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OPINION www.mississippilink.com

April 12 - 18, 2012

THE mississippi link • 11

Sexual assault: The dirt under the rug Trayvon Martin was standing his ground By Alim Gaynor Columnist By definition, sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person’s consent. Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, pressure or tricks. Whatever the circumstances, no one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted. The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Although the average victim of sexual assault are females between the ages of 16 to 24, victims of sexual assaults run the gamut from infants to the elderly. One in four women will be sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime. For men, the figure is about one in thirty. Sixty percent of victims know the perpetrator. Even with these horrific statistics, sexual assault remains one of the most under reported crimes. Even more disturbing: 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail! Every two minutes of every day, someone’s life is forever changed by a sexual assault. Sexual assault is devastating for the victim. Unlike robbery or simple assault victims, sexual assault victims often feel ashamed about what happened to them. Because of this, they are often reluctant to talk to anyone about it. To add insult to injury, when victims do report it, police or others, who victims should be able to trust, often imply that they, the victims, were somehow complicit. This is especially true of date rapes or rapes

by someone who the victim was once in a relationship with. Sexual assault is usually considered by most people to be forcible rape. Rape is defined as forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). Rape is just the worst case scenario with regards to sexual assault. Many people who are sexually assaulted are never penetrated. The lack of penetration however, does nothing to allay the feelings of fear, shame and sometimes guilt that victims often feel. Sexual predators rely on the fact that victims will often not report the crime. Sexual predators are not just people lurking in the shadows waiting for victims to assault. They’re often relatives, family friends, neighbors and respected members of the community. These individuals are no less malicious than the anonymous serial rapists. In fact, they are often worse. Although they may not use force or violence, they betray the trust of their victims rendering them mistrustful and skeptical of sincere caring. Victims of sexual assaults, often suffer physical injuries. Frequently however, they develop a range of emotional and psychological effects including: shock, anger, depression, social withdrawal, apathy, reduced ability to express emotions, loss of self esteem, guilt, shame, suicidal ideation, substance abuse and psychological disorders. The decision to report a sexual assault lies within the discretion of the sexual assault survivor. The arrest and conviction rate is so abysmally low because victims are often unwilling to do what needs to be done to insure perpetrators are brought to justice. Unfortunately there are thousands of adult survivors of sexual abuse who have been unable to talk with anyone about what happened or how it’s affected them. There is help available for them as well as for recent victims. In Mississippi, rape crisis center programs (www.mscasa.

org/crisis-centers/) are located in Biloxi, Columbus, Greenville, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Meridian, Natchez, Oxford and Tupelo. All agencies provide free services without discrimination regarding race, ethnicity, disability, or marital status. The Rape Crisis Center in Jackson is run by Catholic Charities, Inc. The Crisis Hotline number is (601) 982-RAPE or (601) 982-7273 (24 Hours). For counseling, call (601) 366-0750 Monday through Friday. Young people, male and female, need to be educated about ways to avoid becoming victims. Some, on the other hand, need to see that behavior that is acceptable to themselves and some of their peers is actually sexual assault. Social media and technology has opened kids up to dangers that were not prevalent just a decade ago. The kinds of things that are being done with camera phones and webcams are mind-blowing. This unlimited access to “whatever” is opening our children up to ideations that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Sexual assault is a cancer that is eating our communities up from the inside. All of the victims have a personal story. Some stories are worse than others, but most are heart wrenching. According to statistics, incidents of sexual assaults have been in decline. This statistic could be misleading however. Unemployment rates, for example, appear to decline when people run out of benefits and can no longer apply. Could it be that victims of sexual assault, feeling that little or nothing will be done, are not reporting them as much? Like cancer, sexual assault must be treated as a life threatening disease capable of destroying the body (community). Perpetrators of sexual assault are criminals who deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Nothing less will suffice. Alim Gaynor is founder and president of Seedpod Empowerment Institute. For more information, call 769-798-5247 or E-Mail us: alimgaynor@gmail.com

We are all Trayvon Martin By Julianne Malveaux NNPA Columnist I have two nephews that I love with an amazing passion. Anyi, 28, is a Los Angeles based comedian, who kinda looks like me and acts like me. He is my absolute escort of choice when I am in Southern California. Armand, 25, is an Oakland-based aspiring writer, and a 2008 graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz. Both of these young men are well over 6’3,” but neither carries any extra weight. Both of them wear hoodies. And both of them have had unfortunate run-ins with so-called law enforcement officers that have tainted the way that they see law and order. Whenever they share their stories with me I am sickened by their experiences and our nation’s myopia about the way young black men are treated because of a series of sick stereotypes gone amuck. A few years ago Anyi, then working for Berkeley-based Youth Radio, parked his dilapidated car in the public transit parking lot and headed to meet colleagues who were also taking the train to an assignment. A police officer followed him, said his car was stolen, pulled a gun on him, forced him to his knees, even as his colleagues begged the officer to stop. What I remember from Anyi’s account is that he had dirtied his “clean white shirt” when he was forced to the prone position. As it turned out, the officer had miscued one digit in the license number, looking for a new Toyota, not an

