Just in time for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sil Lai Abrams(pictured above), renowned domestic violence activist and founder and CEO of Truth In Reality, Inc., has launched Redefining HERstory, a “national campus social action program” conceptualized to “reshape the existing violent and hyper-sexualized stereotypes of women of color in the media while simultaneously reducing the cultural acceptance of gender-based violence in the Black community.”
“The goal of this initiative is to challenge students on their existing belief systems around domestic violence and sexual violence,” Abrams said. “And redefine the predominately negative existing media narrative of Black women by using the media messaging on reality television as the basis for this conversation.”
Research has shown that Black women suffer from disproportionately high rates of domestic violence, intimate partner homicide, sexual assault and teen dating abuse. Redefining HERstory empowers students of color to be active participants and national leaders in the effort to reshape the existing image of women of color in the media while simultaneously decreasing cultural acceptance of gender-based violence. Partner schools include Grambling State University and Kent State University, with additional schools [to be announced] shortly.
Gendered-based violence is an issue that disproportionately affects Black communities throughout the United States.
According to the Institute of Domestic Violence In The African American Community (IDVAAC):
• As with other abusive men, African American men who batter are higher in jealousy and the need for power and control in the relationship.
• As with women of other races, among African American women killed by their partner, the lethal violence was more likely to occur if there had been incidents in which the partner had used or threatened to use a weapon on her and/or the partner has tried to choke or strangle her.
• Among African American women killed by their partner, almost half were killed while in the process of leaving the relationship, highlighting the need to take extra precautions at that time.
. Black youth are over represented as victims of teen dating violence. In a 2003 national study of high school students, almost 14% of African American youth (vs. 7% of white youth) reported that a boyfriend or girlfriend had “hit, slapped, or physically hurt them on purpose” in the last year.
Compound these disturbing statistics with the negative portrayals of women of color in the media, from reality television to music, it quickly becomes evident that Abrams’ program is critical on college campuses where many young people learning to navigate the world as emerging adults are looking for cues in a media landscape oversaturated with unhealthy and potentially life-threatening depictions of interpersonal relationships.
Though Abrams’ goal is not to censor the entertainment choices of adults, she is determined to interrupt dangerous narratives with empowering information aimed to dismantle the culture of gendered-based violence and sexual assaults on college campuses.