“Honesty and openness is always the foundation of insightful dialogue.”
― Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions

16-year-old Houston native Jada made headlines earlier this week after her rape went viral. In an interview with local Texas news station KHOU, a tearful and visibly shaken Jada recounted the assault: Upon receiving an invite to a party by a friend, one of the hosts offered Jada a drink (punch). Jada claims the “punch” was spiked, she fell unconscious and awoke nonplussed and unclothed, clouded in a haze of confusion and horror after realizing that beyond being stripped of clothes, her power, too, laid unresponsive.

“I had no control,” said Jada. “I didn’t tell anyone to take my clothes off and do what they did to me.”

Adding insult to injury, many attendees of the party used Twitter, Vine, and other social media outlets to mock and delegitimize the alleged assault, further victimizing the 16-year-old. The insensitive hashtag “hit that #jadaposespread rapidly online and featured kids imitating and “posing” how Jada was found at the party: awry and forgotten.

But even the most grim and dismal circumstances are met by a beam of hope.

A sea of support flooded social media in solidarity with Jada’s courageousness and sacrifice for justice. Users coined a hashtag “#IAmJada” and interestingly enough, thwarted the culture of silence and anonymity often associated with victims of sexual assault—especially rape—all of which suggest a long-overdue societal shift on how we process, articulate, and provide support for victims. Furthermore, Jada proved that, although saddened by her experiences, justice only comes with an open and honest dialogue.

No hiding. No shame. No running away.

“There’s no point in hiding,” she said. “Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”

When I first read Jada’s story, I reacted in three ways: my heart, soul, and body wept. Next, a flurry of anger roared through my veins. I asked myself, “How could this happen?” How is she navigating the convoluted realm of social media even with support?” My emotional response came to a screeching halt when I realized what the media barely acknowledged: Jada is not only a victim of sexual assault, but she is a Black assault victim.

In essence, I understand why many believe “#IAmJada” is a justifiable approach to combating the fundamental misunderstanding of rape and its victims; it highlights that we all should bring awareness through our own lived experiences. I applaud the media’s sympathetic tone and willingness to tackle such a difficult issue. But what I do not stand for is the lack of emphasis on an issue that continues to pervade and plague the African-American community—especially among Black women.

By taking a normative approach to discussing rape, the media falls short, failing to make room for an open discussion about the astounding prevalence of sexual assault in the Black community.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, rape has steadily increased in the African-American community within the past few years. Those who live in urban environments too face a heightened risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, many media outlets glossed over these blistering statistics to focus more on sensationalizing Jada’s story.

Do I stand in solidarity with Jada? Absolutely. Jada deserves justice and I hope the support of family, friends, and those dedicated to the cause make for a healing experience like no other.

But are we all Jada? Not quite.

Even though progress is being made to create a climate of understanding and awareness, failing to acknowledge the elephant in the room in national conversation makes for a false reality.

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  • Noirluv45

    In line with the conversation about how Black women are seen, I just watched an old episode of, “Wicked Attraction.” It was a story of a White boy who was molested by his uncle at a young age. He became very angry and became a criminal. He hook up with a Black woman, who was also molested as a young girl (by a White male friend of the family), and they were became “Bonny and Clyde.” They both murdered a man and a woman. To make a long story short, the detective in the case said he had never run across a more evil, manipulating person ever as he did with the Black woman. He said, he believed she was the mastermind behind both crimes. Ain’t that nothing! Of course, he felt sorry for the White boy because he had such a horrible childhood and was “vulnerable” to this evil Black woman.

    Both were arrested and sentence to death by lethal injection, but lo and behold, the White boys conviction was overturned (surprise, surprise) because of his poor childhood. The decision on the Black woman’s appeal has not yet been decided.

    Of course poor White man was given an excuse, and Black woman has to wait. Of course, she’s not a victim of her past, right. I could not believe what I was seeing or hearing.

    • vintage3000

      Noirluv45 I bet if the white boy had committed those crimes on his own he would still be on death row. Whitefolks ALWAYS need a mechanism to prove one of their own will be protected when a Black person is involved-smh

      Have you ever watched the show “Disappeared”? One case was a young Black single mother who disappeared one day, and her parents were frantic because the police were doing almost nothing to find her. When the cops found out that she was suspected of stealing from her last employer, ALL OF A SUDDEN they had to find her with quickness. Like you, I was incredulous–ain’t that about a b—- When she was a missing person they didn’t give a damn, now that she’s a suspected criminal they pulled out all the stops to find her. Unbelievable.

  • IO505

    1) The OP brought up the issue of sexual assault in the black community and the fact that it’s glossed over in the media, which I responded to just the way I intended. Black men are the number one perpetrators of assault against black women, and no amount of gaslighting, deflecting, or silencing will change that.

    2) I’ll address whatever issue I want to address whenever I want to address it. You do not run this site, and you surely do not run me.

  • workingstill

    Actually the attacker is Arab, more specifically Algerian. Moreover the images that circled online shows more than one attacker. The other attacker is Nigerian which means he is definitely black. The other posters are correct in their assessments of rape i the black community. This is a black issue!