Why isn’t Daniel Holtzclaw a household name?

Over at Cosmo, Treva Lindsey has a great piece on the trial of Daniel Holtzclaw, the former Oklahoma cop charged with committed 36 sexual crimes, from stalking to rape, against mostly low-income Black women while on duty. She explains how the combination of racism and sexism has led to the lack of mass media coverage of the horrifying case. 

His victims reportedly ranged in age from 17 to late 50s, but the unifying thread of his accusers is race. Holtzclaw targeted African-American women. Details of a lengthy record of criminal sexual misconduct while on patrol surfaced after an extensive investigation by the Oklahoma City Police Department. The investigation commenced in June 2014 as a result of a 57-year-old black grandmother immediately coming forward to report his sexually violent behavior.

The first woman to come forward to file a report alleged Holtzclaw forced her to expose her breasts and perform oral sex on him during a traffic stop. Another victim accused ex-officer Holtzclaw of forcing her to perform oral sex after finding a crack pipe in her purse. Unlike the first woman to report, who, according to a BuzzFeed report, was just passing through the neighborhood, most of the 13 accusers were poor black women with either warrants or suspected of involvement in illegal activities such as prostitution or illegal drug consumption. According to his some of victims, he would offer to not arrest them if they complied with performing sexual acts. The women complied, fearing arrest and incarceration.

Despite the horrific nature of the allegations, and increased national attention and debate about issues of racially motivated police misconduct, the investigation of and subsequent trial for Holtzclaw remains largely under- and unreported in many major news outlets. In a historical moment in which campaigns to end sexual violence and to address racism at all levels of the criminal justice system thrive, a case involving an alleged serial rapist of black women has garnered far too little national outrage. Holtzclaw, a man accused of heinous crimes of sexual violation against both an underage girl and a grandmother, is not a household name.

Holtzclaw’s crimes were mentioned in the recent Associated Press investigation into sexual abuse by law enforcement officers — which we covered here — but the race of most of his victims wasn’t highlighted. Black women, Lindsey points out, are often particularly vulnerable to abuse by the police due to long-standing stereotypes about promiscuity. Meanwhile, “The invisibility of these women’s stories on the radars of most news outlets and many of those invested in ending police brutality against black people speaks volumes about how black women figure in both national and social justice discussions about racial injustice.”

Read the rest here. Most sickening detail: During the trial, Holtzclaw’s attorney told the all-white jury that he was “all-American good guy.”

Header image credit: Associated Press

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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