Today, On the Record, a documentary about the survivors who suffered sexual assault at the hands of media mogul Russell Simmons, will be made available for streaming on HBO Max. ‘me too.’ stands in full support of the women who came forward and bravely shared their stories after decades of suffering in silence.
The movement to end sexual violence is multi-layered, and even more complex when race and power are at play. This country’s legacy of systemic racism has left some of us in the Black community to contend with the damaging narratives, false accusations about Black men, and harmful biases regarding the believability of Black women. Of the 20 women that have come forward with allegations against Simmons, the Black women in this film were forced to choose between seeking justice for what happened to them or pursuing lives and careers where they are regarded and respected. A choice none of us should ever have to make.
Black women are less likely to come forward, be believed, and get support. They are also more likely to be blamed. And because Black men are more likely to be seen as guilty and found more frequently to face false allegations, we are more likely to protect Black men who model “good character,” even if it means ignoring the harm they’ve caused to Black women.
These are the reasons why we say “listen to Black women.” Being heard (without disdain, pushback, or skepticism) is healing. And if we want to interrupt and ultimately put an end to sexual violence, we must start there. Black survivors have a right to tell their stories and be met with accountability. This is not about the takedown of another powerful Black man. This is about unpacking the layers of trauma that impact all of us so we can fix the systems that have failed us.