No! The Rape Documentary seeks to end the silence surrounding rape, sexual assault and all forms of violence against women within the African-American community. Portland State’s Multicultural Center and the Women’s Resource Center’s Women of Color Action Team collaborated to show the film last Tuesday afternoon.
No! The Rape Documentary
No! The Rape Documentary seeks to end the silence surrounding rape, sexual assault and all forms of violence against women within the African-American community.
Portland State’s Multicultural Center and the Women’s Resource Center’s Women of Color Action Team collaborated to show the film last Tuesday afternoon.
A discussion followed led by speakers Ruth Jensen, the program coordinator for underserved communities at the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Marianne Mulumba, the president of the Association of African Students at PSU.
Written, directed and produced by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, a rape and incest survivor, the documentary took 11 years to complete and is a combination of testimonials, scholarly interviews, activism and cultural education relating to the rape and sexual assault of African-American women by African-American men.
“It’s impossible for a black man to rape a black woman,” says poet Honoree Jeffers’ poem “That’s Proof She Wanted It,” performed in the documentary. Jeffers, along with many of the interviewees in the documentary, believes that black women are forced to sacrifice their right to their own sexuality in an effort to protect their own race.
“In an attempt to preserve racial pride, we have sacrificed our own souls,” Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole says in the documentary. “We’re first black, then women.”
The documentary explores the pressure placed on African-American women who are survivors of rape or sexual assault by an African-American man to keep silent in order to avoid reaffirming already existing stereotypes.
“We are crippling our own folk at our own hand,” Betsch Cole said. “Racism cripples us—unequal access to education, health care, jobs—and now add rape, which we create.”
A major issue discussed in No! The Rape Documentary is the misconception that when an African-American woman says no, she really means yes.
“No means no, yes means yes. When in doubt, get clarification. Still unclear? That’s a no,” said John T. Dickerson of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center.
A man representing the group Men Stopping Violence explained that a woman never loses her right to say no, no matter the circumstances.
Another issue brought to light is rape of African-American lesbians by African-American men. One woman shared her story of being raped after coming out to a male friend.
Queen, a poet interviewed in the documentary, explains that before she revealed her sexuality to her peers she was respected as a great poet. After sharing that she was a lesbian, however, Queen received “threats of justified rape.” These threats, she explained, were supposed to set her straight or teach her a lesson about being homosexual.
While much of the documentary focuses on the dark issues of rape and sexual assault within the African-American community, there is also a sense of hope. Many of the women spoke of the silence surrounding the problem, which they were all able to break through, together, through the creation of the documentary.
Ways to end the cycle of rape and how to heal are also discussed.
“Men can stop rape,” said Dickerson, who, among others in the documentary, believes that men must be educated about the effects and consequences of their behavior.
Sulaiman Nuriddin of Men Stopping Violence said that the community must hold responsible the men who commit these crimes.
Dr. Janelle White, a rape survivor who knew her rapist in college, recalls a male friend who, instead of shunning the man who committed the crime, actually began spending more time with him to make sure that he was making amends for the crime and learning the wrongness of his actions.
White explained in the documentary that it’s men such as her friend that are needed to end the cycle of rape. Rather than ignoring the problem, these men committing crimes needed to be acknowledged and forced to make amends, she said.
A discussion led by Jensen and Mulumba followed the film, covering topics including trauma caused by the medical and judiciary system following a rape or sexual assault as well as the need to better educate youth about the problems surrounding rape.
“We need to take these discussions out of academia and get it to the youth. Only talking about it is a disservice to the women of this film,” said one young man.
Shari Lachin, an advocate for the sexual assault program at the YWCA, brought up retraumatization of a victim of sexual assault through invasive medical examinations and the need to constantly retell the story of their experience.
Jensen, who works with members of underserved communities, said her organization is always survivor-centered.
“We focus on healing, not retraumatizing,” she said. The OCADSV works to provide better tools to communities in order to spread education and awareness regarding rape and sexual assault.
“Don’t wait for an organization, but [educate] within your own community,” said Mulumba, noting that waiting can result in time lost for education.
The film was shown in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which has spurred several other events on campus throughout the month of April.
Tonya Jones, representing the Women of Color Action Team, collaborated with MCC Program Coordinator Ryan Jumamil. The event was a part of the Reflect and Connect series hosted by the MCC that started in January.
For more information regarding the documentary you can visit the website at notherapedocumentary.org. For more information on the WRC or the Women of Color Action Team, stop by the WRC, located at 1802 SW 10th Ave.