What I find most fascinating about social media is the role that we play in the court of public opinion. With a few strokes of the keyboard you can cast your opinion about any topic in a matter of minutes with a shield of animosity if you so choose. The court of Public Opinion greeted 2019 with a litany of questions, summations, and judgements on the trending #survivingRKelly. Celebrities, journalists, survivors, parents, and others have weighed in on this reflective period in our culture. Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” four-part series takes us back in time before bringing us back to our present moment where our black girls are still in danger. But that fact seems to be overshadowed with finger pointing and that’s not uncommon. When something so horrific happens in society you will likely notice an array of responses such as outrage, condemnation, fear, and confusion but in the end most of us are seeking to understand why and part of that process leads us to place the blame on someone or something.
So go ahead place the blame on society, the parents of the survivors, the predator, the predator’s family, journalists, or even the court system. I get it. But I beg you, DO NOT BLAME THE GIRLS!
I know that it's easy to judge adults. But the women who are speaking were once young girls and that's what we must never forget! They were young GIRLS. So I invite you to close your eyes and see your 14 or 15 yr old self as you continue to read the rest of this article. The word girl is defined as a young female, usually a child or an adolescent between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. Despite the physical appearance or how a teen speaks, biology says that every adolescent progresses at different rates in developing their ability to think and process in complex ways. Research even says that some adolescents may be able to apply logic to school work long before they are able to apply logic to personal dilemmas. Do you remember some of your decisions or the decisions of your friends at that age? What science establishes for us is that the cognitive development and mental health of adolescents is STILL developing.
Many times, as adults we will apply our current wisdom and intellect to a situation not considering relevant factors such as age and cognitive development. The facts are clear. Girls are not yet women! Young girls do not yet possess the wisdom, knowledge, problem solving skills, or experience that some are using to judge. I remember as a young girl hearing older women saying things like, keep your dress down and your legs closed, stop being fast, or get out of that man’s face. I didn’t even know what being fast was! But the comment made me feel dirty and ashamed even though I hadn't done anything. According to a study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint, 60% of black girls have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18. Even if you were not sexually abused do you remember someone older saying or doing something weird or inappropriate in your presence? Consider what your response would be as a 14 yr old versus a 34 yr old.
Those culturally acceptable phrases were ever present during my early childhood years whenever boys or men were around. I wonder how different our society would be if adults would confront the predators that we see daily in our neighborhoods, schools, and in our families instead of blaming young girls. Unfortunately, many from our current and older generations still don’t realize that through those careless comments they are actively pushing the victim blaming narrative that seems to be so deeply rooted in our culture. The victim blaming that our society engages in is really a form of psychological abuse, negatively affecting the mental health of survivor's by reinforcing shame, guilt, and degradation. This is the type of abuse that we must be aware of when we join in the court of public opinion with mentally insensitive comments.
“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black women.”
Whatever emotion this lifetime docuseries has sparked in your soul let that spark ignite some type of tangible change in your life. Change in the way that you see a young girl on the street, at your church, in your family, or in your home. Remember they are growing, they are learning, they are discovering, and they need our guidance. So instead of victim blaming let’s consider the lessons that we’ve learned and support the mental health and development of our girls who were once victims and are now survivors.
Choose to claim our girls
Choose to see our girls
Choose to listen to our girls
Choose to protect our girls
Commit to help heal our girls