Dear Garden State,

We invite you on a journey of growth over the next year. In our work at NJCASA, we are deeply familiar with how sexual violence and oppression intersect. As with most people in this field, we are called to this work because we have a vision and desire to create a safe and just world for everyone. A big part of that work involves uprooting all forms of oppression.

Our hearts hurt for the families being torn apart, for the survivors unable to access help, because traditional services don’t meet their needs or because of fear of engaging systems, and for the many people being made even more vulnerable to violence than they already are. It is easy to let these problems overwhelm us until we want to give up and walk away. However, we can’t afford to do that. Now is the time to learn how to use the privileges we do have to change the foundational structures that allow sexual violence to thrive. At NJCASA, we are humbled everyday by the privilege we have to advocate on behalf of survivors. We push for ongoing and increased funding for services that best meet survivors’ needs, we advocate for legislation that helps create a more equitable society, and we work to be agents of cultural change in all facets of our lives. Sitting in those seats of power, and bringing the voices of survivors in New Jersey to the table, is the very definition of privilege, which we take very seriously. To fulfill our organizational mission, we have an obligation to understand the intersecting layers of all forms of oppression. We cannot, in good conscience, claim to be an agency that supports all survivors if we are not also working to understand how oppression affects the everyday experiences of so many victims of sexual violence. There has never been a more critical time for these hard conversations. We recognize that many of us don’t know how to start these conversations, even when we desperately want to.

Over the next year, we will be launching four informational campaigns to explore the roots of sexual violence: oppression.

We will take a journey to dig deep into understanding oppression, our history, and the way these play out in our current lives and political climate. We will have conversations about privilege and allyship. We will discuss current events as they relate to sexual violence. Finally, we will look for ways to tie it all together and work towards a world free of oppression and violence. This series will be more than sharing information. At the heart of it, we will be working together as a community to develop a growth mindset, foster humility, and cultivate resilience. We ask our fellow New Jerseyans to join us on this journey. We know it can be scary to look into the Pandora’s Box of oppression, and even scarier to see the ways we may have contributed to oppression and the work that lies ahead to build a safer state for every one of us. We ask you to face that with us. Together, we can build a Safer Garden State.

In Partnership,