Rapper Tory Lanez was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for shooting rap megastar Megan Thee Stallion in both feet during an argument after a party at Kylie Jenner's residence on July 12, 2020.
Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, still maintains his innocence, but he was convicted in December 2022 of three felonies: assault with a semiautomatic firearm, discharging a firearm with gross negligence, and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle.
His sentencing marks the end of a tumultuous, highly publicized ordeal that has subjected Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Jovon Ruth Pete, to "repeated and grotesque attacks," according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who praised Megan's "courage and vulnerability" during the trial.
“I view myself as a survivor,” Megan told Elle in April, a few months after the verdict. "I have truly survived the unimaginable," which included, in addition to injuries sustained, doubt cast on her story and attacks from the public and peers.
The 28-year-old used the violent incident and the subsequent meme-ification of her trauma to draw attention to the lack of support for Black women dealing with interpersonal violence.
"Black women are so unprotected & we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others w/o considering our own. It might be funny to y'all on the internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I'm real life hurt and traumatized," she wrote on Twitter.
Sure, Megan's road to justice wasn't smooth, but this moment may offer a glimmer of hope for other abuse victims.
Domestic violence and the justice system
Although Lanez will serve time (Jose Baez, Lanez's lawyer, doesn't think the rapper received a fair trial, and he plans to appeal the sentence), many abusers never face incarceration.
In a study conducted by Psychology Today, less than 2% of domestic violence offenders ever receive any prison time. In 90% of cases when the police are called, the offender does not go to jail.
Marriage and family therapist Natalie Jambazian tells Yahoo Life that those stats, coupled with a fear of retribution, can make victims hesitant to report abuse altogether. "There's a couple of reasons why survivors don't tell police officers right away," she says. "The perpetrators may threaten their lives or their reputation, creating fear and panic." Jambazian notes the sizable gap between the number of perpetrators who serve prison time and the number of women suffering from interpersonal violence.
"There's not a lot of people [persecuted], but 1 in 4 women are experiencing this abuse," says Jambazian.
For Black women, this number is over 40%. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black women are three times more likely than white women to be killed because of domestic violence. It is also one of the leading causes of death for Black women between 15 and 35 years old.
Black women may be less likely to report domestic violence too, with the strained relationship between Black people and the police playing a part. According to data collected by the Washington Post, Black people are killed by police officers at more than two times the rate of white people.
In an interview with Gayle King on CBS Mornings, Megan explained this fear of mistreatment from law enforcement as why she initially lied to police when questioned about the shooting, telling officers she had "stepped on glass."
"I was just trying to protect all of us, because I didn't want [the police] to kill us. Like, even though this person just did this to me, my first reaction still was to try to save us," she said, adding that she "didn't want to see anybody die."
How can this high-profile case help other victims?
Data indicates that justice is rare in domestic violence cases, but even though Megan has fame and fortune, her win may be seen as a "healing" experience for other victims — an unsurprising reaction, according to Jambazian.
"There is a sense of relief, and celebration, in seeing someone else receive justice. It kind of serves as a release of their own trauma," says Jambazian.
She also says this may encourage others to seek justice. "Being a celebrity or not, it's a great way to show survivors that justice can be served. The truth prevails, and when the truth does come out — the justice system can work in their favor."
And while it is unlikely that the average person dealing with the fallout of an abusive situation will have to deal with indirect slights from A-list rappers or hordes of comments from crazed fans, Jambazian says Megan's candor throughout the case furthers the destigmatization of abuse-related experiences.
"Megan speaking her truth validates survivors, to talk about their trauma, share their story and recognize that this is an epidemic that has been silenced for too long," says Jambazian.
For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or if you're unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.