Seventeen Years Later, Reflecting on the Anniversary of My Rape and The Hard Early Lessons of "Sisterhood"
"Get over it", they say.
"It happened so long ago, you should be over it by now", they shout.
"Why did it take you so long to share you story if it really happened", they argue.
No one ever truly gets over being raped. No one forgets the trauma and for most, it is one hell of a whole to dig yourself out of. For many people like myself, being raped forever changes your perspective on life. Everything changes. How you walk, talk, move, live and even the people you associate with. It has a way of shaping your thoughts and preventing you from actually living your life.
I remember my rape as if it were yesterday. With each passing day I remember just a little bit more as if it were yesterday. Not Memorial Day weekend of 2001...
I am tired of rape apologists and the perpetuation of rape culture...
Unlike most, I have been actively advocating for victims of sexual assault and rape for years now. This wasn't a phase. This wasn't something I picked up because I saw that it was trending on social media and I wanted some of that attention too. This was real life for me.
People always ask me why I am so passionate about sexual assault, rape and those that play the fence when it comes to this topic. It urks my soul to the deepest parts to see BLACK men (and women) play apologists to those accused of rape. I’ve had to deal with this for 17 years ago, listening to the whispers and opinions of others when it comes to rape while silently hurting because all of these “opinions” are cutting me like a knife. Quite honestly, I’ve had enough...
I have found myself being more vocal on behalf of victims of rape and sexual assaults, especially in light of the Bill Cosby allegations. It seems as though since then there has been a massive explosion of women coming forth to reveal and share stories of sexual trauma, assault and flat out rape. These acts performed and executed by affluent members of society. The very ones deemed as untouchable. if these individuals can be guilty of sexual misconduct, rape and assault, what makes it so hard to believe that Grandpa Roscoe assaulted me? Why can't you believe that Uncle Jordan molested me all of those times you left me alone with him so you could go to work?
Kenneka Jenkins and the explosive mess taking place in Hollywood right now as a result of the #MeToo allegations against prominent have shed a massive light on the depth of the rape culture we currently live in. It's all around us. Every single day I find myself putting on my armor and going to battle on behalf of women who have been victims. Especially my Black sisters. We don’t get to hurt. We don’t get to cry. We don’t get to point fingers and get justice.
The most disheartening part of it all is realizing that despite popular belief, the vast majority of individuals who perpetrate and push what we have dubbed "Rape Culture" are other women. Black women are notorious for pushing the ideals that encompass rape culture. We are the biggest protectors of rapist and the loudest critics against victims.
When you raise your son on the belief that a woman's worth is dictated by the type of clothing that she wears you are contributing to rape culture.
When you raise your son to believe that the level of respect a woman receives is based on how she looks and her body count you are contributing to rape culture.
When you teach your son that bitches ain't shit and that ho was probably lying you are removing accountability from him thus yet again contributing to rape culture.
When you raise your daughters to believe that the amount of compassion and love she's going to receive is based on the length of her skirt you are contributing to rape culture.
When you teach your daughters to judge another girl by her pussy you are contributing to rape culture.
When you teach your daughters that there is a respectable way to be and not be you are inherently instilling in your daughter that any woman outside of the bubble of respectability is deserving of any thing that happens to her and thus contributing to rape culture.
When you teach your daughters that she shouldn’t or cant go to certain places or do certain things because “she” will be judged or someone could “take it the wrong way or get ideas”. You are teaching your daughter that she is responsible for the lack of self control and respect another person has and it is her job to make sure that she doesn’t “trigger” that or else whatever happens to her is her own fault. Thus, contributing to rape culture.
When you tell your daughter that by her leaving the house with tight, short or figure showing clothing that she is “asking for it” you are contributing to rape culture.
When you support behavior that violated a woman’s agency. When you laugh at your homeboy making derogatory comments and jokes to a woman walking by you are contributing to rape culture.
Contributions and the participation to rape culture are not limited to blatant, direct actions or comments. It is more than just committing the act and/or showing your support to those guilty of doing the “obvious”. It is contributing to the teachings and ideals that the agency of one is more important than the agency of another because one acts or behaves in a way more acceptable to “you”.
the black community simply does not care about rape or sexual assault….until a Black man is accused. Then they bring in the militia and with a tank full of excuses..with their pick-mes bringing up the rear.
