>We need to stop blaming the victims

>How can adults actually believe that an 11-year-old is able to consent to sex with a 27-year-old — let alone 17 other young boys and men? How can grown folks, who should know better, place so much responsibility on the most vulnerable and least powerful in our society? What’s even more disturbing is that the communal response in Cleveland isn’t an isolated incident — we have a rich history of dismissing victims as being either “fast” or “hos.” Minus a few exceptions, this nonsense also continues to go unchecked. And while this particular young girl in Texas was Latina, we have reacted in similar ways when the victim was African American.

-from Kellee Terrell’s opinion in TheRoot’s Ain’t I a Victim

The sentiments surrounding the infamous charges of rape of an 11-year-old at the hands of more than a dozen boys and men have been varying, from people condemning The New York Times’ article for victim blaming to charges of racism. Like Terrell pointed out in her article in TheRoot, no one is talking about how these adults are blaming this child for what happened to her. And that should be the most shocking to anyone who’s following this story.

Whether we like it or not, the black community has a strong aversion for standing up for victims of sex crimes, including those of rape, child abuse and sexual exploitation. We blamed the victims in R. Kelly’s rape case, we blamed the victim in the Rihanna-Chris Brown domestic violence incident and we blamed the victim in the case of an 11-year-old girl in Wisconsin who was assaulted by as many as 20 boys and men. 

We refused to stand up to the unspeakable attacks on a mother and her son in Dunbar Village tragedy. And we refuse to stand up for the countless women and girls who are attacked on a daily basis in their own neighborhoods and communities. 

Our community has routinely demonstrated that it does not value the life and well-being of young black girls, teens and women. The safety and health of black women historically has taken a back seat as we have fought for the advancement and success of the black man. Historically, black women have labored overtime to fight for the right for black men to garner the same respect, dignity and other American liberties that white men–and women–often took for granted. We marched alongside our brothers, uplifting them and their spirits in the name of advancing the race.

Yes, The New York Times’ article was biased towards the defendants by focusing on their lives and how this charge of rape could “ruin” them. However, I am more disturbed by the people who willingly went on the record to essentially throw this 11-year-old child under the bus and blame her parents for her plight. 

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.

“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”   

I, for one, am glad the Times article include those two paragraphs in their story as it shines a light onto the disturbing mindset many people have about rape and rape victims in the good ol’ U.S. of A. 

I am more troubled when adults can divorce themselves from the reality that this 11-year-old is a child–and no child can consent to sexual intercourse. Period.  
Sadly, our community isn’t insulated against the indoctrination of rape culture. Rape culture permeates deep into each and every one our brains, often warping our view of reality and common sense. Rape culture forces us to identify with the accused, empathizing with their plight and what they are about to go through, hence the “concern” over how the rape charge will destroy the lives of men and boys. Doesn’t their participation in this senseless crime already count towards their destructive future path? Isn’t their willingness to video tape this crime and threaten the victim with violence just another way they have ruined their own lives?

Rape culture forces us to lay the blame at the victim as it teaches us victims are solely responsible for not getting raped. Rape culture forces society to shift the blame from the perpetrators to the victim.

Our community has also allowed harmful stereotypes of black and other minority women as lustful creatures that cannot be raped to cloud our judgment. Whether we want to admit it or not, we also use the stereotype of the black woman as the enticing Jezebel to a woman’s disadvantage when she is the victim of a sex crime, particularly when the allegations involve a black man. Women and children are ridiculed for trying to destroy black men and are demonized as either gold diggers (when a black man with money is involved) or victims who were asking for it.  

The tolerance of rape culture, harmful racist and sexist stereotypes against black women and patriarchal domination (at the detriment of women and children) in the black community continues to prevent black women and girls from seeking justice for their crimes. Victims of sex crimes in the black community remain trapped inside a collective mindset that does not take the crimes of rape, incest, sexual abuse, pedophilia and domestic violence seriously. It’s well pass the time the black community begin to listen to the cries, screams and pleas of victims of sex crimes. It’s high time we let go of the destructive mental barriers that keeps black victims of sex crimes living in a psychological bondage brought on by the pro-rape culture mindset many in our community so proudly embraces.