Just days after the Zulu Nation stripped Afrika Bambaataa of his leadership title over accusations that he sexually abused hundreds of young boys in the eighties while at the helm of the organization, a prominent Manhattan-based mental health expert has offered to treat the men.
Dr. Jeff Gardere, best known as “America’s Psychologist” who served as the relationship expert on VH1’s Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta, told NewsOne in a phone interview Tuesday that it’s important for the alleged victims to heal as they begin to work through the trauma.
“Quite often when the allegations are made against someone who is famous, or a very revered figure, no one believes the victim,” he said. “So victims become afraid to tell their stories.”
For his part, Bambaataa, 59, denies the allegations and no charges have been filed against him. He told the New York Daily News he has consulted an attorney about filing a defamation lawsuit. It may be difficult for charges to be filed because the statute of limitations has run out, legal experts say.
But that cannot stop dozens of men from speaking out.
Online Radio DJ Troi “Star” Torain, who broke the story, told NewsOne recently that the impetus was pain and shame.
“None of these guys want anything for telling their stories,” he said. “They just want their stories told.”
But it’s not uncommon for sexual assault victims to remain silent until it’s too late. Only a few of Bill Cosby’s numerous alleged victims were able to pursue charges against him because of the statute of limitations.
Below, Dr. Gardere explores challenges Black communities face when dealing with sex assault charges and discusses the road to healing:
NewsOne: What was your reaction when you heard about the allegations against Afrika Bambaataa?
Dr. Jeff Gardere: Like everyone else, when I heard the charges it was one of absolute shock, because he has been a figure that has been revered for many years. He has been seen as a pioneer, and for the most part, the leader of a movement in Blackness. To me that equates with pride and self-esteem. Any sort of allegation, especially those having to do with molestation and rape, are extremely serious and certainly gotten all of our attention, as it should.
NO: Why are the alleged victims coming out now with these allegations?
DJG: I think for many, it is the shame that is associated with the charge, and the level of guilt, which is very common among rape victims. Even though they are victims, they improperly blame themselves, feel in some ways they brought this on or should have said something sooner. It is quite common to feel that way, even though the reality is that they are purely victims and not responsible in any way.
For many victims, sometimes we see there is a lack of family support, lack of support from friends. Rape victims are sometimes maligned by others, the press, and the media. Quite often when the allegations are made against someone who is famous, or a very revered figure, no one believes the victim. So victims become afraid to tell their stories.
NO: Why do they wait until their 40s or 50s to say something?
DJG: Sometimes it takes all of those years for them to have enough emotional strength to be able to say something. Sometimes it takes one victim among many to be the catalyst and then the others feel more empowered to come out and say something. Some are able to say something right away, but it takes others years to speak up.
NO: How should fans process this?
DJG: First, these are allegations. For many of us, just hearing allegations may mean that someone is immediately guilty. But again, I think Afrika Bambaataa’s fans are in shock and I think they have to listen to what the alleged victims have to say and make up their minds after listening [to all sides].
Many times we idolize individuals and we have to understand that these people are people and we should not elevate anyone to some sort of demigod status because, if nothing else, we will be let down when we do see that reality does intrude.
For the alleged victims, I think it’s very important they get help as quickly as possible. As a matter of fact, I would make myself available to help individuals involved in this case. That’s what I do as a healer.
Click here to email Dr. Gardere.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty