AfricanCaribbeanWomen. Fostering, Race, Bodies

Report
Background
Black and marginalised individuals may be suspicious of
social service interventions influenced by discourses of
family dysfunction (Agozino, 1997; Barn, 2001; Bernard and
Gupta, 2008; Lees, 2002), further explored in first person
narratives of Black British women abused as children (Briscoe,
2009; Mason-John, 2005; Riley, 1985; Williams, 2011).
Knowing what I know now...research
15 women interviewed: 6 as experts who worked in support
services; 9 as victim-survivors, on help seeking for violence
and abuse for African and Caribbean heritage women. Visual
methods (photographs, maps and diagrams) were used to
help elicit past memories and some were created by the
women as part of the research process. Of the nine, seven
were abused as children: four were fostered (privately in one
case); two were fostered by family friends/relatives, and one
became the legal guardian of her siblings.
Participants who were fostered
Six of the seven women abused as children received
social service intervention. The table below shows
those who were placed into foster care.
Name
(Age
range)
Ethnicity
(self-defined)
Employment
Routes into care
Farah
(20s)
Black African
Student
Sexually abused and raped
by uncle and mother’s
boyfriend.
Rebecca
(30s)
Afro Caribbean
with Jewish
descendants
Jobseeker, former
Sexually abused by family
accounts professional friend.
Jacinta
(40s)
African
Amateur actress,
unemployed
Norma
(40s)
Black Caribbean
Health care
professional
Sexually abused and beaten
by foster family, raped by a
group of young men while
living in a hostel.
Malnourished and beaten
by her mother.
Room body
Themes
Generations of female relatives
sexually abused or exploited in
contexts of migration.
‘Saved’ by social service
intervention as children, ‘betrayed’
as parents.
Viewed as betraying their families
by not ‘keeping business’ (Wilson,
1993) which severed relationships
with siblings and close relatives.
As teenagers concealed their
bodies, were sexually exploited,
and did not ‘use’ sexuality enough.
Described feeling ‘like a minority’,
‘like a pathology’ in public spaces
and ‘judged’ by social workers,
and counsellors.
‘When you’re young you tend to see things inside your house, what goes on in here
stays in here ... it’s quite a Black thing to think well they’re your parents, you should
live with them, you should be obedient.’ Norma
‘Social services obviously [giggles] did their job They were interested in how the other
children were being raised and the whole dilapidation of the conditions.’ Rebecca
Resisting/Accepting
Felt Intensities
•Continuum of
oppression
•Migrations,
displacement,
belonging
•Intergenerational
trauma
•Violence and abuse
•Everyday racism
•Being silenced, not
believed
Exhausting liminal rumination
•Mothering
•Strong Black woman
•Single mother
•Women are whores
•Audacious Speech
•Less than
•Not Black enough
‘The hostel where I was staying, one of the young ladies there, got beaten up
Farah’s Bodyline
Room Body
because she said that somebody was looking for [me] … I was too scared to tell the
police … I feel totally stupid up to this day, for not doing anything.’ Jacinta
Conclusions
Feeling ‘raced’ (Ahmed, 2000; 2004; 2007; Fanon,
1986) intersected with experiences of racism and
child sexual abuse. Some felt that abuse was
already known and could be read from their
bodies (Coy, 2008; 2009). Family or cultural
discourses about being strong (BeaubeoufLafontant, 2007; 2008) suggested they conceal
emotional distress, through processes of
‘toughening up’. A ‘continuum of oppression’ is
experienced long after abuse and leaving care.
Women carried these past legacies, while they
manage everyday challenges as embodied
burdens.
‘I’m learning to love the
outside of my body … the
inside’s got all its parts
intact … just like here
[points to the photo] … I
need to decorate … over
the old parts … all the
memories from the
previous occupier are there
… the nicotine on the walls,
which is a lot [laughs] … I
need to make it into my
own.’ Rebecca
References
Agozino, B. (1997). Black Women and the Criminal Justice System:
Towards the Decolonisation of Victimisation. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Ahmed, S. (2000). Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in
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Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotions. London:
Routledge.
Ahmed, S. (2007). A Phenomenology of Whiteness. Feminist Theory,
8(2), 149–168.
Barn, R. (2007). “Race”, Ethnicity and Child Welfare: A Fine Balancing
Act. British Journal of Social Work, 37(8), 1425–1434.
Beaubeouf-Lafontant, T. (2007). “YOU HAVE TO SHOW STRENGTH”
An Exploration of Gender,Race, and Depression. Gender & Society,
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Beauboeuf-Lafontant, T. (2008). Listening Past the Lies that Make us
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Bernard, C., & Gupta, A. (2008). Black African Children and the Child
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Fanon, F. (2008/1986). Black Skin White Masks.
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Gupta, R. (Ed.). (2003). From Homebreakers to
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Books.
Coy, M. (2008). Young Women, Local Authority Care
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Coy, M. (2009). This body which is not mine: The
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Williams, P. (2011). Precious: A True Story. London:
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Wilson, M. (1993). Crossing the Boundary: Black
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Ava Kanyeredzi, PhD Candidate, CWASU, London Metropolitan University ( [email protected])

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