I broke down and watched the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries which aired on Lifetime last week after a reading the riveting essay about how many times we dropped the ball by Lecia Michelle 📃 here on Medium, and it was everything I thought it would be.
It’s nothing I haven’t seen before. The abuses noted in the documentary were the same sorts of scenarios I experienced in my past life as a rape crisis center Executive Director and Child Advocacy Center director. The series reignited a lot of my old feelings about children’s advocacy, law enforcement, and sadly the Black community.
My people love to scream they love the children and the children are our future until it comes time to protect and teach our children. We are silent, complicit, victim shaming, and victim blaming. We fall down on the job, and we tend to take the same stance the rest of the world takes when it comes to protecting Black children.
Innocence is a privilege. It’s a privilege Black young girls and boys don’t get to have. Our kids frequently have their childhoods stolen from them. It’s a crisis of epic proportions we don’t talk about enough. It’s an area we Black folks need to get an “F” in as far as I’m concerned. And while there are many ethnic groups that neglect or ignore child sexual abuse, I can only speak to the abuse that happens in my community, because that’s one I’m most familiar with.
But make no mistakes about it, childhood sexual abuse occurs in every ethnic group, social and/or caste system in the world.
Today, I’m focusing on how we Black folks deal with childhood sexual abuse in our homes, schools, families, and communities. According to the National Children’s Alliance, Black children are the second largest group of children in America serviced by Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) nationally.
Nationwide the top abuse reported by all children in 2017 was sexual abuse. It’s the number one abuse/crime reported by children EVERY YEAR.
We Love Fighting Harm Inflicted From Racial Injustice
It seems we only care about our lives when other people are harming them.
If our children are killed by cops, we protest claiming Black Lives Matter!
If our children are being taught by racist teachers, being taught racist school lessons, or in systems that run school-to-prison pipelines, we are on it!
If White cops are mopping Waffle House floors with Black women, Black folks are screaming to the top of our lungs about the injustice.
If a Black celebrity or athlete is harassed by cops, overlooked by some stupid award show or called out by White supremacist for standing up for Black folks, Black folks are speaking up on it online, or television, and we protest by withholding our Black dollars.
But when it comes to domestic violence, sexual violence, and child sexual abuse in the Black community…
We. Are. Silent.
We don’t believe child victims. Our silence says to predators it’s okay, we have their backs.
R.Kelly thrived because we were silent. We stay silent. We overlooked every sign, every rumor, and any allegation. We didn’t support the cops investigating the allegations to get this man off the streets. Most notably, we have crucified the White reporter (Jim DeRogatis) who pointed out our predator to us. DeRogatis was the first person to identify R. Kelly to the world, yet he almost no mention.
Black Silence Says To Children Black Lives Don’t Matter
When Black people don’t tell on our Black predators, that silence is consent to abuse more children and a signal to children their lives don’t matter. We have no room to talk about the trauma men like Harvey Weinsteins, Woody Allens or Kevin Spaceys. We have our own monsters in our community we’re covering for and we’ve covered for decades. Too many men look out for (and overlook) for their own.
Your silence Black people is trauma to young souls searching for a savior. Your covering for predators is trauma. Your failing to believe Black victims is trauma. Your young Black victim-shaming is trauma. Your outing Black girls and their families online, in public spaces, on blogs, in the newspapers trying to out and prosecute their predators is trauma. Your failure to speak up when asked by police and prosecutors is trauma.
A young Black girl’s sexual trauma is compounded by the trauma of merely existing in America.
The Black community injures children with the trauma of silence.
When we ignore the petitions of children (be it by the words or by their actions when they change after being abused), we give child predators power and we take away the power of children. They learn their words don’t matter.
When we protect with our silence our fathers, brothers, cousins, relatives, friends, or clergy instead of protecting young child victims, we affirm young girls, boys, and teen youth don’t matter. If they mattered, you’d do better by them.
Silence says the life of the predator is more important and worthy of protection, far more valuable than the child the predator harmed. R. Kelly’s career and livelihood were more important than a grown man urinating in a child’s mouth. And let’s not even discuss all the people who purchased the bootleg video peddled in barbershops and street corners everywhere. A few R&B radio station even posted the child pornography on their websites.
Sometimes there is no bottom low enough for my people.
We say to child victims of sexual abuse you have to fend for yourself, the adults are too busy fighting for the predator.
