Like most of you, I watched the “Surviving R Kelly” documentary with my mouth wide open, my blood pressure up, and tears in my eyes. I have known that the Pied Piper of R&B was a creep for years but to hear all of the different accounts of abuse he put women through and to hear him say with pride, “I am handcuffed by my destiny, it’s too late, they should have did this sh-t 30 years ago” really sent me over the edge. More than anything, I am tormented by the silence that protects and permits rape culture in the African-American community and makes our girls prey.
Rape Culture is the excusing and normalizing of rape and sexual violence in the media and specific cultures. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language and behavior, the objectification of women’s bodies, and it glamorizes sexual violence. In my opinion, it is the total disregard for women’s rights, respect, and safety.
Before it had a name, rape culture had a huge presence in the African-American community. Its existence is not just cases of strange men manipulating and victimizing women and girls; rape culture is very present in Black families also. I don’t know if it grew from male dominance before slavery or if it was onset by the abuse and rape that accompanied slavery. However, at some point, the objectification of black women became such a thing in our community that none of us is safe, especially not adolescent girls.
One of the most disgusting things about sexual violence against our girls (aside from the act) is that many times people find a way to point fingers at the victims. Growing up, I heard adults talk about “fast girls” but I never really knew what caused girls to get this label. It wasn’t until I became known as a fast girl myself that I began to understand the ignorance surrounding the term.
Like many girls, I was labeled fast because I developed earlier than many of my classmates. Never mind the fact that I had no control over my hormones or my body’s growth and development, who assumes anyone (especially a kid) wants sex simply because they have ass and titties? At 10 years old, I began hating my body, not because of my size but because men started to look at me differently. I went from a cute little girl to potentially a “good time.” I experienced standard creep sh-t initially: staring, sneaky smiles, and slick ass comments that many times flew over my head because I was a little girl. Then it happened, my uncle began molesting me and didn’t stop until I was 12 years old.
As a grown woman, I still struggle with understanding and living with what my uncle did to me. He has never acknowledged how he violated me, and if I permitted it, he would interact with me as if nothing happened. I was 18 years old before I ever spoke this portion of my truth out loud to another person. I was 23 years old before I shared it with a family member. To date, I have never engaged in conversation with my mother about her brother’s actions.
Every day I carry this burden, and for years I hated my uncle. However, one day I realized I was giving him more power than he had by hating him. I survived what he thought would destroy me. I turned every ounce of the pain he inflicted into purpose. Hating him was hindering my happiness, and I had given him enough, so I begin to move forward. In moving forward, I found forgiveness. No, I will never forget, nor will I ever have a relationship with him but forgiving him freed up a whole lot of space in my head and my heart.
Our community has so many stories similar to mine, the victims of R. Kelly, women like Oprah Winfrey. However, many of the stories go untold and lose their voice like Maya Angelou did after her sexual assault as a girl because we refuse to acknowledge it. Maybe the lack of acknowledgment is due to fear, or perhaps shame, or maybe girls see the lack of regard for them and feel their voice doesn’t matter. Either way, Black girls deserve better, I deserved better.