Of course, if you say this out loud or in the company of other persons of the African Diaspora they will swear on their lives that they care but, because there is always a "but", they can always see both sides.
We can blame it on men. We can say that it all begins with men. But the truth is, should you choose to accept it, is that women have long been the number supporters and, at times, creators of these men who feel as though the world owes them everything and that are entitled to the likes of any person they choose, by any means necessary.
For me, the insensitive comments are the worse part for me as a survivor. Especially when I see comments coming from people I care about but may not be privy to my traumas. Some could argue that I should not take those opinions or thoughts personally because they aren't "talking about me". The hell if they are not and I most definitely will take offense to it.
Social media really does ruin friendships...
I have always been one of those persons who believe(d) that social media does not hold the power to "ruin" relationships. But it can and it does. I can't count how many times I have had to unfriend or block people that I once respected and admired due to their posted views on certain topics. I've always been a fan of not being "that" person who feels as though everyone around them needs to share the same viewpoint. To me, that is boring and restricting. I prefer a little difference in my circle, but there still remains a few topics that I remain unmoveable in, rape and sexual assault being two.
What's even more interesting is how many times you will see someone backtrack on their previous stances simply because the person of subject is someone that they like. Their "problematic fave". It's usually in these moments true feelings and ideas begin to slip out and you get the opportunity to see where they really stand.
As the conversation continues, the more opinions are spewed out into the atmosphere, the more heated arguments explode on your timeline...eventually you will begin to see how the excuses begin to pour out. The indifference begins to show. People desperate to defend will literally pull anything out of their asses. Some of the stuff they try to use is so phenomenally stupid that you have to question your own level of intelligence.
The most laughable argument I have heard over the last 3 years that this has been a hot topic is that of which people will argue that a person who was "drugged" but claims to remember what happened is a liar. Because how they are able to remember so much if they were drugged? That can not be possible at all. It simply doesn't make sense. As if being drugged or intoxicated definitely means you have no memory. Newsflash, it is entirely possible to remember details of an attack even if you were under the influence. It’s called temporary memory loss or “temporary amnesia”.
Amnesia is a common side effect of many date rape drugs, which means that you may not remember being assaulted or robbed while you were under the influence. In some cases, you may not even be sure whether you were drugged. Memories of an assault may eventually come back to you, but you may not recall anything until hours after the drug has been eliminated from your system –
When I was raped, I was drugged via alcohol at the age of 15. That’s right. It happened to me over the course of one entire weekend. Four whole days. How does that make you feel? Does knowing that someone you know, care about, trust and consider to be such a "great individual" was raped? Does knowing that change how you view me as a woman? A mother? What if you knew the details?
And like many who have been in my situation before kept that secret with me, hiding it like a bad relaxer out of shame and guilt. I thought it made me dirty and unworthy of love.
I was accused of lying about it out of regret and shame over what I "did". Because I was able to recall small details about what happened the night(s) before. It had to be the only way that I could remember being the rotation of males topping me in the main house. It had to be the only way I could remember the one male present who didn't touch me in that way carry me out of the house. Even though I couldn't remember anything else after that, the admittance to remembering anything at all automatically canceled out my cries. She liked it. She wanted it. She was being fast. She deserved it. She turned them on. She encouraged it. She knew what she was doing. Theres two sides to every story.
All of these things are routinely said in response to women coming forward about rape. These things coming from people that I interact with literally every single day. People I admire for one thing or another. People who I have had around my daughter. People I have confided in. People who have confided in me. And I'm seeing it all. And I'm reliving it all. Mentally and emotionally.
I read comments all the time asking why rape victims wait so long to "come forward" with allegations. Pretending as though they have no idea that their own contributions to shaming rape victims and perpetrating rape culture is the cause of so many victims going into silence. It's frightening.
It's frightening to know that this is the world my daughter will have to face. It's frightening to know that as much as I want to teach my daughter about being and living freely, as she was meant to be, I have to instead prepare her for battle and arm her with knowledge far beyond her years because if I don't, she will become a victim. And even then, she will never be the victim.
when your friends become your enemies...
