As a small charity that champions mental health support for minoritised women, we are horrified to hear about the shocking strip search of a 15-year-old Black schoolgirl, a straight A prefect, due to the alleged smelling of cannabis. This young girl had to endure a violent act perpetrated by adult professionals who should have known better – and the trauma inflicted upon ‘Child Q’ will have created deep and long lasting emotional scars. She will be left to bear the shame and humiliation whilst those who allowed this to happen carry on with their lives.
Where was the care? Where was the safeguarding? Where were the assessed risks that somehow went from ‘smelling cannabis’ to being treated as someone trafficking class A drugs?
At The Maya Centre, we see too many women whose trauma begins at a vulnerable age when they lacked the voice, protection or structural support to prevent it. Often this is associated with abuse or violence from individuals, but when racist violence is used by statutory professionals charged with her care, the damage to a young girl’s developing sense of identity, self-esteem and trust in the world around her can be even greater.
Sadly, this kind of case is not uncommon, as reported in the US by Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls Childhood, which found many disparities between the perceptions of Black girls and white girls in terms of adultification and sexualisation. As a result, Black girls are all too often wrongly perceived as requiring less nurturing or protection, leading to negative support from statutory bodies and professionals. And, as our clients attest, Black women suffer the lasting impact of this, often finding themselves re-traumatised simply by reading about cases like this where it feels as if nothing has changed.
Where do we go from here and what can we do?
At The Maya Centre we are committed to the provision of accessible services that uphold and protect the dignity of Black women, supporting those in need of a pathway to heal from traumatic experiences. We will listen without judgement, and ensure that our team of diverse counsellors, including those from Black African and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, are culturally matched to clients and can help them contextualise their experiences.
Women who attend therapy at TMC have often recounted early experiences of racial trauma, leading to an exploration of how they view themselves- their racial identity, self-worth and self-esteem issues and how being black and a woman intersect. These conversations are often immensely painful and distressing and responding appropriately is part of the work that therapists do here – holding space, honouring, respecting, listening, believing, and seeing Black women; extending empathy and compassion to facilitate healing, to re- empower and support them in finding their voice.
We sincerely hope that Child Q is receiving therapeutic support as a matter of urgency to help her come to terms with this terrible experience and reframe any feelings of shame or humiliation that belong instead with those who mistreated her.
A solidarity march is taking place for Child Q and all other Black children dehumanised within our education and policing systems will take place on Sunday 20 March at 1pm, marching from Stoke Newington Police Station to Hackney Town Hall.