Stop Victim-Blaming Women of Color
The unhealthy messages we receive about sex are confusing, and often detrimental
It’s the mother’s voice that raises an octave when she asks why her daughter went to that party in the first place. It’s the incredulous tone given by friends when they say, “But couldn’t you have pushed him off?” And it’s the look of accusation in her father’s eyes when he outright says, “This is your fault.” Victim-blaming is the insinuation or explicit message that her experience of trauma was her fault and her fault alone. This is the thing that shatters her to pieces inside. And this is when she struggles to pick up those pieces and put herself back together again.
As a mental health professional for the last decade, I’ve noticed a common thread throughout many Black women survivors. Although their experience of sexual assault is deeply painful, one of the most difficult aspects to reconcile is the trauma of being victim-blamed by family and friends. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 21.2% of Black women experience sexual violence in our lifetimes. Although some survivors receive support, the majority experience some level of victim-blame.
Before Black women encounter victim-blaming, we are exposed to unhealthy messages about sex, sexual development, and sexuality during childhood. These messages come in the form of an auntie hissing, “Why is she so fast?” or a church deaconess teaching that Godly women keep their skirts down and legs closed. These messages are also demonstrated in the preconceived judgements made about girls’ bodies based on our shape, size, and level of development. These unhealthy messages strip away Black girls’ humanity and freedom to explore the complexity of healthy sexual development. Not only are these messages hurtful and confusing, but they are also dangerous as they later morph into messages that victim-blame Black women for our experiences of sexual violence.
For those of you who have victim-blamed a Black woman, go and make amends. Help her to pick up the pieces. Her healing will take root when you believe her story and its many truths.