Grammy-winning rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, took the stand on Dec. 13 against fellow rapper Tory Lanez, who is on trial for allegedly shooting her in July 2020. Megan, whose real name is Megan Pete, testified in court that Lanez shot at her after an argument the pair had that July night, and how the experience has drained her—both physically and mentally.
“This situation has only been worse for me and it has only made him more famous,” Megan said in court. “I wish he would have just shot and killed me if I knew I would have to go through this torture.”
Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, faces charges of assault with a semiautomatic handgun, carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, and discharging a firearm with gross negligence. He has pleaded not guilty. He faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted. Of the two witnesses, Kelsey Harris—Megan’s former close friend—has already testified and Justin Edison—Lanez’s bodyguard—is expected to testify.
Prosecutors have focused on a text sent from Harris to Edison saying “Help,” “Tory shot Meg” and “911.” The defense denies the allegations and has mentioned the lack of physical evidence to prove the charges.
Since the shooting, Megan has faced a host of online hate, and says that “even as a victim,” she has been met with “skepticism and judgment.”
“With the language of Megan’s case, it’s easy to forget that Tory Lanez is the one who’s actually on trial,” Dr. Moya Bailey, a professor at Northwestern University who researches how race, gender and sexuality are portrayed in the media, tells TIME. “People doubted her from the very beginning when she was explaining what happened to her, and then also people looked for reasons to justify the behavior, to justify her being shot.”
Here’s what to know:
The July 2020 shooting
Prosecutors say that in the early morning of July 12, 2020, Megan and Lanez were leaving a party at Kylie Jenner’s house in the Hollywood Hills with Harris and Edison when an altercation began. Megan asked to be let out of the car that the group was leaving the party in on a residential street and began walking away when Lanez allegedly leaning out of the car yelled “Dance, b****” before firing his gun at her feet five times, according to testimony from the Los Angeles detective who interviewed Megan.
“I felt shocked. I felt hurt. I wasn’t sure if this was really happening,” Megan said during her testimony. “I looked at my feet, I saw the blood and I fell to the ground.”
Megan’s feet had bullet fragments lodged in them that required surgery and she said she wasn’t able to walk for a while after the shooting.
Prosecutors say the shooting occurred after Lanez made suggestive comments to Harris about him and Megan’s intimate relationship and the two artists began insulting each other’s music. The defense argued that Lanez didn’t fire the shots, suggesting that perhaps Harris, who found out about the relationship for the first time in the car ride, could have done it.
Megan, 27, testified that she had concealed the relationship with Lanez from Harris because she knew that Harris had had a “crush” on Lanez. She said that Lanez called her and Harris “b****** and hoes” and tried to pit them against one another.
During her testimony, Megan said that after the shooting she crawled over to a driveway, but eventually got back into the car, and Lanez immediately offered her and Harris $1 million if they didn’t report him to the police because he claimed to be on probation and didn’t want any further legal trouble. Harris confirmed this in her testimony to the court. Lanez’s lawyer denies that he was on probation at the time.
Prosecutors also asked Harris in court whether Lanez had also threatened to shoot her, to which Harris answered yes after asking the judge if she was required to answer the question.
Megan initially told the responding police that night that her injuries were a result of stepping on broken glass. She testified that she was hesitant to share what really happened because she didn’t feel safe with law enforcement and tension was still high following the then-recent murder of George Floyd.
Megan testified that she still experiences pain and nerve damage from the shooting and the doctor who operated on her has also testified confirming her injuries.
How Megan Thee Stallion responded
Megan came forward about the shooting on July 15 on social media, without disclosing details about Lanez’s involvement. A couple days later, she spoke out again that it was a serious matter and although people online treated it as a joke, she was traumatized. More than a month later, Megan publicly identified Lanez as her assailant.
In September when Lanez released a new song, “Money Over Fallouts,” he referenced the shooting, saying, “How the f*** you get shot in your foot, don’t hit no bones or tendons?” Several days later Megan performed on Saturday Night Live against a backdrop that read, “Protect Black Women,” to protest the killing of Breonna Taylor and violence against Black women. She also later referenced the shooting in her album Traumazine, this past August and a social media feud continued to unfold between her and Lanez.
Megan’s fans have defended her by calling out the misogynistic narrative surrounding the alleged assault and the trial. Some point to misogynoir, sexism that’s rooted in anti-Blackness and that casts an even more vicious prejudice against Black, female-presenting people.
“One of the ways that we see misogynoir happening in our world is through negative representations in popular and visual culture of Black women,” Bailey says. “Representations like the “welfare queen,” [or] the “strong Black woman” myth also is one of those stereotypes that seems perhaps positive on the face of it, but actually creates a lot of problems, because it doesn’t allow Black women to be vulnerable and be actual people.”
During her testimony, Megan said that she couldn’t believe she had to be there. Despite having wide commercial success in the months before and after the shooting, Megan has talked about feeling a deep sense of shame and embarrassment that impacted her relationships and prevented her from being happy.
“She didn’t even file the charges. This was not something that she wanted to pursue, but she does have to testify,” Bailey says.
“Her own desire to sort of protect him from potential blowback by initially not naming him, by initially saying she stepped on glass, all of that is something that we see in lots of communities that are marginalized. Black women tend to take on the onus and the burden of trying to shelter our communities from state violence and from additional state intervention,” she adds.
In an essay for the New York Times, Megan discussed the systemic issues behind the shooting, saying that, “Black women, who struggle against stereotypes and are seen as angry or threatening when we try to stand up for ourselves and our sisters.”
Megan has been the subject of widespread hate on social media since she came forward about the shooting. Online users have questioned the veracity of her allegations, and people have mocked her claims about what happened that night. Hardcore Lanez fans have been vocal to uplift Lanez and even praise him for allegedly shooting her.
Megan has shared how difficult it’s been to be portrayed as the “villain,” and has wondered if it has to do with her race and her perceived attractiveness. Bailey says that since the case garnered buzz, people haven’t treated Megan as “somebody who’s deserving of care and rescue in this sort of situation.”
“This move to talk about her sexual past, all of that slutshaming… Victim blaming is really a tool of misogynoir to distract us from the person who actually caused harm and not to really think about Meghan as somebody who survived a really violent attack,” Bailey says.
Fans have criticized how much of the case and its controversy has focused on Megan’s sex life, which they think should be irrelevant.
Megan said the case and the rumors surrounding it has negatively impacted her career.
“Because Tory has come out and told so many lies about me, and making this all a sex scandal, people don’t want to touch me,” she said. “It feels like I’m a sick bird.”
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