I met (T) my sophomore year in high school. She was a year older than me and a junior. She was one of the first people I met upon attending my new school. I left my previous school due to excessive amounts of bullying that almost got me charged with attempted murder (I'll tell that story later). She was in my choir class. She sat in the row in front of me and she was nice. It wasn't long after that we become really cool, prompting her to introduce me to her group of friends. Me and her were practically inseparable. Like kindred sisters. I came to spend more time at her house in Lancaster (CA) than I spent at my own. Granted, I spent most of my time in the streets anyway because as far as I was concerned anywhere was better than where I was currently.
For an entire year, (T) and I were like glue and paper. Where you saw one, you were guaranteed to the other. I had no reason not to trust her and no reason to believe that just a few short months after meeting her, I would be in the middle of one of the predicaments of my short 15 year old life, and she would be the one spearheading the turn of events.
Disclaimer: If you are easily triggered I would advise not reading past this point. I don't typically put trigger warnings on my articles simply because I feel as though they serve little purpose because no one walks around screaming (TRIGGER WARNING) before they speak. But I will do you the courtesy this time simply because of the details. Read at your own risk.
It happened over a course of four days. Memorial Day weekend 2001. In a matter of three days I was raped twice by the same boy and once by multiple individuals on the third day there.
(T) invited me to Los Angeles (South Central) with her and her sisters for the weekend. We were going to her sister’s boyfriend’s house for a BBQ. I have a late birthday so everyone else was 16 and I was still 15 (October baby). When we got there everyone was in the back house (a garage that had been turned into a separate living space).
When we got there one of the guys that she had a big crush on was there. He liked me, but I didn’t like him. She thought I liked him. He kept pushing up on me and I wasn’t interested. He would try to lay in the bed with and I would kick him out. Even back then I had a code. I don't do boys who do my friends or boys that my friends want to do. There's enough people in this world to where sharing should never be a thing I'd willingly want to do. But he was determined.
He buzzed around me most of the first day we got there. Going out of his way to have a reason to speak to me. As much as he pushed I made it a point to visibly show that I was uninterested because the last thing I wanted was to upset my friend and have her upset with me. That and I didn't want to have to fight. Not saying that's what she would have done but no chances needed to be taken since I was out there by myself and every single person around was attached to her in some way. Naw. Not the type os smoke I wanted.
As the day goes on and turns into night the liquor came out and the "turn up" began. Keep in mind this is day one. I got drunk. I had been drunk before (I had my first drink at the age of 13) and I definitely wasn't going to punk out in front of my friend and all of these older people. And by older I meant 19-25. I drank. I drank and I danced. As I always did. Then I drank and I danced some more. In fact, I was drug (and high) most of the weekend. I honestly don't remember much of anything outside of what I'm telling you. And somewhere along the line I ended up naked on the floor of the back house kitchen, Tristan on top of me, grunting. He says I came on to him and wanted to do it. Honestly, I can't tell you if he was right or wrong. Because I passed out. I can tell you that I screamed when I realized what was happening and told him to "get his bitch ass off me". That's when he called me a crazy bitch and asked me what my problem was swearing it was consensual. I couldn't prove that it wasn't and back then the idea of rape including having sex with someone who is intoxicated was beyond my years of understanding.
Tristan was 19 by the way.
Tristan, if he ever reads this. I hope you, her and whoever else was there that night/day rot in hell.
Because I "technically" agreed and my idea of "rape" would be the stereotypical I let it go. I figured as long as my friend didn't know I was good. What happened never happened. As long as Tristan stayed away from me.
Most of the next day was chill. We hung out and we had some drinks. My drink of choice was Gin and Hawaiian Punch. It was always my drink of choice. It really was a beautiful day outside. You could hear the music being played up and down the block. People were showing up and stopping by. Anyone who has ever been to a LA kickback will understand the vibe.
Towards the end of the day, more people began to arrive at the house. It was the big party. All of the meat was cooked. The food was ready to be ate. The bar with an assortment of liquors and red cups were put out on the table. The domino table was being prepped and all you heard was laughter. We were all drinking but none of us were drunk. At least not yet. Admittedly, looking back I should have sensed the danger. There were far too many males there. Drastically outnumbering the girls. And far too much liquor. But at 15, you aren't thinking about the dangers. You just want to have fun. You just want to live your life.
