Thursday, April 12, 2012
National Sexual Assault Awareness and PreventionMonth
Even today, I am haunted by an incident that happened during my first year as a teacher. We were having a basketball game and I was the holding room for the students who were not attending the game; we were going to watch a movie. One of the girls came into the room with a glazed-over look on her face, but she wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. I asked her if she’d write it down, and she nodded.
Through a series of notes I learned that she had ditched school the previous day to have sex with her boyfriend, another student at our school. It was to be her first sexual experience, and it was to occur at his friend’s house near the school so that she could get back to by dismissal and go home without anyone--other than the friends that were in on it--to be none the wiser. They had it all planned out, but when she got to the house there were three boys instead of two, and she changed her mind and wanted leave.
The boyfriend raped her while the other two watched. After it was over, she wandered around in the neighborhood until it was time to go back to school. She went home, but did not tell anyone about what happened until she told me.
I explained to her that the incident would have to be reported and though she cried, not once did she recant or change her story. The police were called, the boys were taken into custody, but the charges were dropped. The grandmother said that whatever happened, her granddaughter wanted to happen. She was transferred to another school. Over the years I have always wondered what happened to her, if she ever found herself in a compromising situation, and felt as though she had no right to say no.
I know what that’s like. Although I wasn’t raped, I was coerced into a sexual liaison that I did not want to happen. About a month or so following the death of my father I had gone out with this guy for the second time even though he vexed my spirit. I should have known something was wrong when we stopped by his mother’s house and he said his brother and some friends were in the basement watching pornography, and asked if I wanted to watch. I said no.
We were looking at photos on the piano and there was a picture of his father and he started talking about his father and I burst out crying. He led me to a back bedroom and pulled me into an embrace. What I mistook for consolation quickly turned into seduction. Next thing I knew, he was kissing me and touching me. I told him to stop. He did, but had a hissy fit about how I was leading him on and I was grown woman . . . yada, yada, yada. At that point I just wanted to go home, and I thought if I had sex with him, I could just go home.
These stories came tumbling back to me as I sat in a meeting I was attending about sexual trafficking and listened to women sharing their stories of being raped and sexually assaulted by family members, friends and strangers. These women were like so many other girls, women and even men whose coming-of-age narratives including navigating the terrains of sexual assault by known and unknown assailants.
It has been a week of revelations as I read about recording artist Rahsaan Patterson and icon Vanessa Williams admit to being sexually abused. The stories are endless, and the abused does not have a face. The face of sexual assault can belong to any of us. And what’s most unfortunate is that those that are abused-as children or adults-are silenced into shame because issues of sexual abuse are shrouded in secrecy.
We’re afraid to admit that we not only do we know the prey, but the predator as well. So, we choose to either act as though it didn’t happen or else we blame the victim. When another student wrote a letter to me saying that her uncle was creeping into her bed and forcing her to have sex with him, her grandmother told me that she knew her son didn’t do that.
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and we can collectively work to end the horrific practice of sexual assault and abuse in our communities. If you, or someone you know is being abused, please call this toll free number: 1-800-565-HOPE. If you want to help, please volunteer to organizations working to combat sexual abuse. Here are two: RAINN and GEMS Something else you can do is go to iTunes and download Patterson’s, “Don’t Touch Me” a song in which the proceeds will go to sexual assault and abuse survivors.
Sexual assault and molestation will never stop unless we stop looking at as a taboo topic. It’s time to talk. And it’s a call to action.