Institutional Change is a Moral Imperative

Our multiracial staff works together daily to support survivors of sexual trauma from all backgrounds and to address the problem of sexual violence. 

Over the past few weeks, on top of microaggressions and other reminders of racism experienced on a daily basis, Black members of our staff and Black people across the nation are experiencing tremendous pain, grief and anger in response to yet another series of high-profile events that, in the words of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, are “no longer surprising yet completely disturbing.” These events include the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by two of his neighbors while he was out jogging, the murder of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, Amy Cooper calling the cops on Christian Cooper to falsely claim that he, “an African-American man,” was threatening her, and the murder of George Floyd by four members of the Minneapolis Police Department. 

We want to affirm that the pain, rage, and grief members of our community are experiencing are trauma responses. They are a response to recent events, but they are also responses that are rooted in the context of centuries of racism, which has evolved in how it operates but which continues to result in disproportionate negative impacts on Black people and communities, up to and including death. The science of epigenetics shows how trauma impacts genes that are then passed down through generations. The past is not past, and the present shows us how far we have to go to achieve peace and justice so that Black people do not have to live in a state of continual fear, and so that outcomes of all kinds–health, educational, financial, etc.–are equitable across races.

STAR’s vision is a community free from oppression and sexual trauma, and racism is the most salient, entrenched form of oppression that exists in our community and society. 

We at STAR acknowledge that racism exists and define racism as institutional operations that result in inequitable distribution of resources, opportunities, and privileges by race. We acknowledge that racism can be intentional or unintentional, and we view it as every institution’s responsibility to examine the ways it is perpetuating racism, intentionally or unintentionally, and to correct this. 

STAR’s staff and leadership team have taken steps over the past years to internally address the ways in which we perpetuate oppression, including racism, in our organization. We commit to making this an ongoing priority so that we may better embody our vision of a community free from oppression and sexual trauma. We remain imperfect, but are striving and progressing. We know that we will never be able to solve the problem of sexual violence without addressing underlying forces of oppression that result in interconnected epidemics of violence and trauma, and we know that to achieve these interconnected goals, institutions beyond STAR must do the same.

We demand action, both from our own organization and others, that meaningfully addresses the root causes of racism in our institutions, community and society at large, just as we demand work that meaningfully addresses the root causes of sexual violence. 

The deeply entrenched problem of racism can seem insurmountable and lead good people to feel powerless; however, inaction is not a moral option in the face of the continual injustices we are witnessing, specifically for those of us in positions of power and privilege. There are numerous  options for taking action: seeking out countless articles and books that are available through a simple Google search, listening to and learning from the lived experiences of people of color, and connecting with organizations that have been organizing and educating around the issue of racism for years. 

All it takes to learn, get involved, and take action, is the will to do so. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And while this requires courage and the willingness to be imperfect, we as White leaders of STAR commit to the vulnerable struggle of confronting and addressing racism. Why? Because the stakes are life or death. 

Racheal Hebert, LCSW
President & CEO, STAR

Rebecca Marchiafava
Vice President, STAR

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