“Hurt People Hurt People:” Mental Health Expert Discusses Sex Assault Allegations Against Afrika Bambataataa
After decades of silence, scores of men rankled the hip-hop world when they stepped forward to allege that they had been sexually assaulted by Afrika Bambaataa in the eighties when he led Zulu Nation.
No charges have been filed against Bambaataa because of New York’s restrictive statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse, which only allows victims to file suit up to the age of 23. Most of the victims are over the age of 45, according to various media reports. Bamabaataa, a founder of the hip-hop movement, has denied the charges.
If the allegations are true, the victims are likely in need of intensive therapy Terrie M. Williams, a mental health expert and author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting tells NewsOne. And if the allegations are true, Bambaataa, a founder of the hip hop movement who mentored scores of young men, is likely in need of intensive therapy himself, Williams says.
“Hurt people hurt people,” she said.
Williams and Dawn Porter, a board certified psychiatrist and founder and CEO of Family Renewed in St. Louis, Missouri, spoke to NewsOne about how to talk to children about sex assault and molestation. Both encourage parents to teach their children at a young age about “bad touch” and not to be fearful to speak up if an adult or child makes inappropriate advances toward them.
NewsOne: How do we start the conversation with our children?
Dr. Dawn Porter: First, we have to communicate with our children because people don’t always have the best intentions. Oftentimes parents are looking for mentors for young Black boys because of the different challenges they are facing, but they have to be careful about assumptions that are made about potential mentors just because of a person’s position in the community.
Parents also have to be mindful of watching their children and knowing who they are as individuals. That way parents can notice behavioral changes, which is one of the biggest ways that children talk to us about what’s going on in their lives. Oftentimes with someone who has been sexually molested, you will see a change in their behavior. We have to watch our children as they are growing up and connecting and communicating with them.
NO: There are signs that parents can look for?
DDP: Sure, some signs include falling grades in school, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety, and general acting out, which could come in the form of stealing and other criminal behavior. Oftentimes we blame our kids for the behavior and fail to recognize that something else is going on. Terrie has talked about Black pain and how we all have a mask. There are assumptions about why teens do what they do without really taking the time to understand, but we have to take the time to understand what our kids are dealing with. With social media today, there are even more barriers between parents and their children. Relationships can be very superficial, so parents must go the extra mile to make those connections.
NO: Besides the obvious, like criminal records, how can parents parents protect their children from potential abusers?
Terrie Williams: One of the things that is ever present in my mind and in my spirit is you can never know what a person’s journey has been. People are wounded and scarred. Oftentimes they never ever get help. When you’re wounded and scarred you will reenact it on someone else, so we have to take the time to get to know people and their stories before releasing our children to their care.
NO: How do we lift veil on this issue in the Black community?
DDP: One of the things to do is to talk about it with victims and get them the help they need. That will prevent them from becoming the perpetrator in the next generation. In St. Louis, we started a program called Sharing Our Stories to help youth talk to each other. That way they recognize that they are not alone.
TW: Hurt people hurt people and we never know what a person’s journey has been that has caused them to do the things that they do. More of us should have the conversation so that if someone has been molested, they’ll have the opportunity to talk about what happened to them and get the help they need.
NO: But it’s not so easy getting people to talk because there is still a lot of shame and pain associated with victims of sex abuse.
TW: The healing comes when you know you are not standing alone, and that there are others who were violated. We have to share our stories with each other. You look at somebody and it seems as if all is well, but we learn what is beneath the surface when we share our stories. Opening up let’s you know that you are not alone. In closing, I’ll say there is power in sharing our stories, and it should be embraced by the community.