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Sex abuse rampant and silent in the Black community

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Special to the AmNews | 12/16/2011, 1:16 p.m.

On the heels of the Penn State and Syracuse sex abuse scandals comes a jaw-dropping report from social researcher and columnist Deborah Cooper. The survey, entitled "Sexual Abuse of Minor Children in the Black Community," seeks to uncover the real and unspoken truth about pedophilia within the Black community.

What is happening to the nation's children? U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2000 reported that 67 percent of all sexual assaults reported to authorities were children under 18; 34 percent of these victims were under 12. One in seven were under 6. Most were abused by someone they knew and trusted, like biological parents, relatives or friends.

To date, there have been no extensive studies specifically targeting this abuse in the Black community or the impact that it has on victims as they grow into adulthood.

Thirty-nine million Americans of all races are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Unfortunately, most don't report abuse until later in life. Sadder still is the misconception that such abuse happens primarily in white families. Famous faces such as Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou and Tyler Perry have all discussed their abuse in the hope of getting other victims to speak out and free themselves from the shame and pain of what they suffered as children.

"However, we only have to look at how many 12-, 13- and 14-year-old girls are raped and impregnated by adult men to see how widespread this problem is in the Black community," Cooper said.

"Child sexual abuse is a dirty little secret in Black America," Cooper continued. "I want the secret to come out and the perpetrators of these crimes to be exposed. In this survey, the victims will share, sometimes for the first time in their lives, the story of their molestation-the types of abuse they endured, their relationship to the perpetrator, the long-term ramifications of being abused and the reason they didn't tell anyone.

"The study will also investigate the socialization of Black women that encourages them to keep family secrets of ongoing sexual abuse from generation to generation," she said.

"Parents must be clear that sexual abuse includes many different types of sexual activity, including peeping, sexually oriented conversation, fondling, forced touching of the genitals of the abuser, vaginal, anal or oral rape and forcing children to watch or participate in pornography, prostitution or sex acts. Parents who refuse to educate their offspring about these realities set their children up to be victims," said Cooper.

"Black children across the nation are being robbed of their innocence. Why is the focus so often on protecting the family image and thus the assailant's good name instead of helping the children they've hurt? We must all become more informed about how pedophiles have victimized children in the past so we can do more to protect our young in the future."

For more information or to participate in the "Sexual Abuse of Minor Children in the Black Community" survey, go to SurvivingDating.com. The survey is completely confidential and is available until March 15, 2012.