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 on a longstanding legacy of resistance, healing, and communal reckoning around issues of racial, sexual, and gendered violence in black communities.
Award-winning author Toni Morrison writes in her newest book, God Help the Child, “What you do to children matters. And they may never forget it.” Children of Combahee acknowledges the value in children’s lives. We center the abuse that children face at the forefront of our efforts to end sexual violence. Statistically, most adult survivors of sexual violence experienced these same violations as children or teenagers.
Percent of Black women who report coercive sexual contact before age 18.
Percent of children (all genders) age 17 and under who report being sexually assaulted.
Children of Combahee not only believes that child sexual abuse is a societal issue, but we believe that it is a theological issue and, in order to end it, we must reckon with the fact that much of child sexual abuse occurs in faith communities. As we work with other thought leaders in the movement to end child sexual abuse, Children of Combahee uses sacred texts, rituals, black history, and black liberation and womanist theologies to bridge the gap between the national movement to end child sexual abuse and Black church communities.
Children of Combahee will create a space and shared language across the church and grassroots antirape movements, building a foundation for shared understanding and collective action. When incidents of child sexual abuse occur, congregations will have the tools they need to not succumb to fear and denial, but instead provide healing for survivors and accountability for harmdoers.