The trial of Daniel Holtzclaw, an ex-Oklahoma City Police Officer, is underway. Holtzclaw is accused of sexually assaulting 13 women from Oklahoma City’s Northeast side. All of those women are black. This case has inspired a community activist group, the OKC Artists for Justice, to protest outside of the Oklahoma County Courthouse. Jury selection began Monday and his case is finally gaining the national exposure it deserves.
27-year-old Holtzclaw was a member of the Oklahoma City Police Dept. for three years before the first assault. He likely preyed on women who lived in Oklahoma City’s Northeast side because it’s an area of the city in that has seen a lot of hardship. It also happens to be the predominately black area of town that is home to much of the city’s black culture. Most of the encounters of the victims with the ex-officer were similar, with him forcing them to perform sexual acts or they would face arrest. There were many who did not come forward sooner because of this threat or because they simply felt like the police would not believe them because of their past offenses. Holtzclaw was a cop, and how would any officer believe them over their fellow “brother in blue?” The last victim, who is an older woman with no record, broke the trend. Immediately after her assault, she got help and turned Holtzclaw in.
After a lengthy investigation on the part of Oklahoma City Police Dept., Holtzclaw was arrested outside of his gym on August 21, 2015. His bail was set at $5 mill., but was later lowered to $500k, which prompted outrage from many. He was also allowed to be on house arrest and had a GoFundMe page and t-shirts with the slogan “Free The Claw” created on his behalf to raise money for his bail. In any other instance, these privileges wouldn’t be allowed. They show the double standard created in the case of Holtzclaw. One quote by Oklahoma-City-area poet Grace Franklin, an activist with OKC Artists for Justice, sums up her position: “He is a danger to this society, you cannot rape women, victimize the vulnerable, and then go home and watch TV. That’s not acceptable.” It’s certainly not, but in the case of black women, it has been the norm. It’s been an unfortunate reality, and with the recently exposed officer rapes, this case unfortunately is not unique. The Holtzclaw case will continue throughout the month as he is facing 36 counts that range from burglary to rape.
Sache Primeaux-Shaw is a 20 something community organizer, politico and cultural competency instructor from OKC. In her spare time, she blogs about missing women of color in the media (www.whereareourbrownsisters.com) and women of color in politics (www.browngirlpolitics.com). You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and her personal blog.