What kind of mind-fuck do you think this is for a kid? How is a child supposed to process this? Mother Nature doesn’t give children all the tools they need to survive in this world. That’s why she delivers children to parents! Having been born to parents who have ignored my abuse, I am fully aware of the damage such neglect and denial can cause. Young girls learn real early not to trust women and adults in the Black community. It’s the reason so many of us have relationship hangups and trust issues. It’s rooted in childhood sexual abuse.
And even when children are bold enough to tell, we punish them. It’s a vicious cycle of domestic violence, mental, and emotional abuse that must end!
Black folks are silent like a public library silent when it comes to speaking up on child sexual abuse. Black folks are silent like we are when a pastor is giving his sermon when child sexual abuse is being discussed.
I don’t understand why we are so silent with an epidemic so prevalent in our community. Whether it’s HIV/AIDS, the LGBTQ community, or child sexual abuse, we seem to not want to talk about the things that impact us negatively or the things that have the ability to derail the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable. Some children don’t even get a fair shake at a good life with all the trauma endured during their childhoods.
I’m can’t minimize the trauma inflicted by White Supremacy in America. But we need to talk about the Black community’s trauma inflicted by the evils of child sexual abuse. We’ve allowed this sore to fester in our homes and families for far too long, and we’ve allowed far too many child predators to roam freely to hurt more innocent and naive children.
A free, non-convicted child predator is like a free serial killer roaming the earth. Child predators know how to locate their prey. It’s a skill they learn to hone each time we allow them to stay in the community instead of getting them help or locking them up.
Did you know that most child predators are NOT convicted of a sex crime? The R. Kelly trial highlights the many difficulties to obtaining convictions. One of the male jurors who appeared to be of Spanish descent noted he didn’t believe any of the girls giving testimony because of how they looked. Young child victims of sexual crimes, in particular young teen girls from poor families have the hardest time securing justice because jurors tend to judge them harshly.
Child predators also remain free because we keep our mouths closed and their secrets buried. Predators are free because the majority of sex crimes committed against children aren’t reported. We perpetuate the cycle of child sexual abuse with our silence. Failing to report is a license to rape children.
The Child Sexual Abuse Statistics Don’t Lie:(Statistics provided by Darkness to Light):
· More than 20% of children are abused before the age of 8. (This means children are molested at a very young age. When we stay silent, we make certain these girls are molested multiple times before reaching adulthood)
· Females are five times more likely to be abused than males. The age of the male being abused also plays a part. Additionally, 8% of victims aged 12–17 are male. 26% of victims under the age of 12 are male. (This means females are likely to be sexually abused not just by grown men, but also by boys her own age)
· African-American children have almost twice the risk of sexual abuse than white children. (Ya know why, because we are silent, we give busters a pass, and money Trumps everything especially when we are poor, living in a fantasy relationship or looking for a come up)
· About 90% of children who are victims of abuse know their abuser, and approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members. (This means paw-paw, grandpa, daddy, Uncle Bo,our brothers, our friends’ sons, our male cousins and daddy’s business acquaintances are molesting us, not the stranger danger we’ve been peddled enabling predators to hide in plain sight)
· Juveniles who commit sex offenses against other children are more likely than adult sex offenders to offend in groups, to offend at schools, and to have more male victims and younger victims. (This means lots of our young boys we stand up for are also perps given passes to abuse young girls. Your nephews, brothers, and male cousins could be a predator)
· Researchers estimate that only 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused. (As most the R. Kelly docuseries pointed out, many victims didn’t come forward for a variety of reasons. A victim should NEVER be blamed for her abuse. The myth of fast girls needs to die in 2019)
· It is estimated that only 4 to 8% of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated. Most of the fabricated reports are made by adults involved in custody disputes or by adolescents. (This means the girls aren’t lying as much as the Black community is busy denying the truth. Black mothers, fathers, female caretakers, leaders, clergy, etc are looking the other way when children make sex abuse allegations)
· 7 to 12-year-old girls with a history of child sexual abuse were 50% more likely to display cognitive ability below the 25th percentile. (This means our young minds aren’t right if we’re being raped/abused).
