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  • Alexis Patterson

Shades of injustice: Exploring misogynoir and its impact on victims of crime

In the landscape of social justice, the term “misogynoir” emerged to encapsulate the unique experiences of Black women facing both racism and sexism simultaneously. This intersectional phenomenon is not just a theoretical concept; it has real and tangible consequences for victims of crime. The impact of misogynoir on crime victims lasts far beyond the initial crime, leaving lasting scars on both the victim and their community.

Misogynoir often manifests through victim blaming, where society perceives Black women victims of crime as responsible for the violence perpetrated against them. In R. Kelly’s case, some felt that the victims, who were minors, were “wrong too” because they were being “fast,” and knew what they were doing when they met R. Kelly. This blaming stems from harmful societal stereotypes portraying Black women and girls as aggressive, promiscuous, or deserving of violence. As a result, victims face disbelief, skepticism, and scrutiny, further traumatizing them and discouraging them from seeking help and pursuing justice. For example, after being shot by Tory Lanez, Megan Thee Stallion faced a barrage of scrutiny and criticism, despite being the victim of a violent crime. Many believed that Megan Thee Stallion had to have been the aggressor due to her physical appearance. These harmful tropes and assumptions not only influence public perception but also affect how law enforcement officials and the legal system treat and handle cases involving Black women. 

Considering cases of police brutality, studies show that Black women are disproportionately targeted and mistreated by law enforcement. Consequently, when Black women are victims of police violence or brutality, their experiences are frequently dismissed or overlooked. During mass protests for policy reform, cases of police violence towards Black women typically are not highlighted as examples of systemic police brutality in the same way as similar cases involving Black men. For example, the murder of Breonna Taylor did not receive immediate widespread attention until after the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. In Oklahoma, former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw specifically targeted low-income Black women and girls to sexually assault because he knew law enforcement was less likely to believe Black women if they came forward. Similarly, retired Kansas City police detective Roger Golubski used his law enforcement position to sexually abuse and prey on Black women and girls for over three decades without being held accountable for his crimes.

Further compounding this issue, Black women are less likely to report their victimization compared to their white counterparts. This underreporting stems from a myriad of factors, including mistrust of law enforcement, fear of retaliation, and a lack of belief in the possibility of receiving any type of justice. Misogynoir exacerbates these issues, as Black women may feel even more marginalized and dismissed by authorities who perpetuate these racialized stereotypes or fail to understand their unique experiences and interactions with society as Black women.

Ultimately, the impact of misogynoir on victims of crime is profound and far-reaching. From disparities in treatment within the criminal legal system to the marginalization and dismissal of survivors' experiences, misogynoir perpetuates cycles of injustice and trauma. Addressing the issues created by misogynoir requires a multifaceted approach. This includes implementing anti-racist and anti-sexist policies within law enforcement agencies, investing in community-based support services, and centering the voices and experiences of Black women in conversations about justice and equity. Criminal law practitioners can also have an impact by working to challenge biased perceptions and stereotypes of victims in the courtroom, advocating for culturally competent legal representation and support for Black women, and supporting legislative efforts targeted at addressing systemic inequities. By recognizing and addressing the intersecting forms of oppression faced by Black women, society can move toward a more equitable and just future.


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