For women, particularly women of color, gender inequity can have life threatening costs. Women aged 16-24 experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence, triple the national average, and the rates for women of color are the highest. But without women in positions of power, the problem is not addressed properly. This March, we acknowledge the women who are change-makers in the fight to end domestic violence, while realizing there is more work to be done.
Recently, we saw a long deserved victory for community organizers, survivors, and justice in general: sexual assault charges were brought against singer and known abuser Robert Kelly, better known by his stage name, R. Kelly. After decades of abusing Black girls, it appears that we are finally beginning to see the repercussions; Kelly was dropped from his record label earlier this year in light of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary. However, this action was too long overdue. It comes after years of Kelly preying on young Black girls, a failed trial, and countless horrifying stories from Black women who suffered abuse at his hands. Throughout this, he continued to receive support from his team, fans, and the larger public.
This points to a greater issue of the general disregard for Black girls in discussions of sexual assault; their stories are largely ignored both within and outside the Black community. White, affluent narratives of sexual harassment often take up most of the space in these discussions, silencing low-income women and women of color. This was seen in the #MeToo movement, despite its founder being Tarana Burke, a Black woman. In contrast, campaigns like #MuteRKelly meant to raise awareness about the issues Black women and girls face have taken immense work on the part of Black community organizers to obtain the same national attention.
Throughout history, women’s voices have been silenced. Many powerful activists for women’s rights have paved a way for more women to speak out. Recent movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo provide platforms for all people who identify as women and all those who have been abused and harassed to step forward and share their stories. During Women’s History Month, Day One recognizes and celebrates women that began the fight and encouraged each other to stand together against sexual violence and inequality.