Applied Research Forum

National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women

Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women: Risk, Response, and Resilience
Carolyn M. West, Ph.D. With contributions from Jacqueline Johnson “Who knows what the Black women thinks of rape? Who has asked her? Who cares?” —Alice Walker (2004) Historical Overview

In her narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (2001) wrote that As our society becomes more multicultural, it is “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible imperative that our research, treatment, and interfor women” (p. 66). Embedded in her bold provention efforts meet the needs of women of color nouncement was the recognition that Black women 1 who have survived sexual violence. Accordingly, in experienced a unique threat and danger in slavery— this paper I will focus on the experiences of African that of sexual assault. In 1619, the first ship loaded American women.2 Although this is a richly diverse with enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, population, spanning the spectrum of lifestyles and Virginia. For many women, rape was part of their interests, education and income levels, religious initial journey. When they arrived, Black women background, and extent of assimilation, the unique were placed on the auction block, stripped naked, legacy of slavery, racism, sexism, and economic and examined to determine their reproductive oppression continues to influence the lives of concapacity. Once they were sold, enslaved women temporary Black women. As a result, a disproporoften were coerced, bribed, induced, seduced, tionate number of African American women are ordered, and of course, violently forced to have young, single, impoverished, and urban dwellers. sexual relations with their slaveholders and overseers These are all demographic risk factors for criminal (Sommerville, 2005). Historians estimate that at victimization, including rape (Catalano, 2006). least 58% of all enslaved women between the ages Despite the level of trauma in their lives, African of 15 and 30 had been sexually assaulted by White American women are remarkably resilient (West, men (Hine, 1989). 2002). When the importation of Africans was banned in The purpose of this paper is to: (1) Provide a 1808, the systematic sexual exploitation of Black historical and sociocultural overview of Black women was used to produce a perpetual labor women’s sexual victimization. (2) Describe the force. Some slaveholders paired healthy slaves, a characteristics of Black rape survivors and rape practice known as “slave breeding,” with the goal of incidents. (3) Identify risk factors. (4) Review the producing children who were suitable for heavy research on mental and physical health conselabor. Considered chattel property, similar to other quences associated with sexual violence. (5) Suggest farm animals, Black women’s children could be sold culturally sensitive responses for service providers. to other slaveholders, which separated families and (6) Highlight the resilience of Black victim-survivors created unimaginable grief (for an audio description of sexual assault. of slave breeding see Berlin, Miller, & Favreau, 1998).
Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) Page 1 of 10

*The production and dissemination of this publication was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U1V/CCU324010-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC, VAWnet, or the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

After she had endured five years of brutal sexual assaults.org . In contrast. White vigilante groups. 1989). fought back. The earliest efforts to systematically confront and organize against rape began in the 1870s when African American women. and developed a culture of silence. in 1835. was the myth that Black women were hypersexual. p. history. in Wyatt’s (1992) interviews with Black rape survivors. African American women were coerced into providing sexual favors to their employers (Hine. Even though the family moved West following the incident. which includes a sense of racial loyalty that encourages them to protect Black men from an unjust legal system. This historical trauma is intergenerational and continues to live in the collective memories of contemporary African American women. 1997. almost as a “rite of passage” into womanhood. 1989). an 1867 Kentucky law defined a rapist as one who “unlawfully and carnally know any white woman. This belief. 2004. 2005). a Missouri slave. As evidence. Lynching. (4) Black women developed a culture of silence and secrecy to cope with their sexual assault. Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women Page 2 of 10 www. destroyed their property. White men faced no legal sanctions for sexually assaulting Black women. beaten. Wells. organized anti-lynching campaigns. in 1859 a Mississippi judge overturned the conviction of an older male slave for the rape of a Black girl under the age of ten. during the 1800s some rape laws were race-specific. Desperate to support their families. whipped African Americans. 2005). which was referred to as the “Jezebel” stereotype. 88). 2005). These activists challenged the deep-seated ideas about the innate promiscuity of Black women and attempted to protect African American men from false rape allegations (Sommerville. Sexual harassment also frequently occurred in the workplace. He concluded that “[t]he crime of rape does not exist in this State between African slaves…Their intercourse is promiscuous” (Roberts. Nor did the criminal legal system recognize Black-on-Black rapes. against her will or consent” (Sommerville. (3) The Jezebel stereotype. most notably Ida B. Black women used many strategies to resist sexual victimization. the rape of Black women was widespread and institutionalized through economic and labor systems. Rape laws did not provide equal protection for all women. castration. Harriet Jacobs (2001) escaped her master’s sexual advances when she hid in her grandmother’s attic crawlspace for seven years. and savagely gang raped Black women (Sommerville. sent a clear message: “Rape was described as something that could happen to you just because you were Black and female” (p. (5) Black women have a long history of resilience and antirape activism. and incarceration were possible penalties for Black men who were accused or convicted of raping a White woman.vawnet. raped. In 1855 she was convicted of murder and hanged at the age of 19 (Sommerville. They ran away. the legal system often failed to protect Black women from sexual violence. was used to justify the limited social and legal support Black women received after being raped (Hine. Sommerville.VAWnet Applied Research Forum The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not liberate African American women from sexual terrorism. several points can be gleaned from this historical overview: (1) Throughout much of U. such as the Ku Klux Klan. p. For instance.3 In fact. Celia. retelling this story. For example. (2) Regardless of the perpetrators’ race. To summarize. many African American women preserved their emotional health and dignity by creating a “culture of secrecy” around their sexual violence (Hines. Black women were employed primarily as servants and domestic workers. Well into the twentieth century. which stigmatized Black women as promiscuous. 2005). all the women in one participant’s family were told about a relative who was abducted. 31). Despite the efforts of well-known activists and their anonymous sisters. For example. was created to justify their rape. Embedded in this court decision. and murdered while her family lived in the South. engaged in activism. and embraced by the larger culture. killed her master in self-defense and burned his body in a fireplace. For example. 1989.S. 148).

