TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Rape

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An educator writes about dealing with molestation and rape as a child and teen against the backdrop of the #Meetoo movement, as well as, the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial and Senate Judiciary hearings on the appointment of Bret Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice.

Someone very close to me was raped by her father. He stole her virginity and got her pregnant. She was faced with the decision of whether to keep her first child or to abort it.

I cannot imagine the pain.

Losing your virginity is supposed to be a special moment. It is supposed to be one that you will never forget. It is supposed to be with someone you love, or at the very least, someone you like. Getting pregnant is supposed to be all of those things too.

Yet and still, my friend’s monumental life experiences were perverted in the worst way possible. To worsen matters, it was by someone she loved and who she thought loved her in return. Someone who was supposed to be her protector.

I will never forget sitting on the steps the day she told me she was leaving town. She was only 16-years-old. No one should have her childhood and innocence ripped away like that.

I remember crying with her on the steps that day. Neither of us would ever be the same. Me, from listening to her story and thinking about my own. Her, from living a nightmare and surviving it.

I, too, was molested and raped. It wasn’t by my father, because my father was a gentleman and a scholar. I was raped by my stepfather.

As a matter of fact, I believe my stepfather molested every female family member of mine who ever spent more than a couple of hours at my mother’s house. He even did it with my mother right in the house. Dirty Bastard.

Still today, family members and friends of the family are still coming to report to me what he did to them years ago. Some reports were from not so long ago because he still has not changed, but none of us reported him to the police.

When I was a girl, I remember waking up to a weird feeling between my legs. I was asleep on the couch with my brothers and cousins. My stepfather had no shame. He started rubbing on me, and the next thing I knew, his penis was inside my panties. I don’t know what he would have done if someone had awoken with him in that position. I wonder if someone did actually wake up, but pretended to still be asleep. I have no clue.

My mama was a light sleeper. Did she not notice him gone from their bed in the small two-bedroom apartment? Was she afraid to say something because he was physically abusive towards her? I will never know the answers to these questions because she died less than a year after that day due to an apartment fire that everyone else in the house managed to escape, but her. This included my brothers, cousin, and of course, stepfather. I will never know the truth of what happened that day, but I have been fed a bunch of lies about that fire. That I know, but that is a story for another time.

Going back to the day I was raped, I don’t remember what made him finally stop. I think it was because I was crying.

I went to the bathroom, and immediately ran some bathwater. I felt so dirty. My mom came in to pee while I was bathing because we only had one bathroom. I sat there in the tub crying and scrubbing my skin when my mother walked in. She asked me several times what was wrong, and I kept saying, “Nothing.” She knew that something was wrong because this was very uncharacteristic of me. So finally I told her.

I remember hearing my mother and my stepfather arguing that day. I don’t remember if the argument was as soon as my mom stepped out of the bathroom or if she waited a while. The only thing I remember was him saying that I was lying because I was trying to get back to my grandma’s house.

I had been forced to move from my grandma’s house to my mom’s house nine months earlier. I loved my grandma, and I never wanted to leave her house, but that did not make me a liar. I had always been the kind of kid who would just take my punishment if I did something wrong and move on. This was no different. My grandmother raised me with a high level of integrity, so I never had to lie, but perpetrators always tend to victimize their victims all over again in order to save themselves.

When the ladies who accused Bill Cosby of rape finally decided to speak out about the traumatic experiences they had, they were victimized all over again by people who questioned whether they were telling the truth or not.

People frequently said things like, why did they wait until now to say something? This is the new “what were they wearing” question since that is no longer politically correct to ask. People accused these women of seeking personal gain of some sort. People accused these women of being a pawn of someone’s economic and/or political goals.

Similar things came out when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. There is no difference between the public attempts to discredit these celebrity victims and my stepfather’s private attempts to discredit me. A snake is a snake is a snake. In order to protect their skin, they will let anything slither out of their mouths.

There is so much that I remember from that day that I will never forget. There are so many moments that I remember leading up to that day that I will never forget. I feel like my stepfather had been planning and plotting that day as long as he has known me.

As I stated in my previous blog entitled, I Love My Mama, Although My Words Don’t Always Show It, my mom dated some men when I was younger who did not want me around.

When she started going out with my stepfather, I didn’t frequent places with them; when they were at our house, he would pick me up and toss me in the air. I will never forget how he used to always pick me up with his arm between my legs. It hurt my vagina, but I never said anything because I was so attention-starved that I was just glad he noticed me, unlike my mother’s previous boyfriends, Roy and Robert. In hindsight, he was carrying me in such a way so that he could feel my vagina against his arm.

When I was in the fourth grade, I caught the chickenpox and I had to miss a square dance performance because I had to be out of school for two weeks. I was partnered with Marcel Lanier, and I secretly had a crush on him that I never told him about. I was so excited that we had been chosen to square dance together. I had all the luck in the world, and then it all ran out the moment the doctor said, “You have chickenpox. Get her out of [the office]. She can’t go back to school for 14 days.”

“Fourteen days!!!!” I thought. “But I will miss my opportunity to square dance with Marcel Lanier!”

