April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 1 and 4 (29%) of Black women in the U.S. experienced rape in their lifetime. However, remember that this is only the reported percentage; those unreported make this statistic much higher. In addition, many factors contribute to creating environments where sexual violence is possible, including sexism, racism, ableism, and classism. For these reasons, this year's SAAM theme Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity, focuses on the intersectionality of sexual assault prevention and how it can be traced back to oppressive systems.
Some forms of sexual violence include sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking, nonconsensual sexual touching, verbal and nonverbal gestures, image sharing, and genital exposure. Black women are at significant risk of being exposed to these atrocious behaviors despite their limited position in the conversation. As we have seen with the recent Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez case, when Black women speak out about violence against them, they are scrutinized and, in some instances, terrorized instead of being protected. Some of this can be attributed to the ‘Strong Black Woman’ trope. The continuation of this narrative, makes room for inequitable practices and systems that do not protect Black women.
So how do we begin to address this issue?
Speak out against all forms of violence.
Create environments where reporting is supportive towards victims.
Address negative stereotypes associated with Black women and girls.
Acknowledge and advocate to dispel failures in systems and institutions that negatively target and affect Black women and girls.
Support organizations that focus on providing support and resources to Black women and girls.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE(4673).
National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community (Ujima)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1(800) 656-4673