Saturday, June 30, 2012


Introduction by Kiilu Nyasha:

As a Black woman who grew up in the 1940s, ‘50s, and 60s. I’m fully aware of the treatment of colored girls and women not only by White men, but men of every description.  I’m old enough now not to be too embarrassed to state that I was raped numerous times and didn’t even know it was rape.  It was referred to as Bogarting when men forced you into sex against your will in those days.  There were no phrases like “date rape,” or “sexual harassment,” though both were quite common, the latter mostly in the work place.  Black women were singled out particularly due to the prevailing racist notion that we were animal-like and oversexed. 

Today, violence against women has become epidemic throughout the world and the statistics are extremely alarming. According to the United Nations, “Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime, according to country data available.

Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.”

“Women and girls as old as grandmothers and as young as toddlers have routinely suffered violent sexual abuse at the hands of military and rebel forces.

Rape has long been used as a tactic of war, with violence against women during or after armed conflicts reported in every international or non-international war-zone.”

Moreover, our own military personnel have been raping their female counterparts with relative impunity at an atrocious rate: 

The Guardian reports “Last year [2010] 3,158 sexual crimes were reported within the US military. Of those cases, only 529 reached a court room, and only 104 convictions were made, according to a 2010 report from SAPRO (sexual assault prevention and response office, a division of the department of defence). But these figures are only a fraction of the reality. Sexual assaults are notoriously under-reported. The same report estimated that there were a further 19,000 unreported cases of sexual assault last year. The department of veterans affairs, meanwhile, released an independent study estimating that one in three women had experience of military sexual trauma while on active service. That is double the rate for civilians, which is one in six, according to the US department of justice.

Rape Ignites a Nation During Civil Rights Movement by Carmen Rivera

Sexual violence against women has been a part of history for a long time, but is often something that is shelved behind the annals of history, something discussed by forensic nursing schools, but not throughout society. The story of Recy Taylor followed that pattern exactly, at least at first. Taylor’s is one of the most incendiary rape stories to come out of the American South, and still today draws attention to how society approaches, processes, and prosecutes gender violence. 

Taylor, a wife and mother, was walking home from her Alabama church on September 3, 1944, when she was assaulted at gunpoint and raped by a gang of six white men. Taylor was African American while all three men came from privileged families in the community. After the fact, the assailants left Taylor for dead at the scene. Even though at least one of the men confessed to the rape, none spent any time in jail. The Recy Taylor case would soon become a unifying force throughout the Civil Rights movement.
Taylor managed to survive the ordeal, only to find that her story had drawn basically no attention or criticism. According to her brother, the rapists accused her of being a prostitute--an allegation that, at that time, would have made their offenses all but unpunishable. Additionally, an attorney for the men tried to pay Taylor’s husband $100 per rapist to drop any legal charges. Marvin White, the attorney representing the rapists, considered this offer overly generous. He allegedly asked Mr. Taylor, “Ain’t $600 enough for raping your wife?”

The Taylor family declined the offer, and enlisted the help of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP sent its best investigator and advocate to look into the case on the Taylors’ behalf. That investigator’s name was Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks 

The rape of Recy Taylor took place 11 years before Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her infamous bus seat. Even though the State of Alabama did not prosecute the men who committed the crime, the the African-American community, roiled in part by efforts of the NAACP, brought so much attention to the rape that Governor Chauncey Sparks was forced to convene a grand jury. 
In the end, though, not even that was enough. Despite confessions from the men and testimony from eyewitnesses, the members of the all-white grand jury never returned an indictment. The case of Recy Taylor passed quietly into history.
In 2011, historian Danielle McGuire published a book called At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance. The book, which won both a Frederick Jackson Turner Award and a Lillian Smith Book Award, brought Taylor’s case back into the national spotlight. In March of that same year, the State of Alabama issued an apology to Taylor, calling the state’s response to the crime “morally abhorrent and repugnant.” As reported by The Root, Taylor was 91 years old when the apology came down, and was able to appreciate its significance despite her declining health. 
McGuire’s book explains that the birth of Civil Rights began long before the arrest of Rosa Parks. The protests of black women against sexual assault and interracial rape began during World War II and continued until the rise of Black Power. Rosa Parks was portrayed as a sweet, retiring grandmother after her boycott of the Montgomery city bus lines. In fact, she had a long history as a powerful Civil Rights activist and a  veritable voice for freedom.
The National Organization for Women reports that 600 women in America are raped every day.  It is estimated that one in five college-aged women in the United States will experience a rape or an attempted rape. Some attacks are random, but others are systematically planned. This year in the U.K., according to The Daily Mail, a man from a fundamentalist Muslim family kidnapped women as young as 15 who were out on the streets at night in order to beat and rape them as a “punishment” for the sin of being out late with friends. 
Although government leaders have apologized for what happened to Recy Taylor, apologies alone are not a solution. Unfortunately, society still isn’t doing enough to protect women of all nationalities, ages, and backgrounds from sexual assault.

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