ancient jalopy. There was never an apology, nor any discipline for the officer who, unfortunately, happened to also be a young African American. Indeed, from our family there was gratitude that Anyi had so many witnesses around him that the police officer could not pull a Trayvon on him. But here is the deal. The experience embittered Anyi. It reminded him that the police are not his friend. This is post-racial America. You can shoot and kill a young black man in a hoodie then claim self-defense because you find him threatening. There was a case, perhaps three decades ago, when a white man was able to claim disability because he was “afraid” of working with black people. What if each of us could claim disability because we are afraid of working with hostile whites? Instead, we suck it up each day and walk into a world where we know that our race makes us suspect. Hoodie or not, we are all Trayvon Martin. In other words, there is still a manufactured fear of a black presence in our nation and in our world. We have an African American president who has been assailed, not because of his mostly moderate politics, but because he happens to be of African descent. We have an attorney general whose motives have been maligned because of his race. And we have a baby boy walking the streets with iced tea and some candy, whose height and hoodie made him suspect to a deranged white man (yes, it is possible to be white and Hispanic) with a temper and a history of domestic violence who disobeyed 911

orders and took his gun out to get vigilante justice. If George Zimmerman had an ounce of integrity he would turn himself in instead of hiding out. But Zimmerman is not the problem. The climate, these “stand your ground” laws are more the problem. What if we, black people, chose to stand our ground? Once upon a time, we did. In Tulsa, Okla. in 1921, a young black man, Dick Rowland, happened to jostle a white woman elevator operator, Sarah Page, in the office building where they both worked. The unintentional contact was too much for the crazy white powers that existed and they threatened to lynch Rowland, who fled to Greenwood, the area once called Black Wall Street. Black men rallied to Rowland’s defense, with a militia that threatened white power. Whites responded by rioting against black people and holding us in concentration camps. It is likely that bombs were dropped on the black community by our own government (see the work of Dr. Kimberly Ellis), but the newspapers documenting the attacks can now not be found. A wealthy community was eliminated, but in the words of poet Claude McKay, “If we must die, let it not be like hogs, haunted and penned to this in this inglorious spot. …Like men we’ll face the murderous cowardly pack, pressed to the wall, dying but fighting back.” Find McKay’s Harlem Renaissance poem and ruminate on it. We are all Trayvon Martin. When do we fight back in an organized, disciplined and effective way?

By George E. Curry NNPA Columnist Most people are asking whether Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law should apply to George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain who killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin. That’s the wrong question. A better one is, given the circumstances, did the law protect Trayvon when he physically confronted Zimmerman? In a word, yes. Looking at the 2005 law from a different perspective through the eyes of 17-year-old Trayvon instead of Zimmerman - is critical because the debate over what happened Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. is being misframed. Some facts are undisputed: Trayvon was walking home from a nearby 7-Eleven store, where he had purchased a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea, when he was spotted by Zimmerman, who was driving a SUV. Zimmerman dialed 911 and reported seeing a suspicious black male in the gated townhouse community. Though he had no proof, Zimmerman claimed that Trayvon appeared to be high on drugs. When Zimmerman confirmed that he was following Trayvon, the 911 operator specifically told him to stop following Trayvon, and that police officers were on their way to the scene. Instead of following instructions, Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon. What happened next is unclear because we are left only with Zimmerman’s version of events. We do know that shortly before he was shot to death, Trayvon had been talking on his cell phone with his girlfriend. She later told Trayvon’s family lawyer that he told her he was being followed by a strange white man. She urged him to run away from him.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman told police he lost sight of Trayvon and got out of his SUV to follow him on foot. Zimmerman said he was returning to his vehicle when Trayvon allegedly approached him from the rear. The two exchanged words and began fighting. The neighborhood watch captain claimed Trayvon knocked him to the ground with a punch in the nose. Zimmerman said Trayvon climbed on top of him and began slamming his head into the sidewalk. Zimmerman told police that he began yelling for help, but two voice experts hired by the Sentinel concluded that the voice heard screaming for help on the 911 tapes was not that of the neighborhood watch captain. During the scuffle, Zimmerman pulled his 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun and fatally shot Trayvon once in the chest. Police said that when they arrived, Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a swollen lip and had cuts on the back of his head. Those details were leaked by police to the Orlando newspaper in hopes of bolstering Zimmerman’s case. However, even if everything Zimmerman said is true - which is doubtful - he was clearly the aggressor, not the victim. He was the one who pursued Trayvon against the advice of the 911 dispatcher. And with police officers en route, he decided to leave his SUV and hunt for Trayvon. Even supporters of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law don’t believe Zimmerman should be allowed to hide behind the controversial legislation. State Rep. Dennis Baxley, the Ocala Republican who sponsored the bill in the House, told the Tampa Bay Times, “They got the goods on him [Zimmerman]. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid. He has no protection under my law.” Jeb Bush, who signed the bill

