Black History Month is coming to a close – a good time to reflect on New Jersey’s diverse communities and the challenges they face in receiving both prevention messages, and intervention services for sexual violence.

New Jersey is a very racially and ethnically diverse state. According to the Census 2013, forty-three percent of the population identify as non-white,  twenty percent is foreign born  and twenty-nine percent speak another language other than English at  home.  An increasingly diverse population demands nimble and responsive programming that is truly reflective of the needs while honoring the unique traditions within these diverse communities.  In other words, as the diversity of our state grows, so does our need to provide culturally relevant services for survivors of sexual violence. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Socio-historical context matters when serving black rape survivors. In the applied research paper, “Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women,” Carolyn M West and Kalimah Johnson review the socio-historical context of violence against women of color, providing information on the characteristics of black rape survivors and offering culturally sensitive techniques that can be used by professionals when serving these survivors. The authors share some unique challenges that black rape survivors face, such as the internationalization of fear in reinforcing black women as sexually promiscuous and the cultural mandate that women of color should be “strong black women” that need no assistance.
  • Being inclusive is an ongoing commitment to learning and improvement. One way service providers can work towards strengthening practice is to conduct a community assessment.  The Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative toolkit by the NSVRC and the Resource Sharing Project provides resources for agencies on community assessments and measurement tools.
  • Integrate the practice of cultural humility1 at an institutional level. Cultural humility is a great tool of self-reflection for each member at an agency. Acknowledging one’s own privilege and focusing on each person as an expert of their own discrimination allows for better connection. Utilizing this approach from the first point of contact, such as outreach and awareness events, can lay a foundation of trust and respect. Following through on the practice of cultural humility enhances the quality of interaction throughout the relationship.

NJCASA is committed to expanding services and keeping all communities safe and healthy and we encourage all agencies to do the same. What collective possibility do you see from a vision to keep all communities safe and healthy? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

[1] M. Tervalon, J. Murray-Garcia (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: a critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education, Journal of health care for the poor and underserved, Vol. 9, No. 2. (May 1998), pp. 117-125.