For years, decades even, allegations swirled that R&B superstar R. Kelly was abusing young women and girls, with seeming impunity.
They were mostly young Black women. And Black girls.
And that, say accusers and others who have called for him to face accountability, is part of what took the wheels of the criminal justice system so long to turn, finally leading to his conviction Monday in his sex trafficking trial. That it did at all, they say, is also due to the efforts of Black women, unwilling to be forgotten.
Speaking out against sexual assault and violence is fraught for anyone who attempts it. Those who work in the field say the hurdles facing Black women and girls are raised even higher by a society that hypersexualizes them from a young age, stereotyping them as promiscuous and judging their physiques, and in a country with a history of racism and sexism that has long denied their autonomy over their own bodies.
“Black women have been in this country for a long time and … our bodies were never ours to begin with,” said Kalimah Johnson, executive director of the SASHA Center in Detroit, which provides services to sexual assault survivors.
“No one allows us to be something worthy of protection,” she said. “A human that needs love, and sacredness.” It’s as if, she said, “there’s nothing sacred about a Black woman’s body.”
At all ages, Black girls were perceived as more adult than white girls, needing less protection and knowing more about sex. The gap was widest between Black and white for girls between the ages of 10 and 14, followed by girls between the ages of 5 and 9.
“We don’t value Black girls, and they are dehumanized, and they are also blamed for the sexual violence that they experienced to a greater extent than white girls are,” said Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the center and one of the study’s authors.
Source: AP News