Daniel Holtzclaw Targeted Black Women Because He Thought No One Would Believe Them

Ex-police officer Daniel Holtzclaw sobbed while a judge read him the guilty verdict handed down by a Oklahoma City jury on 18 of the 36 charges for assaulting at least 13 black women.

He was found guilty Thursday of six counts of sexual battery, three counts of lewd exhibition, four counts of forcible oral sodomy, four counts of rape in the first degree, and one count of rape in the second degree. He will be sentenced next month.

The verdict came after four days of deliberation by an all white jury. Their task was not only to decide on a verdict, but in case of a guilty verdict, they were also to recommend a sentence. They’ve recommended 263 years.

Some survivors and their attorneys held an emotional press conference today in response to the verdict.

One of the survivors, Jannie Lygons said she was pulled over for no reason, and Holtzclaw forced her to give him oral sex.

“I was violated in June by a police officer,” Lygons said. “He did things to me I didn’t think a police officer would do.” She said she thought he was going to kill her.

Sade Hill, another survivor added her voice, “I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was in survivor mode, so I had to do what he was making me do.”

It’s evident that Holtzclaw used his status as a police officer to coerce and intimidate his victims.

He targeted women he didn’t think the system would believe or protect. By focusing on poor black women with criminal records who didn’t trust the police, Holtzclaw avoided getting caught.

Black women carry the added fear of sexual violence from law enforcement. This is something that is seldom included in police misconduct narratives.

“Not only is this individual stopping women who fit a profile of members of our society who are confronted rightly or wrongly by police officers all the time,” said the Oklahoma County prosecutor, Gayland Gieger. “He identifies a vulnerable society that without exception except one have an attitude for ‘What good is it gonna do? He’s a police officer. Who’s going to believe me?’”

Watch: Daniel Holtzclaw verdict reading

The make up of the jury was criticized by the Oklahoma City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the trial. African Americans make up 16 percent of Oklahoma County’s population, but were no black people among the eight men and four women on the jury.

There is an undeniable element of race in the crimes themselves. The fear of being targeted by police is legitimate and prevalent in the black community. However discussions of police brutality are often based on abuse likely to happen to both sexes. Black women carry the added fear of sexual violence from law enforcement. This is something that is seldom included in police misconduct narratives.

Moreover, while there is certainly the reality of offending officers often not facing justice, research shows that sexual assault convictions are rare. In the cases of white men against black women, convictions are essentially non-existent.

The Black Lives Matter movement focuses on police misconduct. They’ve managed to bring race and police brutality to the national stage. But there is an aspect missing to that conversation.

Rape culture is a theory that is still often scoffed at, but it is a valid one.

Discussion on certain environments that may normalize or facilitate rape is needed, especially within the Black Lives Matter movement and conversations on police violence.

Cover Photo Credit: US Uncut/ Youtube (Screengrab)

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About the Author
Saina Behnejad is a international student from the UK at Florida State University. She is Co-Director of Amnesty International at FSU and Social Media Coordinator for The Florida Coalition to Keep Guns Off Campus. You can find her on Twitter @SainaBehnejad.

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