Anti-Oppression Work: One Size Does Not Fit All

Dec 06th, 2018

By Brittany Lewis: Assistant Coordinator for the Maryland Women of Color Network and Underserved Populations

As much as retail marketing would like us to believe - one size does not fit all. This methodology can also be applied to sexual violence services, education and prevention. Underserved populations or populations that have been historically oppressed, face higher rates of sexual violence. Women, certain racial/ethnic groups, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, individuals living with mental and/or physical disabilities, the aging population, and individuals living in poverty all experience marginalization in our society.  The impact of oppression is greater for those that have intersecting identities.


Understanding Anti-Oppression work and its connection to sexual assault services and prevention education is a key tool in our efforts to end sexual violence. Anti-Oppression work in prevention efforts strives to create a brave space for individuals to have an open conversation about oppression and its effects on underserved populations. Reflecting on privilege and the role it plays in the current system of oppression is a key component to Anti-oppression work.  Though these can be difficult conversations, the knowledge gained from understanding privilege helps us truthfully comprehend the systems of oppression that bleed into sexual violence.

Exploring how varying systems of oppression affect underserved populations will begin to help us identify access barriers and other obstacles that prevent individuals from seeking help after an assault. It will also better help us reach different populations with education messages that connect to their experience. 

Action and Repetition

Work to dismantling oppression is work that reduces sexual assault. By learning more about anti-oppression methodology, we are able to think of effective ways to combat oppression in the areas we do our work.  

It can often be helpful to bring in an outside entity to train employees or members on how to recognize implicit bias and oppression and collectively develop a plan of action to implement anti-oppression work in sexual violence services and prevention efforts.   

These conversations may be initially uncomfortable to engage in, however they become more effortless when explored with respect and compassion. Together, we can work to end sexual violence for ALL by addressing the impact of systemic oppression on our most vulnerable populations. Without examining how different cultures, classes, races, ethnicities, and various components of diversity are affected by oppression, we cannot truly appreciate the value and strength that diversity brings to our society.

Please visit our website for more information on our trainings and/or for more information on statistics for underserved populations and sexual assault. For more resources on anti-oppression work in sexual violence prevention please visit the Resource Sharing Project.

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