by Dr Heather Sanders

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, Dr. Heather Sanders is providing our followers with insight into the distinct dynamics of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, in Black communities. Last week she shared the different ways domestic violence is perpetrated in our communities. This week, she calls our attention to a recent case in the social media sphere, challenges us as women to remove the super shero cape and get help when we need it.

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In July 2020, Megan Thee Stallion, a Houston-based female rapper and college student, was shot in both feet following a heated exchange that involved her intimate partner, fellow rapper, Tory Lanez. Though the details of the incident had been disputed by both parties and their representatives, Megan Thee Stallion confirmed allegations that Tory Lanez intentionally shot her after the media and hip-hop fans hinted that the young rapper was lying about being shot. Weeks after the shooting, Megan said, “Black women are so unprotected and we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others without considering our own.” In a social media post nearly two months following the shooting, the 25-year old rapper said, “I didn’t tell the police nothing because I didn’t want us to get in any more trouble than we [were] already about to get in.” (She also says the police informed her she was being detained while being treated for gunshot wounds at the hospital.) She continued, “Even though he shot me, I tried to spare him and y’all m*thaf*ckas not sparing me. That’s f*cked up.”

In the live video, Megan seemed to be affirming and reminding herself of who she is and has always been. “I’m cool…I don’t bother nobody…I’m smart…I know who I am. I don’t lie. I don’t have to lie. He’s not in jail because I didn’t tell the laws what happened, and I should have.”

Though intimate partner abuse is rarely this publicized, the incident gives us an opportunity to examine the level of self-awareness and courage required to be honest (first with yourself) about your reality and your responsibility to utilize what you know to help yourself. During an address to fans and skeptics, Megan said, “Stop acting like Black women are the m*thaf*ckin problem. Stop acting like Black women [are] aggressive when all [they’re trying to do] is speak m*thaf*ckin facts and you m*thaf*ckas can’t handle it.” To be clear, no one is responsible for another’s choice to utilize violence against them. That is never the case and the sooner we all realize our level of influence over ourselves, the better off we all are. 

Furthermore, a disadvantageous quality we all possess and utilize when swept off our proverbial feet is the ability to overestimate the redeeming qualities of those to whom we are attracted. Early behaviors typically foreshadow what is to come and when we ignore those behaviors, we will more than likely regret doing so. In Feminism is for Everybody, hooks says, “The fear of being alone, or of being unloved, [has] caused women of all races to passively accept…oppression.” We must commit ourselves to unlearning many generational lessons and patterns that teach us to prioritize others with little to no regard for our own health and safety. Likewise, we cannot simply hope an intimate partner will deny their own instincts in order to coexist within a relationship. Nikki Giovanni said, “If you don’t understand yourself you don’t understand anybody else.” And if you fail to care for, protect, save yourself, you cannot rightfully do so for any other. 

Though Lanez had initially been arrested and released on July 12th–he was not officially charged until October 7th, 2020.  The “system” was slow to respond on behalf of Megan Thee Stallion, and too often fails to protect Black women. Megan published an OpEd piece in the NY Times on why she speaks up on behalf of protecting Black women.

So, what can we do?

Strong Black Woman

Slowly, Black women are disconnecting from the savior complex and are exchanging hyper-emphasized strength for transparency. While it began as an affirmation and celebration of underserved and underrepresented women who remain high-functioning and performing despite experiencing intersectional inequities, the title, ‘strong Black woman’, has not always served us well. First, it can erroneously suggest an absence of weakness or unrelenting energy. And the failure to acknowledge the existence and contributions of Black women is not as egregious as denying them their humanity. Though Black women have existed and persisted through insurmountable circumstances, we have not escaped their traumatic aftereffects. hooks insisted, “[We] ignore the reality that to be strong in the face of oppression is not the same as overcoming oppression, that endurance is not to be confused with transformation.” 

Grant yourself permission to transform. Find the space and make the time to understand who you are, who you aren’t, and who you want to continually become. When you appreciate your personhood, you are less likely to rely on someone else to do so. Furthermore, you are less likely to tolerate violence, in any form, in exchange for his1 comfort, security, livelihood––or salvation. Strength is not the ability to endure violence––it is the ability to disallow it. 

Name it. Safely confront it. Heal and maneuver past it. Be self-aware. And then be more self-aware. Discover what vulnerabilities invite violent energy into your space. Detect and denounce toxic behaviors and patterns. Be intentional about your health and safety and surround yourself with those who support you wholly. End the cycle of silence.

Do not tolerate violence––in any form––from anyone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced abuse or violence from an intimate partner, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can find local resources in your area. Call 1-800-799-7233 or live chat with a counselor by visiting thehotline.org

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Additional Resources 

Types of Domestic Violence:  https://www.acesdv.org/domestic-violence-graphics/types-of-abuse/

Black Women and Domestic Violence: https://www.blackburncenter.org/post/2020/02/26/black-women-domestic-violence

Intimate Partner Violence in the Black Community. https://ujimacommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Intimate-Partner-Violence-IPV-v9.4.pdf[1]


[1] The pronouns “him” and “his” references the perpetrator of intimate partner violence, however, perpetrators of violence are not bound by race, gender, sexuality, religion, or ability level. 

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Dr. Heather Sanders is an author, strategist, educator and developer. She specializes in anti-racism education and is the cofounder and principal of ASanders Company.com

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