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Stereotypical Secrets: African-Americans and Sexual Abuse

We have a problem in the African-American community and that problem comes in the form of silence. The black community is often too silent when it comes to sexual abuse.

According to school principle Judith Adams of Chicago’s Jefferson Alternative School program,

There are elements of shame and powerlessness associated with male children who are the victims of sexual abuse. Because African American boys are in an environment that applauds ‘macho-ism,’ they feel powerless when they are violated and they feel as though they have failed themselves by allowing something like this to happen.  So many young men who haven’t been exposed to anything other than abuse think it’s simply a part of life.” – 

We must put this to an end black people. Many African-Americans believe not addressing issues is a way of dealing with them, but not addressing issues such as children out of wedlock, high incarceration rates, and sexual abuse have long term mental and physical effects.

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African-Americans believe in marching, we march whenever there is a perceived injustice bestowed upon us, but we are not marching for personal responsible in our own community. The issue of sexual abuse and its ramifications hit home for me. People I love have been victims, and too often been told to deal with it in silence, and I know I am not alone. You probably know someone, or yourself, have been affected by sexual abuse, and to you I say silence is no longer acceptable. We have to put aside guilt and shame and address these issues within our families and community.

Author and journalist Robin D. Stone; No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal From Sexual Abuse, outlined 10 facts about sexual abuse in the African-American Community:

  • It’s more common than you think: In surveys of adults, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men report that they were sexually abused as a child.
  • It’s a black thing, too: Many African Americans think that child sexual abuse is more typical among white people. Statistics show that blacks are sexually victimized in childhood at about the same rates as whites.
  • Near and present danger: Two-thirds of all victims of sexual assault reported to the police were under 18. In nearly 95 percent of the cases, the offender was a family member or acquaintance.
  • Rich or poor: Poverty, which contributes to violence in many communities, is not seen as a risk factor for child sexual abuse. Abuse is more likely to be reported among low-income families, but is virtually undetected in families whose money or status shield them from authorities.
  • Race matters: African-American women are less likely than white women to involve police in cases of child sexual abuse. Fears about betraying the family by turning abusers into “the system” and distrust of institutions and authorities often lead blacks to remain silent about “family business.”
  • Boys are also abused: About 14 percent of all young victims of sexual assault are male, according to police reports. Twenty percent of sexual abuse of boys is committed by women. Among African Americans, homophobia perpetuates the denial of sexual abuse of boys.
  • Cause and effect: Black women report being more severely abused with greater force. They also report “more upset, greater long-term effects and more negative life experiences” from sexual abuse than white women. Among the effects: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse (drug abuse), self-mutilation and more.
  • Young and troubled: Adolescents commit 23 percent of all sex offenses. Experts say young abusers are more responsive to treatment than adults.
  • Prolific predators: Child sex offenders tend to victimize more often than other sexual offenders. Seventy percent of child sex offenders had between one and nine victims; 23 percent between 10 and 40 victims.
  • Quiet as it’s kept: Child sexual abusers operate in silence and isolation, the tools they use to target and control their prey. Few tend to be violent, which makes them difficult to catch and thwart.

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Here is an excerpt from an interview transcript between late night talk host Jimmy Kimmel and hip-hop recording artist Lil Wayne:

LIL WAYNE (Rapper): The girl was older than me. She cut the lights off, and I don’t know what happened. She pulled my pants down.

 (laughter)

JIMMY KIMMEL (Host): Oh boy. How much older was she?

LIL WAYNE: I was 11. She was, like, 14, and when she pulled my pants down, when I went to feel her, like what are you doing, I felt she was naked. So I just stopped, like…

KIMMEL: Do you feel like that affected you negatively in your adulthood?

LIL WAYNE: It did, yeah.

For men, this type of abuse, detailed by Lil Wayne, isn’t actually considered abuse, just listen to the laughter of the audience, but that is abuse. Abuse is abuse, no matter if it’s heterosexual or homosexual and our children are being exposed to sex at an early age. Sex in music, movies, and society are often glamorized, but it is exposing an entire generation of children to risky behavior.

African-American males are more hesitant to talk about past abuse. Women tend to discuss and seek help stemming from sexual abuse more than men. Men especially when they have been touched by another man are hesitant to discuss the encounter because of taboos and stigmas. Survivingdating.com published a report on sexual abuse in the African-American Community:

Yet, statistics on the sexual assaults of children under the age of 18 are shocking and deeply disturbing; 90% of such are by people they love and trust. From victim reports, it appears that there is at least one such pedophile in every black family, and sadly most have more than one. An inappropriate word into the ear of a young girl about her body when no one is around, an inappropriate touch of her developing body under the guise of giving her a hug; slipping unto a young boys bedroom at night to do unspeakable things when the child’s protector is sound asleep… these and dozens of other tricks are used by pedophiles to slyly abuse children all over the country.”

The Department of Justice estimates that for every white woman that reports her rape, at least 5 white women do not report theirs; and yet, for every African-American woman that reports her rape, at least 15 African-American women do not report theirs…

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.

We all know about the stories of sexual abuse from prominent celebrities such as Oprah and Queen Latifah, and have heard the stories of rappers such as Lil Wayne and T.I. being introduced to sex at an early age, but what we don’t hear about is the uncle, auntie, mother, sister, brother, father, cousin, or friend who is sexually abusing members of our own family and friends. Coming out and talking about such abuse is difficult, but we must make a concerted effort in the African-American community to address and put an end to sexual abuse. Remaining silent about the abuse is just as damaging as the abuse itself.

We as black people must learn to take a stand and speak out.

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