Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence

By Jody Miller | Go to book overview

4
Respect Yourself,
Protect Yourself
Sexual Coercion and Violence

In chapter 3, I argue that there was a relationship between school-based sexual harassment and violence against girls in their neighborhoods. This was evident in youths' descriptions of how girls' neighborhood sexual reputations carried over into schools but also in young men's accounts of using sexual harassment as a testing ground to identify those young women most likely to acquiesce to sexual behaviors in neighborhood contexts.1 I expand on this theme here, focusing on the nature and situational contexts of sexual violence, including the role of unsupervised parties, drugs, and alcohol on sexual aggression, as well as the widespread problem of “running trains.”2 I conclude the discussion in this chapter by examining young women's strategies for addressing sexual victimization risks.


Extent of Sexual Violence against Young Women

A striking finding in our research was the high rate of sexual violence experienced by the young women in our sample. As mentioned in chapter 2 and as table 4-1 details, more than one-half (54 percent) of the girls we interviewed reported experiencing some form of sexual coercion or assault. In fact, nearly one in three young women reported multiple experiences with sexual victimization.3 This is an alarming amount of sexual violence, particularly given that the mean age of our sample was just 16.

The extent of girls' repeat sexual victimization was especially troubling. In all, 11 girls (31 percent) reported multiple victimization incidents. Take Alicia, for example: 18 when we interviewed her, Alicia was first pressured at age 14 into unwanted sex by her boyfriend. Later, this

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