As we honor Black History Month throughout February, we in anti-violence work especially recognize and celebrate the tremendous contributions by Black women in the anti-violence movement, including Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor, Tarana Burke, Maria W. Stewert, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Anita Hill, and countless others.
We can also take this time to continue to reflect on how the anti-sexual violence movement can do a better job of recognizing the vast diversity of experiences that survivors have.
Over 1 in 3 Black women and nearly 1 in 5 Black men will experience contact sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. As a movement, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that our approach in responding to – and ultimately eradicating – sexual violence is intersectional and serves the unique needs of every survivor.
We need to continue to seek out, value, and validate the experiences of survivors of color, especially Black women. It shouldn’t be lost on any of us that as survivors disclosed abuse by Harvey Weinstein, the only survivor that Weinstein specifically fired back at was Lupita Nyong’o. It shouldn’t be lost on us that TIME’s Person of the Year cover didn’t feature Tarana Burke – who originated the #MeToo movement over ten years ago. It shouldn’t be lost on us that a recent study found that adults view Black girls as “less innocent and more adult-like” than white girls and held as “more responsible” for their victimization.
We need to continuously (not just during February) examine why Black women are less likely to seek support from law enforcement, the judicial system, local rape crisis centers, and other services. We also need to be willing to hold ourselves accountable to ensuring that options created for survivors are inclusive, accessible, and sensitive to the intersections of oppression and trauma. We aren’t really doing anti-violence work if we aren’t working to dismantle oppression in all of its forms.
We have come a long way but we MUST go further. And we CAN do better.
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