By Dr. Christina Sisti
|Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash|
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”
Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
Sexual violence is especially pervasive in the lives of girls of color. An unfortunate, historical narrative over-sexualizes African-American girls.
Patricia Hill Collins writes:
"Under American slavery, all White men within a slave-owning family could treat enslaved African women within their own families as sexual property. The myth was it was impossible to rape Black women because they were already promiscuous helped mask the sexual exploitation of enslaved Black women by their owners."1
Women are placed in a societal position of submission by men. They are to be there to please their husband. As a group, women are subordinated to men, yet a pecking order among women also produces hegemonic, marginalized, and subordinated femininities.1
In a context of male dominance, heterosexual men’s access to women’s bodies as sexual partners constitutes an important component of hegemonic femininity.3 Women are expected to be available to men for their sexual desires at any time.
The act of rape didn’t exist in marriages. Women who were raped were judged, thought to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or ignored because sex was a right. Sexual violence/assault laws have changed, but for some the beliefs, that rape is the victim’s fault prevails. The responsibility is placed on the woman.
Even today this narrative renders women’s bodies more, particularly marginalized women, at a higher risk of sexual exploitation and devaluation. Approximately 40 percent of black women report coercive sexual contact by the time they turn 18.
A teen who becomes pregnant is more likely to endure negative health, economic, educational and social outcomes than those teens who do not become pregnant. Teen pregnancy isn’t simply about girls and boys being promiscuous or lacking access to sex education or contraception. Too often teen pregnancy is about girls losing agency over their bodies because of the unbearable injuries of being sexually violated.
Underneath the discourse about the educational strategies needed to prevent teen pregnancy lies a much harder and complex issue: Violence in girls’ lives leaves them at risk for teen pregnancy—especially for girls of color.
A significant correlation exists between childhood sexual abuse and teen pregnancy. An estimated of teen girls’ first pregnancies are preceded by experiences of molestation, rape, or attempted rape. In one study, between 30 and 44 percent of teen mothers were victims of rape or attempted rape. Up to 20 percent of girls become pregnant as the direct result of rape.2
The Harvard School of Public Health’s exhaustive research on the lives of girls demonstrates that girls who are victims of violence from dating partners are four to six times more likely than non-abused girls to become pregnant, and eight to nine times more likely to attempt suicide.2
The majority of sexual violence survivors know their perpetrators. When a rape victim knows the person, who raped her the knowledge of his identity increases the fear of reporting any act of unwanted sexual contact. Minorities are raped and abused at higher rates than Caucasians. Many victims of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence was first victimized at a young age.3
REFERENCES1 Collins, Patricia Hill (2004). Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and The New Racism. (1st ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.
2 Saar, Malika Saada (2008, August 6,). A Missing Piece of the Prevention Puzzle. Women’s Health Leadership, American Progress, Washington, D.C.
3 Breiding, Matthew, Smith, Sharon G., Basile, Kathleen C., Walters, Mikel, Chen, Jieru, and Merrick, Melissa T. (2014, September 5). Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization – National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. (Report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Washington, D.C.: Surveillance Summaries.
This article is extracted from the Research paper titled 'America's Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations' in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation 'Safety First for Girls'.
The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis.
The Safety Report Research paper is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:
- The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
- Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
- Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
- Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
- LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
- Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177) by Steffica Warwick.
- America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.
The Safety Report Data Analysis is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls. Results and Outcomes based on Zambia, Egypt, USA, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Namibia.'
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.
This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.