Lilada Gee has spent a large portion of career working with and advocating for women who have been sexually assaulted. She founded Lilada’s Livingroom in 2008 to give women a place to share their stories around being sexually assaulted. This Tuesday, she will host an event – Men #defendingblackgirls – that will bring men together to get them talking about their role in protecting women from this epidemic.
“I’ve been working on getting momentum for my #defendingblackgirls movement and as I was working on it, it occurred to me that I would need all hands on deck to address the issue,” Gee tells Madison365. “Often you hear these horrible stories of abuse and sometimes murder of these girls and everybody asks, ‘Where was the mother?’
“But I often wonder, ‘Where was her dad? Where was her biological father?’ I just know that working in the sexual assault field for many years that men weren’t welcome in those prevention circles and in the work,” she continues. “My whole thing is that if we don’t involve men when men are predominantly the perpetrators, then how are we really going to get at this issue? We need to have fathers on board and we need to have fathers talking to their sons and that can help prevent all of these things.”
Gee says that the culture of the movement in the prevention field historically has been very exclusive of men.
“I remember one time I was being interviewed for Black Women Heal Day and this woman asked me, ‘What can men do?’ I wasn’t sure what she was expecting me to say, but I told her, ‘Men can stop raping.’ The look on her face was hilarious,” Gee says.
“But that’s only part of it. Men can stop raping and everybody would be happy about that, but the other part is men can father, men can mentor, men can teach, men can protect,” she adds. “When we’re looking at issues that are going on with black girls, it’s not just an issue of what decisions the mother is making; it’s also saying, ‘What are the issues that you are making and what is your presence in the lives of these girls and what is your role in protecting them?’
Men #defendingblackgirls will be held at Fountain of Life Church on Madison’s south side on Tuesday, June 4,
“It’s a casual event to begin having these conversations because I think it’s still uncomfortable for men to be a part of these conversations from their perspective and they don’t know what roles they can play,” Gee says. “Men don’t want to have these conversations. Many women don’t want to have these conversations. But we’re going to start with a small group of men talking and we’re reaching out particularly to fathers of daughters. Fathers of daughters definitely have a vested interest in this.
“We need men to financially support this work, too,” she adds. “Predominantly, the people who support this work are women right now. We need men to support this work in every way.”
Gee says that it is estimated that between 50-65 percent of black girls will be sexually abused by the age of 18.
“What that means for us in present day is that these girls all grow up to be mothers and too many of them are loving through that trauma and making relationship decisions through that trauma,” Gee says. “They are self-medicating through those traumas. It becomes a really critical issue for us as a black community, but also as a community as a whole because when any of us are broken, all of us are broken.
“We are really being obvious about the fact that black girls need to be defended because black girls are being expected – and the conditions are being set – for them to grow up really, really fast,” she adds.
Men are invited to the June 4th event to come together and explore how they can help support Gee’s life work of defending black girlhood. Are women allowed at the event?
“You know what? I’ve had a couple of women who are interested. I think that’s OK and I think if they come we can have a separate conversation. But I think what we really need are men to be here,” Gee says. “I think I’m going to even have myself step back and have a time period where men can just talk and come up with some action plans using that male energy and having some conversations.”
Gee says that there will be opportunities for multiple Facebook Lives while talking to some of the men about defending black girlhood.
“We want to reach out to some of the men who were maybe hesitant on whether or not they have something to contribute to this conversation and this issue,” she says. “We want to invite more men into this virtually so we can get them more involved in a real-world way.
“I believe that together we can help make a difference that will help black girls live lives that are safe in their homes, churches, schools, and communities,” she adds.
Men #defendingblackgirls will be held at Fountain of Life Church on Madison’s south side on Tuesday, June 4, 6 p.m. For more information, click here.