R&B star R Kelly was convicted on Monday The six-week-long trial was followed by graphic testimonies of dozens of accused.
Some of the details of the lawsuit were meant to shock us: the allegation that the singer believed he had impregnated 15-year-old singer Aaliyah and arranged to marry her So she could not testify against him. blame that he intentionally spreads herpes To his many young victims. It is alleged that one of the victims, 16 at the time, was slapped and choked until she died because she wrote to a friend.
But sexual assault experts say some of the revelations shouldn’t have been surprising: that black girls were brutally victimized, that there was collusion with many of the individuals around Kelly, and that it took more than two decades for most of the public to care. Put.
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network said in a statement Monday, “Many survivors of Kelly’s abuse — women and men of color, who have long been ignored and pushed aside — came forward and vigorously throughout the trial.” Spoken manner.” “Today’s verdict was made possible by their courage and perseverance in listening, and we thank them for their resilience during a difficult and very public process. We hope today’s verdict will make survivors everywhere feel that.” empowers them to do so that they are not alone.”
Society has not been a victim of sexual violence for a long time. Rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse are widespread social problems, yet justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators remains scarce. But sexual violence experts say black women and girls face particular challenges around harassment: They experience disproportionate rates of sexual violence, it’s hard to believe and often feared by law enforcement. are reluctant to engage with the system that would do more harm than good.
“Black girls have been disproportionately affected by sexual violence historically and culturally,” said Indira Hennard, executive director of DC Rape Crisis Center. “This case is so powerful because it takes center stage on the sexual violence that black women and girls experience every day.”
More than a third of black women have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, According to the National Center on Violence Against Women in Black Communities. One in 4 black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
The Kelly case may have grabbed our attention because of their fame and power, but the experiences of their alleged victims are not uncommon.
“We can be angry about R. Kelly, and we should be angry, but we also have to recognize that there are R. Kellys everywhere. And not just in terms of entertainers; I talk in our families, in our churches.” Our mosques are our synagogues,” said Aisha Shahidah Simmons, childhood sexual abuse and adult rape survivor and editor of the anthology “Love with Accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse.” “We have a responsibility to see that.”
‘It doesn’t happen in just one silo’
Kelly faced a handful of women in his current case, but he is accused of physically and sexually abusing several girls and women while the music industry looks away. Kelly was tried in 2008 in a high-profile child pornography case, but a jury found him not guilty.
“This has been going on for over 20 years,” said Tonya Lovelace, child sexual abuse and domestic violence survivor and former founder CEO of Women of Color Network. “R. Kelly was assisted by his staff, by the people around him. It doesn’t just happen in a silo.”
Lovelace said the pain and abuse of black women and girls is often underreported or ignored altogether.
“We live at the intersections of race and gender. People do the most damage in the deepest part of the margin because people aren’t looking there,” she said. “Those who want to do harm, do harm there because no one is watching.”
Black women and girls also find themselves at some of the highest rates of sexual violence, experts say, as the country has sanctioned their exploitation for generations. Black women and girls experienced widespread sexual violence during the period of slavery, and that legacy still lives on, he says.
“Black women have probably experienced one of the most horrifying histories in this country – forced sexual experiences of slavery, rape and sexual assault,” Lovelace said. “This is a historical context. R. Kelly’s case is taking place against the backdrop of centuries of violence against black women.”
Black women and girls face additional barriers
When #MeToo first exploded, many advocates and survivors demanded that the public and criminal justice systems “believe in women”—a phrase that prompts people not to brush off victims in the beginning. It’s even more difficult to believe Black survivors, say sexual violence experts, which prevents them from reporting and even getting support when they do.
According to the National Center on Violence Against Women in Black Communities, for every black woman who reports rape, at least 15 black women do not report it.
Black women and girls also face additional barriers to reporting.
“Since our attackers are often black and brown men, we are too afraid to call the police or worry more because they are also vilified. They are also targeted,” Lovelace said. “The most neglected behavior you have is the most targeted.”
In the Kelly case, Lovelace said, her victims were dealing with someone who might be targeted as a black male, but who also had structural access to power.
She said of her victims, “They felt there was no way to listen to them.”
‘It was childhood rape’
While the accusers in Kelly’s trial are now adults, many of them testified about the abuse that occurred when they were children.
“People need to understand that… it was childhood rape. It was childhood sexual abuse,” Lovelace said.
Children are molested and groomed to trust their perpetrators and keep quiet about the abuse. But because of what researchers say, black girls may be seen as collusive “adult bias” Which projects negative stereotypes of hypersexualization on black girls and makes adults less empathetic with them than their white peers.
“We see them as wanting, willing and capable,” Simmons said. “Even if, let’s say, they lied about their age, they followed her, that’s all, they’re still kids.”
Jerhonda Johnson PaesIn , one of Kelly’s accusers testified that he had consensual sex with Kelly when he was 16, though he told her she was 19. When he finally told Kelly about his actual age, he said that he continued to have sex with Kelly. His.
To better support black women and girls, experts say, there needs to be a collective acceptance that this abuse has gone far beyond Kelly’s victims.
“There are all kinds of ways that kids look for love and attention and that’s what they get,” Simmons said. “Instead of blaming them, we have to embrace them, protect them, and hold those who are causing harm, not just the person who committed the sexual act, but all viewers accountable.”
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