The Legal System Has Failed Black Girls, Women, and Non-Binary Survivors of Violence

Following the airing of Lifetime’s six-part docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” — which describes decades of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse he allegedly perpetrated against Black girls and women — many of Kelly’s fans and supporters continue to rally around the singer-songwriter and even place blame on his accusers for being “fast.”

This is not surprising. Studies have shown that Black girls, women, and non-binary people are hyper-vulnerable to abuse. About 22 percent of Black women in the United States have experienced rape. Forty percent will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And Black women are killed at a higher rate than any other group of women. A 2015 survey of Black trans and non-binary individuals found that 53 percent have experienced sexual violence, and 56 percent have experienced domestic violence. At least 16 Black trans people were reportedly murdered in 2018 alone.

Read more at the ACLU

4 Black Middle School Girls Allegedly Strip-Searched At New York State School

A community in New York state is loudly protesting after four Black girls, under suspicion of having drugs, were allegedly questioned and strip-searched by the school nurse and assistant principal at East Middle School in Binghamton.

According to the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, almost 200 community members packed into a school board meeting, demanding why the board had taken no action in response to the alleged searches that apparently occurred after the girls, who are Black, appeared “hyper and giddy during their lunch hour.”

“The children were instructed to remove their clothing, and felt shamed, humiliated and traumatized by the experience,” said Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, a local organization in the area.

The school said that they investigated the incident, citing the current law and policy which allows students to be searched in a school building by an administrator “when the administrator reasonably suspects that a student’s health is in danger or is in possession of a substance that may harm themselves or others.”

Read more at Essence. 

On The Criminal Justice System And Its Biases Against Black Women And Girls

Black girls and women are more likely than any other group of people in America to become victims of sexual violence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Another crushing reality is the vast majority of sexual assault victims don’t see their offenders brought to justice in a court of law. It’s even harder for Black girls and women to get the justice they deserve. There’s a crucial reason for this: Black girls and women are not believed in court.

During my legal career, I’ve served as a public defender and private defense lawyer. I’ve represented clients in criminal matters including murders, rapes, high volume drug cases, sex crimes, and federal offenses. What I’m going to lay out here may be disheartening, but one of the most important aspects in any trial is believability. The judge or jury’s ability to believe one side versus the other is often the determining factor between a guilty or not guilty verdict. In the law, we use the term believability interchangeably with the term credibility. As for Black women and girls, believability and credibility are not assigned to us the way it is for others. This may sound anecdotal, but research proves it.

Read more at Essence. 

How Societies View Black Girls and Women

Black women and black girls are disproportionately subject to prejudices, stereotypes and violence on an ongoing basis.

Social activist Lovelyn Nwadeyi, Soul City Institute CEO Lebo Ramafoko and Sunday Times lifestyle editor Pearl Tsotetsi share their experiences of surviving the world in a black woman’s body with Talk Radio 702 host Eusebius McKaiser.

The discussion refers to a ground-breaking study on the erasure of black girls’ childhood, which puts data behind the lived realities of many black women.

Learn more at EWN. 

Women and Girls of Color Need Justice Too

A growing number of individuals have expressed support for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ harmful Title IX proposed rules on sexual harassment, including sexual assault, in schools by pitting the rights of sexual assault survivors against efforts to further racial justice.

By doing this, these individuals—often white, self-identified feminists or conservative men—erase the experiences of survivors of color, particularly Black women and girls, who are frequently disbelieved and blamed when reporting sexual assault, pressured to stay silent about their assaults, and pushed into the criminal justice system (referred to as the “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline”).

As survivor-advocates of color working at the intersections of racial and gender justice, we understand that women and girls of color are disproportionately targeted for sexual harassment and assault in schools. The blatant disregard for the lives of survivors of color is a common and misguided tactic that creates a false choice between protecting survivors and protecting against racially biased disciplinary practices.

Read more at ReWire

On R. Kelly and how we fail black girls

Earlier this month, two million viewers tuned in for the premiere of Lifetime’s six-part documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly”. The docuseries chronicled the R&B musician’s reported legacy of alleged abuse, predatory behavior and child pornography charges throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Episodes prominently featured the testimony of R. Kelly’s victims, as well as clinical specialists and activists like #MeToo founder Tarana Burke. Among this wide swath of voices, a common observation was situated at the center of nearly every interview. Survivors and commentators alike remarked that Black women and girls aren’t seen as victims in situations of sexual violence as a result of societal misogynoir. This documentary reveals a disturbing pattern of racist institutional failings endemic to the American criminal-legal system—failures only further complicated by the state violence that Black citizens routinely face from the same law enforcement officials that claim to protect the public from abusers like R. Kelly.

Read more at the Duke Chronicle 

The Case of the Missing Girl

Three months ago, a couple from rural Wisconsin, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their home. That same night, their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme Closs, disappeared.

Jayme, thankfully, was found alive on Thursday night. Her reappearance was one of the biggest news stories of the week, trending on Twitter, and even outperforming some of our coverage of the government shutdown.

That outsize attention became a racial flash point on social media.

Read more at the New York Times’ Race/Related newsletter

‘Surviving R. Kelly’ sheds light on bigger issue: Black women raped at higher rates but report less

Survivor after survivor say they were sexually assaulted by R&B singer R. Kelly, many of them as teenagers, in the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”

“Maybe they stayed in silence because they didn’t feel like they had a way out,” said Teresa Stafford of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Stafford watched the three-part series and says the women’s stories are all too familiar.

“We actually see a lot of young ladies that have been, you know, groomed, into believing that somebody loves and cares for them and then the person is actually taking advantage of them and victimizing them and causing harm to them,” Stafford said.

Stafford says this is especially true within the black community.

Read more at WCPO. 

Who cares about little black girls?

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

So said Malcolm X in 1962. And in the decades since, those words have continued to resonate: a rallying cry for black women who felt sidelined in the fight for civil rights, ignored during the feminist awakening and discounted even as their protests against police violence have earned that movement new attention.

But it’s a new year. And three episodes in the first week of 2019 have given black women ample reason to consider whether anything has changed.

Read more at the Houston Chronicle

‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Spurs Change, But Years Of Activism By Women Of Color Made It Possible

Lifetime, an American TV network known for programs like “Dance Moms” and “Project Runway,” saw its highest ratings in two years when it aired “Surviving R. Kelly,” an astonishing six-part docuseries featuring interviews with women who alleged they experienced abuse at the hands of the hip hop star.

An average of 2.1 million people tuned in to watch the show, and according to a Twitter representative, more than 2.6 million people with accounts tweeted about R. Kelly between Jan. 3 (the series’ premiere) and Jan. 7.

Since then, nonprofits and law enforcement agencies have reported concrete signs of change. The National Sexual Assault Hotline, which is operated by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, told HuffPost that the service experienced a 20 percent surge in calls during the program’s air dates.

Read more at the Huffington Post