&Me: Spotlighting Jessica Raven and Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS)
March 28, 2017
Inspired by our “Feminists&Me” tee, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) continues its “Spotlight on Feminists” series by highlighting and honoring individuals who work to make a difference every day. NNEDV previously honored the women featured in this design: Sojourner Truth & Susan B. Anthony & bell hooks & Gloria Steinem & Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Read the rest of our &Me series here.
NNEDV: First, tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?
Jessica Raven: I’m Jessica Raven — mom to one gender creative toddler and Executive Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), a local grassroots nonprofit working to make public spaces safer. I’m also the co-director of the Safe Bars program, which teaches bar staff to recognize and respond to harassment with the goal of making nightlife safer. In my life and in my work, I take a holistic approach to violence prevention by practicing respectful parenting, teaching communities to intervene when they witness harassment, working with men to build healthier masculinities, and showing up to all the rallies.
NNEDV: What are you currently working on related to nonviolence and/or gender equality?
JR: This winter, I worked with local legislators and partners to introduce a bill to curb street harassment — defining the issue in a broad way that captures everything from public sexual harassment to incidents of transphobia, Islamophobia, and racism. The Street Harassment Prevention Act starts with the basics: collecting data to understand the extent of the problem and the ways it affects different communities, with a focus on those who are part of multiple marginalized groups, such as trans women of color.
I’m also working to expand and improve a program that works with staff at bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to respond to harassment and to make nightlife safer for everyone.
NNEDV: What inspired you to do this work? What inspires you to continue it?
JR: I ran away from an abusive home when I was 15, and I imagined that I could create a safer, healthier life for myself on my own. Instead, I had unstable housing for two years, I experienced multiple sexual assaults, and as I’d started to rebuild my life, I found myself in an abusive relationship. These experiences helped me recognize the ways that different layers of oppression, from housing instability to gender and ethnic identity, kept me in a cycle of violence — and it inspired me to tackle poverty, homelessness, and gender-based violence because, for me, these issues were interconnected.
Becoming a parent inspired me to step up my activism. In my family, everyone is treated with respect. It’s been important to me that my toddler knows that his needs and boundaries matter. Sometimes that means that we compromise about how long we spend at the park or pool, and sometimes it means he gets to say “no” to a hug from a friend or relative. Working to build a community rooted in dignity and respect has helped me realize that the revolution starts at home.
NNEDV: Let’s say you woke up this morning and gender-based violence had been completely eradicated. What are you going to do now?
JR: Assuming that gender-based violence has ended along with all forms of oppression, including poverty and homelessness, I’d probably move to Honolulu and become a dancer.
NNEDV: If you could sit down over your beverage of choice with any person – living or dead – who would it be and why?
JR: I love chasing problems to solve, so I’d probably use the opportunity to drink chai tea lattes with Donald Trump and talk to him about white supremacy and toxic masculinity. He’d hate that.