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Black Advocates Who Fought to End Sexual Violence

The movement to end sexual violence goes hand and hand with the movement to end racial violence. Statistically, Black girls and women experienced higher rates of rape and sexual assault than white, Asian, and Latina girls and women from 2005-2010. Throughout history, sexual violence has been used as a tool to harm the black community. We cannot end sexual violence without ending the racial violence and white supremacy in this country. Below is a great video on the connection between sexual violence and racial violence in this country.



While sexual violence still greatly affects the black community, the movement to end sexual violence is propelled by the black community. One of the first people to advocate for the end of sexual violence was "African American women who testified before Congress following the Memphis Riot of May 1866." The black women who are survivors of sexual violence and pioneers of the movement to end sexual violence do not receive the same positive media and community responses as their non-black counterparts. In their article, the American Psychological Association called black women “the forgotten survivors of sexual assault”.


This Black History Month, it is important to acknowledge the black advocates who first spoke out about sexual violence, and paved the way for Centers like ours to exist. Below are 10 black advocates for the movement to end sexual violence. Remember, if you or someone you care for is a survivor of sexual assault we are here for you. Call our hotline at 757-260-5260.


While sexual violence still greatly affects the black community, the movement to end sexual violence is propelled by the black community. One of the first people to advocate for the end of sexual violence was **African American women who testified before Congress following the Memphis Riot of May 1866.** While this is true, the black women who are survivors of sexual violence and pioneers of the movement to end sexual violence do not receive the same positive media and community responses as their non-black counterparts. In their article, the American Psychological Association called black women “the forgotten survivors of sexual assault”.


This Black History Month, it is important to acknowledge the black advocates who first spoke out about sexual violence, and paved the way for Centers like ours to exist. Below are 10 black advocates for the movement to end sexual violence. Remember, if you or someone you care for is a survivor of sexual assault we are here for you. Call our hotline at 757-260-5260.


1. Harriet Ann Jacobs

Harriet Ann Jacobs was an African American writer who wrote one of the most important slave narratives in African American History. Her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, explores the sexual abuse that she faced. Throughout her life, Harriet Ann Jacobs faced years of sexual harassment and abuse from her white slave owner. She published her autobiography after escaping to Philadelphia in 1842. Her narrative brought the sexual exploitation of enslaved women into the anti-slavery conversations.


2. Celia


Celia was an enslaved girl who faced years of sexual abuse from her white slave owner. in 1855 she killed her slave owner to protect herself. She went to court in Missouri and they found that “enslaved people did not hold the right to self-defense against sexual violence, and as a result convicted and executed Celia.” We can still feel the effects of Celia’s case today. Black women today are still facing higher rates of sexual violence, and they are less likely to be believed. While Celia’s story is tragic, she is not forgotten, Activists


to this day still work to end sexual violence to protect those who may be in similar situations.









3. Memphis Riot Survivors

Over two days a mob of white men terrorized Black neighborhoods throughout Memphis, Tennessee. These atrocious acts are called the Memphis Riots. During this time 46 African Americans were murdered, hundreds were, and at least 5 women were sexually assaulted. After the riot, the Memphis five African-American women gave the first known testimonies to Congress on sexual assault. No one was charged for the violence they committed over those two days.



4. Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an activist and journalist who focused on the connections of gender, race, and violence. As an internationally known journalist, she spoke about the sexual violence that African Americans faced in the south. In addition, Ida B. Wells stood against the stereotypes of black men being rapists in her advocacy. Ida B. Wells went on to find the National Association for Colored Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Ida B. Wells Club.





5. Recy Taylor

Recy Taylor is a survivor of sexual violence who reported her assault. In 1944, six men abducted and sexually assaulted Recy Taylor. Even though they threatened to kill her, she reported her assault to the police. Even with confessions from the six men accused, no one was arrested or indicted for the assault.


In response, Rosa Parks created the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor to raise awareness of the situation. Many community members began to demand justice for Recy Taylor.


6. Rosa Parks


Rosa Parks was an advocate in the anti-sexual violence movement. As a branch secretary for the NAACP in Alabama, Rosa Parks had two main goals. She focused on protecting black men from false allegations, and on ensuring that black survivors of sexual assault were able to receive their day in court. In addition to Mrs. Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks has used those same tactics to support other black survivors throughout history.








7. Kimberle Crenshaw

Kimberle Crenshaw, an attorney, and professor at UCLA created the term Intersectionality which is a fundamental piece of feminist theory. Intersectionality is a framework that allows us to analyze the different ways that systemic violence affects people who are a part of more than one community. When applying this strategy to women of color, it is fundamental to understand the effects of sexual violence and white supremacy on the black community. Recently in an interview with Vox Kimberly Crenshaw states, “But Crenshaw said that contrary to her critics’ objections, intersectionality isn’t “an effort to create the world in an inverted image of what it is now.” Rather, she said, the point of intersectionality is to make room “for more advocacy and remedial practices” to create a more egalitarian system.”




8. Anita Hill

Anita Hill is an American attorney and educator who accused Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court nominee, of sexual harassment. This act brought her national attention in 1991. Anita hill served as a legal adviser to Clarence Thomas in 1981. During her time, Thomas sexually harassed her repeatedly. Her testimony caused a public reaction. While some Americans were against Hill, many women were inspired by her actions. Her testimony caused 1992 to be known as the “Year of The Woman” as a historic number of female politicians were elected to congress. The reaction that Anita Hill faced after speaking out about her assault is a similar reaction that many black survivors have experienced.


Moving Forward


Today, many of the issues that survivors faced in the early 1900s are still the same today. The higher rate of sexual violence, the lack of believability, and the use of sexual violence as a means of controlling black people are still prevalent in our communities. Despite this, black advocates continue to fight for the end of sexual and racial violence.


Celebrities such as Terry Cruz, Gabrielle Union, Viola Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, Simone Biles, and Tyler Perry all carry on the mantle of the advocates before them. The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors is grateful for the advocates that came before us, and we are proud to continue the fight for the end of sexual violence.


If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual violence feel free to call our hotline at 757-260-5260 for our free services. We are here to support you.



References

https://www.apa.org/pi/about/newsletter/2020/02/black-women-sexual-assault

https://www.ourverity.org/survivors-of-violence/black-history-month-and-sexual-violence/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anita-Hillhttps://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination

https://www.equalrights.org/viewpoints/1866-to-2020-black-women-sexual-assault-awareness/

https://www.equalrights.org/viewpoints/1866-to-2020-black-women-sexual-assault-awareness/

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