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Black Survivors | Denim Isn’t Always Denim

It’s no secret that Black women have long led the anti-sexual violence movement. Icons like Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, and Tarana Burke all played major roles in changing narratives around sexual violence. This isn’t a coincidence. Since the moment enslaved Africans were brought to this continent by white colonizers, they’ve experienced sexual violence and a society that refused to acknowledge it. Up until 1861, rape was only a treated as crime if it was perpetrated against a white woman. No one else fell under the umbrella of protected victim. That’s just one reason that anti-racist work must be a factor in anti-sexual violence work; we have 400 years of trauma, injustice, and systemic racism to account for. Even in conversations about the need for increased reporting, it’s important to acknowledge why Black survivors might be hesitant to report. Not only do police officers continue to be a threat to Black lives, but today’s police forces are direct descendants of yesteryear’s slave catching patrols. Black survivors are often left to their own devices because systems aren’t set up to protect them. For Black survivors, #DenimIsn’tAlwaysDenim. It’s the living American history of systemic racism.

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