. However. 2006). poor women may have jobs that demand long and inflexible hours or rely on public transportation. Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women Page 3 of 10 www. Koss. most rapes are intraracial. that is Black-on-Black assaults. & Faden. 1990). which will be highlighted throughout this paper. employers continue to sexually abuse Black women. Robinson. the women who were sexually assaulted during active duty were victimized by a military peer or supervisor (Campbell & Raja. several Black women had survived brutal sexual assaults. In a community sample.8% of Black women had been raped in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes. similarities in the prevalence and the traumatic aftermath of sexual violence may conceal some unique racial experiences. dates. As evidence. and they both experienced many of the same immediate and long-term psychological responses to sexual victimization (Neville & Heppner.vawnet. Anderson. 2005). 2001). 2006).VAWnet Applied Research Forum Characteristics of Black Rape Survivors and Rape Incidents Black and White American women reported similar rates of rape in national (Tjaden & Thoennes. 2000). Husbands also have sexually assaulted their wives. and community samples (Wyatt.. In addition to attempted and completed rape. 1985). In a San Francisco sample. 2006). & Rosswork. Although Black women have been raped by strangers.. 2006). 2006) and a higher rape rate (25%) was reported by Black women in a Los Angeles community sample (Wyatt. and sexually active Black adolescents (32. 17% in a government job training program (West & Rose. & Gohm.5% in a high school sample (Valois et al. 1999). college (Gross. rather than interracial. 1992). Black victim-survivors suffered physical injuries at the same rate as their White counterparts.org . 1992). Thomsen. Cherry. Waller. In college samples. including gang rapes and attacks by armed assailants (Bart & O’Brien. In Wyatt’s (1992) sample. more than half (67%) of the low-income. In a sample of predominantly low-income African American female veterans. Among African American women in contemporary U. Equally high rape rates were discovered in samples of Black female Navy recruits (25.1%) (Cecil & Matson. Williams. HIV-positive Black women (27%)(Gielen. 1999. 2000). Roberts. society. & Weston. 18. Keller. “I was living in a bad neighborhood”). more often their perpetrators were acquaintances and current or former intimates.S. and boyfriends (Pierce-Baker. Finally. 2006). rape was reported by African American female students in various academic settings: 16. Newell. and 36% in a college sample (Gross et al. It appears that Black women recognize their vulnerability. 42% of Black women residents in a lowincome housing development had engaged in unwanted sex because a male partner had threatened or actually used force to obtain sexual access (Kalichman. 1997). Moreover. 2002). O’Campo. Perpetrators commit a wide range of sexually abusive behaviors. In a community sample. & Hussey. 18% of African American women had been raped by their spouse (Russell. Winslett.. 1999). Wyatt. Gold. In addition. & Nachimson. Milner. Some Black female undergraduates submitted to sexual intercourse because they felt emotionally pressured or they believed that the rapist was so sexually aroused that it would be useless to try to resist (Gross et al. For example. as is the case for most racial/ethnic groups. Fogarty. 1998. such as cohabitating partners. Oeltmann. Risk Factors Poverty Researchers have found disturbingly high rates of rape among impoverished Black women.1%) (Merrill. including White American women. the majority (76%) of African American survivors attributed their rape to the riskiness of their living situations (e. high school (Valois.g. 1999). Marshall. In the National Violence Against Women Survey. perpetrators used physical force or verbal threats to gain sexual compliance (Neville & Pugh. Black adolescent and adult survivors reported forced oral sex and unwanted genital and breast fondling (West & Rose. 1998). 2000). welfare dependent Black women had experienced a previous sexual assault (Honeycutt. Belcher. 1992).

