Yes, Sexual Abuse of Black Boys Is a Problem — and We Need To Pay Attention
We’re just coming to terms with talking about sexual abuse at all. But our sons have been missing from the conversation — and the outrage.
Trigger warning: This story features accounts of child sexual abuse and rape.
When I asked my writer’s group for advice on how to research child sexual abuse in the Black community, I wasn’t expecting personal anecdotes. Yet, that’s what Ron* gave us. He’d been sexually assaulted at various points throughout his life, he said — by a teacher, an aunt, and even his own mother.
In her 2004 book No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse, journalist and mental health counselor Robin D. Stone writes that one out of every six men report having been sexually abused as children. That number becomes even more frightening when you consider the fact that sexual assault crimes are vastly underreported.
As a society, we’re still learning how to discuss any kind of sexual assault — and conversations around the sexual abuse of Black boys are far, far rarer. Yet, these conversations need to happen, both for the survivors and for the men and women who love them.
Ron’s abuse, he told us, started when he was in eighth grade. He’d gotten in trouble at middle school for kissing a girl behind the bleachers; when the school told his mother what he’d done, he assumed he was in for some kind of punishment. Instead, he said, “she started to touch me” — at which point he trailed off, not wanting to relive the incident.
Things would only get worse: When he told his history teacher what his mother had done to him, the teacher also took advantage of him. This isn’t uncommon. According to Stone’s research, in nearly 95% of all abuse cases, the offender is either a parental figure or someone who’s a close acquaintance of the child.
Despite Ron’s personal experience, current data around the abuse of Black boys is extremely hard to come by. At the time of Stone’s book, 14% of all child sexual assault victims were male, with 20% of that abuse coming at the hands of women. There’s a website dedicated to the “one in six” statistic…