Why Race Stereotypes Hurt Sexual Assault Survivors

My name is Tayler Simon. Here is a short, non-exhaustive list of who I am: I am the Education Intern for Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands. I am in my first year of the Master’s of Social Work program at the University of South Carolina.

I am an African American woman; being an African American woman places me in an interesting position in society. I experience both sexism and racism. In my activist work, I experience the constant struggle of feminism often neglecting racism, and anti-racism often neglecting sexism.

Sexual assault is a very difficult topic to disclose. Survivors can experience a wide range of emotions such as denial, powerlessness, fear, guilt, depression, and self-blame. All of these emotions take a toll on the mental health of a survivor.

Disclosing sexual assault in the African American community can be another battle. There are many myths in the African American community about seeking help for mental health. Discouraging stereotypes about African American women such as the strong black woman trope, hyper-sexualized Jezebel, and the asexual mammy, keep many black women from reporting. These stereotypes make many survivors think they may not be believed, or might be blamed for their assaults.

African American men are not immune to sexual assault either. Frequently in the media, African American men are stereotyped as the perpetrators of crime. This puts many of them on guard and hesitant to admit when they are survivors. When they do admit they are a survivors, they are reluctant to call the police due to mistrust rooted in racism.

LGBTQI rights are also minimized in the feminist and anti-racism movements. African American gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals experience sexual assault at a higher rate, but are often neglected in the movement. 15 percent of African American transgender respondents experienced sexual assault in K-12 education settings. Trans women of color experience violence, physical and sexual, at alarming rates.

Here at STSM, we work to provide services for everyone in the community. We strive for inclusivity, and we have culturally competent specialists to help all survivors in the community. Sexual violence affects people regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sexual and gender identity, religious affiliation, age, immigration status, and ability. Because survivors of sexual violence may experience the abuse in culturally specific ways, our counselors, educators, and advocates have received training to support survivors who represent the diverse communities represented in the Midlands.

Tayler Simon

Tayler joined the STSM staff as an Education Intern in September 2016. She graduated from the College of Charleston in May 2016 with a Bachelors of Art in Psychology, and is currently completing her Masters of Social Work at the University of South Carolina, with a specialization in Social, Community, and Economic Development. Tayler has always had a passion for civic engagement and community service, both locally and globally, and wants to continue to work in the nonprofit sector.