Black women and girls are treated as second class citizens when it comes to healthcare in America.
The disenfranchisement that leads to lack of affordable healthcare and the racial bias that exists in nurses and doctors puts the lives of Black women and girls at risk. The harmful and enduring stereotype that we experience less pain than other people, or are less trustworthy or worth or has led to outright neglect and abuse from the medical system. Black women and girls who share medical concerns are often dismissed, ignored, or even chastised by doctors and nurses. In America, the color of your skin is the difference between life and death.
Unequal access to screening, ability to pursue early-warning test results, and insurance coverage all contribute to circumstances where we are left behind.
Some of the illnesses for which Black women have heightened risks:
Cervical cancer is preventable with early screening and monitoring, yet Black women in America are dying at a mortality rate of 10.1 per 100,000 compared to 4.7 per 100,000 White women.
Black women are 20% to 40% more likely to die from breast cancer.
90 percent of Black women in America will have fibroids before the age of 50. Black women are 2-3 times more likely to have recurring fibroids that lead health complications, risk reproductive health and surgical hysterectomies.
Black women die from heart disease more than any other women’s demographic in America.
Black women, sexual violence and inadequate health interventions:
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, “African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population,” and are significantly less likely to seek out treatment. This is partially due to beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects not only coping behaviors but the ability to seek help for mental health issues.
For Black women in particularly, the “superwoman,” narrative or the expectation that we show up for others even to the detriment of ourselves, ultimately acts as a barrier for seeking out treatment and services. It can also act as a barrier to receiving proper diagnosis and medication to treat moderate to severe mental health issues. Additionally the under representation of therapists that specialize in working with Black communities can lead to harmful encounters with therapists that lack an intersectional lens or are unable to adequately treat trauma passed down genetically from slavery.
According to national studies, approximately 1 in 5 Black women have been raped in their lifetime, but other studies show that this could be a very conservative estimate, with some studies showing as high as 65%. Black women who were low-income, HIV-positive, bisexual, or incarcerated were at elevated risk. Most rapes were intraracial and involved someone known to the victim: family member, intimate partner, or acquaintance.
Survivors often have both immediate, and long-term effects physically, sexually and mentally. This includes bruises and genital injuries, sexually transmitted infection, mental health issues including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal thoughts, pain-related health problems, and low-self-esteem.
Perceptions of Black women/girls and promiscuity are directly linked to culturally insensitive responses from medical staff leading to re-victimization and long-term trauma.
For more support and information, please check out therapyforblackgirls.com