What Tory Lanez’s Sentencing Means For Black Women

At this point everyone knows the story unless they lived under the rock. After leaving a party hosted by Kylie Jenner three years ago, hip-hop superstar Megan Thee Stallion got into an argument with her then-boyfriend, rapper Tory Lanez, and he shot her in the foot.

Lanez was convicted last December on three felony charges stemming from the shooting, and on Tuesday he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. At his sentencing Lanez said he still cares about Megan, called her his friend, and said they had bonded over the losses of their mothers. Curiously, he also shared, “I said some very immature things that I shouldn’t have said. I revealed some secrets I shouldn’t have revealed,” as though shooting a partner is some kind of free speech argument.

But the road to holding Lanez accountable for his brutal domestic violence was was anything but smooth. Megan Thee Stallion was re-victimized at every turn. Misogynoir took over, as is typically the case for Black women reporting sexual assault or domestic violence.

Many Black men on social media (and some women, too) were quick to call Megan a liar, make fun of the shooting, and immediately side with Lanez.

Rappers like Drake and 50 Cent mocked her. Drake, for his part, wrote the song, “Circo Loco,” featuring lyrics that accused Megan of lying about the shooting, while 50 Cent posted an insensitive meme of Megan running while being shot. (Not too long after, 50 Cent apologized to Megan, saying, “Damn I didn’t think this shit was real…It sounded so crazy,” which kind of illustrates the overall problem of Black women not being believed.)

Throughout the trial, Megan was taunted by blogs tearing apart every piece of her testimony, going through her sexual history, and trying to diminish her story. Some hip-hop blogs and entertainment industry bloggers blatantly supported Tory Lanez, ignoring the facts of the case and essentially misleading the public. Podcasts and social media included theories that Megan thee Stallion wasn’t shot at all—focusing on her sexual history and portraying her as an aggressor deserving of whatever happened.

A picture of Megan Thee Stallion arriving at court

Megan Thee Stallion testified in court in December of last year.

Jason Armond/Getty Images

When people incredulously ask why victims don’t report abuse, this is why.

Megan Thee Stallion gave a poignant first-hand account to Elle magazine in April 2023 about her long ordeal—including that she mistakenly expected that, after getting shot by her boyfriend, she would be believed.

Tory Lanez continues to insist he’s innocent, and that if he is guilty, it’s because of his alcoholism and childhood trauma, as reported by PopBase. Lanez makes pleas for therapy, not prison. And even after being found guilty, more then 70 letters of support for Lanez (including one from pop star Iggy Azalea) were sent to the sentencing judge.

But if Megan Thee Stallion, a multi-award winning artist, was nearly threatened into silence—afraid to report violence against her and push for charges—what does this say for the average Black woman suffering?

Domestic violence is one of the most pervasive struggles affecting American women, and studies show Black women are affected at higher rates than any other race or ethnicity. While 31 percent of all women experience domestic violence, for Black women it’s 40 percent, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.

In fact, most Black women have a friend or family member that has fallen under the weight of domestic violence. Sadly, many have been murdered.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no particular profile of domestic violence. It’s not just the weak, meek, and mild woman with low self-esteem and little money. There isn’t a single look to the victims—everyone from your neighbor to supermodels actresses and entertainers like Halle Berry, Tina Turner, Rihanna, and Megan Thee Stallion have faced partner violence.

Financial hardships and uncertainty often discourage Black women from reporting abuse or pressing charges, but the realities of the criminal justice system also affect their decisions, especially if the perpetrator is also Black.

A picture of Tory Lanez

Tory Lanez.

Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

According to domestic violence support advocate and Ohio state Rep. Vanessa Summers, “We know that African American men are more apt to go [through] the criminal justice system, and we don’t want to send them—even if they shot us in the head.” Summers added, “We don’t trust the police because we don’t want to get our man in trouble, but there has to be a way to break that cycle.” Before serving in the Indiana House of Representatives, Summers worked at the Julian Center, a domestic violence treatment Center in Indianapolis.

If Black women can’t always afford to leave abusive relationships, and are overwhelmed by a culture that doesn’t believe they can be victims, on top of the urge to not report due to institutionalized racism in the justice system—what avenues do they have to stop a cycle that can literally kill them?

Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of death for Black women between 15 and 35, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Black women are three times more likely than white women to die at the hands of a domestic partner.

These statistics aren’t just numbers. They are moms, they are friends, they are neighbors, they are essential workers—they are victims of systems that need to change. We know what happens if domestic violence goes undeterred…women die.

President Joe Biden fought for and succeeded in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—increasing domestic violence victims’ access to services and support, calling on federal law enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable, and enhanced protective orders across state lines. But much work needs to be done in expanding its impact across low-income and communities of color.

Common sense gun reforms could go a long way in closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” keeping guns out of the hands of abusers. Unfortunately, conservatives don’t support life-saving changes to gun laws, like this one.

There has to be a cultural and societal shift in protecting women and believing women, particularly Black women, who are victims of abuse at the highest rates.

If a global superstar like Megan Thee Stallion had to navigate the hoops of misogynoir, victim-shaming, public humiliation, and anti-Black woman tropes to find justice, think of what everyday Black women must do to get a fraction of the attention much less justice delivered. We have to do better. Lives depend on it.

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