At this point, it’s no secret that sexual assault, abuse, and molestation —despite the devastating impact it has on its victims— is a touchy subject.
That was certainly the case with Ronald Savage, a Judicial Delegate to the 12th Judicial District in the Bronx, N.Y and former NYS Democratic Committeeman. Last April, Savage publicly revealed that at the age of 15, he was molested by Afrika Bambaataa while serving as a “crate boy” for the producer in the early ’80s.
Bambaataa, for those of you who don’t know, is the Bronx-bred founder of the Universal Zulu Nation and was instrumental in the birth of Hip Hop. He is credited for helping end New York City’s violent gang culture in promotion of unity and peace. In 2012 he became the first Hip Hop entertainer to be appointed a faculty position at a major university— that school being Cornell University. And he’s considered a godfather of the music genre and well-respected pioneer.
Hence, this is a big deal.
Savage claims that as a teenager in the 1980s he was abused by Bambaataa. He also alleges that he was offered $50,000 by unnamed members of the Zulu Nation to keep his claims against Bambaataa quiet.
In a statement sent to Rolling Stone, the 59-year-old whose real name is Kevin Donovan, vehemently denied Savage’s claims. “I, Afrika Bambaataa, want to take this opportunity at the advice of my legal counsel to personally deny any and all allegations of any type of sexual molestation of anyone.” Adding, “These allegations are baseless and are a cowardly attempt to tarnish my reputation and legacy in hip-hop at this time. This negligent attack on my character will not stop me from continuing my battle and standing up against the violence in our communities, the violence in the nation and the violence worldwide.”
Problem is, in the few weeks since Savage went public with this information, three other men have accused Bambaataa of sexual abuse. And a gentleman claiming to be Bambaataa’s former bodyguard, Shamsideen Shariyf Ali Bey, affirmed these claims in an interview with radio host, Troi Torain aka Star [above].
“I can say I walked in on stuff and said, ‘What the f— is going on?’” Bey said. “There are things that I saw that confirmed it for me. Everyone knows these allegations go back to the early ’70s.”
As a result of the accusations, on Friday, The Universal Zulu Nation issued a statement regarding the matter: “The Universal Zulu Nation wishes to announce that it is currently under new leadership by the International and Regional U.S. Zulu Leaders. This will involve a significant restructure and will feature an in-depth re-assessment of how the organization will function to better serve our communities. As part of this restructure ALL accused parties and those accused of covering up the current allegations of child molestation have been removed and have stepped down from their current positions… As an organization we are in a very difficult position because we are being asked to condemn one of our founders based on testimony through social media alone. We cannot do this. We also cannot dismiss the comments of parties asserting they have been harmed. We have a duty to search for truth.”
What’s being done legally, is the most intriguing part of this entire case. Because in New York, like a few other states across the country, there is a strict statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
As reported by Slate, victims in New York can only sue up to the age of 23; what’s more, those abused within public institutions, including schools or foster care, must file an “intent to sue” within 90 days of the original incident. Efforts to extend or eliminate the statute have gotten nowhere: Democratic Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has been regularly introducing such legislation since 2006 but has never prevailed over an opposition led by “elements” of the Catholic Church.
Savage hopes to change this.
“People don’t understand that you are scared,” he told the Daily News about his mission. “You’re scared if you tell on this person, what are they going to do to you, what you’re going to do to your family… I think the statute of limitations is unfair for victims. It took me all of these years to speak about this. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed.”
Currently, new regulation is being proposed to adjust and/or completely remove the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases— considering the fact that victims often take a long time to pursue legal action. Slate notes that New York State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, introduced a comprehensive bill that would do away with the statute of limitations altogether, in both civil and criminal cases, and would also remove the 90-day “intent to sue” requirement.
“Why is there a statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault at all?” New York Times columnist Jill Filipovic wrote in regards to the controversial Bill Cosby cases.
“Across the country, 34 states have statutes of limitations on rape, sexual assault or both, ranging from as little as three years up to 30… Most sexual assault survivors don’t report the crime right away, especially if the perpetrator is someone they know — which applies in about four-fifths of cases… The differing statutes of limitations across state lines create a ZIP code lottery.”
Adding, “Where a person is assaulted shouldn’t determine whether she [/he] gets justice.”
We’ll let you know how the pursued case against Bambaataa develops.