painful intercourse. Many & Clark.org . and intrafamilial CSA. and negative attitudes toward Black male-female relationships (West & Rose. their acute or chronic mental or physical health disturwillingness to access those services. grandfathers. which was committed by fathers. many survivors anxiety. and diminished sexual enjoyment (Pierce-Baker. and other women are sexually loose. depression. it is possible that psychological problems also may stem from a dysfunctional family environment or lack of emotional support after the assault (Cecil & Matson. decreased frequency of sexual activity. and brothers (Stone. For instance. and the treatbance after their rape (Neville & Heppner. 1999). Culturally Sensitive Responses The historical and contemporary realities of Mental and Physical Health Consequences Black life in the United States lead to fundamental differences in the nature and quality of resources Many survivors will experience some degree of available to African American survivors. 30% of Black women with documented histories of CSA were sexually assaulted in adulthood.vawnet. depressed. lence in the lives of African American women. 2000. distrustful. For other Black survivors. The with the rape (Pierce-Baker. which erbated if survivors endorsed the Jezebel stereotype. 1992). A history of CSA is a risk factor for adult sexual revictimization. mistrust and negative attitudes toward men. After receiving insensitive treatment. studies have used small samples of Black women. & Siegel. which was perpetrated by strangers. 2006). legal and medical professionals. anger. Therefore. sexual trauma has been associated with the avoidance of sexual relationships. the link is not necessarily causal. These mental health problems can be exacculturally sensitive responses and techniques. felt guilty. West et al. ment they receive when they do seek assistance. including HIV. Although these findings establish a strong link between CSA and adult rape. neighbors. Multiple Victimization Researchers estimate that 1 in 4 Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. ment of such beliefs among Black rape survivors were related to increased use of victim blame Researchers attributions.” The greater endorsestakeholders. 1998. uncles. purpose of this section is to provide examples of 2002). can be utilized by researchers.. Oh. which are risky behaviors that increase their probability of rape in adulthood (Siegel & Williams. For example. Wyatt. low self-esteem. survivors of multiple and severe CSA are more likely to engage in prostitution and heavy drinking. some Black survivors engaged in risky sexual behaviors. The risk of adult rape was greatest among women who reported CSA that involved physical force or who had been sexually abused both as children (before age 13) and as teenagers. Williams. advocates. For example. 2004). African American survivors reported fear. such as prostitution or sex with multiple partners. They experienced extrafamilial childhood sexual abuse (CSA). and clergy members. post-traumatic stress disorder. 2000). 1998. 1992). unintended pregnancies. Heppner. which in turn was related to lower levels More research needs to focus on sexual vioof self-esteem (Neville. Rape can also impair physical and sexual health and the quality of interpersonal relationships. 2004). 2003. West. Also. Robinson.. and sexually transmitted diseases. Spanierman. and preoccupation seek further help (Campbell & Raja. theraas measured by such items as “People think Black pists. Wyatt. 2005). which increased their probability of experiencing repeated vaginal infections.VAWnet Applied Research Forum which requires them to travel through public housing or high crime areas at night. 2000. 2000). Although researchers have found associations between sexual victimization and poorer mental health. and reluctant to suicidal feelings. Black sexual assault victims reported higher rates of intimate partner violence (West et al. researchers and national agencies Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women Page 4 of 10 www.

