Monday, April 26, marks the beginning of a five-day virtual week of action to center and amplify the voices of Black survivors of sexual assault and harassment. The joint initiative of ‘me too.’ International, the National Women’s Law Center and TIME’S UP Foundation, Black Survivor Week of Action follows the February launch of We, As Ourselves—a culture and narrative change campaign in support of Black survivors.
Black survivors have been a key part of defining moments to call out sexual violence. Yet, as movements to address sexual violence have emerged, Black survivors’ experiences and stories have gone underexamined—and worse, Black survivors have been silenced or received backlash when they speak out.
Black women (particularly trans women) are uniquely vulnerable to sexual violence. “Black women are subjected to both racism and sexism—a double bind that puts black women at higher risk for sexual violence,” according to a May 2020 report from TIME’S UP, “Black Survivors and Sexual Trauma.” “The combined and compounded effects of sexism and racism can heighten depressive and PTSD symptoms.” Evidence shows these mental health symptoms are compounded dramatically by sexual trauma.
Yet that same report also sounds the alarm on “low rates of outpatient mental health use in general by black Americans, combined with a general distrust of the mental health profession and concerns about ‘betraying’ one’s race when the perpetrator is also black,” which lessens the likelihood that Black survivors will seek treatment.
Still, the fight is needed, as recent studies reveal:
- Black women report experience workplace sexual harassment at three times the rate of white women.
- For every Black woman who reports rape, at least 15 do not report.
- A report showed prosecutors file charges in 75 percent of the cases in which a white woman was attacked, but when the victim was a Black woman, prosecutors filed charges just 34 percent of the time.
- Half of all Black transgender women are survivors of sexual violence, and two-thirds of Black transgender people said they would be uncomfortable asking the police for help.
Clearly, we still have a long way to go in the movement to address sexual violence.
From Monday through Friday, each day will highlight a theme centered on the specific needs and support essential for Black survivors.
Monday, April 26: Center Survivors
The urgent need to center Black survivors and shift the dominant narratives about Black survivors
Tuesday, April 27: Reimagine Survivorhood
Defining and reimagining what it means to be a Black survivor
Action: Artists are shaping new narratives—ones that upend historical and cultural myths that harm and silence Black survivors. View and share the collection of narrative-driven works created by featured artists and content creators in collaboration with the Center for Cultural Power. (Learn more about the Center for Cultural Power’s cultural strategy work here.)
Wednesday, April 28: Build Community
Building community in support of Black survivors
Action: Check out the list of direct actions to see how you’re showing up for Black survivors everyday and share with your community.
Thursday, April 29: End Sexual Violence
Elevating leaders in the movement to support Black survivors
Action: Share these graphics to spotlight and support organizations that work tirelessly to support Black survivors.
Friday, April 30: Shift the Narrative
The role media plays in centering Black survivors and shifting the narrative
Action: Amplify Black journalists who are doing the work to center Black survivors stories. And stay tuned for the release of a new media guide on Black survivors.
Throughout the week, follow and use hashtags #WeAsOurselves, #BlackSAAMweekofaction and #BlackSAAM to join or bear witness to the voices of Black survivors.
We celebrate Black survivors. Text LOVELETTER to 306-44 to watch our video tribute to #Survivors and take the pledge to show love for those who have been shut out, silenced, and scrutinized. #WeAsOurselves @CBSThisMorning https://t.co/R7ZqN0jNka— weasourselves (@weasourselves) April 23, 2021
Sharing our stories is a revolutionary act, and the first step towards building a world where we care for and protect one another. But the stories of Black survivors are often silenced or dismissed. #WeAsOurselves re-centers the valid and valuable experiences of Black survivors. https://t.co/f6pkA9DsMC— Gloria Steinem (@GloriaSteinem) February 24, 2021