Women of Color and Sexual Assault

Racism & Sexual Assault

Sexism and racism are both tools of oppression, and the intersection of these attitudes make women of color particularly susceptible to sexual violence. They also may make it difficult for women of color to access support services or receive fair treatment within the criminal justice system. Experiences with institutionalized racism may make it difficult for women of color to trust the systems and institutions that are supposed to help them. This may include law enforcement, social service agencies, and healthcare providers.

There are sometimes language and cultural barriers that make it hard for women of color, and immigrant women in particular, to disclose abuse and receive the support that they need. Some women of color feel very strong connections to their families, cultures, and racial or ethnic groups. They may not want to “betray” the people they care about by disclosing abuse that occurs within those communities. In addition, cultural ideas about marriage and gender roles may make it difficult for some women of color to understand that what they are experiencing is abuse.

In the media, women of color are often portrayed as promiscuous or hypersexual. These “Jezebel” stereotypes permeate our everyday lives and perpetuate the idea that women of color cannot be raped because they are willing participants in all sexual activity.

Of women who are raped in their lifetime: 17.9% are Caucasian, 11.9% are Latina, 18.8% are African-American, 34.1% are American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 6.8% are Asian or Pacific Islander. 24.4% are mixed race.

Facts & Figures

For every African-American woman who reports her rape, at least fifteen African-American women do not report theirs.

In a study conducted in the early 1990s, 60% of South Asian immigrant women spoke of being raped by their husbands.

An analysis of thirty-one pornographic websites found that of the sites depicting women being raped or tortured, nearly half of the victims depicted were Asian women.

One possible reason why Asian and Pacific Islander women report lower rates of sexual violence than other minority groups is that traditional Asian values may discourage them from disclosing personal or familial information, even in a confidential setting.

Approximately 40% of Black women report coercive sexual contact by age eighteen.

Approximately 7.9% of Latinas will be raped by a spouse, partner, or ex-partner during their lifetime.

Many married Hispanic and Latina women view sex as a marital obligation and are less likely than other women to define their experiences of forced sex as rape.

American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence committed by a stranger or acquaintance rather than a family member or intimate partner. Approximately 70% of perpetrators are non-Native.

American Indians are the victims of rape and sexual assault at a rate that is 3.5 times higher than that of any other race in the United States.

Sources

National statistics were collected from various publications through credible sources such as the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Crime Victimization Surveys), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This page is under maintenance and may change to reflect new data.