If my title this week sounds lewd and offensive, it’s because it is. Especially to the women who heard it once from their perpetrators, then again from their mothers, and again from society at large. It’s an American problem, a college problem, a Caribbean problem.
It’s been brought back into the spotlight because of recent allegations against Bill Cosby, but the conversations within our community rehash age old points of contention, that it’s the woman’s fault, she’s after something, stop blaming the man.
I have friends whose family knew they’d been molested or raped, but never allowed them to report the crime. We saw toward the end of the last season of “How To Get Away With Murder” that a black mother would rather kill a man who molested her child, than speak to her daughter about the abuse and report the crime to the authorities. That episode spoke to the attitudes of our very religious black culture. We’ve accepted that we have been raped and silenced for centuries by black and white men and told that it’s just a part of life, so either shut up or figure it out. Cicely Tyson chose to figure it out.
In Jamaica, there have been a number of young girls murdered in 2015, many allegedly killed by their molesters. A few of the victims were under 10 and pregnant. We’ve had popular musicians arrested and charged there based on an overwhelming amount of evidence against them, and because of their local stature, others in positions of influence called for acquittal, essentially dismissing the plight of the victims.
It’s a bad thing we’re teaching, that women should relinquish control of their bodies and their pride first, and then their ability to seek justice because there is none. Because even though they were invited to a business meeting with a man they respected and accepted a drink out of courtesy, their knee length skirt should have been longer, they should have insisted on sitting in a public space for that business meeting, and they should know better than to accept a drink from anyone wearing pants.
Organizations have arisen to address these issues, but one I recently heard from is meeting with resistance from the community they’re trying to help likely because as usual, nobody wants to talk about such unpleasant things. But when we tell victims that they should be ashamed of the awful thing that was done to them, that they shouldn’t share their stories, shouldn’t encourage others to bring their perpetrators to justice, what we’re really telling them is once again sorry my dear, just close your eyes, shut up and take it.
Calibe Thompson is the Executive Producer of the “Taste the Islands” cooking series, now airing nationwide on public television stations and Create TV (www.createtv.com for details). Learn more about her at www.calibe.net.