By the age of 18, 60% of black women have been sexually abused by a black man, according to an exclusive News One report on a study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint. The finding is based on data collected from more than 300 black women nationwide.
In the article, Farah Tanis, Co-Founder of the New York-based organization and co-author of the study, points out that just seven years ago, a similar study conducted by The Black Women’s Health Imperative found the rate to be 40%. “That means there is an increase and we need to stop neglecting that issue,” she said.
One way her organization is hoping to address the problem head on is by advocating for language that specifically allocates funds to communities of color to be added to legislation introduced this week that would reinstate the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Although VAWA does include language that allots “grants for outreach and services to under-served populations, no racial language is written into the act because Federal law prohibits legislation that earmarks government funding based on race. In 2005, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) unsuccessfully fought for race-specific language to be kept in a final draft of the act when it was being reauthorized.
Traditionally, smaller domestic violence organizations have had greater success helping women of color, says Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“Reports from these local communities to their national representatives have made it clear for some time that victims who are Latino, African American, Asian and Native American have not been served adequately by mainstream programs. For some communities it is important to establish services that address the cultural, spiritual, or immigration status needs of victims, and while some mainstream programs attempt to respond to those needs, they are not universally addressing them in sufficient numbers.”
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) agrees, but says she’s often been in domestic violence sessions with mostly black women where, despite her years of experience with women of color, she was forced to take a back seat to a young white women who perhaps held a graduate degree in the field, but still couldn’t relate to the victims culturally or emotionally.
“By addressing domestic violence in these communities in a way that understands their culture and honors their values, we greatly increase the chances of making a difference for women of color who are being abused,” she said.
The advocates are calling for black women to write and call their congressmen to support the reauthorization of VAWA, but they note that black women often get hung up on one point of their proposed language that includes encouraging and educating black men in particular about domestic and sexual violence.
Kereen Odate, Acting Director at the Center for Women’s Development at Medgar Evers College in New York, says black women often fear they are “vilifying the black man” if they discuss such issues.
In leiu of the alarming rate of abuse black women have been subjected to, Tanis says it’s time for us to get over that hump. “Its critical, whether or not we feel comfortable talking and doing something about it.”
Are you surprised by the large number of black girls who have been abused by the age of 18? Do you think speaking out against sexual and domestic abuse vilifies black men?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.