As Black Men, Here Are 4 Ways We Can Hold Ourselves Accountable And Help End Sexual Assault

Our time is up.

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| March 05 2019,

7:41 pm

To be a Black woman in America, is having the ability to be a tsunami and a puddle at the same time.

Black women are not only the most disrespected people in the world, but also the most needed. They keep us on our game, set tomorrow’s trends and protect us without any questions asked, yet they are constantly second guessed. As much as we do not like to admit it, Black men, especially straight Black men, have privilege. It’s not much, but it is definitely there.

For example, when it comes to the topic of sexual assault and rape we often show a lack of support. We are quick to assume guilt upon women and fallback on the cases where men have been wrongfully accused of one thing or another. Although we know false accusations are a reality, automatic dismissal is dangerous and hypocritical. It’s almost like America telling Black people that most police offers are good.

The point is, we are negating the fact that rape and sexual assault are, quite frankly, an epidemic in America. An attempt to deflect viewpoints on sex abuse is a sign of cowardliness.

Instead, we need to hold our brothers accountable by putting an end to street harassment, victim blaming and supporting celebrity abusers. Above all, we need to stop and listen.

Make 2019 the year we use our privilege to protect, advocate and lift up Black women. Here are four ways you can work towards doing that:

1. End Street Harassment  

Street Harassment or cat-calling can be loosely defined as the unwanted contact by one or more persons in a public area. 65 percent of women fall victim to street harassment on a monthly basis. There have even been several cases of men shooting and killing women who have simply denied giving out their phone numbers. At times, the male ego can be more fragile than silence.

The best way to start a change is to look within yourself. If you are reading this article and have harassed a woman on the street, let today be your day of awakening and drop “aye yo, brown skin” out of your vocabulary. If you see cat-calling in the street, come to the woman’s defense. A grand jester of chivalry is not needed. Something as simple as “chill out” can go a long way. National organizations like iHollaback and Stop Street Harassment have local chapters that are always in need of male support and hold classes on how to effectively stop street harassment.

Street Harassment is 100 percent preventable. Our time is up.

2. Stop Victim Blaming

Studies show that when a sexual assault victim is white, charges are filed 75 percent of the time where as Black women get charges filed about 34 percent. This 41 percent gap is largely due to victim blaming.

The story of Jasmine Eiland is a vital example of what happens when Black men do not stand together. When a police officer shoots and kills a Black man, our whole community, without debate, will defend the Black men and demand a max sentence for a police officer. The way we mobilize during a police shooting is unmatched.

Now take the same scenario except switch the victim to a Black woman and change the offense to rape. It is ridicules how easily our stances change once a Black woman is involved. Black women keep the same energy, but Black men take a step back and turn into cynics:

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"Let’s look at all the facts."

"What was she wearing?"

"Where were her friends?“

"How much was she drinking?”

We place blame on everyone except the man. We have to start believing the victim, regardless of outfit, blood alcohol level and prior experience.  

3. Mute Your R. Kelly

Robert. Sylvester. Kelly.

The subject of R. Kelly is rooted in misogynoir and complacency. Our people have accepted R. Kelly and people like him because it is nearly coated in our DNA. We make light of the “creepy uncle” paradigm, which in turn leaves a path for a cycle of abuse.

We need to change our language when speaking about celebrity abusers. The notion of “I can separate the art from the person” is a sign of weakness. Also, beware of people who deflect the issue and say, “Well what about Harvey Weinstein, NFL, Chris Brown, etc?”

When we say this, we are supporting the idea that sexual abuse is accepted in certain cases. The same can be said within our own families. Under no circumstances should we ever place blame or guilt on our daughters or turn a blind eye during times of sexual abuse, especially when the abuser is in the family. The common statements of “are you sure” and “it happened to all of us, we got over it” are life threatening. Rather, we need to offer outside support.

The Black family has been taught to keep everything within the confines of four walls. At most, we will notify our church, but that simply is not enough. Our daughters may need counseling and our uncles could very well need counseling and time behind bars. Reporting anything to the police in our community is frowned upon, however, we should look at abuse from a different lens. Someone who forces a child in to commit a sexual act will most likely continue said abuse until forced not to. Simply demanding that the abuser be banned from family functions is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. If the abuser cannot get to your daughter, he will simply go after someone else’s. 

4. Listen

This last suggestion may be confused as a contraction. The most important aspect that a Black men can do is listen. Listen.

Men have a predisposition to fix everything. At times, the best way to “fix” something is to get out of the way. If a woman discloses a sexual attack, do not develop a plan of action. The first thing we need to do is listen. She may not be ready for counseling or police involvement. She may not want you to check in on her, buy her food or be made to feel hopeless. After a traumatic experience, some survivors want to be left alone for a period of time. It can take several months, even years, to processes the events of a sexual attack. All forms of sexual abuse deal with the struggle and assertion of power. The last thing we need to do is re-assert our male dominance over someone who was just abused.

The minute after you are sexually abused, your life starts over. It may take an entire lifetime to rebuild and I believe it is a man’s responsibility to stop, listen and believe.

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