I remember making myself a drink and since I hated (and still do) the taste of alcohol I always used more juice than alcohol. I can' tell you what happened after that. The last thing I remember (vividly) was one of my friend's friends by the table offering to refill my glass. He had been there all day so I trusted him. He made me a drink. It tasted a bit strong but it was what it was. I don’t know if that was my last drink or if I had anymore after that. What I do remember is waking up in the main house, with my clothes off, one man on top of me, two by my head and another holding my hands. I tried to scream…but nothing came out. I tried to fight but I was paralyzed. I could not move. I blacked out again. When I woke up, I was looking down at me…at them…watching…I couldn’t do anything. It was like watching a movie and yelling at the characters on the screen like they can hear you. I blacked out again.
When I came to (briefly before passing out again) I was being carried out of the main house and I remember hitting my head on the side door panel. I remember hearing yelling and the person carrying me out yelling, “touch her again and I’ll kill you”.
Have you ever had an out of body experience? It is can be one of the most liberating and yet frightening experiences ever. It's like having a front row seat at a private viewing of your life but being completely incapable of intervening. You are literally watching yourself in full view but are completely helpless. All you can do is watch. Watch and pray that it all turns out okay in the end.
I remember the smell of the house. I remember the noise. I can remember seeing the movements around me. To be honest, to be completely transparent, I think I might have or could have died that night. It's possible. It's the only explanation I can provide for what it was that I felt.
I woke up the next morning, completely hung over and I had no idea what was going on. I thought I had a bad dream. Groggy and completely unaware for the happenings of the night before, I attempted to get up but my knees buckled and hurt like hell. Looking down I panicked as I saw that the skin on my knees were practically gone, severely rug burned and covered with dry blood. I looked up confused, my confusion didn't seem to bother anyone and when I let out a yelp, followed by a series of questions about how it happened no one bothered to reply. I assumed that I fell down and could not remember. Ironically, I felt nothing elsewhere. My vagina was not sore. I had no other obvious bruises.
A guy I had never met (to my knowledge) walked by me as I stood in the doorway. He was coming out of the back of the main house as I was coming out of the door of the back house. He stopped and stared at me for a moment before yelling across the backyard, “Last night was wild, you should let us do that again”. I was completely floored. Who the hell are you, sir and why are you talking to me? I've always been a firecracker and I have always been the "F*ck you don't talk to me unless I speak to you" type. So naturally I got mad and was beyond offended that this clown would even have the balls to speak to me much less speak to me in that manner because I had no idea who he was or what he was talking about. I turned to my friends and said “can you believe this disrespectful clown?”. They just laughed.
It was at the moment that one of the guys that was there tapped me on the shoulder and said he needed to talk to me. I followed him into the kitchen and we sat down.
He asked me if I remembered anything from the night before. I told him what I remembered and ended with assuming I eventually passed out but I had some crazy dreams. He asked me what I thought I dreamt and I told him. He sighed and leaned back in chair and told me I wasn’t dreaming. He asked what I remembered. I told him and he filled in the blanks. He told me that when he arrived at the house there was a crowd around me. At first he thought nothing of it. He figured there was a game of they were watching something on the TV. He said he tried to get in but he couldn’t get through and when he asked my friends what was going on she told him “oh, she in there being a hoe I guess”. He asked "who" and why didn’t she get me…and she just shrugged. He said he forced his way inside the crowd and saw what was happening to me. Went back to his car, grabbed his pistol, came back and GOT ME. I was devastated. He told me that he couldn’t tell if anyone used a condom so I needed to get tested. He offered to take me but I was too embarrassed.
I approached (T) about what happened. I asked her why she didn’t help me. I begged her to give me the names of the men who attacked me. She wouldn’t. She said her “boys” going to jail over me wasn’t worth it making sure to drive home a reminder that “snitches” get stitches. I told her I was pressing charges.
We still had two more days left and I had no way home. At that point I was ready to go. I wanted to go home. But I had two problems. One, I lied to my grandmother about where I was going. I told her I was in Anaheim at Disneyland, not hanging out in South Central, LA. Two, I had no money. So I couldn't just leave and her sisters boyfriend was the ride back to the Metrolink. I Was stuck. The next few days were extremely lonely for me. I was highly embarrassed and blaming myself for drinking and "embarrassing" my friends. No one was talking to me. No one except Tristan.
