For black women, sexual violence is commonly under-addressed and unreported due to biased views of their sexuality. Only one out of every fifteen black women who are raped reports the assault. Black women are disproportionately targeted for abuse—they are 2.5 times more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse than white women. More than 20 percent of black women in the U.S. have experienced rape, and 40 percent of black women will experience domestic abuse within their lifetimes. Sixty percent of young black girls are sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old. In academic settings, 16.5 percent of black students reported experiencing rape in high school and 36 percent in college. Furthermore, black women are killed by men at higher rates than any other group of women.
Even when survivors of abuse defend themselves, they risk incarceration. Known as the Sex Abuse to Prison Pipeline, researchers found an inherent link between the incarceration of young women of color and sexual assault. The bias against back women and their sexuality, combined with a lack of support resources, perpetuates the issue of violence against and silence of black women today.
Survivors report physical and mental health consequences of physical and sexual violence. Physical health consequences include black eyes, bruising and sexually transmitted infections. Mental health consequences include depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder. Damages from sexual abuse and other forms of abuse are often long-term. The violence does not only affect the survivor, but also the survivor's children, family and community. Many children who witness domestic violence are also victims of abuse. Additionally, survivors of abuse may experience difficulty working or become homeless when fleeing from violence.
What We Need to Be Doing
Addressing violence against black women is a critical component of addressing larger societal systems, such as racism and sexism. The first step in helping is becoming educated. Change cannot be made if there is a lack of understanding of the issue. Next, organizations focused on violence against black women are often widely unknown or underfunded. Support and funding for these organizations help provide the resources needed to protect black women and provide resources for help. You can help by volunteering at domestic shelters and youth programs that help support survivors of abuse. You can also learn about bystander intervention and anti-violence policies and programs at work and school.
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