NABG Newsletter Issue 12: When Shelter-In-Place is Unsafe for our Girls

You are reading an A National Agenda for Black Girls weekly newsletter. A National Agenda for Black Girls a Girls for Gender Equity initiative focused on centering Black girls in our national policies. Want to receive more NABG insights and updates? Sign up for the newsletter here.

These are difficult, painful times that weigh on us all emotionally. In this letter we’ll discuss some heavy topics, and we hope that you will care for yourself as you engage in this important discussion with us.

Girls for Gender Equity works to end all forms of violence towards cisgender and transgender women and girls, gender non-conforming, and non-binary youth, and to build cultures of consent. Our advocacy centers on this principle:

Invest in tools that end violence and offer supportive services for transgender, cisgender, and non-binary people in schools, communities, and public spaces.

Black girls deserve to have lives that are unbridled by the fear of sexual or gender-based violence. There must be investments in the programs and organizations which provide healing, emotional support, housing, care, and advocacy for survivors of gender-based violence. Political leaders should value the safety, autonomy, and well-being of girls and women.

We are Missing Something

In discussions and publications about the impact of COVID-19, gender-based violence is rarely mentioned. The economy, unemployment rates, the realities of online learning, and healthcare disparities are receiving significant media coverage whereas the skyrocketing rates of domestic violence are largely being ignored. While COVID-19 is our newest pandemic, we must recognize that Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and domestic violence are long-standing pandemics in their own right.

The Perfect Storm

In response to COVID-19, we are told that the safest thing to do is to stay inside, but inside may be an equally dangerous place for people. Gender-based violence has always been prevalent in our society, but the onset of COVID-19 has exacerbated this crisis. The “Shelter-in-Place” ordinance forcibly isolates young people, now mandating a tactic abusers have always used. Young people who experience violence in the home are now unable to turn to outside support such as teachers, counselors, coaches and their peers. With our new normal, young people are more susceptible to being harmed. Caregivers are experiencing even more limited resources and strain which directly impacts the young people in the home.

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) impacts between 8–12% of children. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reported that this March was the first time in their organization’s history that more than half of the hotline calls were made by minors. RAINN released data from the calls made by minors in regards to COVID-19 concerns, and 67% reported the perpetrator being a family member; 79% reported that they lived with the perpetrator. It is evident that staying home is not safe for so many young people.

We already know that roughly 60% of Black girls experience sexual assault before they turn 18. Black women experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence compared to white and Latinx women, and roughly 4 in 10 Black women have experienced physical abuse. It is estimated that for every Black woman who reports sexual assault, 15 Black women do not. During this pandemic, sexual assault survivors are even more hesitant to report their assault or to go to the hospitals for rape kits, and the same is true for young people who are seeking medical treatment from abuse.

Domestic violence has increased during this time for many reasons. Stress is often a trigger for violence, and this pandemic is indeed stress inducing. On top of being isolated from society at-large and worrying over our well-being, almost 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment to date. Unemployment is correlated with an increase in alcohol purchases and consumption, which can lead to an increase in domestic violence. We must also consider that women make up a significant percentage of unemployment claims, affecting their financial security and further impacting their ability to escape their perpetrators, and with the cuts to youth employment programs, young folks are also being denied critical resources. At this moment, gun sales are also surging, which is a trend whenever there is a crisis, but research shows that if an abuser owns a gun, the partner is five times more likely to be killed.

Standing and Supporting Survivors

The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. During this month it is important that we act on behalf of survivors of abuse and assault by engaging in various acts of awareness. There are multiple ways that you can support during this time.

  • Join GGE in participating in Denim Day on April 29th. This year is the ten year anniversary of Denim Day. Wear denim to support survivors and educate others on sexual assault. We will be participating in the #AViolenceFreeFutureNeeds 2020 campaign. You can participate by doing the following:
  • Visiting denimday.nyc and taking the 2020 Denim Day pledge.
  • Sharing on social media what you believe #AViolenceFreeFutureNeeds — we’ll be sharing too, so tell us in our IG comments or tag us (@ggenyc) and @denimdaynyc in your own posts.
  • Save the date to attend our Virtual Denim Day Rally at denimday.nyc on April 29th
  • Reach out to the survivors in your life and support them during this time. It is important for them to know that they have support, and to know they are not alone. If they are unsure who they can turn too, talk to them about Pod Mapping. Pod Mapping can be helpful during this time as it helps survivors identify safe people they can rely on for support.
  • Share support and self-care reminders. The National Center on Violence against Women in the Black Community, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, RAINN, and other organizations are providing support to survivors of sexual assault during the pandemic.
  • View these additional resources by state on violence against women.
  • Visit NYC Hope’s database of supportive resources for folks experiencing GBV, VIP Mujeres for resources for Latina/X communities, and these youth friendly resources for hotlines and additional support.

P.S. Know someone who is also invested in the future of Black girls? Forward this article to them. If you’d like to invest in Black girls, donate here, and sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.

Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is an intergenerational organization committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women