While social media buzzes about Creed, R. Kelly’s Soul Train Awards performance, the protests surrounding the tragic Laquan McDonald shooting, and the start of jury selection in the first trial connected to Freddie Gray’s death, another startling example of police violence hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention.
Monday, the trail of former Oklahoma City Police officer Daniel Holtzclaw resumed after the Thanksgiving holiday, and very few people are talking about it.
— britni danielle (@BritniDWrites) November 30, 2015
Holtzclaw is accused of methodically targeting and sexually assaulting 13 different Black women while on duty, and is being tried on a total of 36 counts, including rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and stalking.
The shocking nature of Holtzclaw’s alleged crimes should warrant national headlines and segments on the nightly news, and yet those of us who want to stay informed about his trial are forced to rely on a bevy of local reporters, online publications, and Twitter. The fact that Holtzclaw’s story doesn’t appear to be as newsworthy as other incidents of police violence speaks to the difficulty rape victims face when seeking justice. And when those victims are Black, female, poor, and “imperfect,” the challenge is even greater.
It’s also precisely the reason prosecutors say Holtzclaw targeted his victims in the first place. As the Guardian points out, “For all but one of his alleged victims, police investigators claim, Holtzclaw used his position on the force to run background checks for outstanding warrants or other means by which to coerce sex.”
Indeed Holtzclaw’s defense strategy seems to be to discredit the victims through racially coded language, accusing them of having “street smarts like you can’t imagine,” and aggressively questioning them about things like suspended licenses and alleged substance use. During her pre-trial testimony, one victim explained why she was hesitant to come forward. “I didn’t think that no one would believe me,” she said.
Another victim, just 17, made it plain: “What am I going to do? Call the cops? He was a cop.”
Much has been made about the fact Holtzclaw’s fate rests in the hands of an overwhelming male, all-white jury, but few people seem concerned about his victims. Unlike other incidents, Holtzclaw wasn’t caught on camera threatening or raping his alleged victims, he hasn’t claimed he assaulted them because he feared for his life. Still, rape is just a brutal as being beaten by a baton, and just as violent and scarring as a gunshot.
And yet, there is silence. Like so many other Black women who are abused, or even killed, by police officers, Holtzclaw’s victims are disposable, overshadowed, forgotten.
But I can’t forget them. I won’t.