Black women may drop out of therapy or support groups if service providers ignore aspects of their environment that are difficult to change. differences based on geographic region.VAWnet Applied Research Forum responsible for collecting crime statistics may need to oversample ethnically diverse women so that reliable projections of their rape prevalence and risk can be determined. were reliable and valid in samples of African American women (Cecil & Matson. Methodologies and measurements that successfully promote disclosure of rape by Black women also are needed. age. Ultimately. adult rape. Advocates and therapists should become familiar with community services that can meet the aforementioned needs. poor women of color are overrepresented among women who are incarcerated or drug addicted. 2004). There is no authentic way to discuss rape and anti-rape organizing without being committed to deconstructing complex ways that race. or to take time off from work. such as Black women invite rape because they are hypersexual or that Black men are more prone to rape than men from other racial/ethnic groups. In addition. practices. survivors. and ongoing dialogues that take into account the intricacies of rape and other forms of oppression. 2002). advocates. and mental and physical health problems. Simultaneously. Critical discussions around race and rape need to be transformed into culturally sensitive policies. For example. social class. such as the internalization of race-based rape myths (e. 2004).g. economics. 2006). However. which may influence the psychological functioning and societal response to Black rape survivors (Neville et al. and community members are needed to ensure that the literature reflects the experiences of ethnically diverse rape survivors. including. For impoverished women. For example. food. this information should not become a new set of stereotypes. as we acquire more information about cultures other than our own.. such as the Sexual Experience Survey (SES). and sexual orientation. or employment may have to take precedence over dealing with the emotional impact of rape. or even pay for transportation to counseling appointments. challenging.vawnet. 2004). Researchers should continue to investigate rape in the lives of these vulnerable. & Spanierman. However. If possible. populations. but not limited to. such as emergency housing. gender. African Americans who participated in culturally specific intervention programs found the information to be more personally relevant to them and were more motivated to hear the message (Neville. and sexual orientation influence how rape is experienced by survivors and their communities (for an example see Calderon. religion. advocates/counselors should present. anti-rape organization should hire ethnically diverse staff members and allow Black women to take leadership roles (Calderon. There is a great deal of diversity among African American women. poor women may be unable to afford the counseling fees. Victim Advocates and Counselors Services providers should become more familiar with African American history. 2003). Standardized measures of sexual assault. Heppner. Jezebel stereotype). researchers should conduct longitudinal studies that follow the life trajectory of both Black survivors and a comparison group of nonvictimized women (Siegel & Williams. without negating the particular experiences of African American women. The challenge is to articulate the many similarities among survivors. Alternatively stated. Instructors should include specific information about race-related rape myths. for example during community Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women Page 5 of 10 www. In order to ensure that women of color have the institutionalized power to deliver culturally relevant programs and services. 2003). researchers should continue to develop empirically sound measures to assess culturally specific factors. Stronger collaborations among researchers.org . assistance in meeting basic needs. we must begin to have honest. we need to acknowledge racial differences without perpetuating the stereotype that sexual violence is normative in Black communities (West. and often invisible. In order to understand the complex associations among childhood sexual abuse.. advocates and their agencies must address factors other than sexism that contribute to sexual violence. physical ability. and programs. religion. it would be helpful to avoid “colorblind” rape prevention programs.

For example. which was committed against African Americans as a group or against the survivor’s family members. & Robinson. 2006). Sexual violence can further compromise the mental and physical well-being of Black rape survivors. 2005). 2001.S. Flitter. Weybright. and sometimes when we’re not coping. This can be accomplished by conducting comprehensive assessments. Wyatt. which can contribute to subsequent mental and physical health problems (Miner. One participant in Washington’s (2001) study explained: “We Black women believe we can cope.vawnet. communities. 1992). For example. they may fear validating negative societal images of Black men or turning Black perpetrators over to an overcrowded legal system. survivors of multiple and severe CSA are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. obesity. Fargo. such as prostitution or drug use. in one sample. & Garcia. Medical Professionals A disproportionate number of African American women live with serious diseases and health conditions. Services providers also should be careful to avoid the stereotype that sexual health problems are caused by Black women’s inherent promiscuity. obstetric. Page 6 of 10 www. Furthermore. such as heavy drinking and sex with multiple partners. Professionals should also note historical violence. 2005). Legal Professionals Historically. All service providers should inquire about a broad range of sexual and physical victimization in the lives of Black women. This culture of silence may be a short-term coping strategy. African American women also fear being labeled traitors to their race for raising awareness about Black-onBlack rape. medical professionals should explain invasive procedures and ask permission before touching the client. police. Resilience of Black Victim-Survivors Some Black women are reluctant to disclose sexual assault to rape crisis centers. including violence in their homes.org Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women . we are ashamed of that…It’s almost like it’s seen as a luxury to go into a group setting and talk about sexual violence…” (p. If Black women are sexually assaulted by gang members or involved in illegal activities.. Department of Health and Human Services. Black survivors complained that police officers refused to take their reports or asked about their sexual histories and attire at the time of the assault (Campbell & Raja. Forensic nurses should make greater efforts to detect and document genital injuries in Black rape survivors (Sommer. adult rape. Specifically. and HIV/AIDS which may explain why they were more likely than women from other ethnic groups to describe their health status as “fair” or “poor” (U. some Black women adhere to the “Strong Black Woman” expectation. there is a complex interaction among childhood sexual abuse. medical providers. and primary care to Black women should routinely screen for sexual and physical victimization. they may be especially reluctant to seek police protection. and mental health problems. The goal is to break the culture of silence. in order to cope with their depression. [But] we can’t always cope. Orcutt. Cooper. 2002). and family members (Washington. and provide services within communities of color (Fine. Porter. Baker. 2005). heart disease. such as diabetes. hypertension. remaining silent may leave the impression that Black women are relatively unscathed by their sexual trauma. In order to avoid miscommunication and to enhance the client’s sense of safety. however. Zink. 1271). et al. The internalization of racial images may make it more difficult for some African American women to reveal their sexual assault. which requires them to display inner strength and minimize the impact of their rape. African American women (and men) have had negative experiences with law enforcement personnel. Medical professionals who provide gynecological. These factors should be considered when conducting interviews and criminal legal proceedings (for suggestions see Robinson.VAWnet Applied Research Forum events. Other Black women have a deep sense of racial loyalty. and workplaces. 2006. More specifically. friends. 1992). and even in contemporary times.

2006). Version 1. GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. H. They can be both sexual assault victims and resilient survivors. 29. (July 8. Harrisburg. Basile. a strong social support system.com Distribution Rights: This Applied Research paper and In Brief may be reprinted in its entirety or excerpted with proper acknowledgement to the author(s) and VAWnet (www. and victim advocacy. C.soundprint. Atlanta. I. F.VAWnet Applied Research Forum and hate crimes based on race. 2002. PA: VAWnet. Issue 98. The Black Commentator. Service providers. Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women.edu www.. Rape. Favreau. The sexual assault and secondary victimization of female veterans: Help-seeking experiences with military and civilian social systems. P. 2002). West.D. Finally. Retrieved September 12 from http:// www. Berlin. E. New York: New Press (Available online at Smithsonian Institution http:// rememberingslavery. Psychology of Women Quarterly. Miller. Psychology Bartley Dobb Professor for the Prevention of Violence Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program Box 358436 1900 Commerce Street Tacoma. L. S. In addition.com Consultant: Jacqueline M. social class. C. (1998). African American women survivors can simultaneously express their vulnerability and celebrate their resilience. faith. R..org). (2002). K. Associate Professor. Author of this document: Carolyn M. friends. & O’Brien. Johnson jmjedvac@aol. If appropriate.vawnet. but may not be altered or sold for profit. guilt. Ph. Survivors.org . and anger. For example. New York: Pergamon Press.DrCarolynWest.vawnet. from: http:// www. and community members also can draw on coping strategies that have been successfully used by African American women. the survivor might be encouraged to keep a journal or use literature and music that she perceives to be soothing. relatives. Washington 98402 (253) 692-5652 (office) (253) 692-5718 (fax) (253) 431-6195 (cell) carwest@u. (2005).0.org References Bart. and community members should give the survivor permission to fully explore her feelings of shame. survivors can educated church groups or create media campaigns (for examples see Robinson. B. Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom. may serve as a buffer against the negative and psychological effects of trauma. S. Black women have been empowered by engaging in activism and anti-rape grassroots organizing within the African American community. that is educated about sexual violence. and spirituality can be a source of comfort for some survivors as well. Suggested Citation: West. (1985). & Raja. & Saltzman.blackcommentator.washington. West.vawnet. service providers. Retrieved month/day/year. M. or sexual orientation (West.. 2004). P. 2002).html Campbell. L.. Stopping rape: Successful survival strategies. racism. (October.org/ ) Calderon. Religion. a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/ Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.. 97-106. M. With culturally sensitive and appropriate services. Sexual violence surveillance: Uniform definitions and recommended data elements.com/98/ 98_calderon_rape_racism_pf. Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women Page 7 of 10 www.

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New York: Broadway Books. NO! unveils the reality of rape and healing in the African American community. (2004).org/ Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America (2004). support. R. and advice to Black women and other women of color.sisterslead. Aishah Shahidah Simmons AfroLez Productions P.womenagainstrape. (1998). L.nationalfilmnetwork. Box 58085 Philadelphia. Binghamton. West. Robinson. no lies: How Black families can heal from sexual abuse. D.com/ Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women Page 10 of 10 www. New York: Seal Press. one of the few Black women’s organizations specializing in counseling. MD 20706 1-800-431-4586 https://www.W.VAWnet Applied Research Forum Resources on Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women Books Pierce-Baker. who have suffered rape and sexual assault in the U. New York: W. commentaries from acclaimed African American scholars and community leaders.notherapedocumentary. I will survive: The African American guide to healing from sexual assault. (Ed. uses film clips and conducts interviews with African American women.K. Norton & Company.net/ National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) is a Women of Color led nonprofit committed to ensuring that system-wide policies and social change initiatives related to sexual assault are informed by critical input and direction of Women of Color www. http://www. No secrets. C. NY: The Haworth Press. academic experts. (2002). and blue.O. S. Web Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) Founded in 1991. and dance. M.vawnet. Surviving the silence: Black women’s stories of rape. Director Mya B. Stone. Violence in the lives of Black women: Battered.org . immigrant. PA 19102-8085 215-701-6150 http://www. Through testimonies from Black women survivors. music. and refugee women.)(2002). C.org Video/DVD NO!: The Rape Documentary (2006). and religious leaders about historical factors that influence contemporary silence around Black female sexuality and sexual violence National Film Network 4501 Forbes Boulevard Lanham. black.

depression. The legal system offered little protection and stereotypes about Black women’s hypersexuality (“Jezebel” stereotype) were used to justify limited social and legal support for Black survivors. gang rapes. practices. rates have ranged from 18% in national surveys to 67% in a community sample of low-income women. anger. or the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. oversample ethnically diverse women. Victim Advocates and Counselors can begin to have ongoing dialogues that take into account the intricacies of rape and other forms of oppression. and involve a range of sexually abusive behaviors. preoccupation with the rape. a history of childhood sexual abuse that involved physical force) were consistent risk factors for rape in adulthood.g. Resilience: The goal is to break the culture of silence.g. and education programs. PTSD. painful intercourse.vawnet. anxiety. and low self-esteem. Medical professionals can screen for sexual and physical victimization and document genital injuries in Black rape survivors. and sexually transmitted diseases. Black survivors reported fear. Most rapes are Black-on-Black assaults. and help survivors find vital services (e. VAWnet. Black women developed a culture of silence and engaged in activism in order to cope with their victimization. Rape can contribute to physical and sexual health problems (e. including forced oral sex. Characteristics of Black Rape Survivors: In studies of sexual violence among Black women. assistance with employment). In Brief: Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women (October 2006) www. committed by acquaintances and intimate partners. Response.. survivors.org *The production and dissemination of this publication was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U1V/CCU324010-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. suicidal feelings. vaginal infections. the rape of Black women was widespread and institutionalized. emergency housing. Culturally Sensitive Responses: Researchers can conduct longitudinal studies. Mental and Physical Health Consequences: Many survivors will experience some degree of acute or chronic mental or physical health disturbance. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC. develop culturally sensitive policies. and community members. and collaborate with advocates. and Resilience Historical Overview: Throughout much of U..Applied Research Forum National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women In Brief: Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women: Risk. and attacks by armed assailants.S. . unintended pregnancies. With culturally sensitive and appropriate services. African American women can be both sexual assault victims and resilient survivors. These mental health problems can be exacerbated if survivors endorsed the Jezebel stereotype. and help survivors develop strong social support systems. Risk Factors: Poverty and multiple victimizations (e. Legal professionals can consider concerns about racial loyalty to African American men and the historical legacy of discrimination in the criminal justice system when they conduct interviews and legal proceedings with Black survivors.. This can be accomplished by conducting comprehensive assessments. history. which consider a broad range of sexual and physical violence in the lives of Black women. including HIV).g.