Survivors Call for Reforms to Address Racial Disparities in Access to Care and Justice

RAINN Speakers Bureau members joined other survivors of color recently to urge the House Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence to prioritize actions to address issues that affect Black survivors of sexual violence. The task force, led by Reps. Ann Kuster (D-NH), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and John Katko (R-NY), held a virtual roundtable discussion on racial disparities for survivors of sexual violence on December 9, 2020.

Two members of the RAINN Speakers Bureau spoke with the task force on the need for trauma-informed training for law enforcement working with survivors, and addressing the national backlog of untested sexaul assault forensic exams, or rape kits.

Lavinia Masters, a survivor, advocate, member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, and namesake of Texas’ Lavinia Masters Act, spoke about her experience of waiting 21 years while her rape kit, with vital DNA evidence to catch the serial perpetrator who assaulted her, sat on a shelf, untested.

“This purpose-filled journey led me to vow that no other girl would suffer at the hands of a rapist and not have justice, answers, the opportunity for healing and to be empowered… not another one, but especially my little Black girls,” said Masters.

Gail Gardner, a survivor, advocate, writer, pastoral counselor, and member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, has made it her mission to educate the public on the warning signs of child sexual abuse and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. She spoke with the task force about the inequalities she faced while fighting for justice after being attacked by a serial perpetrator.

“I cannot help but think, what would have been different, if I had been a white woman from a wealthy neighborhood?” said Gardner. “How many women suffered because we were not important enough in the eyes of law enforcement?”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated racial disparities in access to care and support for survivors of sexual violence, leaving survivors of color more vulnerable than ever,” said Rep. Kuster. “...[W]e need to address the additional barriers facing survivors of color. That means making sure federal resources... are fairly distributed.”

“RAINN will continue its work to confront racial inequalities in getting help and seeking justice,” says Camille Cooper, RAINN’s vice president of public policy. “This summer we sent recommendations to lawmakers to address issues that disproportionately impact Black survivors of sexual violence. We helped Congress organize this panel because Black survivors of sexual violence were being left out of the larger congressional police reform conversation. Gail and Lavinia both waited decades for their rape kits to be tested, and both felt invisible after their assaults. There is a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that our healthcare systems and judicial systems provide the level of care that every survivor deserves.”

To learn more about RAINN’s public policy work to support survivors and bring perpetrators to justice, sign up to receive policy news updates or follow RAINN’s policy work on Twitter at @rainnaction

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