Opinion

Believe Black Women The First Time

Not only does fascinating over the reason Black women are harmed imply that Black women being harmed is reasonable in the first place, but it also trivializes the issue; leaving our safety and wellbeing at risk.

The discourse surrounding the July 12th  incident when rapper Megan Thee Stallion was shot, and the events that have followed continue to reveal the flagrant misogynoir plaguing both the hip-hop industry and the communities where the genre flourishes. After the memeification of Megan Thee Stallion and the shooting, the attempts to discredit her, the victim blaming, and even after the accused had given his account (what the public has anticipated after months of denying the obvious)—what has changed? What new truths about the incident have been revealed? What’s been proven? That “all sides of the story” have to be heard before Black women receive sympathy—before we are allowed to be victims. We’ve learned that there is always space for abusers to prosper and not be held accountable for their actions, especially when they’ve harmed Black women and femmes. Despite the lack of visible changes being made, different ideas of ways to support and protect Black women continue to circulate. Twitter user @BlackMarxist said it best, “I need people to collectively understand that deplatforming celebrities who have been emotionally and physically violent towards Black women, is one of the easiest ways you can tangibly support us rn.”  Support starts with deconstructing social stigmas that place Black women at fault for violence against us. 

 It is never the victim’s fault. A victim being the person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. Victim blaming suggests that the victim, rather than the perpetrator, bears responsibility for the assault because it’s assumed that the victim did something to provoke the violence by actions, words, or dress. Instead of solving the problem and just punishing the perpetrator, we waste time, energy, and resources trying to figure how the victim is at fault in these situations. The only person who is responsible and should be held accountable is the person who chooses to commit the offense.

There is historical (and current) prejudice against the victims of domestic violence and sex crimes; rather than disdain for perpetrators. Far too many people would rather believe that someone caused their own misfortune because it makes the world seem safer than it is. This attitude is detrimental to survivors and perpetuates the cycle. Victim blaming is a major reason that survivors of domestic and sexual violence do not report their assaults. After their assault, survivors experience shame and guilt. So, when people from the survivors’ lives, society, or service providers blame them, it deters survivors from coming forward and reporting an assault and/or from getting any support services they may need. Of course, witnessing the mistreatment of others (especially publicly) will keep other survivors from coming forward and reporting an assault as well. In this way, victim blaming does not prevent crime. It solicits and enables more of it. When the accountability, blame, and responsibility is placed on the victim, perpetrators (and those who support them) get the message that their actions are somehow justified. Perpetrators are not being held accountable for their actions; and until they are confronted with consequences, it is anticipated that they will continue to commit acts of violence.

When victims are blamed for the crimes committed against them, we create a culture that condones violence. Living in a society that perpetuates victim blaming does not justify victim blaming, or make you exempt from unlearning its normalization. Avoiding secondary victimization, which is the re-traumatization of the victim through the responses of individuals and institutions, is imperative. Examples of secondary victimization include victim blaming, disbelieving a victims’ story, minimizing the severity of the attack, and inappropriate post-assault treatment. Aside from not having the right or range to analyze or try to “disprove” someone else’s trauma or criticize how they are coping, keep in mind: part of the brain’s response to trauma is to block out certain memories, and telling one’s story can be extremely triggering. There is no harm in giving survivors the time they need, making sure they feel comfortable and in control, and if solicited, being helpful by informing them of their options and suggesting appropriate resources.

Believe Black women—the first time. Protect and support all Black women; not just the Black women you are attracted to, related to, or benefit from. There is no reason not to; without it leading to several deeper (and necessary) conversations about the misogynoir in which society (people of the same community included) is conditioned. The same Malcolm X quote has been run into the ground and yet, where has the increase of protection, support, or at the very least compassion been? Like victim blaming, misogynoir will continue to be a detriment in the society that perpetuates it. The same society that silences Black women and femmes while yelling reassurances of our strength. What have been the negative outcomes of believing Black women when we speak about our plight, tell our stories, or ask for help? Why are you convinced that they somehow outnumber truthful accounts/statements that are made? They do not. “Protect Black women” may be what’s heard from the rooftops during discourse, but when it’s time to show up and protect, support, and uplift Black women, not everyone is in attendance. There is no “protect Black women” whilst victim blaming survivors, especially when the perpetrators of crimes against them are Black as well. There is no “protect Black women” while continuing to support people that harm Black women, in any capacity. The message it sends about how much we are valued seems evident, painfully clear. Ask yourself, what is the need to ‘hear both sides of the story,’ when one side aims to discredit a Black woman? Notice the pattern of this—instead of denying its existence or gaslighting those calling it out. Not only does fascinating over the reason Black women are harmed imply that Black women being harmed is reasonable in the first place, but it also trivializes the issue; leaving our safety and wellbeing at risk. Without discussions of taking accountability (and with the continued support of abusers) the cycle is allowed to continue. There is no “protect Black women” without believing us—the first time.

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