With no barometer in which to measure it, the incidence of incest in the African-American community can only be estimated, since reported cases comprise a small fraction of the overall numbers. Recent data from the Center for Sexual Studies estimate. that family members molest thousands of children each year, with an even larger number going unreported.
Designated the last taboo of the Black community, few people are willing to talk about it. Blacks still insist that incest primarily occurs in the European community, but rarely among Blacks. But if the data and shocking stories told to me by the women in thisarticleare any indication, the problem is more common than most of us are willing to admit.
To reiterate, Blacks are willing to discuss every issue under the sun, with the exception of forced sexual activity between children usually girls and a close family member. And reports indicate that even when the molestation is reported to the mother, the number of womenwho refuse to believe their daughters is tragically high.
In Unraveling Incest in the African-American community, experts maintainthat thereluctance ofAfrican-Americansto acknowledge the existence of incest is why the problem remains.“I know people who are more comfortable talking about abortion and homosexuality than incest,” says Dr. David Meltzer a leading clinical psychologist.He maintains this is Black America’s dirty little secret.Moreover, he acknowledges that no one wants to admit it happens, or that the impact on the victimis sodevastating.Based on his research, Meltzer saidincestwill continue, as long as we deny its existence and turn a deaf ear to children who report such activity.
As for the future, Dr. Meltzer noted that four of the most explosive problems facing the Black community are crime, drugs, racism, and unemployment.He said we need to start right now at this moment and admit to ourselves that incest and sexual abuse should also be included on that list.Meltzer further noted that if you think it’s mentally or physically impossible for a 60-year-old grandfather to penetrate his 5-year-old granddaughter without feelingguilty, “I am here to tell you, that it does happen.” He concluded that it’s time for Black America to open their eyes, unplug their ears and come to grip with this travesty, that affects all ofus, male and female, old and youngand people of every economic-statusin its devastation.
To reiterate, a change in the Black community regarding incest is clearly needed. No longer can we deny its existence or continue to refer to it as a “White people problem.”
Furthermore, in brining incest out of the dark and into the light, women must also be willing to make changes. That means mothers should take immediate action when 7-year-old Misty saysUncleShawn exposed his penisor touched her inappropriately. Admittedly children lie, but when it comes to sexual implications, studies show that the majority tell the truth.Experts maintain that after talking with your child, the next step is to call law enforcement officials. And, lastly takethe child to a physician for an examination. For those who do not have a personal physician, a hospital or walk in clinic is the next best alternative. Also, to avoid conflict, authorities assert that under no circumstances should a woman confront the alleged perpetrator, no matter how angry they are.Likewise, fathers should also adhere to this advice.
The BlackChurch: Traditionally revered as the one place where people seek solace and spiritual enlightenment, it is imperative that pastors speak out on incest, instead of deliberately ignoring it. For many Blacks, ministers are role models with the ability to influence. With such influence it is only fitting that ministers talk about incest as readily as they talk about the virtues of salvation. A discussion of this nature gives parishioners a chance to open theireyesand explore a topic they rarely think about.
As we have seen, incest and molestation will persist as long as we ignore and deny it.We need to start right now at this moment and admit to ourselves that incest has no place in our community and should be eradicated. It’s time to stop the cycle, right here and right now without animosity or frivolous fanfare.
Wilson, M.(1994). Crossing the Boundary: Black Women Survive Incest.An incest victim recounts her survival and includes useful information for other victims of color. Seal Press.
Wyatt, G. E. (1988).The Long-Term Effects of Incestuous Abuse: A Comparison of African Americans and White American Victims.A compelling book that lays bare the difference between Black and White incest survivors, as it relates to race, society and other factors. Sage Publications.