By Shirley Hawkins
LEIMERT PARK — Dozens of Black women and girls congregated here Oct. 28 for the fourth annual Community Action to End Rape Culture and Sexual Violence rally hosted by Standing4BlackGirls, which was founded in 2021 to provide a platform for Black girl survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
The rally was held to bring attention to the continuing incidents of rape and sexual violence that organizers say Black females continue to experience in Los Angeles County.
Black women and girls are only 4.3% of the population in Los Angeles, yet they represent between 25 to 35% of female violence victims, and experience record rates of homicide, rape and domestic violence.
According to the city Civil and Human Rights and Equity Department, from 2011 to 2022, Black women accounted for one-third (32.85%) of female homicides and nearly a quarter (22%) of all rape victims.
From 2021 to 2022, Black women were also 28.2% of all missing women.
“We exist in a nation where Black women are 2½ times more likely to die from an incident of domestic violence and gun homicide than any other group of women in this nation, and that is an atrocity,” said Siviku Hutchinson, founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, a Black feminist mentoring and civic engagement program, who spoke at the event.
“By the time they are 18, 60% of our Black girls would have experienced sexual abuse,” Hutchinson added. “They also are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than are white women.”
Hutchinson, a teacher in South Los Angeles, said statistics indicate that the rising number of suicides among Black girls continues to grow as well.
“The rate of suicide among middle school and high school girls has skyrocketed 59%,” she said.
Black girls also report in-school sexual harassment at higher rates than other groups.
Hutchinson added that Los Angeles hate crime data fails to adequately capture violent crime against Black trans and gender expansive women who experience disproportionately high rates of homicide, domestic violence and sexual violence.
Hutchinson was concerned that the rape and sexual violence incidents that Black women experience are quietly being overlooked or ignored by civic leaders.
“Who is going to demand that our Black elected officials step up and honor the lives, the humanity, the bodies, the struggles and the self-determination of Black girls and Black women?” she asked.
A rising number of Black women continue to go missing across the country and most are never found.
Rhonda Hampton, a licensed clinical psychologist, is still haunted by the murder of a Black female who worked for her that captured national headlines.
“In 2009, my psychology intern went missing,” she said. “Her name was Mitrice Richardson. Her mom couldn’t find her. She called me and asked me for help.
“I said, ‘We’ll find her.’ That was 14 years ago,” Hampton said.
After searching for the missing girl for a year, Richardson’s skeletal remains were found in the canyons of Malibu.
Despite sheriff’s deputies hunting for her killer for weeks, the Richardson case has never been solved.
“There was no Black Lives Matter or Standing Up 4 Black Girls (movement) at that time,” Hampton said. “We relied on the community, friends and family to search for Mitrice because that’s all we had. To this day, we’re not sure what happened to her.”
With Black women being murdered and their cases going unsolved, Eclasia Wesley, project coordinator of Standing 4 Black Girls, said, “We have to memorialize Black women and make sure they are not forgotten.”
Standing in front of photos of missing and murdered Black girls and women whose cases still remain unsolved, Wesley added, “According to the National Center of Violence Against Black Women, for every Black woman who reports rape, at least 15 Black women do not report it. We need to speak up and speak out.
“We are here to honor our survivors because we know that in Black households, sexual violence sometimes happens and we don’t speak up and we carry those curses,” Wesley said. “We want to break those curses and those chains that are thrust upon us because (sexual violence) is happening to our grandmothers, our sisters, our cousins and our daughters.
“Black women deserve to live long, luxurious, glorious, uplifting lives, happy lives and protected lives. Not forgotten lives, not left outside lives and that’s what we are going to continue to uplift today,” Wesley said.
Ms. Lizette, a member of the Women’s Leadership Program, said, “When I was in 10th grade, a girl who lived across the street died due to her experience with domestic violence. She had already reported her significant partner in an attempt to save her life.
“After her suicide, I wrote a letter to Mayor Bass. My letter said, ‘As an 18 year-old first-year college student, I am deeply concerned about the surge in violence against Black women and girls in Los Angeles.’
“One of our coalition demands centers on creating dedicated funding for targeted prevention, education programs and safe spaces for Black girls and Black gender youth,” she added.
Kathy Evans, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, advocates for women who have been sexually abused.
“Politicians know that Black women go to church, and they come to our churches looking for our votes but they continue to ignore us,” she said. “It’s time that we put our votes into the hands of people who are willing to do something and not just people who want our votes.”
Evans said she became interestd in advocating for sexual assault after she took a training class at the YWCA.
Police contact her when a victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence has been reported.
“Most of the time, law enforcement is very abrasive towards the victims,” Evans said. “They try to absolve the perpetrator and not the victim. So whenever something happens to you, the officer will come to you and say, ‘Why were you wearing that? Why were you there?’ Instead of saying, ‘Why did someone do that to you?’”
“Look at what happened to Megan Thee Stallion (who was shot in the foot by raper Tory Lanez in 2020). The narrative changed. She was the victim, but somehow, someone made her the perpetrator and the cause of what happened.
“It’s important to change the language, the narrative and the mindset of the police who are paid by us to defend and protect us, but then who turn around and try to make us the reason for our own victimization,” said Evans.
Another problem is that victims lack the resources after they are assaulted.
“I found that after my training, most of the victims did not have access to the resources that were being paid for,” Evans said.
“When a sexual assault or domestic violence situation has happened to the girl, sometimes the girls just need someone to sit with them,” she said. “When a Black girl tells you something happened to her, believe Black girls.”
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews.com.