Writer: Renata Daou
Editor: Mikada Green
Graphic Designer: Nethania Nasya
According to UN Women and the World Health Organization, approximately 736 million women (about one in every three women) have been victims of physical or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once. What very few people talk about is that minority groups are even more vulnerable to sexual violence, and they do not receive nearly as much attention.
Women of color usually are more affected by sexual violence due to systematic racism. This is a result of sexualization, stereotyping, and racism that emerged during the period of slavery in the 1400s. The myth that Black women desired sexual encounters and had a high sex drive was used to justify rape and enslavement. The misconception of women of color as extra strong and with high sex drives still exists to this day and hinders women of color when going to the police to report sexual assaults, for example.
The general statistics from the American Psychological Association say that only 1 in 15 Black women report rape, and one in four Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Unfortunately, the statistics also go to say that one in five women will be victims of rape and a shocking 35% will experience some sort of sexual violence. These numbers are higher than those among white women. Black women were also 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by their male significant other. Children are also at risk as by the age of 18, 40 to 60% of Black women will be on the receiving end of some coercive sexual contact.
A table by the Ohio Alliance to end Sexual Violence reflects these statistics:
Other minorities, such as people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, are often forgotten when it comes to sexual violence. According to the Human Rights Campaign, about 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women are victims of some sort of sexual violence. When it comes to men, 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience some sort of sexual violence.
While most statistics available are based in the United States, this is most definitely not an issue solely found in Western countries. Around the world, many other minority groups have more difficulty reporting sexually violent acts that happened to them. The situation may even be more aggravated, varying from country to country. Some countries with stranger sexist rules that allow people to overturn their rape convictions by marrying the victims, examples including Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela, can deepen the problem for minority groups. In countries where same sex relationships are prohibited, such as in Algeria, Ghana, and Liberia, the reporting of sexual violence between same sex couples is often impossible, since the existence of these relationships is criminalized.
By analyzing one specific country, Brazil, we can see how its colonial past, colorism, and homophobia create vulnerability among the minority groups in the country when it comes to sexual assault.
According to Dossiê Violência Sexual, more than half of the rape victims in Brazil are Black women, reaching about 50.9%. When it comes to sexual harassment, 40.5% of Black women and 36.7% mixed women, compared to 34.9% of white women have reported some instance of sexual harassment. Similar to the United States, Brazil also has a past with slavery that, to this day, haunts the Brazilian Black population, as evidenced by the previous statistics. Black people in Brazil are also among those at high risk of poverty, which leaves them more vulnerable to sexually violent crimes.
Now, in Brazil, other minorities are also victims of sexual violence.
One in three indigenous women are victims of rape, according to the United Nations. This is an extremely alarming high number among those whose roots come from the beginning of the colonial era. Rape has long been used as a way of demoralizing communities during the invasion of territories and racial ethnic cleansing.
LGBTQ+ women in Brazil are also affected by this lack of action and internalized homophobia. According to Dossiê Violência Sexual, six lesbians in Brazil were raped every day in 2017, and, in 61% of the cases, the victim was raped more than once. The most disturbing part is that in 96% of the cases, the aggressor was a man.
It’s important to remember that minorities aren’t just numbers. We have to be mindful that our society and justice systems are built in a way that makes reporting sexual violence among minority groups extremely difficult. All over the world, we need to grow the conscience of why minority groups are more targeted and elaborate on ways to reverse the situation. People need to be aware of their history and who they elect to ensure that these statistics do not repeat themselves in the future.
To help, here are some groups that help minority victims of sexual violence: