(Editor’s note: The following article includes a description of a sexual assault and may be triggering to some. Please safeguard yourself accordingly.)
On January 20, a woman was sexually violated—and at least 800,000 eyes watched. Nearly as many were callous in sharing the grim details of her assault, captured for all to see on social media. And the coincidence of Future’s classic trap song, “Stick Talk,” blaring in the background was beyond eerie:
We be talking stick talk, we be talking bricks too / We be talking lick talk, and I’mma fuck your bitch too / I ain’t got no manners for no sluts / I’mma put my thumb in her butt.
That night at Atlanta’s Club Opera among a host of partygoers on a packed dance floor, Jasmine Eiland unintentionally live-streamed what appeared to be her own rape. The Facebook footage shows Eiland having a grand ole time: drinking, laughing, reciting lyrics, backing it up and body-rolling to all the bops. Gradually, she loses control of her faculties, and in a nanosecond, her motor skills go from lit to damn near listless.
Behind her is a guy she engaged throughout the lengthy video. Suddenly, it seems he is steadying her body, balancing it against his own. Then a daunting realization spurs— her bare upper body is his sudden preoccupation. He is copping feels of Eiland’s breasts and hunching over her while she is slumped over crying, pleading for help, saying “No. Stop.”
In another video that surfaced (not Eiland’s), a gaggle of shutterbugs hover on the periphery, recording and snapping away as this scum has her locked in a violent embrace. At one point, he’s seen moistening his fingers with his mouth and easing them somewhere below the belt, somewhere they more than likely don’t belong, because Eiland repeatedly said “no.” Yet another video later surfaces which shows this man dragging her languid body through a crowd and away from the scene. Another portion of Eiland’s own recording shows her in a more quiet and unpopulated location, still lethargic and slurring “Don’t do that to me.”
On Jan. 31, Atlanta Police Department charged and arrested Dominique Williams with a felonious sex crime: aggravated sodomy. Other women have since come forward, accusing Williams of doing the same to them. Reportedly, he also drugged them.
Corroborating evidence and testimony aside, at the bare minimum, I imagine Eiland’s cues, words, and repeated protests register and mean the same for others as they do for me. I believe Eiland communicated exactly what she meant when she begged, “Don’t do that to me.” Though her body was limp, her words clearly and pointedly indicated that she did not want whatever was being done to her at that moment, and I, for one, believe her. The response of others? Not so much, not even when modern technology shows us the assault in progress. Instead, the same medium used to capture Eiland’s assault has become the same used to exploit and vilify her.
Another video has since surfaced showing Eiland on stage, panty-less, participating in a twerk contest. That, coupled with Eiland’s now-viral video, has attracted heavy skepticism, for better and for worse—but the worse is extremely troubling. Thousands of internet trolls have taken to social media, airing their doubt and victim-blaming; the vitriol and venom directed toward Eiland adding another layer of violence to her assault.
It’s reasonable to believe the blessing in this tragedy is that it was inadvertently captured via social media. However, due to situational irony, it is also the curse, as people misuse social networks to reshare the violent video and spew misogynoir. We’ve seen this before, prior to the rise of social media, back in 2002. Then, it was the R. Kelly tape, featuring a barely pubescent teen, that circulated throughout the hood. Just about very barbershop, bootlegger, and corner store had the statutory rape tape on deck—and a whole bunch of foul shit to say about unfairly perceived “lil’ fast ass” black girls.
Now, 17 years later, Eiland, much like Kelly’s young prey, is charged with being complicit in an act of perversion against her—while its digital evidence is weaponized against her, as well.
Smear campaigns and verbal assault against Black women and girls are nothing new. The condemnation of Eiland comes at time when society has more of an intimate relationship with digital technology than it does with humanity. Just look around, you’ll see any number of people doing any number of things on their digital devices: talking, texting, gaming, reading, writing, listening, Googling—and often, internet trolling black women on GP (general principle).
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, black women not only encounter more than their share of psychological abuse—which includes humiliation and insults, among other forms—but experience it at a rate much higher than women of other races. In December 2018, Amnesty International shared the findings of the Troll Patrol Project, a research initiative that did a deep dive into online abuse and violence against women. It is not surprising that the group found “[b]lack women were disproportionately targeted, being 84 percent more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets.” Abuses ranged from misogyny to physical and sexual threats.
The disdain the general public has for black women is, at worse, common knowledge. But the statistics show just how much, and it’s egregious. It’s even more flagrant when internet-thuggin’ is projected at sexual assault survivors. For so long (and so wrong), cases like Eiland’s have been debatable, due to a lack of “credible” evidence. Now, even after proof of her assault has been widely circulated across digital platforms, even as the visuals state the obvious, people—particularly, black people—still don’t believe her.
Presumably, it’s because she is a black woman, and therefore doesn’t have the right to party, or drink, or laugh, or recite lyrics, or back it up, or body-roll, or twerk—or say “No, stop.”
Put simply, society can’t conceive of black women having the right to bodily autonomy, safety, or respect. So much so that they’d rather clutch their patriarchal pearls and masturbate to misogynoir, rather than give predators some of that same smoke. Instead, many will double down on the hate projected toward us—both in the real world and even harder in the virtual one.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN) at 800.656.HOPE (4673).