Bangladeshi #MeToo Movement in NYC: Today and Every Day, Believe Survivors
June 28, 2020
I believe survivors. I am a survivor. I have held many survivors who remain traumatized and neglected by the Bangladeshi community and our City; and I have been held by survivors all my life. These experiences inform my belief in feminist liberation. Today, and in the days and months to come, I uphold my life-long work and commitment to supporting survivors and their families.
The urgency to build a City that by default puts survivors first and demands the demotion and removal of sexual predators in power is salient and urgent. As a government staffer, I’ve helped safety plan and traverse painful labyrinths to protect survivors with and without community accountability processes. While navigating services for survivors, and now as a political candidate, it is important to acknowledge that the electoral arena remains occupied by many harmful men.
I am writing this letter as a first-generation Bangladeshi woman who deeply cares for and stands with all survivors coming forward this week. My organizing commitment is a direct result of the subversive treatment of girls, women, queer, and disabled siblings across institutions in and outside of the Bangladeshi community, especially while navigating the healthcare system.
New York City is witnessing a #MeToo movement within the Bangladeshi community mobilized by young survivors. What Tarana Burke began, which would not exist without the leadership of Black women and femmes, has made it safer for immigrant and first-generation survivors of color to come forward.
We are coming forward not only to release our stories in an effort to break the silence but to dismantle 1) the cyclical systems that allow perpetrators to get away and 2) a system that allows perpetrators to uphold a deep-seated culture of sexism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity in our City. The conversation is long overdue. While this moment isn’t the first time we are listening to the stories of Bangladeshi survivors, the legacy of this uprising will live on in Bangladeshi New York feminist histories.
Bangladeshi survivors are renewing discourse and bringing attention to how intimate partner and gender-based violence harm our communities, and especially working-class communities. How these actions make it less safe for us and others likely to be harmed. Spaces that are meant to be safe — medical offices, community-based tutoring centers, mosques, workplaces, homes — are not safe for Bengali girls, women, and elderly. These spaces are not safe for queer, trans, gender nonconforming, and disabled siblings. It is not easy to tell our survival stories.
Many are asking, “why come forward with an encounter that took place years ago?” Survivors choose to remain silent when the repercussions and backlash outweigh justice; or when a path to recovery and solutions remains unsafe and unclear. We remain silent because our community and City offer little to survivors for long-term healing — targeted services and legislation often fall short.
There are no loopholes and shortcuts for survivors navigating the court systems. We remain silent because we have not seen a world that puts us first. A world unequivocally committed to our stability and safety.
When survivors within our community speak out, we are exploited, scrutinized, slut-shamed, accused of defamation, cyberbullied, harassed, doxxed, and threatened. In many cases, survivors become homeless, unemployed, and disowned by the community.
For many survivors coming forward this week, this is their first time ever sharing harrowing accounts of harm. As more and more survivors courageously detail painful testimonies of gender-based violence inflicted by abusers in our community — some of whom hold a lot of power, wealth, and community respect — I stand firmly in my support for survivors.
I am listening with love and practicing radical trust. The revolutionary decision and courage to interrupt violence is for our collective liberation. And I will be there with all of you every step of the way.
We are not alone anymore.
Please checkout and share the Mental Health Resources & Hotlines for South Asian Survivors of Sexual Assault compiled by @fablihaanbar.