by Brianna Scott, LaFASA Student Intern, Xavier University
On September 3, 1944 in Abbeville, Alabama, Recy Taylor was walking back home as she returned from a late-night church service. A car full of six white men pulled up beside her, kidnapped her, and raped her for hours. She was left alone and blindfolded and threatened to never speak about the trauma she endured.
As we welcome Black History month and honor the many accomplishments that have founded the success of America, we continually sweep over the terror of rape that is still seen evident in our society today. But today is different, not only are we victims of the white terror of rape but we have also fallen victim to rape within our own community as well. Recy Taylor is me, you and every woman that carries the weight of the world on her back. To the many black men and women with stories just like her, this month we honor you too.
According to Connecticut Alliance to end Sexual Violence, 40% black women report coercive sexual assault contact by age 18. And for every black woman who reports her rape, at least 15 do not report theirs. The intersection of sexual violence and the black community is a highway many choose to avoid, but this isn’t a topic you can continue to take the access road on. Sexual violence within the black community is one of the many silent killers that has led to the rise of mental health disorders in America. This is due to an honor code policy that we must honor and be our brother’s keeper. When I asked a group of my friends how they felt about coming forward on sexual assault many responded with “I wouldn’t want to get him in trouble” and “Society does bad enough at making the world harder for black males why would I want to add to that?” But how did our culture end up in with this type of mindset? It can all be summed up in one word, racism. Historically the colonies viewed Native American women and African American women has rapable, this can also be traced back to the mistreatment and the rape of many African American slaves. Soon after the colonizers controlled the woman, they created stereotypes to sexualize black men as predators in order to keep segregation relevant. This could be seen as lynching for looking or talking to a white woman, movies and more just to portray men of color as a violent predator. So what effect does this lesson have to do with today? We’ll it is living proof that we still have open wounds. Today, in result of the past when black men and women come forward with reports of sexual assault, men are less likely to be believed. And because of the mistreatment of black men, black women who are assaulted see no reason to report. As the African American man grows with society constantly reminding him he is a predator, society assumes that he cannot be a victim of crime himself. This leads to an unending cycle of assault that is left unanswered and a generation left unhealed. So, what’s next for the black community and what can we do to fix it.
As an African American woman active in the anti-sexual assault movement and sexual assault survivor herself, I recognized my role within my community and what part I can play to make it a safer place. I believe the first step is to identify yourself with the problem and what role you can offer to end sexual violence. If you know someone who has been assaulted man or women support them! Do not define their circumstances to masculinity or categorize them into marginalized categories. Because the last time I checked the clothes I bought didn’t have “promiscuous” on the price tag. So why should a black woman be assaulted because of the way she dresses. This is why the next step is to educate ourselves on the many forms that sexual abuse takes on. The fight begins with you! Time heals all wounds, but action disinfects them. As we look to celebrate Black History Month, hold yourself accountable to the community you are in. We cannot end sexual violence within our community overnight but as Maya Angelou once said, “All great achievements take time”.