Studies Show As Many As 67% Of Black Women In Low-Income Areas Are Sexually Abused

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60 Percent Of Black Women Report Childhood Sexual Abuse By Black Men

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. That means by the time you get through this piece, at least a few more citizens will have been abused.

Things only get scarier once you start looking into the numbers.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls will experience sexual abuse before turning 18, and almost half of the time it’s at the hands of a family member. What’s even more alarming? A devastating number of these childhood sexual assault victims are black girls.

In a 2006 study published by The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, researchers surveyed 290 black women and white women. They found that while 22.6 percent of the white women surveyed reported abuse, 34.1 percent of the black women had been abused. Likewise, a 2011 study done by Black Women’s Blueprint surveyed over 300 black women and found that 60 percent of them had been sexually abused by black men — before even turning 18.

Perhaps the most distressing statistic comes from a 2013 paper by the Black Women's Health Imperative. The authors note that one in five African-American women report being raped in their lifetime — for comparison, the RAINN sets the national average for American women in general at one in six. And what's worse? According to the paper, upwards of 60 percent of black women in low-income areas were victims of sexual assault.

Yes, you read that correctly — that’s well over half.

Childhood sexual abuse is underreported as is, with only 12 percent of cases taken to the authorities. Add to that the institutional prejudices black women continue to face day after day and you have an entire population of women who, whether or not the protection is there, feel as though it’s not — and when it comes down to it, that’s what’s more important.

Rita Smith, who was the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence when Black Women’s Blueprint released this study, told NewsOne, “victims who are Latino, African American, Asian and Native American have not been served adequately by mainstream programs.” So while there are certainly federal organizations and legislation in place to help victims of sexual assault, it’s against federal law to allocate government funding based on race. Meaning, “they are not universally addressing them in sufficient numbers,” Smith said.

Unfortunately, these unsettling statistics are nothing new. According to Farah Tanis, co-author of the Black Women’s Blueprint study, “a similar study which was conducted by The Black Women’s Health Imperative [a few years prior] found that that number was about 40 percent.” Similarly, NewsOne reports that black women experience domestic violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

As is, less than 30 percent of sexual assaults are reported to authorities. And, despite the higher prevalence of abuse, black women are even less likely to go to the police for help. Kereen Odate, Acting Director at the Center for Women’s Development at Medgar Evers College in New York at the time of the study, told NewsOne that black women are reluctant to discuss sexual and domestic abuse for fear of “vilifying the black man.” Furthermore, often those in charge of the federal programs don’t identify with women of color, whether because of their own race or gender — and how can you expect to adequately help any culture you haven't taken the time to truly understand?

The effects of childhood sexual abuse live on well after the actual abuse, including depression, PTSD, and even suicide (and as we know, mental health care in this country is largely insufficient). Tanis told NewsOne that “it’s critical” for black women to be more proactive when it comes to advocacy for these issues, and I hope that seeing these absolutely heartbreaking statistics makes clear the urgency for white activists and lawmakers to be far more inclusive when it comes to protecting an entire generation of women.