· There is an increased risk of pregnancy at a young age is likely due to over-serialized behavior, another common consequence of child sexual abuse. Girls who are sexually abused are 2.2 times as likely as non-abused peers to become teen mothers, and 45% of pregnant teens report a history of child sexual abuse. (This explains why Blacks have the highest record teen pregnancy and single-parent households than any other ethnic group in the U.S. Our young girls have been inappropriately aroused, innocence stolen)
We have problems people, and we need to really take a long hard look at ourselves. As a disclaimer, I used to train congregations, schools, day cares parents, and other child service providers the Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children Curriculum as a facilitator before leaving the field.
I can’t tell you how many 60, 70, and 80-year old women and men disclosed their childhood sexual abuse for the very first time. I never had a class without someone (or several people) disclosing their sexual abuse. There is nothing more agonizing than someone 70-years old being moved to finally disclose abuse because a caring, educational atmosphere was prepared that enabled dialogue.
It’s never easy. It’s always uncomfortable. It must be done. The victims’ validation is essential to the healing process. I’ve helped countless strangers being the journey.
Black Mothers and Black Women Are Complicit
In the R. Kelly documentary, time and time again, Black men and Black women failed the Black children. Mothers, managers, R. Kelly’s female assistants, female choreographers, other male and female performing artists, female music industry execs, public Chicago and Michigan schools, female educators (like the Music teacher in the documentary), the police, and music journalists. There is enough blame to go around.
What’s so hard about doing the right thing and filing a police report or calling child welfare services? Many of the people in the documentary (like R. Kelly’s Music teacher) were mandated reporters. The music teacher, in particular, dropped the ball by not reporting and likely committed a crime. Why aren’t we talking about that!
Not knowing the law is no excuse either! Teachers, principals, and other school personnel are mandated reporters and required to report child abuse. The music teacher saw R. Kelly exhibiting inappropriate behavior. She warned the predator instead of turning him in. She’ s not a hero. She shouldn’t have even had a platform to speak about R. Kelly because she was a part of our problem.
She’s was an enabler.
The school’s music teacher got rid of the predatory Robert problem from her immediate vicinity (her music class), unleashing R. Kelly onto her poor, lower-income community leaving young girls to fend for themselves. She was a mandated reporter, required to tell he was preying on young girls, but she didn’t.
What’s attention worthy of that! Why can’t we seem to focus and stay focused on the right things!
But the thing I found the most disturbing about the docu-series was how many Black women stood up for R. Kelly, spoke out against victims, blamed victims for disclosing their abuse and abnormal behavior experienced while under the control of R. Kelly. I was angry at the parents, especially the mothers, who gave their young daughters so much freedom they were able to be preyed upon by R. Kelly or men like him for that matter.
Men like R. Kelly are everywhere, and we treat them the same way. We give them a “pass” because they are selling snake oil or their offering something tangible. As long as he could make my child (aka the golden egg) rich and famous, I’ll take a gamble. No parent ever wonders why a grown man wanted to work specifically with young girls.
Who in the hell wants to work with children if you’re not a child care provider, a public school, or a business with a focus on serving young kids? Not many people I know. We are running from kids and trying to grow our own up so we can be free.
There were signs everywhere, and Black people didn’t miss them, they flat-out ignored them. The R. Kelly case is a symptom of a bigger problem I’ll be discussing in my next piece. Black folks need to learn the law. If you have time to operate a damn smartphone and watch bullshit on television, you have time to learn the laws regarding child abuse and child sexual abuse.
Learn The Laws Black People
My people need to come out of the darkness. Stop using ignorance as an excuse! The law is something each individual is responsible for learning. Access to information is no excuse for your ignorance either Black folks. All this information is readily available online and free to access. If Black lives really matter, let’s learn to protect our children better, and lock up super predators.
Learn about statutory rape laws for your state, check your state sex offender registry and the national sexual abuse registries. Learn about mandated reporting, and the ages of consent (for all 50 states and U.S. territories) and acceptable age differences (no men, you just can’t have sex with any old young girl all willy-nilly. Teach the young men in your life this too). There is a difference between state and federal ages. Learn about internet crimes against children (ICAC), and learn about resources available about child pornography.
To learn more about how to help families dealing with child sexual abuse including supports for healing, advocacy, and navigating systems in your area, visit the National Children’s Alliance (NCA). All services are evidence-based, of the highest-quality, and provided by NCA are free to consumers. Don’t allow cost, fear, or privacy deter you from getting your child/grandchild/relative to get the help they need.
What We Do
CACs have provided more than a million kids with healing, science-based mental health services since 2009. See our…
Marley K, 2019
To be continued….