Sharing Your Experience of Sexual Assault

In 2018 a docuseries aired on Lifetime titled Surviving R. Kelly. In this series, several African American women who were teenagers at the time, spoke on their experience allegedly being sexually abused by singer R. Kelly. In 2002, R. Kelly was indicted on child pornography charges, several of these women testified against him but by the end of the trial in 2008, R. Kelly was found not guilty. The sentiment that people didn’t take their accusations seriously because they were black girls was expressed by the docuseries writer, Mikki Kendall.

In interviewing a white male juror from the trial, he stated, “I just didn’t believe them, the women. I know it sounds ridiculous. The way they dress, the way they act — I didn’t like them.”

This juror’s statement demonstrates how black women are not valued or respected in our society, going back to the history of slavery. The rhetorical analysis will review the history of various women’s liberation movements and how African American women have been victims of sexual assault and violence but the voice of African American women in these more prominent movements have been overlooked and undervalued.

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In March 1913, 5000 women marched on Washington in the Women’s Suffrage parade in support of a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. Alice Paul, the organizer of the march believed white women would not march with black women. African American men, as well as African American women, would benefit from the right to vote but African American women were discouraged from participating.

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Despite the resistance, a group of African American women, founders and members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an African American sorority founded a Howard University, January 13, 1913, joined at the back of parade, in the organizations first public service. In 1940, an African American woman Recy Taylor, was raped by six white men and testified against them despite several threats on her life. Recy had the support of Rosa Park, an activist, and along with other activist organized the Committee for Equal Justice for Recy Taylor. They launched one of the strongest national campaigns for equal justice. This group of activist eventually became the Montgomery Improvement Association, who’s first President, Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the Montgomery Bus

Boycott movement. As recent as 1991, Anita Hill came forth to testify against Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Clarence Thomas regarding sexual assault against her. Her character was questioned and he was eventually confirmed. Throughout the history of the United States, African American women have been the victims of rape and sexual assault and at the forefront of movements in protest against sexual violence and rape. In 2007, Tarana Burke created Just Be Inc., a nonprofit organization to help victims of sexual assault. She committed herself to helping victims and began a movement and called it Me Too.

Burke’s movement did not gain support from white prominent feminists but once Alyssa Milano used the term Me Too in a tweet, it quickly became a hashtag by other women who have experienced sexual assault and communicated throughout social media. The hashtag movement has been criticized that even though an African American woman created it, the faces of the movement were white, affluent, within Hollywood and women of color in lower wage jobs were left out of the conversation. The MeToo movement is another example of how African American women have been victims as well as influential in the movement for women’s rights but our voices have been overlooked and undervalued in as shown during the Women’s Suffrage movement up until now with the MuteRKelly movement.

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Sharing Your Experience of Sexual Assault. (2022, Jan 08). Retrieved from

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