Bill Cosby, R-Kelly, and a Conversation about Sexual Exploitation.

The Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians promotes the sexual health of individuals, couples, families, and communities by advocating for culturally sensitive research, informed clinical practice, and culturally sensitive educational curricula. We seek to foster ongoing dialogue in an effort to reduce and or prevent adverse sexual health outcomes. As a welcoming and affirming organization, we advocate for sexual, racial, and gender equality.

For these reasons, we feel it is our responsibility to make the following statement regarding the allegations of sexual violence made about two prominent members of the community, Dr. William “Bill” Cosby and Mr. Robert Sylvester “R” Kelly. It is our intention to advance one of our goals—to engage in dialogue about social and sexual health issues that affect persons of African descent and those who serve this unique population rather than to indict or defend anyone.

We recognize the pain, anger and sadness that many members of the Black community are experiencing and expressing as they talk about the allegations and explore the meanings—personal and communal—the allegations have for them. We also recognize the different and not easily predictable ways gender, class, sexual background, generational
affiliation, etc. are informing these discussions.

We believe the following information will be useful to Black folks as we engage each other, particularly in this moment:

  • Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. Statistics by ethnicity are not available so we don’t know whether the sexual assault rates of Black adolescents are proportionate or disproportionate to their representation in the population. [Source: Education/FactsStatistics#reference ]
  • We live in a society that does not adequately support survivors of sexual assault in speaking their truth. The criminal justice system represents the State in investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases, not survivors. In general, the objective of the legal system is to determine guilt and damages. Justice and healing are not its objective and rarely achieved. Therefore, survivors who do speak out about the sexual assault and name the persons who committed the assault take a tremendous risk including the risk of social stigma. Few people would take those risks haphazardly.
  • Black women, children, senior citizens, and transgender and gender nonconforming people are among the most vulnerable members of our communities because of white supremacy, sexism, heteropatriarchy, and ageism. Their vulnerability make them prime targets for sexual predators who seek to target persons who communities don’t value
    enough to protect, defend or believe when they speak the truth about the abuse they’ve experienced.
  • Black men have been the targets of white supremacist, sexist negative media portrayals since minstrelsy. This propaganda war against Black masculinities has been well documented. Mandingo, sambo, zip coon, and other stereotypes have been used to characterize Black men as sexual predators, lazy and shiftless, or some other
    mischaracterization to justify the perpetuation of gender based, racial violence against them. Black people are, therefore, particularly sensitive to media spectacles that appear to reinforce these stereotypes. [Source: Donald Bogle’s Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, Fourth Edition 4th Edition ]
  • Black women have also been the targets of white supremacist, sexist negative media portrayals, which have been well documented. Racists have used stereotypes such as jezebel, sapphire and other mischaracterizations to justify the genderbased, racial violence against Black women by presenting them as sexual promiscuious and incapable of emotional vulnerability. [Source: Donald Bogle’s Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, Fourth Edition 4th Edition ]
  • Black people (e.g., women, men, gender nonconforming persons, children, elders, etc.) have experienced significant intergenerational trauma due to European imperialism, colonialism, slavery, segregation, discrimination and racial violence. For the descendants of people whose bodies and sexualities were turned into property and sources of commerce, this trauma has contributed to sexual and body shame and the challenges Black people have to live with a sense of agency, responsibility and power regarding their bodies, desires, and sexualities. Scandals involving sex, Black bodies, and gender can trigger a host of emotions associated with that intergenerational trauma. [Source: Joy Angela Degruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing ]
  • Everyday, Black people struggle to understand their bodies, sexual desires, and their place in the sexual ecosystem through trial and error and with very few culturally competent resources because of the lack of of developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant comprehensive sex education in the United States. The sex negativity in the educational system and the white supremacy in the field of sexology has contributed to the lack of resources and has had a negative impact upon the healthy sexual development of Black people as well as contributed to the perpetuation of harmful myths and sexual communication/negotiation skills.

We, therefore, call for all members of Black communities to be thoughtful, soulful as they engage in conversations about these allegations so that they might lead to community health and justice.

The Governing Board of the Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians