Black Men, It’s Time To Talk About Rape

his month, Black men in Detroit are going to begin a long-overdue conversation about the role that they can play in ending sexual violence.

Led by Detroit businessman Roderick Rickman, Black men will put their arms around the women in our community, increasing awareness about sexual violence, and raising money to end the backlog of untested rape kits in Wayne County.

"I’m the eleventh of 12 children and I have six sisters," says Rickman, CEO of Rickman Enterprise Group, an environmental and industrial services company. "We’re blessed that we haven’t had to deal personally with rape or sexual violence. But anger and all kinds of emotions come to mind when I think about the possibility of that happening in my family. I can’t even process it. It’s such a violation and loss of security."

Indeed, although men are direct victims of rape, more often they are affected when the violence happens to the women and children that they know. The result can be shattering.

Take the story of Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney. Last summer at a public storytelling event, he got on stage and revealed his childhood trauma. When he was only 12, his mother, Mary Alice, was gunned down in front of him by her abusive husband. He felt such shock (and even relief that the abuse was over), that he never cried for his mother. When he was 26, another woman that he loved was stabbed 19 times by a man who wanted to rob and rape her. He was 42 before he could process the grief, guilt and devastation he experienced around these acts of violence against the women that he loved. That year, he legally changed his name. To honor his mother, he now insists that his name is Carlespie Mary Alice.

So often, we focus upon the interpersonal violence among and against Black men, but never adequately address the sexual violence against Black women, which also impacts their partners, their children and the entire community. For Rickman and others, it’s time for men to step forward.

Dan Aldridge has been one man on the forefront of this issue since the 1960s. He formed the Black Men’s Coalition to Eradicate Rape in the mid-1980s, when about 100 men joined him to help capture rapists and end community violence. But when he tried to re-energize the coalition a few years ago, the attempt fell flat, leaving Aldridge perplexed.  

The reluctance to grapple with the issue is complicated. Too often, rape is seen as a women’s problem. "Violence against women is a male problem, not a female problem. Women have the right to full humanity and men should work to guarantee that," says Aldridge, a minister, activist and event producer. 

There is also political tension around Black women speaking out against Black men who rape.

"I don’t agree that this issue pits Black women against Black men," says Rickman. "It doesn’t matter who committed the crime, they need to be caught, prosecuted and held accountable. If the perpetrator is African American, Hispanic, Asian or other, so be it."

Rickman was recently joined by men from all walks of life to declare July as Men’s Month. This month, men are being asked to financially support the African American 490 Challenge of Enough SAID, an effort launched last fall by more than 100 Black women and organizations. The goal of the 490 Challenge is to raise $657,090 by year’s end for processing untested rape kits in Wayne County. So far, $250,000 has been raised. It costs about $490 for each rape kit to be tested.

"In light of all that’s going on in the world, I think that African American men need to stand up and support our women and our families," Rickman says. "And we’ve got to make sure this backlog of rape kits never happens again."

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m glad that this time, I didn’t have to. 

DESIREE COOPER IS THE AUTHOR OF KNOW THE MOTHER, A COLLECTION OF FLASH FICTION.

For more info on how to donate or volunteer go to aa490challenge.org. Make checks payable to Enough SAID with "AA490 Challenge" in the memo, and mail to: Michigan Women’s Foundation, c/o Enough SAID, 333 W. Fort St., Ste. 1920, Detroit, MI 48226

his month, Black men in Detroit are going to begin a long-overdue conversation about the role that they can play in ending sexual violence.

Led by Detroit businessman Roderick Rickman, Black men will put their arms around the women in our community, increasing awareness about sexual violence, and raising money to end the backlog of untested rape kits in Wayne County.

“I’m the eleventh of 12 children and I have six sisters,” says Rickman, CEO of Rickman Enterprise Group, an environmental and industrial services company. “We’re blessed that we haven’t had to deal personally with rape or sexual violence. But anger and all kinds of emotions come to mind when I think about the possibility of that happening in my family. I can’t even process it. It’s such a violation and loss of security.”

Indeed, although men are direct victims of rape, more often they are affected when the violence happens to the women and children that they know. The result can be shattering.

Take the story of Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney. Last summer at a public storytelling event, he got on stage and revealed his childhood trauma. When he was only 12, his mother, Mary Alice, was gunned down in front of him by her abusive husband. He felt such shock (and even relief that the abuse was over), that he never cried for his mother. When he was 26, another woman that he loved was stabbed 19 times by a man who wanted to rob and rape her. He was 42 before he could process the grief, guilt and devastation he experienced around these acts of violence against the women that he loved. That year, he legally changed his name. To honor his mother, he now insists that his name is Carlespie Mary Alice.

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So often, we focus upon the interpersonal violence among and against Black men, but never adequately address the sexual violence against Black women, which also impacts their partners, their children and the entire community. For Rickman and others, it’s time for men to step forward.

Dan Aldridge has been one man on the forefront of this issue since the 1960s. He formed the Black Men’s Coalition to Eradicate Rape in the mid-1980s, when about 100 men joined him to help capture rapists and end community violence. But when he tried to re-energize the coalition a few years ago, the attempt fell flat, leaving Aldridge perplexed.  

The reluctance to grapple with the issue is complicated. Too often, rape is seen as a women’s problem. “Violence against women is a male problem, not a female problem. Women have the right to full humanity and men should work to guarantee that,” says Aldridge, a minister, activist and event producer. 

There is also political tension around Black women speaking out against Black men who rape.

“I don’t agree that this issue pits Black women against Black men,” says Rickman. “It doesn’t matter who committed the crime, they need to be caught, prosecuted and held accountable. If the perpetrator is African American, Hispanic, Asian or other, so be it.”

Rickman was recently joined by men from all walks of life to declare July as Men’s Month. This month, men are being asked to financially support the African American 490 Challenge of Enough SAID, an effort launched last fall by more than 100 Black women and organizations. The goal of the 490 Challenge is to raise $657,090 by year’s end for processing untested rape kits in Wayne County. So far, $250,000 has been raised. It costs about $490 for each rape kit to be tested.

“In light of all that’s going on in the world, I think that African American men need to stand up and support our women and our families,” Rickman says. “And we’ve got to make sure this backlog of rape kits never happens again.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m glad that this time, I didn’t have to. 

DESIREE COOPER IS THE AUTHOR OF KNOW THE MOTHER, A COLLECTION OF FLASH FICTION.

For more info on how to donate or volunteer go to aa490challenge.org. Make checks payable to Enough SAID with “AA490 Challenge” in the memo, and mail to: Michigan Women’s Foundation, c/o Enough SAID, 333 W. Fort St., Ste. 1920, Detroit, MI 48226

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