I laid on a twin bed just inches off the ground weeping, “how the fuck did I get here?” as a hurricane hot flash and the smell of cat piss abruptly awakened me. Tears, sweat and funk permeated my sheets as I looked around the cluttered room feeling like a motherless child. As I rocked and held myself, I thought “death of a beloved and sexual assault feels the same.” First comes the shock and numbness, then come the people expressing empathetic sorrow and gestures of help. The body is laid to rest, then comes the repass with all that good soul food, while folks reminisce about the departed. When the last guest leaves, the door shutting behind them sparks the realization that you are alone and everyone else is going to get on with their lives, business as usual.
My first sexual assault occurred at age six, in the supply closet at elementary school by a Teacher’s Aide. I remember him fondling my vagina telling me not to tell anyone. My mother was a teacher at the school, so I immediately ran and told her what happened. My siblings and I were taught to tell my mother if anyone touched us in an inappropriate manner that she would always believe us. Although my perpetrator was fired, I don’t remember anyone reassuring me that I would be safe in school nor was I given any therapy. At this tender age, I learned how to absorb and silence trauma.
My second sexual assault occurred at age ten, in the basement of a trusted maintenance man’s home at our apartment complex. He used ice-cream to lure his innocent victims. I’ll never forget the thickness of his fat, white, hairy fingers as he touched my vagina. I didn’t tell my mother; I knew she’d believe me but what good would telling do? I’d be expected to carry on…
Towards the end of ninth grade I wasn’t getting along with my mother, so I took matters into my own hands. I secretly wrote my father and arranged to live with him in Atlanta, Georgia. He promised me a regular allowance, my own bedroom and bathroom and said he’d teach me how to drive. Moving to Atlanta filled me with a sense of black identity that I’d never had before. I went to a predominately black high school and lived in a black neighborhood. All my new friends were black.
My father demanded that I conform to the standards of femininity for a proper teenage girl—dresses, skirts, and most importantly, getting that hair relaxed! But I grew up in J. Aurora’s house free to be my tomboy self and I wasn’t down with that. Sometimes I’d wear the occasional skirt or sandals, but never the whole ensemble. Although he couldn’t force me to look like a respectable daughter, my father had other ways to punish me, which showed up about seven months after I moved in.
The man who was supposed to be my protector would come into my bathroom naked just as I stepped out of the shower or he’d creep up on me and say, “Show me how you kiss your boyfriend.” At night he’d crawl into my bed with an erect penis, hold me, treating me as if I were a grown woman he wanted to fuck. I’d freeze, then jerk away and tell him to stop. That usually made him go away—until the next time. I walked on eggshells, never knowing when he might bang on the walls, dump ice in my bed, tear apart my room, throw me across the living room, or threaten to hit me. I was in a constant state of distress. I regularly broke out in hives and suffered terrible headaches.
It took my father threatening a buddy of mine with a pipe that made me break my silence and tell my best friend what was really going on. She in turn told her mother, who told my mother and that evening my mother gave me explicit instructions, on how I was to escape unnoticed. I went to school the next day as usual. My best friend’s mother picked me up after school. I was given five minutes to run in the house and pack a single bag, while she sat in her car, with the motor running. I had to leave nearly everything behind—my photos, trophies, memorabilia, clothes. I had no time to say goodbye to anyone.
“I was shattered into a thousand pieces as I boarded the plane back to Massachusetts. I barely graduated from high school and was required to attend summer school to officially get my diploma. I wasn’t put into therapy and there was a deafening silence, surrounding the subject of my incest. By seventeen, I was a pro at compartmentalizing my emotions and separating myself from my body.”