Tristan came into the room I was hiding in periodically to check on me. It wasn't out of concern, trust me. Again, he would come in and attempt to lay with me. I guess he figured with me being alienated I would welcome his company. But him touching me made my skin crawl. I felt dirty. I just wanted to go home. I fell asleep the last night we were there. When I woke up Tristan was behind me, penetrating me once again. I was so defeated I just laid there and let him finish.
She told me if I could remember being attacked and I can remember details of different things then I must not have been THAT out of it and no one would believe me. She and her sister would tell everyone how much of a hoe I was being. I was defeated.
I had every intention on pressing charges when I got home but when I returned to school she had told everyone. But she didn’t tell them what actually happened. She told them I went to L.A. and had a large orgy and now I feel ashamed and want to try and “pin it” on her brothers. This was my first lesson in realizing that sisterhood was a thing of myth and that dick will always be the downfall of the community.
Obviously, our "friendship" dissolved after that. I would see her around but we didn't speak. I was once again alone. She had been my friend since I started that school and outside of her group of friends I hung out with no one else. The girls in my town were out of the question. I couldn't go back to them. I had foolishly introduced (T) to them and now they were all joined at the hip. Surely discussing my "HOtravagant" weekend.
I literally could not talk to anyone. Everyone knew. But nobody knew. And I let them continue to think that they knew because my voice was broken and my will to fight was gone. I made the decision at the age of 15 to never talk about it again. I determined that it was my fault. Everything was my fault. My life was my fault. I meant nothing. I didn't belong.
I learned that being Black and woman/girl doesn't make us family. The ones closest to you will be the ones who do you in. Your sisters are just as much of a threat to you as any other danger out in these streets. Arguably, worse. Because of how much we typically share with one another.
I made my second attempt at suicide at the age of 15.
I went and got tested (thank God I’m clean) and up until 5 years ago I blamed myself for everything that happened. I did what I could to forget but stuff like that isn't something that just goes away. And I was reminded of that dreadful weekend upon meeting my ex-husband. Someone I went to school with (who has since apologized) found it necessary to tell him that to "stay away from me". I guess she felt that since she "knew" him it was her place to tell him about what she ASSUMED to be "my" past. Unfortunately, the information she provided was inaccurate and plagued with fallacies that had been spread in an attempt to save face and keep me from coming forward.
At 23, I was diagnosed with (mild) Borderline personality disorder and Severe Anxiety because of it. I didn’t have my first orgasm until I was 24 because I thought that made me dirty. I’ve tried to commit suicide. I’ve given up on life before.
I never got justice. never a day in court. I never got the joy of knowing that I was vindicated. That was taken that away from me. I walked the hallways of my school afraid and ashamed.
To this day when I walk, I look down at the ground to avoid eye contact of those I walk by. I don’t like large crowds, they make me nervous. Groups of men give me anxiety. A man who is too close to my bubble makes me uncomfortable and being grabbed will cause me to swing on you. Forming relationships is hard for me because of my refusal to allow anyone to get to close to me. My need for complete control of self won't allow for me to vulnerable or depend on other people.
This is not something that just goes away and the fact that I can close my eyes to this day and still smell the room and feel it (shakes head). The worst part is over time bits and pieces come back to you. You begin to remember a little more than you remembered before. Sometimes it will hit you out of nowhere. Certain situations will remind you or trigger the memory. I remember it all. Like it was yesterday. And it stays with you. Because now you have this new piece of information filling in a little bit more of that suppressed memory and you become obsessed with it. It's all you think about. It's your main focus. You become fixated on tying in more missing pieces. You want to run it back through your mind to see where it all went wrong and even though you know that it was never your fault, deep down inside you will always feel as if it was. Because as you have grown, matured and dealt with life a little more, you start applying your new knowledge to old situations and kicking yourself in the butt for not doing what you now know you should have done then.
It's a vicious cycle that will drive you completely insane.
Eventually, you get to a point where you come to terms with what has been and what will be. You learn to live with it. You learn how to move around it. Because you know that there is nothing that can be done now. For someone like me, a person who will never see the day her rapists are put behind bars, you just learn to deal.
You go home or you go hard and going home was never an option for me.