Why Does the Media Ignore Women of Colour Survivors?

Excuse my language, but where the fuck are the women of colour survivors?

Two weeks ago I watched the 60 Minutes segment about a survivor’s experience with campus sexual violence. It has been bittersweet for me to see the increased attention on campus sexual violence: I see the attention by the mainstream media to be an asset, but oftentimes mainstream portrayals of serious, complex issues (like, oh, rape) end up not educating, but sensationalizing, and perpetuating stereotypes.

As a college rape survivor, I feel like I have a personal investment in every portrayal of campus sexual violence (which may or may not be bad; I am still deciding), but I don’t think I’ve never gotten angry so quickly at a 60 minutes segment as I did when I watched the episode that week.

There’s the usual spiel: They gush about how beautiful and smart this young (white) woman is – as if it were any other way her rape would not be as much of a tragedy.

And THEN they show us photos of the men punished for raping her– and that’s when my blood REALLY starts to boil – the photos of two black men appear on the screen.

REALLY? We’re still doing the big bad black man rapist on the innocent, pure, lovely white girl thing? Can we STOP?

I not only felt uncomfortable about this portrayal of a story that upholds this racist FALSE stereotype of most rapes are black men raping white women. Most rapes are intraracial – NOT interracial. Why do the faces of perpetrators even have to be put on screen? What does that do? Honestly, I feel like my story is more about me and my experiences, not about plastering the senior photo of my perpetrator on prime time TV…but that’s just me. Instead of demonizing perpetrators, I think we should be focusing more on the impact sexual violence has on the lives of survivors.

Seriously, fuck this shit. I am tired of not being good enough for my voice to be heard. I mean…not even my rape is good enough!? Is this just an extension of the Missing White Girl Syndrome– where little white girls get months of media coverage when children of colour are missing every day?

We need to fucking mix up the narrative. I, for one, am tired of trying to talk to mainstream reporters or producers trying to convince them that, hey, my story is important too. During all this coverage of campus sexual violence survivors I have not seen a SINGLE black (or trans or male or Asian or anything-that-isn’t-pretty-middle-to-upper-class-white-girl) survivor portrayed. While I am sure there are a lot of reasons outside the reporters’ control, I know personally I have spoken to MULTIPLE who are very interested in my story, but then it just isn’t “perfect” enough and they move on.

A big contributor to the perpetuation sexual violence is SILENCE. By refusing to get a diverse voice out there about a problem of affects one in 4 women, mainstream media is doing a disservice to survivors and the anti-violence movement as a whole.

So what do we do from here? Unfortunately, I do not know. The media is overwhelmingly controlled by men and white people. I personally am sick of opening myself up to strangers only to be deemed not worthy of attention (hmm sounds just like when my old school ignored my rape report). All I can do, though, is implore all the producers and reporters out there to give us non-white girls a chance.

We need a broader, more diverse narrative if we truly want to say that all bodies are valued.

    4 thoughts on “Why Does the Media Ignore Women of Colour Survivors?

    1. Great post. You’re so right. Just to add to the comment about the scary-black-men-rape-white-women myth, I’m pretty sure studies have shown that not only are most rapes intraracial, but white men more commonly rape women of color than the other way around. Does anyone have a reference on that? I was at a training recently where several American Indian women brought up the issue that women on their reservation were often being assaulted by white perpetrators. Because the law enforcement was predominantly white (and not trusted), they had a hard time bringing perpetrators to justice.

      Your story IS important. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Thanks for your comment, Ali!

      I don’t know about the report re: white men raped WOC, but considering the history in this country where black women slaves were basically guaranteed to be raped because they were “property”…and even continuing with the oversexualization exotification of WOC, I would not be surprised.

      I am not surprised, but am still saddened, to hear about the problem the women on the reservation have. It is hard enough to turn to law enforcement as a rape survivor, but when the power dynamics such as race even further complicate the issue it leaves many survivors feeling like they have no choices.

    3. That’s brave of you to tell your story over and over again despite what jerks the media are being to you. Please keep on doing it. I’m a white girl and … even for me it’s difficult to get the assault stories out in the open where they belong, so I can only imagine what you’re going through. And yeah, I had trouble with several guys NONE of whom were black. This needs to stop being portrayed as a race issue. People need to listen to women like you who are strong enough to come forward. How the hell else are we going to get the women who aren’t strong enough or silenced even more than you any help?

      • Thanks for commenting, Ari! I am sorry you can relate to the roadblocks from the media. I have always struggled with hearing about the lack of women (or any survivor) coming forward, only to find out that the media still picks and chooses the “best” stories. I hope we can get diversity on ALL levels.

        I hope you and your story gets the recognition it deserves