Women of Color and Sexual Assault

Definitions

 

Sexual Assault

A general term that includes sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, child sexual abuse, incest, and rape. Sexual contact becomes assault when a person is unable to or does not consent to an activity.

Rape

A crime of aggression, power, and control in which one person forces, coerces, or manipulates another person to have sexual intercourse without their consent. Rape includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by any object (including fingers) and also includes forced oral sex.

Rape and sexual assault are crimes.

Even if you know the person, you trusted the person, you have had sex before, you didn’t fight back, it happened a long time ago, or you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, sex without your consent is rape. It is wrong and it is illegal.

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.

 

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.

 

Women of color are often portrayed as promiscuous or hypersexual. These “Jezebel” stereotypes promote the idea that women of color cannot be raped because they are willing participants in all sexual activity.

Some women of color feel very strong connections to their families, cultures, and racial/ethnic groups. They may not want to “betray” the people they care about by disclosing abuse that occurs within those communities.

 

Cultural ideas about marriage and gender roles may make it difficult for some women of color, particularly women who live in close-knit communities, to understand that what they are experiencing is abuse.

 

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.

Percent of Women Raped in Lifetime by Race/Ethnicity

Caucasian
17.9%
Latina
11.9%
African-American
18.8%
American Indian/Alaskan Native
34.1%
Mixed Race
24.4%
Asian/Pacific Islander
6.8%

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 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/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.