Black Women & Rape: Myth vs. Reality by Peggy Butler

In lieu of the controversy surrounding a Black stripper, who was allegedly raped by three members of the Duke University lacrosse team, we once again find ourselves debating the myth of the Black woman’s sexuality. And what exactly are those myths? They are 1) African-American women are sensual creatures eager to pounce on a penis at the drop of a hat; 2) They are the aggressors when it comes to love making; 3) They experience sex at an earlier age than women of other races; 4) T know how to please a man and can move their bodies unlike any other. Now that you’ve read the myths, let’s explore the actualities and see how they stack up.

Reality: Contrary to how Black women have been portrayed in books and films, they are no more erotic than other females, nor do they enjoy sexmore or less. Nor do they have a monopoly on pleasing men. As for experiencing sex at an early age, there is some authenticity in that, but not what you think. In slavery, girls as young as 11 were raped by the master or used for breeding purposes as soon as they reached sexual maturity. Additionally, Black women in slavery were viewed primarily as “baby makers” with little value. From this erroneous misconception the myth was born that Black women were sexually immoral. Not surprisingly, this myth has resulted in the belief that Black women are promiscuous and incapable of being raped. Not surprisingly, such misconception has resulted in many Black women refusing to call the police to report sexual abuse for fear they will not be believed or subjected to questioning they would prefer not to deal with. Sadly, this is the norm rather than the exception says Diana Gay Cutchin, who works for the Office of Health Promotion in Richmond, Virginia. Cutchin who conducts an annual program on Why Black Women Don’t Report Rape concedes: “In cases of sexual abuse women of color are more likely to turn to their church or family for support” she says. As to why they don’t contact the police, Cutchin maintains “the mistrust (which is certainly justified) of the criminal justice system is also a factor.”

And speaking of mistrust, the victim, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, hasn’t exactly come across as truthful. For example, according to a police audio taken on the night of the attack, the victim was found drunk in someone else’s car. Furthermore, rumors have surfaced that she was also inebriated at the party. Because she was drunk, does that mean no rape took place? Not necessarily. Likewise, all 46 members of the lacrosse team were tested, and none of their DNA was found on, in, or around the victim’s body. Does lack of DNA indicate no rape occurred? Not necessarily, when you consider that the three men accused, may have worn condoms. Now, what if the roles were reversed, and the victim was White and the defendants, Black? Come on you know the answer. There would be an outpouring of support for the victim, and many in the Deep South would be clamoring for a lynch mob to “hang” the perpetrators. Alas, the victim is Black, the accusers White, and therein lies the controversy.

As we have seen, as long as the myth persist that Black women are incapable of being raped, they will continue to have difficulty convincing anyone when they’re sexually abused. Hence, it’s time to stop this cycle, right here and right now without animosity or frivolous fanfare. Moreover, the longer this attitude prevails, we will continue to take one step forward and two steps backwards. And that America, is simply not acceptable.