By Sister Bernadine Karge, OP (Sinsinawa)
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women offered hundreds of choices in this marathon of events scheduled from March 9–20 in New York City. Imagine my amazement when I saw an event entitled: “Seeking Justice: Women of African Descent Put the U.S. on Trial for Sexual Assault Crimes Committed Against Them”! Does/did this happen in my country? Who puts the U.S.A. on trial?
Black Women’s Blueprint, a human rights organization, sponsored this event, composed of a panel of speakers and the testimony of Stephanie, a New York woman who shared her story. She became aware of the fact that she had been sexually abused from the ages of 4–31! It was not until Stephanie saw the film “No! The Rape Documentary,” produced and directed by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, did she realize that what she experienced was a crime, not something she should accept as the normal course of events. Rape is invented, not inevitable. This documentary is a remarkably useful tool in raising awareness that one may have experienced rape and also that a woman has the power to say “No” even in the context of marriage. The film and study guide are available in many languages. See: www.NotheRapeDocumentary.org.
Black Women’s Blueprint was encouraged in their mission by the fact that in 2011, the state of Alabama formally apologized to 91-year-old Recy Taylor, who as a 24-year-old married woman and mother of African descent was kidnapped while walking home from church and raped by six white men in 1944 in Abbeville, Alabama. She reported the crime to local authorities, her family, and church members. No arrests were ever made. Rosa Parks, then secretary of the NAACP, started a letter-writing campaign to authorities to issue an indictment to seek redress of crimes against Ms. Taylor. No indictment was ever issued by two all male, all-white juries!
In 2010, The Black Women’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (BWTRC) was formed to bring to light the abuse of African-American women for sex and labor in the United States. Black men were lynched. Black women were used for production and reproduction during and after the days of slavery. The goal of the BWRTC is to expose the legacy of human rights violations and abuse, hold harm-doers accountable in community proceedings, and possibly pursue legal/civil proceedings in order to bring about healing and self-determination for the victims.
In April 2016, there will be a Truth Commission at the United Nations for women of African descent to tell their stories in the hope of seeking truth, obtaining justice, healing and reconciliation. There is an online submission form for women’s resistance stories at http://myfreedomlounge.com/
Please share these resources through your ministries, faith communities, and circles of influence to make this Truth and Reconciliation Commission a reality. The culture of entitlement and impunity for violence against women will end with our efforts!
Sister Bernadine Karge, OP (Sinsinawa) was part of a group of nine Dominican sisters representing Dominican Sisters International at the UN CSW in March. Read article in March 25 DomLife.