During my legal career, I’ve served as a public defender and private defense lawyer. I’ve represented clients in criminal matters including murders, rapes, high volume drug cases, sex crimes, and federal offenses. What I’m going to lay out here may be disheartening, but one of the most important aspects in any trial is believability. The judge or jury’s ability to believe one side versus the other is often the determining factor between a guilty or not guilty verdict. In the law, we use the term believability interchangeably with the term credibility. As for Black women and girls, believability and credibility are not assigned to us the way it is for others. This may sound anecdotal, but research proves it.
A 2017 study from the Center on Poverty and Inequity at Georgetown University Law School, found that Black girls are viewed by adults as more sexually mature than white girls, in the same peer group. This means when Black girls are victims of sexual assault, they are less likely to be believed because adults view them as older than they actually are. Black girls are robbed of their presumption of girlhood, innocence, and sexual virtue. This is problematic on a humanitarian level and carries a significant legal consequence.