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The Secrecy and Shame Behind Molestation in Black Families

TRIGGER WARNING:  This article discusses Sexual Assault

Incest, unwanted sexual advances, emotional incest and molestation imposed upon one family member to another are frequent, concealed egregious occurrences that have plagued black families for generations. Why? What makes a family member desire to engage in any form of sexual contact with another family member? More so than that, if family members are aware of it, why do they cover it up, sweep it under the rug, or even ignore it? This must be addressed and stopped. But how? Raven Fisher, MA, LCPC and Owner of Nave Wellness Center suggests that in order for the cycle of family molestation/incest to be broken, someone in the family must have the desire  to come forward to break the cycle and challenge the family rule of keeping things a secret.  Family molestation/incest is often kept secret because of generational and societal norms of abiding by the rule of “not airing dirty laundry” to others. Coming forward about sexual abuse can bring shame upon a family unit, and victims of sexual assault from a family member find it difficult to come forward because they fear they will be ostracized from their loved ones. They’re afraid they won’t believe them or be accused of sexual manipulation. She went on further to say that victims and perpetrators tend not to seek help because it is an admittance that something is wrong which creates a sense of personal shame, self-blame and they equate those feelings with human imperfections. 

Raven Fisher, MA, LCPC and Owner of Nave Wellness Center

Generational incest often stems from untreated internal trauma, perpetrators were once victims themselves and the trauma in turn is internalized and normalized because it goes unaddressed. The effects of sexual assault comes in different forms. Victims can suffer from sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies. It can negatively affect how they relate to sex or physical intimacy. They can become overly sexually expressive, experience sexual shut-down (not engaging in healthy sexual relationships), a lack of trust because of the trauma, they can become hypersexualized or display maladaptive behaviors. For victims turned survivors of sexual assault, Raven Fisher wants them to understand that is it not their fault and that it’s okay to seek help. “Your worth as a human being is so much more than the experiences that you have had. Being accepted by others does not determine your value and it's okay to not be okay.” Lastly she wants survivors to know that, “resources exist for a reason: so that we can use them. It is okay to ask for help. Seek therapy and utilize available resources so that you can live more fully and freely.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This month draws attention to the invisible fact that sexual violence is widespread and impacts every person in a community. The national focus for the month is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” The themes focus calls for communities, organizations, institutions and individuals to learn how to draw connections between the different forms of oppression and how they connect to the underlying causes of sexual assault. The first Tuesday of April (April 4th) is SAAM Day of Action. This day has been designated for opportunities to begin the month with coordinated actions to bring awareness to sexual assault and prevention. On this day, people are encouraged to wear the color teal, participate in a SAAM event, sponsor an event or positively interact on social media regarding SAAM. For more information on how to get involved visit https://www.nsvrc.org/saam 

Families are the heart of communities, and each one harbors secrets they are careful not to expose for the sake of holding the family together from the point of view of outsiders. However, what most families fail to realize is that the secrets they hold near and dear to their hearts are tearing down the internal structure of the family unit causing it to break down. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, please seek help and start a movement to end this vicious cycle to restore the strength your individual strength and identify and restore of familial communities. 

Where Victims and Perpetrators Can Seek Help  

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network 800-656- HOPE (4673) https://centers.rainn.org/

Survivors of Incest Anonymous (peer support groups) 877-742-9761  https://siawso.org/

Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline 1-888-293-2080

Our Resilience 312-443-9603 ourresilience.org or info@ourresilience.org 

Pillars Community Health 708-482-9600

Nave Wellness Center 1-877-929-6283 (NAVE) www.navecenter.com


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