In response to the recent allegations of sexual abuse surrounding well-known musicians in the Black community, #MeToo has partnered with Time’s Up and the National Women’s Law Center to release a statement, an open letter addressed to “Black survivors” who are under scrutiny.
In an “Open Letter in Defense of Black Survivors,” a message speaking to all who’ve said they experienced sexual abuse and are now coming forward with their stories, the statement said that the “dismissive” attitude some survivors have been met with from the media and society as a whole, in addition to those trying to discredit their traumatic experiences, was an erasure that can no longer take place. The letter mentioned how particularly heavy the new allegations were, especially when considering the cultural impact sex abuse scandals involving Bill Cosby and R. Kelly have had.
“Over the last week, we know countless of you have come forward with credible accusations of horrific sexual abuse and violence at the hands of Black celebrities – including Soulja Boy and T.I. and Tiny,” the letter read. “R&B singer Raz B has spoken out once again about his experience of sexual abuse – yet no media outlets, corporate actors, or systems of justice have centered survivors’ stories or promised accountability. Like you, we are carrying the emotional weight of this news and know that we are reliving a collective trauma akin to the exposing of Cosby and R. Kelly.”
The coalition’s note to Black survivors referenced the names of several high-profile celebrities who are being accused of such misconduct. Rapper Soulja Boy was mentioned due to the recent news that his former assistant was suing him for allegedly physically and sexually assaulting her. Rapper T.I. was also name-dropped at the beginning of the letter after increasing scrutiny within the last week following a number of women accusing him and wife Tiny of sexual abuse. Raz B of B2K was also mentioned, but as a victim. After years of claiming he was sexually abused by the group’s manager Chris Stokes, the singer has recently been calling for him to take a lie detector test.
As reported by the letter, Black survivors of sexual assault have a history of being underserved and underrepresented. Despite the U.S. Department of Justice reporting “1 in 5 Black women are survivors of rape,” the letter shared that Black survivors are on average less likely to be believed when they report sexual assaults in comparison to their white counterparts.
Wrapping up their call to action, the coalition asked the media to make Black survivors’ experiences more visible and focus storytelling on justice for them, while simultaneously doing investigations of claims made. The community as a whole was asked to refrain from shaming those who come forward with their stories. And as for survivors, they were encouraged to know that their “stories are valuable” and that #MeToo, Time’s Up and the National Women’s Law Center were there to be of support.
All in all, the coalition noted that a part of their goal in releasing their letter was to encourage others to “consider what’s at stake for Black survivors if we don’t treat their stories with dignity, respect, and care.” While only time will tell how far these claims will go and if they will be investigated so that those powerful people mentioned can be held accountable, helping to support and giving a voice to the increasing list of survivors who are coming forward is definitely a productive place to start. You can find the full letter and access resources to support here.