Women With a Vision, a very awesome New Orleans-based advocacy group for sex workers, low-income women, women with substance abuse issues, and other at-risk populations, was broken into and set on fire last Thursday. Many of their outreach materials were burned, and Jordan Flaherty at Monthly Review theorizes the attack was retaliatory:
WWAV has made national news for leading the fight against Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature Statute, which targeted poor women of color, transgender women, and anyone forced to trade sex for food or a place to sleep at night. The law forced women to register as sex offenders in a state database and placed a “sex offender” label on their driver’s licenses, among other requirements. With the grassroots leadership of WWAV, a national coalition that also included the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Loyola Law School, and police misconduct attorney Andrea Ritchie was able to get the law off the books and has won a series of further victories in the process of removing the sex offender registration requirements for those convicted in the past.
The attack seemed political in its nature, directly targeting the crucial information, files, and materials needed for WWAV’s work. According to an email report from Bill Quigley, a social justice attorney and friend of the organization, “Major fire damage was done to a room which contained education and outreach materials. The arsonist seemed to have deliberately targeted this room. Destroyed were: three plastic and silicone breast models which were used to help people learn how to do self-examinations for breast cancer; a plastic pelvic model of a vagina; a two feet by one and a half foot plastic model of a woman’s reproductive system; boxes of male and female condoms; flip charts demonstrating the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV; several wooden penises which were used for condom demonstration; and boxes of educational materials. The fires in that room seem to have been set with some accelerant and scorched the walls, ceiling fan and ceiling and destroyed everything in the room. . . . The offices were ransacked leaving drawers pulled out and papers and files on the floor. A TV and a laptop were taken but many valuables were left including computer monitors, office equipment, even some beer left over from a reception held earlier in the week. Several small fires were started inside the offices, in the bathroom, the hallway and in a sitting room.”[Monthly Review]
WWAV is asking for donations to help them rebuild their stock of materials. Please consider helping—they do really important work. Via the always awesome Tits and Sass, here are more details about their needs:
Dear friends, colleagues and family,
Today we reach out to express our gratitude for your support and to let you know that everyone in the Women With A Vision family is safe.
Thanks to the fast response of all of our supporters across the country, many of you have already heard that our office was broken into last night and set on fire. The worst damage was concentrated in our community organizing and outreach office where we store all of the resources we use to educate our community. We lost everything. We do not have an office to operate out of right now. Most of our office equipment and all of our educational resources were destroyed. Because of the targeted nature, we can only assume that this was intentional.
We are shaken to be sure, and deeply worried about how we will provide for our members while we are rebuilding. But the work will continue. This cannot and will not stop us from speaking out for people who do not have a voice.
Please know that your thoughts, your prayers, your kind words and your positive energy are felt. Your care for WWAV is what is giving us the strength to make sure that we reopen, bigger and better than before, as soon as possible.
But we will literally be starting from scratch, so donations and in-kind contributions are critical right now.
Immediate Meeting Spaces for WWAV Events. We are in the process of finding a new permanent home, but also need immediate assistance with space. We have several coalition meetings that were to be held at the WWAV office next week, and our new micro-enterprise program is scheduled to launch early next week. New Orleans friends, do you have conference room space you can lend? Member programming will need to accommodate 10-15 people. Coalition events will bring together 20-25 people.
Donations to Replace our Health Education Materials. We lost all of our health education materials, including harm reduction supplies, condoms/dental dams/lube, reproductive health models, educational brochures, hygiene kits and OraSure HIV tests. Replacing these will cost thousands of dollars. If you are able, please make a tax-deductible donation through our website.
$50 will buy a case of male condoms;
$100 will cover a month supply of harm reduction kits,
$250 will replace one of our reproductive health models;
$500 will enable us to make a month’s supply of hygiene kits;
$1000 will buy a case of female condoms; and
$2000 to replace our two cases of OraSure rapid HIV tests.
Suits/Dresses/Shoes to Restock our Clothing Bank. We have lost all of the professional clothing that was donated to WWAV for our women to go on job interviews. Please contact us if you have suits, skirts, dress pants, dresses and shoes to donate. Women’s clothing 8 to plus-size and shoe sizes 7 to 12 are most needed.
Donations to Replace our Office Furniture & Supplies. When we are ready to move into our new office, we will need to replace most of our office furniture, all of our office supplies, and all of our decorations for WWAV member holiday events and women-centered programming. Desks, desk chairs, and furniture for our drop-in space will all be incredibly costly. And we all know how quickly copy paper and post-it notes can add up. Any donation will help us to open as quickly as possible. Gift cards to office supply stores like OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples are welcome. In-kind contributions of women-centered art, social justice posters, and holiday decorations will all be deeply appreciated when we are nearer to our re-opening date.
Donations to Replace Computers & Printer(s). One desktop computer, one laptop and one printer were completely destroyed in the fire. We are in the process of testing our remaining computers and printer to see if they have been permanently damaged by smoke. At this point, our technology replacement costs are unknown. Again, any donation will help us to reopen as quickly as possible.
We will continue to post updates to our website as our rebuilding process continues. Please keep checking back!
For now, we thank you for your love and your support. We are truly humbled to be on this journey with such an incredible community of allies. And the work continues…
Deon Haywood, WWAV Board of Directors, WWAV Staff
and the women we support
[Tits and Sass]