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Thursday, October 22, 2015

This Image Is Why We Need To Have A Nuanced Discussion About Race, Gender, and Intimate Partner Violence

Content Warning/Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence

In recognition of Domestic Violence Month, a month established to bring visibility to domestic and intimate partner violence, I want to deconstruct an image that, disturbingly, has been circulating online. The image shows a seemingly battered black woman with a caption that reads in all caps, "A real Black women would put an ice pack on it, wear glasses, call off sick instead of alerting 5 0”. It’s frightening. 

Statistically, approximately 29 percent of all African-American women face domestic and/or intimate partner violence within our lifetime--a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. 

However, stereotypes and expectations of black womanhood impact both the rates in which black women report intimate partner violence, and severity in which their claims are considered. Black women are less likely to report domestic violence due to potentially criminalizing their partners, and even when black women do report, they are not considered as urgent. 

Stereotypes also largely impact black women’s ability to receive support for intimate partner violence. The one implied in this image is that black women are somehow inherently “strong” and therefore should be equipped to endure all circumstances--even knowingly harmful ones. Another stereotype that black women are forced to navigate is that we are angry and belligerent. This widely believed stereotype that deduces the humanity of black women to a single emotional expression, renders it difficult for society to even see us as being victims of domestic violence in the first place.

Since black women carry the assumption that our behavior and actions are angry or in response to anger, support isn’t offered, and often times the victim or survivor of violence becomes criminalized. Instead of receiving help and protection in dire situations, Black women are subject to criminalization--and that can come with continued violence and harassment from law enforcement.

This narrative, however tragic, is not unique. Remember Marissa Alexander? She is the black woman who made national headlines for being arrested and incarcerated for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Or how about Cherelle Baldwin? In 2013, Cherelle was imprisoned for killing her husband--a repeat abuser of hers. Black women are expected to endure domestic and intimate partner violence, navigate the trauma that accompanies these forms of violence (often without institutional support) and, are subsequently vilified and criminalized for taking steps to defend ourselves.

It seems as though the outcomes for black women who are victims or survivors of sexual assault are bleak. Luckily, there are agencies that exist to support black women, at the intersection of race, gender, and intimate partner violence. If you or a friend are seeking support, consider the following resources. They are dedicated to offering culturally competent support to survivors of color:



Thursday, October 15, 2015

I am an Activist Because...

Everyone calls me Kia. You can say that I am new to this whole college thing, I wouldn’t though. In elementary school, every student wanted to be a doctor, ballet dancer, singer etc...I just wanted to be a college graduate. I mean why not?

“GO to college. GO to one of the top universities.” We see this all day on social media, TV shows, and even newspapers. I rarely ever see a “Graduate from College!” ad.
In my opinion, media doesn’t stress graduating college enough. According to ThinkProgress, “only 56 percent of the students who enter America's colleges and universities graduate within six years, while only 29 percent of students who enter two-year programs complete their degrees within three years.”

What can I do to avoid becoming one of those students?
Well, I surround myself around seniors here at Chico. After we have a full conversation I mention that I’m a first year student. “’re a first year student and you have an internship? How are you so involved on campus already?” I love the face they give me when they notice I am the youngest in the group.

I’m assuming that most first year students don’t really get involved because they are unaware of all of the opportunities available to them. One organization that I took advantage of was the AS Gender and Sexuality Equity Center (GSEC). You know that room in the BMU with the big rainbows and women empowerment signs on the door? Yea...that’s us. I would tell you about how PRIDEful we are but I’m sure the door speaks for itself.

The GSEC has 3 different programs. There is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, PLUS Program (LGBTQ+), the Outreach Program, and the Women’s Program.   

If you couldn’t tell already, I am proud to say that I am apart of the LGBTQ+ Program. “So like .. Are you Gay?”
No...I am bisexual.”
“Ohhh you are confused?”
“NOOOO…I like both, men AND women.”

