Today has been a hard day to be a survivor of sexual assault and rape in the wake of Bill Cosby’s sentencing and the Kavanaugh hearings. It was even harder putting on a brave face, as survivors of trauma often have to do, and pretending I was okay because I had a prior commitment. All day, as I networked with executives from multi-million-dollar companies, My mind was somewhere else and I wished I was home in bed.
I can only imagine that’s how many victims of sexual assault by predators in a high-power position feel daily. I don’t know what it’s like to as an adult, face My assailant on a daily basis in an environment where I’m forced to bury My pain, and pretend I’m okay but through social media, I’ve been given a taste of what it’s like.
If I thought I was triggered when My ex-boyfriend who raped Me when I was 16-years-old, in My grandmother’s living room, decided to say happy birthday to Me last year, that’s nothing compared to how bad I’ve been triggered in the last week.
As Cosby was preparing to head back to court for sentencing, I was preparing to speak to a group of women as I received an award for My sexual assault advocacy work in Washington, DC this past Saturday. Standing in a room full of strangers I shared pieces of My story, including being molested for years by My mother’s best friend for years, My mom standing by him and ignoring my pain. I told them how I was raped by My ex and My foray into the adult entertainment industry because of years of sexual abuse, abandonment and mental, emotional and physical domestic violence in the home. All of this led Me to releasing My books, launching Stronger Than My Struggles and working with women to change their future despite their pasts.
Do you know what happens when an abused and ignored child is further violated? NOTHING. If they’re already being abused and ignored that means that there is no one to protect them. How could anything happen when they are further violated?
Do you know what that teaches a person? They are expendable, their pain doesn’t matter and voicing it won’t help. I say this because I wish that I could tell you that My mother’s best friend molesting Me from the age of eight until the age of 14 and My ex-boyfriend raping Me at 16 were the extent of My sexual assault history, it isn’t. If I pressed charges against, or publicly named every man who has sexually violated Me, the list would be a mile long, and who would believe Me.
Let Me share with what having My pain and violation ignored taught Me at a young age……
By the time My ex-boyfriend raped Me on My grandmother’s floor before school one morning, I already knew that if I told, I’d be the only one punished. As I mentioned above, My mother’s supposedly gay best friend, molested Me for years. There was no escaping him, for some time, he was My live-in babysitter. When not living with us, he never lived far from us, always within walking distance. I finally told My mother when I was 14-years-old what her best friend had been doing to Me and paying Me for My silence since I was in elementary school. I would be starting high school three weeks after I told her what was happening.
Not only did she call Me a liar, she laughed at My victimization. Mind you, this is the same mother who let her husband, My step-father, emotionally, mentally and physically abuse Me until he was murdered in front of us in our home. She told her friends, but not the authorities. Only one of her friends chastised her for not reporting it and threatened to do so himself. She reluctantly reported it but told the police I was a liar. She kept that story up all the way to court, standing on My abusers’ side, not Mine, she told the judge he would never hurt Me and he “loved Me like I was his own daughter.”
When his charges were all dismissed, My mother continued to invite him to the house for dinner, to church with us etc. She enjoyed participating in My constant re-victimization. She knew that man molested Me. She told My whole family I was a liar and never got Me therapy or help. I had to deal with My long-term abuse by her husband, My long-time molestation and her abandonment alone. She had worked so hard to paint Me as a liar, there was no where I could turn to speak My truth, nor find help in healing.
When only two years later, I lay beneath My ex, crying and wishing I was anywhere but being raped in My favorite room of My grandmother’s home, I knew he would never be punished for what he was doing to Me.
My mother had really abandoned Me by then, I was living with My grandmother and she had a strict rule about boys in the house. Though he was just there to meet Me to go to school and I violated the rules, running late told him to wait for Me in the living room, it took Me years to accept that what he did that day was not My fault.
After he raped Me, I wanted help. I thought I could tell someone and not have to involve the police. I just wanted to tell someone, I told My teacher and he told a counselor. She wanted to call My grandmother. I couldn’t let her, I’d be put out, sent back to My abusive mother on top of being raped and probably wouldn’t be believed. I recanted My story. I lost My best female friend that day. I didn’t find out until 15 years later that she was being molested and when I said I was raped she was ready to speak up, when I recanted, she didn’t, and she hated Me because she thought I’d lie about something so serious. I just couldn’t go through being dragged through the dirt and re-victimized over and over. I was only 16-years-old.
As I got older, men have attempted to or succeeded in, violating My body more times than I could count on two hands. I’ve been near suicide more than once because some man had touched Me inappropriately or tried to force himself on Me, triggering Me and sending Me in a downward spiral. It wasn’t until I went to therapy in 2010, spending eight years in intense therapy, that I finally started to heal and deal with all of the things that happened to Me. I’ve had My voice, My no, taken from Me so many times.
