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CISPES Statement on Hector Perla and Sexual/Gender Violence in our Movement
Reports surfaced earlier this year that a long-time CISPES ally, Héctor Perla, sexually assaulted one of his students while he was a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. According to the survivor’s lawyer, university officials ignored previous instances of Perla’s sexual misconduct toward students, thereby permitting more harm to occur.
Learning about the assault and other reports of harassment by Perla has prompted an internal process within our organization, including many conversations and deep reflection about CISPES’ feminist and anti-oppressive values and how we can work to create an organizational culture that combats misogyny, sexual and gender violence and that holds our members and our organization as a whole accountable to our values.
As a first step, we are releasing this public statement, which was also sent directly to Perla.
First and foremost, we wish to express our empathy and solidarity with the survivor of the assault, with those who brought complaints that may have been ignored by the university, and with those who may have been harmed by Perla but did not make formal complaints.
CISPES has a commitment to fighting intersectional oppression, and for that reason, we have formally ended our relationship with Héctor Perla.
We know that in order to ensure that the work we do functions in service of liberation, it is necessary to validate the pain, anger, and frustration of those who are affected by varying and intersecting forms of oppression. As an organization, we commit to continuing to educate ourselves to ensure we are actively fighting against rape culture. We also commit to developing a more active practice of identifying and addressing manifestations of rape culture, heterosexism, patriarchy, and misogyny within our organization.
As CISPES, we also recommit ourselves to the fight against sexual and gender violence in our movement and in our communities. The roots of dominance and terror against womxn and gender nonconforming people run deep in our society. The work to eradicate that dominance and terror is at its root a long and humbling process. We acknowledge that this is not an isolated incident and that CISPES is not immune to the effects of rape culture.
We recognize that too often within our movement, the labor of calling out/in sexism and misogyny falls on womxn and femmes. Often their concerns are dismissed as “divisive” or “overreactions,” and often their experiences are invalidated and doubted. We will continue to challenge and reject these dynamics both within CISPES and in our work with the broader movement.
Since its foundation, CISPES has acted on a vision of self-determination and social justice. While our work focuses on solidarity with El Salvador, our vision has never been limited to one country or one group of people. We understand solidarity as mutual support in the struggle to end all forms of oppression and injustice while building a society in which everyone’s well-being is supported, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and more. Practicing intersectional feminism is central to this collective struggle. We recommit to honoring these values every day as we move forward.
The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)