into law when he was governor of Florida, agreed. “This law does not apply to this particular circumstance,” he said. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.” Florida statute 776.013(3), known as the Stand Your Ground law, says, in part: (a) person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Trayvon was clearly operating within those boundaries when he faced-off against Zimmerman. He was a guest in one of the townhouses and therefore had an undeniable reason to be in the neighborhood. He had no duty to retreat simply because Zimmerman was the aggressor. And Trayvon had every right to believe that the person who had been stalking him was intent on inflicting great bodily harm. Regardless of how Zimmernan’s family tries to spin the facts, it was Trayvon Martin who had the clear right to stand his ground. Whatever he did to Zimmerman was totally justified. And Zimmerman had no right to kill a 17-old-old youth carrying only a bag of candy and iced tea. George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter. com/currygeorge.

Discovering black America…my journey, a mother’s anguish – the Trayvon tragedy By Linda Tarrant-Reid Special from The Westchester County Press As the world watches the parents of Trayvon Martin seek justice in the murder of their 17-year-old son by a vigilante volunteer, we are struck by their grace. Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton have faced TV cameras and unrelenting questions about their son and his murderer; they have spoken at a Congressional hearing on racial profiling on Capitol Hill; they have appeared at rallies numbering in the thousands of supporters; and through it all, they have maintained their composure and not strayed from their message - “Justice for Trayvon.” I’m not certain I would have the poise that Trayvon’s parents possess if my son had been the victim of racial profiling resulting in his death. Mothers and fathers all over the world who have heard about the case in Sanford, Fla. are deeply moved by the events that ended with the death of someone so young and for, apparently, no reason other than the color of his skin. Trayvon has become all of our sons. Protesters on Sunday in Miami and Sanford demanded the arrest of Zimmerman, while local and state legislators, church goers, entertainers, sports figures and others donned hoodies demanding justice for Trayvon. When my son was around 12-years old, we had the talk with him. This was the talk that most, if not all, Afri-

can American parents have with their male children. My husband and I told our son that as an African-American male, he would be viewed differently by the white race. That because of the color of his skin he would be judged before he even opened his mouth. We cautioned him about his behavior in public and how no matter how innocent his actions were; he would not be treated the same as his white counterpart. We were anxious when he was away from us and always gave him reminders of our talk before he left the house. This rite-of-passage is something that I believe Trayvon’s parents’ most likely shared with him as well. But even when we, as parents, do our job in educating our young men as to the dangers of “living in America while black;” their fate is really not something that we can control. Our children’s lives are at-risk whenever they walk out of the front door. Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie, had warned her 14-year-old son and his cousin Wheeler in August 1955 on their first visit to relatives in Mississippi. She did not let Emmett board the train from Chicago before “schooling him on the ways of the South.” According to the PBS American Experience documentary, “The Murder of Emmett Till,” Ms. Till described what she said to Emmett and his cousin before they left on their trip. “I let them know that Mississippi was not Chicago.” With the same instructions that many moms give their black children when visiting a dangerous area, Mamie Till warned her son and nephew, “You’ve got to be very

careful. And when you go to Mississippi, you’re living by an entirely different set of rules…it is, ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am’, ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ And, Beau [Emmett’s nickname] if you see a white woman coming down the street, you get off the sidewalk and drop your head. Don’t even look at her.” Emmett Till was murdered by two white men in Money, Miss. just a little more than a week after he arrived from Chicago for allegedly paying unwelcome attention to a white woman. Till’s tragic death galvanized both black and white Americans when Mamie Till allowed Emmett’s casket to be open for the entire world to see what had been done to her son. ... As more and more information comes out about what occurred the night George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin, one has to ask the question, “What were the Sanford Police thinking? “And how come they haven’t arrested Zimmerman yet?” A 911 transcript of a call received by dispatchers on the night of the murder has screaming in the background, which Zimmerman family members are claiming as proof that Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon. Voice analysis experts hired by the Florida-based newspaper the Orlando Sentinel have ruled out that the screams were from Zimmerman based on their comparison of his voice on the 911 tape. That leaves only Trayvon as the source of the screams. (Read the entire commentary at www.mississippilink.com)

Editorials and Letters to the Editor may be e-mailed to editor@mississippilink.com or mailed to 2659 Livingston Road, Jackson, MS 39213. The views and opinions expressed on the Op/Ed pages are not necessarily the views and opinions of The Mississippi Link. The Mississippi Link also reserves the right to edit all material for length and accuracy.

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By Alim Gaynor Columnist By Julianne Malveaux NNPA Columnist By George E. Curry NNPA Columnist