In recent years, I have mentioned the situations as they come up but not the name of the people. In one case, it took Me years to actually name the person. Why? Multiple reasons, one, they were very popular and well-respected in their industry, two, I had a reputation as a whore, and a history of not being believed. I made multiple public posts, warning models that I had paid a photographer from North Carolina to travel to Baltimore to shoot Me and he pulled his penis out on Me at our shoot. I was asked to say his name and I wouldn’t worried about being punished for his deed as I’ve been used to. Terrified of re-victimization.
I finally three years later, admitted who the photographer was, and felt so much better for it. I can’t tell you how many men I’ve not publicly named but suffered their assault. Time after time, reminded of the first time My right to say no was taken.
When a Black man in a position of power or one who is well liked, such as our Commander-in-Chief, is accused of sexual assault, there’s tension in the air and community. It seems that many people want physical proof of sexual assault, as if rapists videotape their crime or every victim of sexual assault is beaten to a bloody pulp and transported to the hospital with her assailant’s semen on her. The idea that so many feel the need to see tangible proof of a victims pain and shame is sickening, it’s akin to those who share pictures and videos of dead bodies.
When you scream for proof of the violation, take into consideration that you can’t see the victims nightmares, feel their anxiety pains, or hear the words they hear replaying in their heads. You can’t SEE how smells, or even sounds, trigger them and cause them to panic or break down. Sometimes, even when you see it, you mislabel it, refusing to understand what sexual assault does to a person. It doesn’t just harm them physically, it infests them mentally and emotionally. When you scream for proof, you’re no better than their assailant, who often throws in their face that no one will believe them anyway.
It’s often rationed that these men are too rich, too handsome, too powerful to have to rape or sexually assault a woman. We’ve seen the most despicable crimes, including rape, murder and sexual sadism, committed by men who were extremely attractive. Lest we never forget how everyone described Ted Bundy and how easy it was for him to lure women to their deaths because of his good looks
No one is too rich, too short, too tall, too attractive, too anything….to commit the crime they want to commit. I bet there are people who thought they were too kind-hearted, too Christian, too willing to be helpful to be categorized as re-victimizing a victim. Many of you aren’t, I can tell by the way I see you commenting on social media.
The only thing more hurtful than the memes, the victim blaming and bashing on My timeline, is all of the victims of sexual assault posting statuses about how many people they’ve had to delete, or that they have to take time off social media because of how triggered they are by their so-called “friends” posts. I too, have found Myself deleting people in an effort to carve out a safe space for Myself. Every time I hear someone say, “why’d she wait so long?” It feels as tense as it did back in February when I said #Metoo publicly via TIME Magazine. I wonder if they really care to know the history of why I, or these women felt so silenced or if they just want to use our silence as a way to invalidate us, further victimizing us.
I wonder how many realize that they are helping the rapist or assailant take their victim’s voice when they scream shenanigans to her truth. Am I saying that every woman who claims she has been sexually assaulted is telling the truth? No, what I’m saying is that in most situations, there were only the alleged assailant and victim present. If there were witnesses it wouldn’t be a he said, she said situation. All of the outside negative opinions flooding social media, calling the woman a liar, asking for proof, etc, is so damaging and it’s horrific that we have gotten so comfortable invalidating the lives and experiences of strangers.
When you share that funny “rape” meme or a status on how someone shouldn’t be charged until someone else is charged, comparing people’s assaults for political and social equity, something to talk about, do you consider the damage you are passively doing.
You know the saying, “everything’s a joke until it’s happening to you”? I get that so many of you feel comfortable being so callous, but seriously, do you stop to think about how many people you know, male and female, who’ve been sexually assaulted? Does all of these women coming out of the wood work, voicing years of pent up anger and shame, not make you question how many people in your own life and on your social media, are hiding similar shame? Do you never stop to consider who you may be offending, alienating or worse, re-victimizing, with your words?
I grew up hearing the phrase, “sticks and stones might break My bones, but words will never hurt Me. Let Me tell you, words like
“she wanted it”
“well, what were you wearing?”
“she went to his hotel room, she knew what to expect”
“why would she wait that long to say something if that really happened?”
HURT, when you’ve already been violated and had your voice and right to say no taken from you.
Whether you believe a victim or not, will you remember that you weren’t in the room and let the situation play out as it does, or will you be a part of the sect to possibly re-victimize a victim over and over? How will you use your words moving forth because a lot of us sexual assault survivors are hurting right now, some are in hiding from the harsh criticism of victims via social media. Do you even care?