Shining a Light on Sexual Violence During Black History Month
About this Series
This is the second in a series of posts from our partners on the Match Group Advisory Council. These posts focus on safety topics that are important to our partners, our company, and our users. We have asked Match Group Advisory Council Members to contribute their expert insights to our Trust and Safety Center to increase awareness among our members and amplify our collaborative work to improve safety both on our platforms and in our greater community.
Black History Month in the U.S. is often a celebration of the achievements to advance the fight against racism, to highlight the individuals who risked and lost their lives in the battle against white supremacy and hatred. Morning shows and late night television feature brilliant Black influencers, and local heroes; social media accounts of those in positions of power recite quotes from legends like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s all very beautiful, celebratory, and needed.
Rarely, however, do we hone in on the various systems and structures that continue to uphold systemic racism and focus our energies on the voices and experiences that we are not hearing – or more realistically, to which we are not listening. Mainstream America is not talking about how someone’s race is impacting the kinds of financial hardships they are experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic, or whether or not they die from the virus. We are not highlighting the fact that beyond an general increase in intimate partner violence during the pandemic, Black and Brown survivors of sexual violence are being re-traumatized exponentially. This is a moment to detail the realities being faced by millions of Black Americans, with an eye toward interventions and solutions that will make a material difference in the lives of those we are celebrating this month.
me too. International is a Black-led, survivor-led organization. It’s important to note that, because many people believe the ‘me too.’ Movement is only for white women in Hollywood who are trying to take down powerful men. We have always been a movement that centers our most under-resourced communities – those who are Black, trans, queer, immigrant, disabled, and all communities of color, even when no one knew who we were. This month is no different for us – we have focused on sharing the lived experiences and healing journeys of Black survivors; we are creating space to celebrate the power of Black survivorhood; and we are building and joining advocacy efforts to interrupt sexual violence in the Black community. We understand that focusing on marginalized communities does not exclude any other. On the contrary; focusing on the Black community means all communities are served by nature of starting with those who need it so greatly.
We conducted a COVID-19 survey in summer 2020 in partnership with our comrades at FreeFrom to assess the experiences of survivors during the pandemic. What we learned was sobering but not surprising. Black and Brown survivors are nearly twice as likely to face severe economic hardship than white survivors. Those survivors who experience financial hardship are at greater risk of returning to a harm-doer, and so it is survivors of color who are most often facing that reality (Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 on Survivors of Color, Ruiz, Ruvalcaba, Berenstain, and Fluegeman, 2020). The pandemic has exacerbated the existing racial and gender inequities that disproportionately impact Black women and women of color in the US (Chen, Waterman, & Krieger, 2020; Cowper et al., 2020; Hall et al., 2020; Malghan & Swaminathan, 2020). For example, among survivors, 8 out of 10 essential workers of color are facing food insecurity under COVID-19 compared to 5 out of 10 white essential workers. A similar pattern is evident in housing insecurity and patterns of interruption to asset-generating resources, such as education. The stakes could not be any greater. Survivors already face significantly higher burdens of material insecurity when compared with the average American (Doyle, Durrence, & Passi, 2020). The intersecting and compounding socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 on survivors of color represents a call to action and social investment in survivors’ lives that cannot wait.
me too. International is proud to amplify the needs of Black survivors and step forward with demands. We released In Defense of Black Survivors at the top of Black History Month, in collaboration with National Women’s Law Center and Time’s Up. We also launched a new initiative on February 24th with these organizations called “We, As Ourselves.” The work is a love letter to Black survivors, calling out the defining historical moments to interrupt sexual violence that Black survivors have led, how they have shown up to fight and march, and at the same time, are disproportionally disbelieved, dismissed, and disrespected. We are reshaping the conversation around Black survivors, calling for a national reckoning that insists on cultural conditions that allow Black survivors to safely share their stories, build community and support, and upend the narratives that perpetrate sexual violence against Black women and girls.
In honor of Black History Month, and all year long, we are asking individuals of every race, gender, age, and economic status to recognize that Black women make up the second largest population of sexual assault survivors in the United States. And we can do something about that; we must do something about that. Amid a historic reckoning on racial justice, we can’t say that we value Black people and then remain silent when we suffer. In our communities, we can show up for Black survivors by redirecting harmful narratives, supporting consent culture, and calling out behaviors that keep all of us from feeling safe. The media can make the stories of Black survivors more visible and center justice as the narrative, as they often do with cisgender white survivors.
As individuals, we can all take action to interrupt sexual violence. No matter what you do or where you are, you can get involved by visiting ‘me too.’s action tool called Act Too. Created with the support of our dear friends at Foote, Cone, and Belding (FCB), Act Too is the world’s first recommendation engine for activism to end sexual violence. There are thousands of actions to take; anything from educating yourself by reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a podcast, to actions like joining a virtual campaign, or taking a bystander intervention training. There are suggestions like reading your employer’s sexual harassment policy with a coworker and discussing ways that it can be strengthened, committing to using an individual’s preferred pronouns, or taking a quiz to find out if you really understand consent.
We all have a role to play in disrupting rape culture and ending sexual violence. It won’t happen without the cross-section of movements working toward the issue; it won’t happen without the crucial role that men have in the work – first as survivors; it won’t happen without policy-driven activism that forces legislation to better serve survivors and protect people from the experience of sexual violence. It will continue to be our family members, friends, colleagues – it will continue to be us – who face this kind of violence that can steal your whole life right out from under you. But the good news is that there is real opportunity. With a new federal administration that has pledged to implement equitable policies and expand the safety net for survivors, and a country of activated citizens who are ready to act, we have momentum and power-building on our side to truly address the public health crisis that is sexual violence and build a world free from that brutality forever.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s important to remember that Dr. Martin Luther King did more than dream. He also spoke out not only against the “hateful words and actions of the bad people,” but also the “appalling silence of the good people.”
Will you join us?
How Match Group is Helping
- All of our apps have prominent, robust in-app safety portals to direct our members to educational and support resources about sexual violence.
- We are committed to amplifying the voices of organizations like me too. International to increase awareness about sexual violence and how to stop it.
- Our apps have shown meaningful support for the causes that are important to me too. International. For example, BLK creates a space where all black people, especially Black women are respected, protected, and celebrated. To send that message home, BLK took out the below full-page ads in newspapers around the country.
About me too. International:
‘me too.’ International envisions a world free of sexual violence. We assert that the transformation of oppressive systems, narratives, and cultures, grounded in the lived experiences and leadership of survivors, creates space for generative ideas, practices and relationships rooted in love, respect, empathy, and wellness. We imagine communities that are abundant with joy, safety, and resources and committed to radical healing, and we are committed to the work to live toward this vision. We serve as a convener, thought leader, and organizer across the mainstream and the grassroots to address systems that allow for the proliferation of sexual violence, specifically in Black, queer, trans, disabled, and all communities of color. We employ a spirit of innovation and experimentation to better serve our most under-resourced communities. We are committed to showing up in cross-movement and political spaces to honor survivors. Leveraging our model and framework, grounded in existing research and theory, ‘me too.’ centers individual and community healing and transformation, empowerment through empathy, shifting cultural narratives and practices, and advancing a global survivor-led movement to end sexual violence.