Sexual Abuse: One Part of the “Jump-off” Problem

Kat: If you're reading this, it's not too late. Please seek help

It is one of the worst kept secrets in America. Statistically, we all know someone whose life has been affected by it, and maybe it was our own. But for some reason, we don’t understand or fuller appreciate the effects of sexual abuse, even though one of its most well publicized by-products has become a part of our collective consciousness: The promiscuous industry insider, or the “Jump-off.”

When Karrine Steffans published her book, “Confessions of a Video Vixen” in 2005, she was admonished by many for her sexual exploits, criticized by men for not being quiet about them, and courted by Hollywood to provide more juicy details on the inter-workings of black entertainment’s celebrated circles. She portrayed herself as a Trojan horse of sex, gaining access to powerful men through her sexual prowess. But the prelude to Steffans’ juicy tales is a childhood that includes physical and sexual abuse. Steffans once said that she started writing to figure out how she ended up where she was. The connection between her abusive past and her “Superhead” reputation is not lost on her, but it somehow got lost on the public, who instead obsessed with the prospect that “whore” was as much of a professional title as a short-sighted label.

Fast forward five years and other “sexual insiders” have tried to follow in Steffans’ footsteps, such as Alana Wyatt, supposed wife of rapper/actor Mos Def and now Kat Stacks, internet video terrorist and divulger of phone numbers. Reading excerpts from interviews and blog posts on these women respectively, the trend becomes apparent. Due to sexual abuse, each women lost power over her body at an early age, started using sex as a way to gain access and social mobility, and decided to “expose” the very men they sought money, safety and support from. What we have here is not a crisis of morality. These women are not just opportunists, and they are not just victims. They are a reminder of what happens when the sexual rights of women are systematically under-minded. These women’s behaviors are symptoms of un-healed pain and trauma with no productive outlet.

According to Dr. Laura Berman, psychologist and a regular on Oprah, the side effects of sexual abuse include:

  • Poor body image because the body was the instrument used during the sexual abuse
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, isolation, depression and low self-esteem
  • Sexual confusion or promiscuity as a result of not dealing with the emotions and feelings surrounding the abuse
  • Confusing rape or sexual abuse fantasies
  • Eating disorders, obesity and anorexia
  • Drug abuse and alcoholism
  • Poor decision-making in relationships
  • Difficulty with intimacy
  • Self-destructive or even suicidal behavior

We cannot tackles the so-called “problem” of the celebrity jump-off without addressing the sexual abuse epidemic in America.  According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 73% of these women will know the perpetrator of the assault, and many of these cases will go unreported. Dr. Berman believes that having a open dialogue about sexual abuse is key to helping victims come forward and start the healing process. Conversations among men and women need to occur, not just about sexual assault, but sexuality in general and the double standards that prevent victims from becoming survivors.

It’s difficult to resist the temptation to attack these women for being so open for their antics, but the way that the web and the public has responded to Kat Stacks in particular is akin to goading someone who’s threatening to commit suicide. Her videos, her blog, Twitter antics and the book she allegedly has coming out later this year are all cries for help. You can’t be vocal about women like Kat Stacks and stay silent on sexual assault. And for all of the rappers, athletes and other prominent men who use women for their bodies and then crucify them for not wanting to be disposable and stay silent, silence is the last thing that assault victims need. They need compassion, support, and an opportunity to be more than a “jump-off.”

What do you think?