Every man who’s ever grabbed, groped, felt, fondled, pushed, pulled, patted or rubbed a woman’s body part without her permission and gotten away with it should be sweating bullets. Almost daily there are announcements about powerful men being knocked off their proverbial thrones by accusations of sexual crimes.
There may be some who think the snow-balling effect of women exposing the sexual aggression of men in the workplace is an overkill. I would say it’s more like a volcano erupting. The boundless incidents of sexual harassment and assaults over the years have formed numerous layers of human pain and suffering. The layers have produced so much pressure that the volcano is now erupting.
In the African American community, the silent nature of sexual violence is real. The stats are alarming yet Black women - even mothers of child victims - are less likely to report incidents than white women.
While much of the spotlight is on the entertainment industry and political arena, this offensive patriarchal behavior is not relegated to high rollers like Harvey Weinstein or Russell Simmons. Keep coming down the ladder and you’ll get to the academic and banking fields. Keep going and you uncover the sexist offenses in the fast food and health industries where you find low-wage working women. Keep going and you run into the likes of Uncle Willie or another trusted male family member.
In the African American community, the silent nature of sexual violence is real. The stats are alarming yet Black women - even mothers of child victims - are less likely to report incidents than white women. Legitimate distrust of the system and fears of betrayal mute the voices of victims but not the trauma.
Sexual violence is so ingrained in our society that we often have a hard time acknowledging that any wrongdoing has occurred. If a victim so much as thinks about calling out a perpetrator, she often faces retaliation, isolation and rejection. You gotta be one strong, courageous sistah to step out and name your violator.
There have been some phenomenal Black women who have given their best to take issues of incest, rape and sexual harassment out of the dark. Women like Loretta Ross who helped to found the first rape crisis center in Washington, D.C. Women like Aisha Simmons who launched the No! movement with her breakthrough documentary. Women like Robin D. Stone, author of No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal From Sexual Abuse.
Brothers are also stepping out. Filmmaker Byron Hurt’s documentary HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes broke new ground in exposing and exploring the sexual violence in the genre. Advocacy groups have emerged with Black men taking the lead in supporting women while giving men the tools and education they need for transformation.
As someone who has long fought the culture of violence against women in whatever form that violence takes, I would love for the women who survived the sexual actions of these men to get the justice they deserve. Just as imperative is their coming out of the shadows and joining with the voices of their survivors-sistahs (and brothers) to take a stand. Me Too became Me Three and Me Four and now thousands of women and their allies have come forward to collectively shed their shame and take back their power.
Sexual abuse is currently dominating the airwaves, but it can’t be for a fleeting moment. Sexual assault attorneys can’t be the only ones who benefit from this growing movement to protect the lives and liberties of women.
Let’s intensify and expand the discussion about the pervasive culture of sexual violence in this country. Let’s call out the Chief Groper in the White House. Let’s push for more and different ways for women to report these atrocities and get the support they deserve.