Salau’s tragic story also underscores the extremely complicated relationship that Black women have with policing and criminalization. According to the American Psychological Association, one in four Black girls will be the victim of sexual assault by age 18, and one in five Black women is a survivor of rape. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research further reports that more than 40 percent of Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner over their lifetimes, a rate that is higher than white, Asian, and Latin American women. The report also states that more than 90 percent of Black female murder victims knew their killer, further illustrating the ways that Black women are too often failed and abused by their own communities. Despite this, Black women are not protected from such abuse by the police and in fact are often ignored—Salau, for example, tweeted that she told the police she had been sexually assaulted and was even wearing her abuser’s clothing with samples of his DNA, and yet the police didn’t investigate or try to charge the man who assaulted her.
To be a Black woman in the United States is to be unprotected by every person or force who’s supposedly meant to keep you safe. Though Black men undeniably receive the most media attention and national outrage when killed by the police, the fact remains that Black women and queer and trans Black people are infinitely less safe from both the horrors of police brutality and from violence within their own communities. Black queer and transgender people are at exceptionally high risk for state violence—Tony McDade, for example, was a transgender Black man who was killed by the police in Tallahassee on May 27; his story was barely mentioned in mainstream news. In 2019, Zora documented the lives of 19 transgender Black women who were killed in America, many of whom were killed by police, and almost all of whom were deadnamed and disrespected in the aftermath of their deaths.