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Underserved Communities: African-American Population & Intersectionality

In Sexual Assault Awareness on February 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

Kimberle Crenshaw developed the theory of Intersectionality, Patricia Hill Collins and other writers popularized the theory. Intersectionality operates on the the notion that categories such as gender, race, class, ability, and other categories of identity interact on multiple levels, often simultaneously.

Sexual violence in, and against, the African-American community is a serious issue. AA victims of sexual violence experience the same psychological symptoms (duh!). However, unlike white victims, AA victims must also deal with the racism of society and how that affects their healing process, their support system, and the potential legal process. The rates of victimization, depending on where you look, are about the same as for white women, or could be higher. Most AA victims were assaulted by other AA individuals.

Expanding upon the information from yesterdays blog, the ‘Jezebel’ still exists, albeit in more subtle ways. The idea of the hypersexualized black woman still remains, and vice versa, the image of the black male rapist pervades. If black women are Jezebel’s, they cannot be raped because they are always hitting on men. The black identity is associated with sex. So, women cannot be raped, and black men are a threat (to the white male property; white women). This racism prevents black women from coming forward, and black men may be easy suspects.

Racism is a vulnerability for sexual violence. Historically, and in contemporary times. Racism is also a reason for sexual violence being underreported. Whether it is because of racism experienced from law enforcement (regardless of whether or not it is related to the assault) may prevent AA victims from coming forward. Also, AA women may not want to validate racist images of black men as insatiable rapists and possibly further increase the number of incarcerated black men. Experiences of services offered from rape crisis centers may also prevent victims from coming forward. Inability to offer emergency housing or locate employment may prevent AA victims from reporting. This negative experience may also be a result of counselors ignoring the influence of racism during therapy.

Class is an obvious issue in the AA community. As that relates to sexual violence, it creates a vulnerability for sexual violence as reporting becomes more difficult, dependency (financial) becomes more likely, and any number of other issues complicate and make more likely victimization. Research has shown an astonishingly high rate of sexual violence amongst poor AA women, 42% have been raped (Kalichman, Williams, Cherry, Belcher, & Nachimson, 1998). Another study fond that 67% of low-income welfare-dependent AA women had a history of sexual violence (Honeycutt, Marshall, & Weston, 2001).

Ability and Homophobia can also influence the risk of sexual violence. AA disAbled individuals may be at higher risk because of ableism and racism. Homophobia is still a serious issue in the AA community and may contribute to the occurrence of sexual violence (corrective rape) and its underreporting.

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