After four days of deliberation, an all White jury found serial rapist and former Oklahoma City Officer Daniel Holtzclaw guilty of multiple charges including rape, forcible oral sodomy, and sexual battery on Thursday. This was an outcome many were hoping for as the gruesome details of Holtzclaw’s predatory actions came to light.
There are 13 survivors of Holtzclaw’s sexual assaults, each of them is a Black woman. The survivors ages range from 17-years-old into their 50s. Their accounts of Holtzclaw’s actions shine a light on the nature of injustice women of color in this country are particularly vulnerable to.
The youngest survivor was underage at the time of her assault and accused Holtzclaw of raping her on her front porch after he offered her a ride home. She has said that she didn’t speak up at the time because of fear and threats. Another survivor, a 57-year-old grandmother, told police that Holtzclaw pulled her over one night, sexually assaulted her, then followed her home. He had no empty threats to lord over her and drove away once arriving at her house. She immediately reported the assault. It was her contacting the police that helped draw attention to Holtclaw’s rapes and assaults of Black women in Oklahoma City even though his actions had been reported to the police for months before.
Holtzclaw is reported to have preyed on Black women living in a particular part of Oklahoma City, the northeast side. These women were living in some of the poorest areas of the city. It is no coincidence that he was able to abuse and assault women in this community for months before authorities took these women’s reports seriously. Women of color, and particularly Black women, are frequently overlooked when it comes to sexual exploitation and victimization in the United States. This fact has a long and rough history.
Many in the Black community, in particular, have commented about how little media coverage this case has received. Some argue that, with such a long list of assaults and accusers, Holtzclaw should have become a household name months ago. Others note that the race of the survivors has rendered this case invisible to mainstream media. The fact is: this case is a prima facie example of two things. First, that the “one bad apple” narrative of police officers in this country has to stop. And, second, that justice for those on the margins means rethinking and abolishing the current occupation of Black and Brown communities by officers who seek to exploit and eradicate Black and Brown people.
Holtzclaw, 29, was found guilty of 18 counts but had been charged with 36 separate counts of rape and many other crimes. With the total number of guilty charges, he faces up 263 years in prison. Sentencing is set for next month.
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