2023 Equity Challenge Day 15: Body Terrorism and Body Liberation

Will we use our bodies to uphold systems of oppression or defy them?

Sonya Renee Taylor

Author, activist, thought leader, spoken word artist and founder of The Body is Not An Apology

Today’s entry was written by Turning Point Macomb, one of our Equity Challenge Community Group Partner Organizations. Learn more about Turning Point at the bottom of today’s email.

Content Warning: Please note that today’s material has themes and examples of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking. Please take care of yourself as you go through today’s email. If you are a survivor of domestic violence, sexual violence or human trafficking and need support, you can receive free, confidential help at TurningPointMacomb.org or through their 24-hour hotline at 586-463-6990.

Body terrorism is the system by which we value some bodies over other bodies, to justify a continuum of oppressive behaviors leading to state and interpersonal violence. Sonya Renee Taylor says: “Body terrorism is a hideous tower whose primary support beam is the belief that there is a hierarchy of bodies. We uphold the system by internalizing this hierarchy and using it to situate our own value and worth in the world.” 

Domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking happen at higher rates for bodies that are deemed less valuable by oppressive systems. The statistics below give concrete numbers to those higher rates based on marginalized identities and manifest in real life harm. Conversely, body liberation is the process by which we celebrate all bodies as equally valuable, deserving of love, belonging and safety, including our own. 

  • 55% of American Indian/Alaska Native women and 64.1% of multiracial women report experiencing sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime, compared to 46.9% of white women (Brieding et al., 2014).  
  • The Polaris Project reports that “in Louisiana, Black girls account for nearly 49% of child sex trafficking victims, though Black girls comprise approximately 19% of Louisiana’s youth population and in King County, Washington, 84% of child sex trafficking victims are Black while Black children and adults together only comprise 7% of the general population”.  
  • Almost 30% of those with disabilities (27.9%) reported lifetime domestic violence compared with 17.7% of those without disabilities (Mitra & Mouradian, 2014.)
  • 43.8% of lesbian women, 61.1% of bisexual women, and 37.3% of bisexual men report experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes (Walters et al., 2013) compared to rates of 30% for all women (Smith et al., 2018). 
  • 54% of transgender people have experienced domestic violence (James et al., 2016) and 47% of transgender people have been sexually assaulted (James et al., 2016). 

Systems we learned about earlier this week like white supremacy, patriarchy and ableism continue to fuel body terrorism. Today’s learning materials connect the way systems of oppression have racialized bodies and led to fatphobia, domestic violence and more. As you go through today’s resources, we encourage you to reflect on what a world free of systemic violence could look like.

Get Support: 

Do you or someone you know need help? Turning Point offers free, confidential services that are open to any and all individuals who identify as a survivor of domestic violence, sexual violence or human trafficking. Visit TurningPointMacomb.org or dial our 24-hour hotline at 586-463-6990.






  • Browse through a series of images from Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings PhD that illuminate how disparaging the Black body as gluttonous and fat both justified enslavement and became justified by enslavement. How do these images reinforce the message of superiority of one kind of body at the expense of others?


  • See 5 Ways to Fight Body Terrorism. (8 minutes)
  • Radical Reminder: Our radical self-love journey is not linear. We will grow, contract, grow more, revisit old habits and shift them again.  The work is to love ourselves radically at each step of the way.
  • Take a free course on 10 tools for Radical Self Love.
  • Join us Friday for our third and final Equity Challenge Virtual Roundtable! Through this virtual discussion, we can apply our learning and engage with our communities to create sustainable change.


Add Friday’s virtual roundtable to your calendar!

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Reflect And Share

  1. What did you learn from today’s challenge? 
  2. What about City Year’s work or approach to education most connects with you? 
  3. What do you still want to learn about City Year or education equity? 


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC23