Rape is one of the most evil acts one can commit on another. What makes it more alarming is that it tends to be perpetuated by folks we know. Yet, even in 2014, rape is still depicted as a stranger hiding in bushes. The fact is survivors tend to know their assailants. These people tend to be relatives, friends, ex-partners, co-workers, casual acquaintances, etc.
The rapist isn’t a masked man
- Approximately 66% of rape victims know their assailant. (2000 NCVS)
- Approximately 48% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance; 30% by a stranger; 16% by an intimate; 2% by another relative; and in 4% of cases the relationship is unknown. (2000 NCVS)
In communities of color, especially the black community, sexual violence is even more complex. Black women not only have to accept the fact that they know their rapists, but grapple with what will be their next step. Despite being more prone to sexual violence, Black women/women of color tend to be very racially loyal.
A lot of it has to do with Black women worrying about feeding into stereotypes about Black men or not wanting to “lock another brother up.” This fierce community protection comes at the expense of Black women’s physical and mental health:
“Historically, law enforcement has been used to control African-American communities through brutality and racial profiling. It may be difficult for a Black woman to seek help if she feels it could be at the expense of African-American men or her community. The history of racial injustice (particularly the stereotype of the Black male as a sexual predator) and the need to protect her community from further attack might persuade a survivor to remain silent.”
In her film, NO! The Rape Documentary, Aishah Shahidah Simmons does a great job of deconstructing the myths about rape and how sexual violence affects the lives of Black women. She shows how the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc., prevent Black women from reporting their assaults. She also shows the healing process of the survivors in the film.
I met Aishah a few years ago, when she did a screening of NO! in my city. I was extremely moved by the film, and was so glad that someone was speaking out on this issue.It took her over 13 years to make the documentary. She was committed to making the film because she thought it was important that this issue was discussed in the Black community. Much respect for that!
I have shown the NO! documentary as a way to support Black women’s voices during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). I encourage other folks to do so as well. It can be a great way to start a conversation on how this issue is unique to Black women. And the ways Black men can be our allies. If my group had a bigger budget, we would’ve also brought Aishah to speak about her film. If your school or organization has the funds, not only show the film, invite Aishah! She’s an amazing woman who we should support.
The NO! Rape Documentary is a powerful act of resistance against the oppression of Black women’s voices/bodies.