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Know the Facts

Know the facts

  • Source: Black Survivors and Sexual Trauma

  • As many as six in 10 Black women report being subjected to coercive sexual contact by age 18.

  • Black women report experiencing sexual harassment at work at three times the rate of white women.

  • Nearly one in five of Black women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

  • Black women who report crimes of sexual assault or violence are less likely to be believed than their white counterparts.

  • For every Black woman who reports rape through formal channels, at least 15 do not report. 

  • Though two-thirds of Black survivors disclose sexual assault to informal systems — usually family, friends, or romantic partners.

Know the history

  • The oversexualization of Black bodies is a tool used since slavery to legitimize and rationalize the immoral and unjust sexual abuse of Black people.

    The mythology of Black women’s sexuality was used to “justify enslavement, rape, forced reproduction, and other forms of sexual coercion.” The legacy of this sexualization is the abuse of Black bodies, particularly to continue to fuel the ill-gotten economic gains of slavery; a lack of protection from sexual violence, including laws that explicitly did not protect Black survivors from rape; and dangerous cultural stereotypes and tropes that persist today.

    The sexualization of Black women has far-reaching impacts, including on Black girls. A Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality study found that “adults often view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like [than their white peers],” and that “negative stereotypes of black women are mapped onto black girls,” resulting in harsher treatment and a lack of empathy for black girls.

  • Black survivors are not protected by our legal and law enforcement institutions.

    Through the 19th century, rape laws were “race specific” and did not recognize Black women as victims. But Black survivors also understand that policing harms our communities, unjustly murders Black people, fuels mass incarceration, has waged unjust wars and imposed racist policies on Black communities–all of these factors and more contribute to a mistrust in systems that are said to protect.

  • Racial loyalty and asymmetric solidarity lead to difficult and unfair tradeoffs for Black survivors: speak their truth or be seen betraying the Black community.

    This tradeoff is made more difficult when perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment are Black men and even worse when it is a respected Black man. However, it is impossible to turn away from the fact that 91% of Black women are sexually assaulted by Black men and 75% of those attacks are by men they know–family members, friends, trusted advisors, or neighbors.

  • Black survivors' experiences and roles in the movement to end sexual violence has been ignored.

    From Rosa Parks’ groundbreaking investigations into sexual assault cases, to Eleanor Holmes Norton’s leadership as the first woman chair of the EEOC, to Tarana Burke declaring “me too” over 10 years ago: Black survivors have been and continue to lead the fight against sexual harassment and violence.

    Further, a cultural perception of strength–the internal and external perception of being a “Strong Black Woman”–impacts Black survivors’ ability to seek help, to have their adverse experiences taken seriously, and to take the time needed to heal and recover from sexual trauma.