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Town hall tackles issue of child sexual abuse

October 14, 2016 By Francesca Norsen Tate Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Concord Baptist Church of Christ. Photo courtesy of the church
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Children of Combahee will hold its first town hall on child sexual abuse in black churches, titled “From Pew to Pulpit: Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Speak,” on Saturday, Oct. 29, from noon to 3 p.m. The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, 833 Gardner C. Taylor Blvd., is hosting the forum, which is free and open to the public.

The town hall is part of a biannual, national series addressing the epidemic of child sexual assault, rape and incest in black church communities. “From Pew to Pulpit” is considered the first of its kind in the nation to focus explicitly on the sexual violations that black children face in and with proximity to communities of faith.

According to an ongoing survey that Black Women’s Blueprint conducted, 60 percent of black women and girls report having been raped before the age of 18, and several national statistics show that one in six boys are victims of sexual violence. Yet, the black church, which generally assumes a prominent role in addressing the problems facing black communities, has done little to engage this nationwide epidemic. The forum is meant to educate the public on the structural inequality that black children face on many levels at school and in society, problems worsened by sexual abuse in their homes, schools and churches.

Children of Combahee advisor Sevonna Brown writes, “It is easy for us to call out the oppressors outside of our communities, but difficult to address the harm-doers that bring years of silence, shame, vulnerability, and bondage to our families and community space. Unless black children and their bodies are free from violence, black communities as a whole can never be.

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“From Pew to Pulpit’ is planned to be a transformative and healing event. During the town hall, survivors of child sexual abuse will have the opportunity to give their testimony, and representatives from black faith communities will be there to offer an acknowledgment. Through discussion, prayer and processes of accountability, we will begin reconciliation and create the necessary next steps to address the problem of child sexual assault in faith communities.”

Children of Combahee is a newly founded project, funded by the Just Beginnings Collaborative, that mobilizes against child sexual abuse in black churches using womanist pastoral and theological methods.

Named after Harriet Tubman’s 1863 Combahee River Raid and the 1970s radical black feminist organization of survivor­activists (the Combahee River Collective), this project builds upon a longstanding legacy of resistance, healing and communal reckoning around issues of racial, sexual and gendered violence in black communities.

Co-sponsors include Just Beginnings Collaborative, the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, Black Women’s Blueprint, Columbia University’s Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice, Children’s Defense Fund-NY and African American Policy Forum.


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