I finished the documentary about this whole Bill Cosby rape scandal. I was sexually assaulted less than two years ago, and I spent much of the time since trying to process that violation. I’m still not okay.
It’s something I wish I could have written about more in this last year and a half. I’ve tweeted endless rants, and made personal vlogs. I’ve talked with my friends. I’ve tried to write letters to the rapist. I’ve never sent them.
Officially, I’ve never done anything about this violation. No police reports. No confrontations.
There’s nothing that breaks you quite like rape. It’s a violation so shameful that many people just want to put it in the back of their minds and hope it goes away. It’s something that when one goes public, they are publicly marked. Victim. Or worse, liar.
I never wanted to be marked as either. I’ve lived through so much, had so many beautiful and terrifying experiences, that I’ve acknowledged what’s happened, but refused to let it “define” me.
That’s been a mistake.
Bill Cosby was able to keep more than 55 women silenced because of his power and fame. This set the stage for him to accumulate a mass fortune and international influence. The only reason why this scandal ever really broke is not even truly because one woman made a call to the police (they ultimately closed the criminal case due to “lack of evidence”), it’s because another man called Bill Cosby out in one of his comedy sketches.
I mean, shit.
My rape is not a “perfect rape”. I was not walking home in a turtle neck and dragged into a dark alley by some masked assailant.
I was a young woman in a bikini who met another American while on a beach vacation. I thought this person was cute. I had interest in a potential sexual relationship. He knew these things, and he manipulated his way into my body by gathering my trust, and then violating me.
Because I was abroad, and because I don’t permanently live in the US (or in the state this rapist resides in), I never felt that anything could really be done about this. And the truth is, not much probably could.
But once my confusion and denial settled, and I was able to look at what actually happened the night I woke up to a man inside of me, I realized that he had used his power and influence to do this to me, and probably to other women as well.
The other day a little boy at my preschool was throwing his jacket at a little girl, over and over again while she cried “Stop!” The little boy is a known trouble-maker and sometimes the other kids tattle-tale or “blow things out of proportion” because we all know how this kid is. My colleague was busy taking care of another kid and couldn’t get to the situation, and I think the fact that she was ignoring the repeated cries of “Stop!” was subconscious.
However, when I realized what was happening, I was immediately triggered. I ran to them, grabbed the jacket, and asked the little boy, “Do you know the meaning of ‘Stop’?” He looked at me and said, “Of course.”
I said, “Then why, when you hear her saying “stop” over and over again do you continue to hit her with your jacket?” To which he shrugged. All of the kids were lined up to go outside, and everyone was watching me. I asked, “What does it mean when someone tells you to stop?” One of the little girls watching said, “It means to stop!”
“Yes.” I said, “When someone tells you to stop doing something, especially, when you’re doing something to THEIR body, you HAVE to listen to them. You HAVE to stop. Do you understand that?” All of the children nodded. And then came the trivia:
“What do you call it when someone says no or stop, and you stop?” The kids looked at me, waiting. “It’s called respect,” I told them, and then I made them repeat the word. Respect. “What is it called when you are touching someone else’s body and they say no or stop, and you do NOT stop?” And then I taught them the word “Violation“. When the children repeated it, they could feel the ickiness of the word. “Now,” I said, “It is very important that we respect each other by asking before we touch someone else’s body and stopping when that person says stop. Otherwise, we are violating them.”
I know the conversation went over their head, but it’s important that the conversation took place at all. The first time a man hears the word “violation” shouldn’t be when they’re in the position of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis CK, or Bill Cosby. In the last few weeks we have seen so many women come forward with their nightmarish stories of rape and sexual assault at the hands of powerful men.
And how many countless women haven’t come out? The women who are like me – Black and powerless – attacked by someone “in the community” “doing good work”?
There are so many layers to this situation, but rape culture is clear. It’s real. It starts young.
It starts with the things we see all around us, interactions between characters on television, between our parents, in our preschools. We are social creatures, learning as much as we can from the moment we exit the womb. We soak up as much information as possible, social queues, innuendos, subtle slights. We learn who we are in this world in the smaller things. In the moments we are ignored, in the things allowed to pass, in the times there is laughter when there should be reprimand. That’s why I had to make just that point. It was just a touch. It’s all violation. It’s all rape culture.
To fight it only when rape or sexual assault occurs is to put a band-aid over a bullet wound.
I started writing this post after watching the Bill Cosby documentary months ago, but I could never finish it because this piece always made me physically ill at some point. I always had to walk away. But in the last few weeks, I’ve followed the #MeToo Campaign, learned about women like Tarana Burke, and read the stories of countless women calling out their abusers, saying No More, saying #MeToo. Or in France, where women across the country said #BalanceTonPorc, and I cried in deep relief. Balance Ton Porc means: Out Your Pig.
I cried because that’s it. That’s what’s happening right now. That’s who these men are. That’s who my rapist is.. A pig. A skunk. A coward.
I don’t know if my justice looks like what these women are courageously doing right now. It’s always been my biggest fear that my rapist will be so successful that someday I may have to be one of these women, finally standing against him, and in my broken silence I find that I’m not standing alone.
In two weeks it will be the two-year anniversary of a moment that shattered my life. And in the time since then I have become something so much stronger. So much wiser. So much louder. And still, I am afraid. I want to give a huge and heartfelt shout out to all of the survivors of rape and sexual assault. To all of the victims. To all of the people, like me, just trying to get by. We will get through it. We will make something greater.