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COVID-19 and Survivors of Color

women standing in a row wearing surgical masks

Just as COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color, the pandemic has inequitably impacted people of color who identify as survivors of sexual violence. New research indicates “COVID-19-related financial insecurity is greatest among Black and Brown women survivors” — drawing on already established systems of racism in medical care. Members of Black, Native, and Latino communities are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19, and already face heightened risks of victimization from domestic and sexual violence — all while being less likely to receive adequate care.

The report also details the ways in which financial insecurity directly increases risk, as lacking the resources necessary to survive greatly influences the likelihood that a victim will return to their abuser. Black and Brown survivors are overrepresented in the essential labor force, experiencing higher exposure to COVID-19, and thus facing greater risk of catching and dying from the virus and of bringing it home to their families and communities. As women of color also faced the largest job loss created by the COVID-19 economic panic, countless survivors of color lost jobs, which were lifelines for their financial independence and diminished their reliance on their abuser.  

Opposite to larger national trends, emergency outreach centers on tribal lands report a decrease in calls. Similar to larger national trends, this doesn’t speak to a lack of need, but rather that victims are not in a position to be able to reach out for help. Native people residing on reservations not only face soaring COVID-19 death rates, but have also experienced an increase in gendered violence. It is important to also remember the historical trauma that exists within the intersection of sexual violence, poverty, and mass epidemics. Historical trauma is lasting multi-generational trauma experienced by a specific group in relation to major events that symbolized or compounded their oppression. Writer Cecily Hilleary explains: “For many Native Americans, the current pandemic and its economic effects recall the anguish of their ancestors, who were forced into confinement on reservations during the 19th century to face starvation and worse.” It is extremely important to consider culturally specific impacts when assessing COVID-19 and its unique impacts on communities.

This blog is part of a series on the intersections of economic insecurity and sexual violence in the COVID era. Read the rest of the series here: