Sixty percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of black men before reaching the age of 18, according to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint.
More than 300 black women nationwide participated in the study and 700 more are being sought to take in the survey by March 2012.
Farah Tanis, Co-Founder of the New York-based organization and co-author of the study, says the issue of domestic and sexual abuse in the black community is rarely discussed and that a sixty percent rate should be a wake-up call to black women.
“A similar study which was conducted by The Black Women’s Health Imperative seven years ago found that that number was about 40 percent,” Tanis says. “So that means there is an increase and we need to stop neglecting that issue.”
The study comes just as U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced legislation reauthorizing the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) this week.
While domestic violence advocates praise both senators’ efforts to strengthen the bill, Tanis and other advocates who deal specifically with minority women are advocating for language in the new act that specifically allocates funds to communities of color. More specifically, Tanis and her organization are seeking funding for small community groups which have closer cultural ties to women of color that larger organizations don’t have.
VAWA, as it is currently written, does include language that allots “grants for outreach and services to under-served populations.” But no racial language is written into the act. Federal law prohibits legislation that earmarks government funding based on race.
Domestic violence advocates say black women should be particularly active in writing and calling their congressmen to support the reauthorization of the VAWA because it affects them more than any other racial group. In fact, Black women experience domestic violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.
Kereen Odate, Acting Director at the Center for Women’s Development at Medgar Evers College in New York, says black women are reluctant to discuss sexual and domestic abuse for fear of “vilifying the black man.”
Odate says there has always been something of an unexplored history of sexually dysfunctional behavior in the black community that dates back to slavery. For example, Odate cites mating practices that forced black male slaves to have intercourse with female slaves as the origin of shame that keeps black communities silence about domestic and sexual abuse to this very day.