On May 4th, 2019, I was sexually assaulted in Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico by Dimid Hayes, a prominent white gay man, known for his annual colander party and walking tours. When Dimid pinned my arm, expressed his unwanted attraction, then grabbed and pulled on my breast… he set off an incredible tidal wave of emotions weighted with betrayal, fear and unrest within. Who was this man, posing as a new friend within the arts community, yet he stealthily violated me in a crowded room? Had he been stalking me? He’s been in the community for over twenty years, I arrived less than a year ago. We moved in the same art circles and this was a very small town. The distress and sorrow of experiencing yet another sexual assault at age fifty-five, is far beyond what I expected.
Although I froze in the moment of my assault, remained polite and silent, I knew once the shock wore off, I had to take care of myself. That little girl and teenager who had no recourse from her previous sexual assaults now had a voice! When I returned home that evening, I left Dimid a blistering message, then filed a police report with an affidavit the very next day. I could still feel the imprint of his hand on my breast, as I gave a detailed report to Officer Bolmquist, who never took off his sunglasses. I wasn’t comfortable giving my statement to a male and requested to speak to a female officer the next day. Officer Peru strutted into my house with so much armor wrapped around her waist I thought “damn I don’t want her in my room!” At least she took off her glasses, which made things worse. I could see she was intimidated by my masculine appearance and how “out” I was. She looked right through me and didn’t write anything down.
Call it intuition, a hunch or hindsight, I knew nothing was going to be done. I am a black gender non-conforming lesbian. Even with a narcissistic apology email from my perpetrator (that I’m going to share for shit’s and giggles) what could a black butch lesbian expect? I was disposable, nor was I a famous “queer” woman with a powerful platform like Ellen DeGeneres or Roxane Gay, sharing their stories of sexual assault… nor was I the wife of a famous basketball player like Steph Curry, who had a man arrested after making lewd comments about sexually assaulting her.
After confronting the police and District Attorney about their complacency, the “PoPo” began following me and I had to flee the home and community I had grown to love. The unreturned phone calls to the police and numerous talks with attorneys about the assault have led to no avail. I quickly got a frame of reference and understood, it’s all about the money baby! And the onus to prove guilt, lies solely with the victim.
Dear feminists, it’s time for a global grassroots movement to change the policing, language and laws regarding sexual assault. It’s time for women with powerful platforms to put their money where their mouths are and support women who do not have the wherewithal, emotional support or resources to embark on such a painful endeavor. It’s also time for female attorney’s to “woman up” and tell the truth about a legal system that continues to blame the victim and create an international conglomerate, dedicated to eradicating sexual assault against all females, regardless of their identity or life circumstance.
The power of the pen is mighty! Sisters share this blog until the cows come home! The voice that I lost, has now been found… FYI: This is the text message I received from Dimid after confronting him about the assault. “Hi we missed you this morning. hope you’re OK? See you out tonight?” When I did not respond, he followed up with this narcissistic “mansplaining” apology.
I am deeply, deeply sorry. (Please read.)
DA Hayes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
May 6, 2019, 3:45 PM
You deserve to feel safe and respected. In all the ways you described yourself in you voice message- a woman, a feminist, a lesbian, a survivor— you deserve safety and respect. You do not deserve to be insulted, disrespected or invaded by my words or actions.
For what I said and did I am sorry. Also, because of my behavior I apologize for the pain and fear for your safety you may have felt in my home. I am deeply sorry.
I see you as a strongly courageous person and I have failed to be a friend.
I do not ask for your forgiveness as I believe forgiveness must be earned by deeds, actions and behavior and not merely by words. Maybe someday by my actions I will have earned forgiveness.
I will do my best to respect your wishes. If our paths cross again, in public places I will cross the street or go down a different aisle to give you all the public space you are due. In private space (at a party or event) I will leave the room or leave the event to give you the space you are due. I believe you have earned every bit of power, courage and boldness you possess. I am sorry to have caused you this pain and for anything I have done to diminish your awareness of your power. My words and actions were uncalled for and unforgivable.
I have left T or C for the summer so you should have no thought of seeing me again the remainder of your time in TorC.
I do not ask for, or expect, a reply to this email, respecting your wishes to have nothing to do with me going forward.