Erased, hidden or missing: understanding Black women's experiences in the fight against college campus sexual violence



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Sexual violence continues to be a pervasive problem on college campuses and for Black college women research shows a history of racialized trauma – one that dates back to slavery that continues to bear witness to psychological harms of fear, self-blame, and guilt - that forces them to remain silent. Yet college administrators continue to respond to sexual violence from an identity-neutral and dominant narrative that leaves women of color erased, hidden, or missing in the fight against campus sexual violence. Several studies have focused on sexual violence against women in college; however, there is a lack of diversity in the samples. To fill this gap, this qualitative case study sought to illuminate Black women’s voices as they described their sexual violence experiences and reflected on the ways, if any, their intersecting identities (i.e., race and gender) impacted their sexual violence experiences while attending a historically White institution. Findings indicate that Black women described their sexual violence as psychologically impacting, socially isolating, overwhelming to report or seek help, faith evoking, compounded by social media and COVID-19, and leading to manifesting resilience. Findings, also, suggest that Black women’s intersecting identities related to gender and race affected their experience and led them to adhere to a culture of silence, evoke racial consciousness, and be viewed as hyper-sexualized. Based on the study findings, recommendations are offered for college administrators who address, respond to, and direct initiatives to prevent sexual violence. Student services personnel are also strongly encouraged to employ an intersectional lens that includes disaggregation of pertinent data by identity factors. Given the focus and nature of the current study, areas for further inquiry are also highlighted to continue to enhance our understanding of sexual violence on campuses as well as discover effective strategies to support Black women.


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