activist work began at the age of 20 when they left the shelter systems of New York and moved to Massachusetts where they met their mentor and longtime friend. Their experience with poverty, homelessness and the welfare system kept them busy organizing around economic issues.

Ignacio has spoken publicly about being a survivor and sex worker, and how the elimination of sex/sex education coupled with patriarchy, capitalism and homophobia have had a damaging effect on society. The mentorship and work experience in Ignacio’s youth has been foundational to their understanding of the connectivities of oppression.

Ignacio has traveled worldwide as a speaker, educator and performer on race, gender and sexuality. They were a founding board member of Queers for Economic Justice and served as the Racial and Economic Justice Policy Analyst for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They worked as a school faculty and student anti-bully trainer for GLSEN and the YES Program of the New York City Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center. Ignacio has worked as a consultant for the Latino Commission on AIDS, the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and CONNECT, an organization focusing on community response to domestic violence.

For more, please contact [email protected].