'Protect Black women': How Megan Thee Stallion's story became part of a movement

Advocates say her story shows how Black women are often "without sanctuary."

After Megan Thee Stallion was shot in the Hollywood Hills on July 12, she said she felt as though she had nowhere to turn.

The rapper, whose real name is Megan Pete, says she was afraid of her alleged shooter and was also afraid to go to be honest with the police at the scene, fearful of triggering a response in which she or someone close to her would be shot, she said afterward in an Instagram Live post.

When she did come forward, she addressed the backlash she has received on social media and lamented the lack of sympathy -- with some attacking her credibility and appearance, casting doubt about her injuries and even suggesting she brought the situation on herself.

Pete said her experience highlights a problem many Black women face -- encountering violence, having nowhere to turn and not being allowed to be a victim -- and she has now become an advocate for that to change.

While acknowledging Pete's case was fundamentally different than that of Breonna Taylor's, who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville home this past spring, many advocates say their cases share a similarity, the lack of sanctuary for Black women.

At the time Pete was shot, Black Lives Matter protests had already swept the country and calls to arrest the police officers involved in Breonna Taylor's death were at a fever pitch, giving rise to the hashtag #SayHerName and the "Protect Black Women" movement, which highlights the two-front battle of sexism and racism Black women experience in their own communities and in society at large.

"Breonna Taylor wasn't safe in her home, and she was assaulted while she was sleeping in her bed. And then her narrative was essentially forgotten for a considerable amount of time, before it became part of this movement," said Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor of political history at Brandeis University and an ABC News contributor.

"I think Megan Thee Stallion, her narrative is about the fact that she also was without sanctuary in a space where she should have been safe," Rigueur added. "And then once she came forward with her truth … [she was] essentially, emotionally assaulted, because, you know, we don't necessarily believe women, Black women, when they speak about violence that is being done to them."

'I'm scared'

Pete has alleged that rapper Tory Lanez, a popular Grammy-nominated artist, shot her in her feet the night of July 12.

In her Instagram Live post more than a month after the incident, Megan alleged that amid a heated argument, Lanez shot her multiple times causing injuries to both her feet. Police were called to the scene, but, despite being injured, she did not tell the police what happened in an effort to protect herself and her companions, she said.

Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Petersen, was charged on Oct. 8 with one felony count of assaulting a "female friend" with a semiautomatic firearm and another for carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle. The "friend" is identified as "Megan P" in the criminal complaint filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. Lanez is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 18 and his lawyer did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Megan Thee Stallion did not name Lanez as her alleged shooter until Aug. 21 -- more than a month after the incident. In her emotional post on Instagram Live, she said she "tried to spare" Lanez and did not name him as her alleged shooter or reveal they had a gun in the car because, amid a string of police-involved shootings of unarmed Black men and women in the U.S., she had a fear and mistrust of the police.

"The police come, I'm scared. All this s--- going on with the police … you think I'm about to tell the police that ... us -- Black people -- got a gun in the car?" Megan said in her Instagram video.

ABC News reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department requesting comment about whether Pete filed a report but a spokesperson said they cannot provide information about potential victims.

Treva Lindsey, a professor of gender studies at Ohio State University, said this moment highlights the "vulnerability" of Black women in America on both the "intimate" and "societal level" not only because Megan said she was shot, but she also said she didn't seek refuge because she was "in fear" of the police who are "supposed to protect and serve."

"She knows that history. She knows what moment we're in in this nation ... she's aware of Breonna Taylor, she's aware of the way that police have engaged Black women and Black people, broadly," Lindsey, who specializes in African American women's history and Black popular culture, said. "So even though in that moment, she seeks to protect herself and Tory and the other passengers in the car at the time ... she is so uniquely vulnerable because she's already been harmed, and doesn't have anywhere to turn, either at the intimate level or at the societal level."

'We just don't see Black women as victims'

As news of the shooting went viral, Megan Thee Stallion was subjected to an onslaught on social media, which ranged from vitriolic attacks on her credibility, to doubts about her intentions and even questions surrounding her injuries.

During her Instagram Live post, she expressed frustration over the attacks and called on people to "stop acting like Black women" are the "problem" and that Black women are "aggressive."

"Why would I lie? You want me to be a bad person so bad and [you] wanna believe the lie before you believe the truth," she said.

Megan also reflected on her experience in an op-ed for the New York Times published Oct. 13, writing, "[Black women] struggle against stereotypes and are seen as angry or threatening when we try to stand up for ourselves and our sisters."

"Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment … There's not much room for passionate advocacy if you are a Black woman," she added, addressing those who accused her of lying or were angry she would tell on a Black man.

According to Lindsey, the attacks the rapper experienced are part of a "long history" of society's dehumanization of Black women, where "we just don't see Black women as victims" and we "don't see them as vulnerable."

"Black women can internalize that, too. Some of the people questioning her and pushing back against her, unfortunately, were also Black women," Lindsey said, adding that Megan's story highlights the "ongoing conversation" about "what that means to internalize" anti-Black narratives.

Using her platform to help the movement

Megan Thee Stallion has now become one of the most high-profile and outspoken public figures in the movement to protect Black women. With a social media following of 16.6 million on Instagram, as well as seven songs that charted on the Billboard top 10 this year alone, the entertainer is in a position to amplify the message of the Protect Black Women movement.

During her "SNL" appearance on Oct. 3, Megan put the Protect Black Women movement in the spotlight and spoke out against Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron after no homicide charges were issued in Taylor's death.

She later reflected on the backlash that followed, including criticism from Cameron himself, and from those angry she used "SNL" to make what they consider a political statement.

"I'm not afraid of criticism. We live in a country where we have the freedom to criticize elected officials. And it's ridiculous that some people think the simple phrase 'Protect Black Women' is controversial. We deserve to be protected as human beings," Megan responded in her Times op-ed, referring to the suggestion that the movement to protect Black women is political.

"And we are entitled to our anger about a laundry list of mistreatment and neglect that we suffer."

That sentiment is what one lawmaker hopes to address in Congress.

Illinois Rep. Robin L. Kelly, introduced the Protect Black Women and Girls Act of 2020 in September.

The legislation would establish a task force to examine and address "the conditions and experiences of Black women and girls in education, economic development, healthcare, labor and employment, housing, justice and civil rights."

Lindsey said the movement to protect Black women "can't just be a hashtag," but has to translate to policies that "not only address anti-Black racism, but also address misogyny."

"The only way to protect Black women is to reckon with all of those systems. You can't just reckon with one," she added.

ABC News' Ivan Pereira and Stephanie Wash contributed to this report.

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