While mainstream media largely overlooked or downplayed the story of former cop Daniel Holtzclaw facing a 236-year sentence for the sexual assaults of 13 Black women after his conviction last week, Black social media took citizen journalism to new heights. Broadcaster Roland Martin declared, “National media FAILED the #DanielHoltzclaw victims.”
The video of the 29-year-old ex-cop wailing and asking the jury “How could you do this?” as they pronounced him guilty of the savage sexual assaults of the women, all from low-income neighborhoods, went viral.
His vile assault included threats that the victims would go to jail if they did not perform oral sex and taunts that they had never been in such a situation with a white man before.
Kelly Jacobs posted, “#DanielHoltzclaw victim was asked why didn’t she report the rape(?) She said, ‘What kind of police do you call on the police?’ #BlackLivesMatter.”
The all-white Oklahoma City jury deliberated for more than 40 hours before coming back Thursday, Dec. 10, with guilty verdicts on 18 of the 36 charges, including forcible oral sodomy and first-degree rape. Despite the similarities in the cases of assaulting women from 17-years-old to late 50s, Holtzclaw escaped conviction on five of the counts.
Reportedly, as he awaits sentencing in January 2016, he is under suicide watch. Depending on whether the judge allows him to serve his sentence consecutively or concurrently, he faces between 30 and 236 years in prison.
Brynne Craig also posted on FaceBook, saying, “Today I’m thinking about the courageous women who told their story and put #DanielHoltclaw away #BlackLivesMatter.”
Speaking outside the courthouse at a press conference, the morning after the verdict was delivered, one of the victims, Jannie Ligons, a 58-year-old grandmother, relayed what Holtzclaw did to her on the night of June 18, 2014. Having been forced to expose herself, and then perform oral sex, she declared last week that Holtzclaw, “Just picked the wrong lady to stop that night.”
Hailed for her selfless bravery, Ligons said of that dreadful night, “I was out there alone and helpless … I didn’t know what to do. And in my mind, all I could think is that he was going to shoot me. He was going to kill me.”
Disappointed that the now ex-cop and convicted felon beat 18 of the 36 charges, Ligon said she was happy that he was at least convicted on some, stating, “Hate he did it, but justice was served.” However, she added,“I was a victim. I was traumatized. I went to therapy and had a stroke. I still live with this.”
Another victim, Sharday Hill, told the media,“Being in a room with a police officer, I did not expect to get violated the way I did. I couldn’t even believe it. I was speechless, scared, and I didn’t know what to do. But I was a survivor. I had to do what he was making me do.”
“These women were doubly and triply brutalized,” psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere told the AmNews. “Some were poor, some had criminal records, so they may have felt that they were marginalized and subjected to value judgement. They were brutalized by the officer and the system. I am sure some people were shocked that he was found guilty.”
While the bravery and perseverance of the 13 victims was universally applauded, the band of usually vocal white feminists, who remained largely silent on the case, were roundly criticized.
Casual and engaged social observers alike have been asking where was the comprehensive coverage of this case from mainstream media such as ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News.
“Once again the atrocities committed against us are relegated to being marginalize,” a disgusted
Councilwoman Inez Barron told the AmNews. “Again Black women are not held to the same privilege and consideration as white women, yet the preponderance of the repeated crimes he committed necessitated that he must be convicted.The media is complicit in not reporting on this horrendous situation in which Black people—in this case Black women—are victimized by those charged with protecting us.”
Kirsten West Savali, cultural critic and senior writer for The Root wrote, “After over a year of screaming his name into the brutal wind, the voices of Black women emerged as the catalyst for ensuring that the country knew about his depraved abuse of power, his fetishizing of Blackness, his cruel and purposeful violation of women he thought this country had thrown away. In many ways, though, Holtzclaw thought right.
“Black women who have been socioeconomically marginalized in this country have too often been thrown away and ignored by the system—and oftentimes by their own communities—imbuing him with the audacity to carry out his crimes as if he were digging through the trash.”
Despite the initial euphoria over the convictions, the sobering realization is that he was not convicted on five other rape and sexual assault charges.
Standing with a crowd of women on the steps of the Oklahoma County Courthouse, Savali said, “I listened to them say that they were not satisfied with the verdict—that ‘almost’ doesn’t count. They wanted to know where was the accountability for the rest of the department?”
How many victims have not come forward, and how long did this cop perpetrate his reign of terror? And who else knew and turned a blind eye?
Indeed, Holtzclaw’s attorneys relied on the portrayal of the victims as unreliable accusers who had criminal or drug-abuse backgrounds.
“What happened in Oklahoma is a reflection of the lack of respect Europeans in this country show people of African descent,” said activist attorney Michael Tarif Warren, “whether the forced engagements in chattel slavery or profound injustices occurring in the multiplicity of injustices in the system of criminal injustice, or the summary executions by white police officers, such as in the case of Laquan McDonald in Chicago.”
Warren spoke to the centuries of the “certain animus,” against Black women. He said the rape of African women by white men has long been used as a tool of subjugation based on “sexual depravity,” which is well documented. “The slave master did it,” said Warren. “This cop did it. It is all about a lack of respect.”
Savali called the Holtzclaw verdict a “Small victory—fuel to keep fighting.”
The NAACP has announced that it will be asking the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into sexual assault charges against police officers.