Sharing This Video Just Reaffirms That Our Trauma is Accessible Entertainment.
CW: rape, sexual assault, misogynoir
Recently someone tagged me in a video of a Black girl being sexually assaulted and raped by a cop in Cape Town, South Africa. They wanted me to see how fucked up the police and the world were being toward another young Black girl.
I was in shock. Similar to when the drugging and rape of Jada, a 16 year old girl, from Houston, Texas, whose assault went viral on the internet and turned into a mockery of her tragedy. In Monique W. Morris’ article “We Are Jada (And It’s Time to Stop Ignoring the Rape of Black Girls),” she reminds us of important points regarding Black girls and rape.
“Rape is not funny — not even a little bit. The mockery of Jada’s limp body was not only tasteless, but lacks a fundamental understanding that sexual victimization is a traumatic, violent experience. To suggest that someone can “ask for it” or know “what she was doing before she came” — as one of Jada’s alleged attackers stated — is to ignore the fundamental truth about rape being ultimately about the absence of consent. If she did not give it — throughout the entire act — it is rape.
Rape happens to Black girls more frequently than you think. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the percentage of Black offenders increased from 18 percent between 1994-98 to 27 percent between 2005-10. Black females have a higher rate of sexual victimization than their White and Latina counterparts — and these statistics are just a reflection of the cases that are reported.
Rape victims are usually assaulted by someone of their same race. This is largely because 78 percent of assaults are made by someone known to the victim — a friend, intimate partner, family member, friend or acquaintance. However, it was certainly not lost on Twitter that at least one of Jada’s alleged attackers identifies as White. While comments on that matter have lived in the same comedic spaces as other memes about Jada’s perceived sexual history, the painful legacy of the south’s “peculiar institution of slavery” has left an imprint on our collective consciousness, particularly with respect to the perceived availability of Black female bodies to White men.
The circumstances are very different between Jada and this girl in the most recent viral video of a young Black girl being raped and assaulted. But the points made here by Monique remind us that Black girls, women and femmes are denied humanity on all fronts, regardless of the circumstance. And these two situations remind us that Black girls, femmes and women remain unprotected and unbelieved, and our trauma is entertainment.
There were over 100,000 reposts of this video — surely one of the most traumatic and violent things that have ever happened to this young Black girl — and yet, many of these Black people were unfazed by the violence they were participating in. Antiblack rape culture reminds us that a Black girl’s assault going viral is either to mock her or under the premise of “justice” or for the sake of exploiting a Black girl like it’s nothing.
Media and popular culture remind us that Black girls don’t matter. The world reaffirms in the systems and interpersonal politicking of antiblack misogyny that Black girls don’t matter. That includes our pain, our trauma, our sexual assaults, our narratives and our humanity. So is it any surprise that people will share this video of a Black girl being raped and were comfortable in sharing it with others? Is it any wonder why the nature of this video, which is deemed against “community standards” on most social media platforms, took so long to be removed?
When will the Black community realize that we are the oppressors when we circulate a video of a Black girl’s trauma and rape? When will the rest of us commit to understanding that we do not need to post videos of Black pain — but particularly of Black girls and femmes being raped or assaulted — in order to name the violence we know happens every day?
I beg you all to realize that we do not need to participate within the sexual assault against a Black girl in order to defeat the violence our girls and femmes are suffering from. The guises of “awareness” or “voyeurism as activism” are sadistic antiblack myths. We do not need to retraumatize a young Black girl who is a victim of rape and police brutality for the sake of liberation or for the sake of reminding our people the realities we know to be true. There is always another way for us to tell these stories, our stories, of tragedy and pain, injustice and violence and challenge our erasure. And that requires that we begin decolonizing antiblack rape culture enough to believe these stories and narratives without “proof” or participation to understand or believe them.
As Black people, but specifically Black girls, women and femmes, we are systematically and interpersonally denied our truth. We feel trapped in the reality we know and experience to be true — that black girls, femmes and women are intentionally being murdered, assaulted, raped, violated, and dehumanized worldwide — and feel suffocated by the reality that white supremacist ideology convinces us that we’re lying. So when some of our community feel compelled to repost every video, every death, every lifeless body on the ground, every violation of our autonomy — it only reminds us and reaffirms the premise of our dehumanization.
Many of the people reposting this particular video of a Black girl being raped — or even continuing to watch the video knowing what the content was — reveals the fact that many Black people feel compelled to engage in antiblack rape culture as entertainment, sport, or for the sake of “understanding” it. This includes all Black people of all identities, though. As much as I want to say Black cisgender straight men were the only perpetrators of this, they weren’t. And while Black cisgender straight men and Black masculine folks are one of the biggest threats to all Black women, femmes and girls, we also have to recognize that the participation in antiblack rape culture is community-wide.
A Black femme tagged me in the video. Knowing I was a victim too. They said it was under the premise that survivors have to show the world our stories because it supplements our truth in this world we are surviving. This reminds me of the complicated reality that Black girls, women and femmes are constantly demonized and shamed when we tell our truth around being sexually assaulted and raped.
So we internalize that trauma. And sometimes that trauma turns into political gray, and sometimes that trauma turns into daggers. Some of us might deny another victim’s truth because we weren’t believed. Some of us might unknowingly participate in another rape victim’s pain and trauma by reposting it, thinking this is the closest thing to justice this girl might see because we didn’t get it. But we know this violence too intimately. Whether we’re a direct victim of rape or not, we know someone in our family, in our social circles, or in our life that is a victim.
We do not need to show this girl’s assault for it to be real. All Black girls, femmes and women deserve to be believed and deserve to be protected from this violence. We deserve to end the voyeurism of our pain and sexual assaults because our rape is not entertainment, or a work cited for liberation. A video of our trauma doesn’t need to be a reference for the world to fight for Black girls’ humanity and safety.
Don’t ever post a video of a Black girl being raped. Don’t ever think it supports us more than it reaffirms that our dehumanization is cinematic antiblack voyeurism for the world to gawk at.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a Black queer, nonbinary fat femme writer, artist, and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com. Support my emotional and intellectual labor by donating to: PayPal.me/AshleightheLion.