And How Are the Children?

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Gail F. Gardner

Orange County Black Women’s Roundtable, and the namesake of Gail’s Law passed in 2021, which created a DNA Evidence Rape Kit Tracking System in Florida 

Researcher and author, Dr. Joy DeGruy (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome), tells of the custom the Masai people’s traditional greeting passed between Masai warriors, “Kasseri an ingera?”. It means,” And how are the children?” They would answer, “All the children are well.”  Can we same the same in this country?

This question comes on the heels of a myriad of life challenges for Black Americans as members of a marginalized community. For example, one topic – a topic that is considered unpleasant is that of sexual violence against women, children, and men. It must, however, be discussed and brought to the forefront, including to legislative bodies.  How else will this destructive social behavior be eradicated? 

Sexual violence against women of color has deep roots in U. S. history. The first White colonists to arrive in the Americas, considered rape against Black women morally justified. During slavery, Black women were separated or isolated from their families, and stripped of their cultural and religious identities.  Sexual assault was frequently inflicted upon them. The worth of enslaved Black women was often connected to their ability to produce offspring, which resulted in many women being raped and forced to bear children. For hundreds of years, the rape of enslaved, Black women by White men were common and legal. 

Academic research and victimization surveys reveal that sexual violence is disproportionately targeted against women of color today, and that the violence they suffer is too often ignored. While this is a modern-day reality, it is based on historical sexism and racism that persist. 

In most states, efforts to address the rape kit backlog have revealed systemic injustice regarding the rape of women and girls over the years.  Rape blame is often found in cases where the victim is Black. For example, a study found a college student perceived as a Black victim of sexual assault to be less believable and more responsible for her assault than a white victim. 

The few facts recorded about men are based on the dynamics itself of men speaking out, looking for resources, and not reporting the crime. Black women and sexual assault are not much different. For every Black woman who reports rape, at least 15 women do not. Those statistics and the impact of trauma, racism, and oppression, mean that often Black women will tell no one about the abuse. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five Black women is a survivor of rape. One in three Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. African American girls and women 12 years and older experience higher rates of rape and sexual assault than White, Asian, and Latina girls and women. 

In the case of Black males, we need to pay attention to our Black boys. Sexual abuse is a problem for them. As a society, we are still learning how to discuss any kind of sexual assault and conversations around the sexual abuse of Black boys are rare. Yet, these conversations need to happen, both for the survivors and for the men and women who love them. 

Sexual violence causes trauma that affects the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of life.  Traumatic experiences of the Black race came before they traveled from Africa, and they are still here today. Research shows that these circumstances may also cause intergenerational trauma that is passed down from one generation to another, directly or indirectly.

What does safety for our children and healing of our survivors and secondary victims look like? For one thing, there must be a strong renouncing of secrecy when it comes to crimes against humanity. The saying, “What goes on in this house, stays in this house,” is no longer valid, nor was it ever. 

The after-effects can be overwhelming and extremely difficult to manage at times. Overcoming the trauma, shame, and guilt that are left behind can be a difficult task. However, when one decides to address the hurt and the pain, the healing journey can begin. The path toward healing is different for everyone. No matter how old survivors are or how long ago they experienced abuse, it is never too late to begin the healing journey. 

As people of the African Diaspora, we have survived that which has caused us rage, hurt, disappointment, etc. We stand together against sexual abuse. We have a voice. We will not be silent. We are descendants of kingdom builders. Victory flows through our veins. We are here on purpose, for a purpose. Survival stories matter. We are a force to be reckoned with, and the world needs us; our children need us. Let us declare, “All the children are well.”