Michael Rainey Jr., Sexual Assault, Actor

Opinion: Michael Rainey Jr.’s Alleged Sexual Assault Shines Alarming Light On Male Victims

If men want issues like men's mental health taken seriously, we as Black men must correct the narrative about Black male sexual assault victims.


The reactions to Power: Book II star Michael Rainey Jr.’s alleged sexual assault by Twitch streamer TyTy James’ sister shine an uncomfortable light on the ways that men stop other men from being taken seriously when they come forward with accounts alleging sexual assault at the hands of women.

Rainey looked visibly uncomfortable when he appeared on a live stream hosted by James as his sister slid up beside him. Later, as reported by People, Rainey said that he had been sexually assaulted by James’ sister. 

Although it is difficult to see exactly what’s going on in the video, as Rainey and James’ sister are in the background of the frame, what is clear is that Rainey looked visibly distressed as he moved his hands to cover his privates. On Instagram, Rainey called attention to the double standard that is employed when men are the victims of sexual assault.

“At this point, everyone has seen the video circulating online. I am still in shock and don’t fully know how to process what happened last night. This is an unfortunate situation that I do not condone in any way. I can’t take it lightly because I know I would be in serious trouble if the roles were reversed. The fact is, sexual assault is never okay, regardless of gender or status. We’re all human, and we should respect each other. Most importantly, we should always respect ourselves.” Rainey wrote.

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Initially, James tried to downplay his sister’s actions and seemed to be upset that Rainey left the stream approximately 20 minutes after the alleged incident occurred. James claimed that his sister had never “been around that caliber” as a defense after Rainey left the stream. The day after the assault occurred, however, James released a statement on Instagram apologizing for his sister’s conduct.

“After the actions that occurred during my stream last night I would like to sincerely apologize to Michael and his family for what took place. My little sister was completely wrong and out of line,” James wrote. “What she did was very inappropriate and unacceptable. I am truly embarrassed and disgusted by her actions. I completely respect whatever direction Michael wants to go in this situation. After watching the clip, I was completely taken back by what she done. I will take extreme precautions with future streams to avoid similar issues and have banned her from participating in future streams. I do not condone any type of assault.”

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In addition to James initially downplaying what took place on camera, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, an executive producer on Power: Book II, alluded to a belief that men are incapable of being sexually assaulted or taken advantage of in his own reaction to Rainey’s allegations. As Jackson wrote on Instagram, “Wait sexual assault from a male perspective this was an aggressive advance. LOL, He’s fine. No charges are being pressed.”

Following the justified backlash he received on that post, Jackson made another post related to the incident on the platform. “I registered that as a form of flattery. I have accepted that from female fans my whole career, but OK, (you’re) right, guys. Put her in jail! What ever floats your boat,” Jackson wrote.

The responses from James and Jackson are what happens when men believe the lies of patriarchy, a sociological system that is designed to limit the freedoms of women but also traps men by creating expectations that men should not express their feelings or emotions. As it relates to this situation, under patriarchy, men are rendered incapable of being victims of sexual assault because men are expected to be hypersexual creatures who always desire sexual gratification, even if that wish goes unspoken. Through patriarchy, men are also taught not to ask for help, to suppress their emotions, and to avoid being vulnerable.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, that kind of socialization renders men incapable of being victims by ascribing femininity or weakness to any man who says that he is a victim of sexual assault. The worst thing a man can be under patriarchy is feminine or weak. 

In 2020, Mychal Denzel Smith wrote an op-ed for NBC News about the experience of an NFL player who had been sexually assaulted on a flight on United Airlines. According to an account of the incident given to Bleacher Report, several men complained to flight attendants about the behavior of a woman on the flight. The woman was not moved until she ripped off Smith’s face mask and grabbed his penis. Smith argued that in this instance, Black men are not allowed to be victims of sexual assault. It would seem the same for Rainey.

“Black men face an uphill battle to be seen as victims, whether of police or sexual violence, because centuries of social programming have conditioned the world to see Black men exclusively as perpetrators of violence,” Smith wrote. “In particular, the pervasive stereotyping of Black men as hypersexual, uniquely violent sexual deviants means that when Black men themselves are sexually assaulted and tell of their assaults, they are met with either disbelief or dismissal. The disbelief that male survivors of sexual violence face often comes from other men, especially Black men, who have themselves come to accept certain ideas around Black men, sexuality, masculinity, and violence.”

According to a 2021 study from the University of South Carolina, there has been a disheartening lack of scholarship produced in regards to the sexual assault of Black men.

According to the study’s author, Jordyn Livingston, “It is concluded that due to negative associations of race and gender Black men are not socially perceived as victims; therefore, they are not allowed access to the same safe space to express their victimhood, they are not the focus population when doing research in sexual assault, and they do not have the same access to resources to address their trauma as other groups.”

Therefore, when Jackson denies that Rainey was assaulted, he is actually voicing his agreement with the perception that Black men are never truly the victims of sexual assault. Jackson missed the opportunity to publicly affirm the star of his show’s courageous action to come forward and start a larger discussion about Black male victims of sexual assault and perception. Instead, Jackson proved exactly why many male victims of sexual assault opt to suffer in silence: They know they will either not be believed or publicly supported by other men.

In my opinion, if men want issues like men’s mental health taken seriously, we as Black men must correct the narrative about Black male sexual assault victims. We have a responsibility to create spaces where men who are victims, men who have been victimized, are allowed to be men and victims simultaneously. Men, therefore, have a moral imperative to take the sexual assault of other men seriously. Until we do, we will keep having to rehash public conversations about how men gaslight other men who are victims of sexual assault.

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