If you’re not watching Luke Cage, you need to be. It’s a Netflix original Marvel series about a reluctant Harlem super hero. Luke finally decides to stand up to the criminals running Harlem and to put it mildly, all hell breaks loose.
There’s one family in particular that runs Harlem. Cornell, nicknamed Cottonmouth, extorts the local business owners and runs drugs and weapons. His cousin, Mariah, looks legit as the community’s local councilwoman. Extremely close, they grew up like brother and sister since Cornell’s mother abandoned him.
A significant side story is that family’s relationship. Their uncle Pete nurtured Cornell but sexually abused Mariah. As a result, the cousins have conflicting feelings about him and his behavior towards Mariah. In a traumatic scene, Cornell antagonizes Mariah by suggesting that sex with her uncle was consensual. He argues that she constantly flirted with him and walked around half naked. Mariah takes her outrage out on Cornell as she screams, “I did not want it.”
Child survivors of sexual abuse understand this dichotemy all too well. We know the abuse is wrong, we want it to stop but we’re too afraid to tell.The abuser uses threats against the victim and their loved ones (read more on grooming here). Some abusers may even convince the child that their parent not only knows, but approves of the relationship. But the reason most children are victimized is because the abuser is fulfilling some need. And if need is loneliness, love or attention, this is where the dichotemy steps in.
For me, I never wanted the abuse. I wanted to be left alone. But because I had been abused for so long, it became second nature to me. Something was wrong if my abusers didn’t want to have sex with me. Growing up, I constantly craved love. I wasn’t given attention at home; as a matter of fact, if I wasn’t being ignored I was getting into trouble. Although I knew it was wrong and I wanted it to stop, it really was the only consistent affection I ever received as a child.
That’s not just disgusting. It’s sad.
So, when I saw Mariah lose it, I got it. From the outside, it may have looked as if she wanted to have sex with her uncle. Hell, adults and kids from the community accused me of the same thing. And, as I was watching it with a friend, he said it too. There were girls in his neighborhood who preferred sex with older men. To him and to most, those girls were just fast — looking for some money or a shopping spree.
But I ask you, why were those girls that way? I watched my daughter grow up. I’ve seen countless other young girls grow up who never displayed that behavior. But I can tell you, I have friends who behaved that way as children and they admitted to being either sexually abused, extremely poor, emotionally abused or neglected.
It’s time we look at the cause of our young girls’ behavior and work to fix it.
And a HUGE shout out to the writers of Luke Cage for not just including it in the story, but for getting it right.