As an activist here at the GSEC it is my job to educate people about misconceptions so people can stop thinking that, “all LGBTQ+ people CHOSE to be gay.” I mean...who would want to be a part of a community that is one of the most hated in America? Too many people from the LGBTQ+ community attempt/commit suicide and some people still think we all choose to be gay?  Hearing that any human has committed suicide is very heartbreaking but when it is someone who is in my community it hurts even MORE. Many people who identify as LGBTQ+ feel the need to commit suicide because they think something is wrong with them or that society won’t accept them.
You don’t honestly think we like being abused by our parents or bullied by our peers, right?

“If being gay is a choice, when did you choose to be straight?”

I love my sexuality. I feel like I have the best of both worlds, but what about those who don't? What about the parents who claim they will love their child unconditionally but when their child “comes out”, their parents don’t want anything to do with them? Parents teach their children that being gay is wrong so the kid starts to think something is wrong with them. It eats them up inside because when they try to lay with someone of a different gender, they feel no chemistry but when they see a person of the same gender it feels right.

As an activist, it is my responsibility to give knowledge to those who don’t really understand. It is not my job to persuade you to accept me. That is all up to you. I simply want to educate you about LGBTQ+ issues and identities to dispel these myths and stereotypes and maybe that will change your opinion about my community. If it doesn’t, at least you will have some knowledge about us. Now that you have read this, you have taken your first step to educating yourself. Continue to read blogs!! I will post my blogs on: October 28th, November 18th, and December 10th

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


              As I spend more time in the LGBTQ+ community I am becoming more aware of the different mental and physical health issues we face.  Growing up I commonly heard, “lesbians, gays etc., suffer from mental illnesses that make them believe they are queer”.  There was always a reason or a fault as to why we lived differently.  Homophobia and ignorance spat out various judgements in order to twist truth into reason.  What this has failed to cover is the actual mental illnesses that LGBTQ+ people are at risk of.  The risk of self-harm, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, and mental disorders are greater within the community.  This can be caused by various things, whether it’s naturally occurring or a combination of prejudice, homophobic hatred, internal shame, social and family exclusion; the list goes on.  LGBTQ+ youth are 6 times more likely to experience depression and 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.  Within the LGBTQ+ community, 20 – 30 % abuse substances and 25% abuse alcohol compared to 10% of the general population. **
                I happen to fit into two of these statistics, a result of my upbringing and natural causes.  In high school I dealt with self-harm and in the past year was diagnosed with temporal lobe seizures.  I have since stopped harming myself, however my seizures will stay with me.  These seizures don’t mean I fall on the ground and shake, or foam at the mouth or basically any of the images you might “think” are associated with a seizure.  Temporal lobe is the area of the brain that controls the emotions.  This sometimes affects how I register emotions in certain situations but also triggers electrical spikes in my brain that cause “emotional seizures”.  It’s one of the most difficult things to explain to people. It lasts at most about 3 minutes with every range of emotion packed into my brain all at once.  These episodes have started to dwindle but I have a new understanding how neuro-differences not only affect your life but also your identity.
                Specifically these seizures have categorized me into society’s stigma of someone with a mental illness that led to queerness.  This is a ridiculous stereotype to have attached to your identity when they are very separate things.  It denounces the pride you have for yourself and overshadows the importance of addressing the actual effects a mental illness can have.  Instead of recognizing that LGBTQ+ individuals need help or assistance with whatever they are suffering from: self-harm, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, or mental disorders; we are marked and shuffled away to be used later as evidence.
                I’m not ignoring the progress society has made, but the progress is too slow.  THIS is why I am here.  To share my experience with mental illness and separate it from my sexual orientation.  To raise awareness of the health issues the LGBTQ+ community suffer from and need services for.  To encourage others to stop obsessing over why we are different and obsess over helping instead.

By: Ashley Hoy

**More information about the various statistics referred to above can be found on the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s LGBTQ support article.