#BlackOutTuesday marked a day of solidarity and empathy. But it wasn’t a day off from social media. It was a day to learn. We dedicated the day to educating ourselves on racial injustice surrounding consent and sexual assault. Here’s what we learned.
People of colour are less likely to report a rape
We all know rape and sexual assaults are some of the most under-reported offences. But did you know people of colour are even less likely to report a crime? Victims of all ethnicities often don’t report due to the poor treatment and lack of support they get. Now imagine your relationship with law enforcement is fraught with racism and injustice. Would you trust the system?
The barriers blocking people of colour from reporting rape and sexual assault are vast. Studies show that people of colour are hyper-sexualised in the media and beyond. A person of colour’s sexual assault is often tied directly to racist stereotypes, such as myths that they’re ‘asking for it.’ These myths blindside police, prosecutors and even survivors themselves. Research shows that people of colour internalise these stereotypes making it more difficult for them to identify their sexual assault as a form of abuse.
And if their assailant was also a person of colour, it could be even harder to report. As one woman said: “He’s already going to jail, dying, rumored to be an endangered species; so why should we as Black women bring our wrath against him?”.
Rape doesn’t discriminate. But victim blaming does.
"Secondary victimisation’ is the second wave of trauma that many survivors experience: first, from the attack. Second, when the police and other services ask them inappropriate questions, blame them, or don’t believe what they’re saying at all. The impact can be bleak for survivors’ mental and physical health.
Women everywhere suffer from victim blaming and not being believed. But you know who suffers the most? Black women.
Racist myths stop people of colour getting justice
When someone says people of colour are promiscuous, they are spouting a racist myth. These lies lead to a shockingly small amount of cases being taken to court. But even when a case makes it court, there’s no guarantee of justice. People of colour are routinely judged as less truthful and less intelligent than their white counterparts. Racism lets rapists walk free.
Solidarity is for white women
So much for sisterhood. Research shows that a white woman is less likely to want to defend another woman from sexual violence if she’s a woman of colour. Let that sink in.
White perpetrators get lighter punishment
When Brock Turner, the ‘Stanford rapist’ was found guilty he was sentenced to just six months in prison. Media praised his swimming talents and avoided using the ‘r’ word. The same media outlets rang the alarm for a black man who committed the same crime as Turner. Turner served three months in jail. The other perpetrator? Four years.
That is a staggering 16 times longer in prison for a black perpetrator than a white one.
It doesn’t end there. Black men, across all criminal offences, spend longer in jail then their white counterparts. White men are released on parole earlier. And black boys are expelled and suspended from school at a much higher rate than white boys.
Black survivors are valued less than white ones
White perpetrators are given softer treatment. But what if the survivor of a sexual crime is a black woman?
Courts treat black female victims as less important, giving prison sentences that are shorter by as much as eight years.
There is so much more that needs to be done. So where can we start? Learn more: read our further reading which includes all the sources we used for this blog. Take action: our recommended resources show you how.