Theses Master's

Black Women’s Security and Barriers to Reporting Sexual Assault to Police: “It Couldn’t Be Any Worse of a System”

Wagner, Maggie

Despite increasing social awareness and conversations revolving around sexual assault in the United States, it remains a rampant and underreported crime. When survivors do choose to report, they are faced with a legal system characterized by patriarchal sexist ideologies guiding the treatment of survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). The reporting rates for Black women survivors (BWS) are substantially lower than those for White women (WWS), largely because engaging with reporting mechanisms means contending with the racist stereotypes and discrimination embedded in social attitudes and the criminal justice system.

These barriers are a violation of BWS’ right to human security and all that it entails, from safety to socioeconomic status to environment. This research aims to understand the mitigating factors guiding instances when Black women do choose to report sexual violence they have experienced alongside the existing barriers to such reports. The research also explores changes in patterns in reporting, access to resources, and conversations in relation to Black survivors regarding the ongoing #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, as well as such changes considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

To do so, advocates and prosecutors working closely with BWS in New York City were interviewed for their perspectives on the disclosure patterns of BWS and the obstacles they face. The research aims to highlight the inequities facing BWS throughout the reporting process in order to carve a path toward equitable realization of their rights, as well as justice and healing for all women.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Rajan, V.G. Julie
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 3, 2022