When Partners Rape and Women Stay Silent

Silence in our community is not striking a blow at our enemies. In fact it just makes them stronge...


Silence in our community is not striking a blow at our enemies. In fact it just makes them stronger and more confident in their actions. Pretending to be heroes in the face of evil never helps anyone. We Black women are not superwomen. We are as vulnerable and as susceptible to violence as our white female counterparts (and maybe even more so). Sexual assault does not happen “out there”—outside the walls of our community. No, it occurs daily within our own borders right under our noses by those we trust the most.

Partner rape is not a myth and causes as much emotional and psychological damage as stranger rape, domestic abuse, incest and molestation. For many people the idea that your trusted husband, boyfriend or girlfriend could be your rapist is as much of a fable as is the Loch Ness monster; but it does exist.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest NationalNetwork (RAINN), “survivors of partner rape are more likely to be raped multiple times when compared to stranger and acquaintance rape survivors. As such, partner rape survivors are more likely to suffer severe and long–lasting physical and psychological injuries.”

As Black women we have been taught since we were first knee-high that in order to protect our Black men first, our community second and ourselves last, that we needed to learn the value of a closed mouth. Shouldering responsibility in silence was always the best course of action lest it be known publicly—giving our “white enemies” another chance to disparage our people. We were expected to suffer alone; to workout the problem as quietly as we could and to never, ever bring shame into our households. Unfortunately, this responsibility has also caused on our humanly demise.

For me, it was (and still is) one of the most distasteful, disgusting and sinful burdens ever to be laid at the feet of Black women. We have been so effective in this community strategy that it has left many of us deathly afraid to speak up and out against those we have loved and claim to have loved us. Those human beings who promised to protect us and instead raped us.




I have read the stories from women of color who were raped by their husbands, boyfriends, partners and girlfriends. Women who suffered unimaginable and unbearable agony in fear of what would happen to them should they say anything. They were left unaided by friends, family, and even church members because they did not want to break with tradition, or better yet be seen as a victim.

We must stop living like this. We must break our silence and begin coming out in droves telling our stories and confronting those men within our communities, within our lives, who have brought upon us despicable acts of violence and torture. If we do not what will happen to those left behind us? To those growing up now? If in 2011, as reported by NewsOne, “sixtypercent of black girls [had] experienced sexual abuse at the hands of black menbefore reaching the age of 18,” what are the chances that the number will double in say the next two or three or four years? How long are going to keep protecting others at the expense of our souls—our bodies—our dignity?

I know that coming forward is not, by any means, easy for anyone regardless of the type of abuse but is necessary if we want to control this problem within our community. Black women you have the right to protect yourselves and to place your humanity as your number one priority. Partner rape happens every day to so many of beautiful sisters. Have the courage to stand up and place your perpetrator behind bars. You not only save your life but the life of someone else.

For more resources check out:

TheNational Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA)
BlackSexual Abuse Survivors: A National Online Support System for African-Americans
NationalSexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

I would also urge you to check out No!: The Rape Documentary by Aishah Simmons who documents the stories of African American women breaking their silence.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


Alice J. Rollins is an aspiring freelance writer and blogger who holds an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University. Her areas of interest include African American women’s spirituality, feminist/womanist pedagogy and politics of migration. She is currently based in Chicago, IL. Email her at: alice@forharriet.com

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