That was all my innocent heart could think about back then. But the household pervert insisted on rubbing calamine lotion all over me. I remember him peeling off the layers of clothes that I had on until I stood naked in my grandmother’s bedroom. He didn’t touch me besides rubbing the calamine lotion on me, but I bet he got a hard-on while looking at my slightly developed body. Pedophile! I had just started wearing a training bra that year. Inwardly, he was probably salivating.

Just like there is so much that I remember, there are some details that I have forgotten.

Does that mean that I made up the whole story? Does that mean that people shouldn’t trust the parts that I do remember? It actually makes my story even more reliable. If I were making up the entire story, I could make up whatever details were asked of me. If I were concocting the story, I could tell you all about what I was wearing and how my hair was combed and what I ate for breakfast that morning.

Since I am not making up that story, I cannot tell you any of those things. I do remember my stepfather molesting me on another occasion with Whitney Houston playing in the background. I think about being molested every time two of her songs come on the radio.There may be other victims who remember all the details I forgot, and have forgotten some of those that I remember. Just as similar, but different, as each person’s fingerprints, so are our memories. Our brains are all different too, and they each try to find various methods of coping with trauma.

After the rape, I moved back in with my grandma. I remember her asking me if my stepfather molested me. There were so many commercials at that time that targeted young victims of molestation, telling them that it is not their fault and to report it. But I reported it to my mother, whose own vagina I entered in this world through, who was also a victim of molestation as a young girl. She was someone I loved and trusted completely, and if she didn’t believe me, why should I tell anyone else?

I refused to put myself through the hurt of not being believed again. Years later, I found out that my mom and grandma developed a mental test to determine if I was lying or not. They said that if I was telling the truth, I would have told my grandmother. For years, however, I denied it. And a little bit of my soul died every time one of those commercials came on begging me to report my abuse.

Although I was never a liar, I lied when my grandma asked me about my stepfather. I never lied to get out of trouble; but in that moment I lied to protect my heart. No one else in the world seemed to care about protecting my heart, so I had to protect it myself. In addition, I knew that I would not be able to handle the pain of my grandma not believing me.

When the ladies who accused Bill Cosby of rape finally decided to speak out about the traumatic experiences they had, they were victimized all over again by people who questioned whether they were telling the truth or not.

Aside from my stepfather, I was raped on one other occasion that I never spoke about publicly until the Kavanaugh hearings. It happened when I was in high school.

I invited a boy from the neighborhood over to my house and we were making out. That was all that I wanted to do, but he obviously had plans to take it to the next level.

He was a little guy, but he was ridiculously strong. He held me down and did what he wanted to do. He didn’t beat me up, but he wrestled me down and held me down while I yelled for him to stop. I continued to struggle to try to get free the entire time, but I couldn’t. As soon as he finished, he walked right out my front door and went home.

When he left, another struggle began for me. I had to decide what to do next. It is still hard for me to talk about it more than 25 years later. It hurts to think that I trusted him and he betrayed me. It hurts me to think that someone would be okay with taking something from me that I hadn’t offered. It hurts to think that I was afraid to report it at that time because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Life had taught me that. I think life had taught him that too, which is why he was willing to try it and see.

I didn’t say anything back then, but trust and believe that if I saw that this guy was about to be appointed or elected to a political or governmental office, I would say something. I wouldn’t say something because I was a political pawn or because I wanted money or because I wanted to be famous. I would say something because after all these years, I built up the courage, and because I feel that this is something people should know before making a decision such as this.

I wonder if my rapist ever looks on this day with regret. I wonder if he considers that what he did was rape. I wonder if he makes excuses for his behavior. I wonder if he would at least apologize if I ran into him today. That usually helps ease the pain. Owning the action and apologizing for it.

In a Facebook discussion about Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, one of my “friends” said that he believed that she was lying. He went on to quote a statistic about 136,000 women lie about being raped. I don’t think that number is accurate because he could not provide a source for his information, but more importantly, I probably would have been counted in that number if anyone had taken a count of my experience. It wasn’t because I had lied. I might have been counted in that number because I had initially said that I was raped, and then I recanted and said that I wasn’t.

There are so many women, especially those who have claimed to have been raped by celebrities then later said that they were not. I believe that many of those people had actually been raped, but later denied it because they were paid off or because they were threatened. Some might also choose to deny being raped because of a lack of trust in the criminal justice system. Who knows?

When a grown woman, a college professor and esteemed academic, comes out and boldly proclaims before the Senate Judiciary Committee that someone tried to rape her, she is probably telling the truth. The Senate Judiciary Committee did the same thing with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill while investigating claims of sexual harassment. They accused her of lying.

While it shouldn’t matter the occupations of the accusers, it does for society. If these women worked low-income jobs, they would be slandered even more and accused of wanting money. If they were sex workers, they would be completely ignored and probably would not have been able to even stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee as if their lives were even less significant or as if they couldn’t possibly have be raped. No means no.

So much has changed since the early 1990s. Cell phones. Internet. Social media. Unfortunately for women in America, far too many things remain the same. For Black women in America, it is even worse. Unapologetically victimized over and over again. How much longer must we wait for change? What will it take for America to change?

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Kaleesha Washington is a mother, educator, opinionated thinker, poet and writer who works to inspire and encourage others through her life and her work. Reared in Los Angeles, she continues to passionately champion underprivileged and underrepresented peoples.

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