***Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault, and racialized sexual violence***
As many of us know, February is Black History Month. A month dedicated to honoring the history, achievements, and influence of the black community. With this in mind, when reflecting on Sexual Assault Awarness, it is crucial we understand the history and values this movement comes from.
What most people do not know, is that many of the first warriors for the cause to end sexual violence were black women. Long before Sexual Assault Awarness Month or even the #MeToo movement, black women, amidst their own neverending obstacles, stepped forward as champions against racism AND sexual violence.
One of the first known examples of this is seen in 1866 when a group black women spoke out against sexual assault. These brave women testified before Congress in response to a white mob gang-raping of multiple black women during the Memphis riots. At this time, white men were legally allowed to rape enslaved black women using sexual asault as a violent tool of oppression.
As time went on, the civil rights movement--a movement dedicated to the fight against discrimination on the basis of not only race or color, but also sex, religion, and national origin--was spearheded by black women who demanded control over their own bodies and lives.
An example of this is Recy Taylor’s fight for justice. In 1944, after surviving sexual assault from six white men, receiving numerous death threats, and two court appearances failing to indict the men, she still spoke out against the omnipresent rates of sexual violence experienced by black women. Rosa Parks, a sexual assault investigator for the NAACP, helped Recy Taylors story get coverage by launching the Alabama Committe For Equal Justice.
Today, Black women continue to lead the fight to end sexual violence for all. In 2017 the #Metoo movement gained traction throughout our society in response to the Weinstien accusations. However, the movement and phrase was started by a black woman. In 2006 the #Metoo movement was founded by survivor and activist Tarana Burke. Since the #Metoo movement, SARC has seen a significant rise in calls to our hotline for services. We are so grateful for those willing to fight for justice.
The understanding of this deep rooted history should be a crucial pillar for all support and advocacy today. Without the multitude of black women at the forefront of this cause, the fight to end sexual violence would not be as widespread, and supported as it is today.
Written by: Phoenix Brune