(If sexual abuse is your trigger, you might not want to read this. It’s not graphic, but it’s honest enough.)
When I wanted to talk about this, it was because my timeline on Facebook was full of friends and family condoning Bill Cosby. They posted pictures of hopeless text posts full of this and that about how this “poor man” was being attacked, and why wasn’t Charlie Sheen, and I’d had enough. I wanted to take it to my blog, Peridot Dynasty, but decided not to mix my anger with those product reviews anymore. That space had already been marinated in my anger about social injustice. I was tired of getting on a soapbox with no one to hear me out.
I was also afraid.
There’s a question that people ask of people when something like this happens:
“Why didn’t you tell someone?”
I think bout how that would have gone for a woman like me. Fat, homely, “strange”. Who would have believed me, who would have asked what I had on, and all the jokes about my “-ability” and how lucky I was to have gotten any attention.
It was so short-lived, but the feelings it left? Lingered with me beyond the moment. Even when I left it all behind, met someone. It was amplified years later in relationships and encounters to come. The moment? Left me feeling worthless and unsure if people saw potential or a potential target. It was so short-lived, and he probably thought it was consensual.
What if I told you about him?
All embarrassing facts.
He was lean and very tall. Six feet and four inches. His voice was stuck between puberty and adulthood, and his eyes were piercing. I thought he was “okay looking”. He was younger than I. 2 or three years? I didn’t keep count after I tried to erase what happened.
As big as I was, old as I was–you don’t think I tried to break away? As thin as he was, don’t you think I was shocked–head to toe–when he grabbed me? I never gave him my number–he looked it up in the office files. I never gave him my address. He looked it up and appeared at my door. I made the most stupid split decision that opened the door to my temporary hell–I thought I had to do these things to keep my job. I didn’t have to. He came over and I would try and shoo him off. Strong armed. Don’t cause a scene. Don’t get fam involved. Just play along.
What would happen if HE told the boss first? I would lose my first job. It would be on my record–“sexual liason”, or something like that. A mark. What would happen if I came to the office and said anything?
I didn’t think anyone would believe me. They would take one look at my frumpy self and think that I was desperate for him. They wouldn’t believe that he was asking me racy things while I tried to be the best bag girl on the floor. They wouldn’t believe that I wanted no part of him, when I would say “he had my info first”.
I knew no one would believe the newbie over the six year hire on register. With good rapport and a pearly white smile. With tired lines on my voicemail like “I’m comin’ over tonight, ma!” and my fear and obligated self feeling like to keep it quiet, I had to comply. And it’s no contest for other survivors who have had awful things happen to them. We aren’t counting scars and comparing trauma.
I just remember–before Tumblr–I just felt dirty. Not a good dirty like I was a sexually free person, but the “bad” dirty. The mentality in 2004-2005 was that I was garbage. His garbage. And even after I quit, even after I said NO a thousand times…it took an ex boyfriend to harass him via text FOR me for him to get it.
Was I good enough? Was I a person? Was I worth anything? Anyone’s love? I doubted myself the entire time. I doubted myself right to this day about two people I was with. My self-esteem has never been great, but that moment with….that guy? It made the doubt stronger. It was so short-lived, but it was such a horror.
I was not myself.
“I did what I felt like I had to, to get him off my back.”
And he had the nerve to return again and again.
And I walked past my dad one day, trying to convince myself that I was this free and wild woman in her early 20s, and I think my dad knew SOMETHING wasn’t right….
But he left it alone.
We made short conversation in the hall, and I won’t tell you what was on my face and glasses. I won’t. In the red tank top, and I had short, relaxed hair back then. And he (the abuser) saw the start of my hormonal imbalance, and said “you need to shave that.”
I still have that red tank top. Lane Bryant. It still fits me….90 pounds later.
And I wondered why he cared about any part of my body. I was a stop on his tour of…conquests down and around my street. He just went around the block, Mr. 6 foot 4 jiggalo, having a good time and I couldn’t fight him. I couldn’t tell him to f**k off because I wanted to keep my first crappy job. I needed the experience.
When I quit, I fell for the Vector scheme. One month.
Do you know I finally told my dad about 9 years later? I guess it was nine.
We were arguing about my inability to find work, and I told him why I quit my first job. And I told him, and he’s fixing pipes in our old 40 acres. He says:
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why didn’t you tell someone?”
And I’m trying to explain to him what it’s like to be a fat Black woman, and he’s not getting it. How belief is often an issue for women, PERIOD. Then segways with fondness about some woman who tried to feel him up at some job. Now, I don’t say that to invalidate his story–because men get assaulted and raped too–it’s just that he does that a LOT. Diversion.
He does that a lot. I hate it.
And I’m so mad, because I felt helpless, hopeless, and stuck. Doesn’t he think that if I FELT like I would get belief and not mockery, I would have spoken up? I KNOW I didn’t want my dad inolved. He would go to jail for me. I didn’t want him whoopin’ on this man in the middle of the checkout.
I didn’t want to be some man’s target. I didn’t like him. I didn’t want to get in trouble!
And remember–didn’t I say I felt scared?
I had all the answers until it happened to me. I hated myself for it. I did things I didn’t want to do. I let someone touch me and talk about how I made them feel–and I wanted no part of it. But as soon as all was examined, what would they say?
“She wanted it.”
And I’d be explaining and denying and trying not to cry and panic. I’d be dodging jokes and afraid to go to that damn grocery store. And you know what?
I made up a lie about it.
“I’m boycotting Jewel-Osco.”
Granted their produce was crappy AND too high, and other stores could whip their prices, I just didn’t wanna go into THAT one because HE was there. And I never went in one until 2012, until I felt secure that no one who was working there in 2004-2005 would see me and know me.
And since I’d put on a ton more weight, the people who were still there?
Didn’t know me.
So I was able to walk into the store.
But I never forgot what happened.
Never forgot how it took another man to get him off my back.
Never forgot how it amplified an already messed up view of self-worth.
Never forgot how I lost control and he was suddenly this big, powerful man.
And it bothered me because he was younger.
I was an easy target.
The meekness, the size of my body.
And no, there is no neatness to this story. I’m not in a long white dress with a flower crown, singing to myself. I have no guitar, and I still am very cynical of anyone interested in me in any romantic or sexual way. That contradicts parts of my life. Makes me wonder if I’m worth it, but also makes me fear letting loose around other people in certain scenes.
It made me defensive. So no means no. There will be no power struggles. So I guess that’s a kind of neatness? I have a voice. If I don’t want it to happen, it won’t happen. And I don’t care how big someone is, or how coercive. It won’t happen.
Yet I also wonder–
Is there a sincere soul who’s actually interested in me? Doesn’t see me as a playful conquest, an easy target based on appearance/weight…..
And I always hear no.
“They all back down, or they want to use me.”
And I have to fight that, because I refuse to live the rest of my life with that mentality in my head.
And that’s why I get so bad when all these Cosby supporters roll up. And I want to argue with them and ask them if their kid or relative had a secret, are they saying rape and abuse are okay? And I want to tell them my story and tell them to STOP picking apart details–clothing, drugs, “just going with him/it” as if life in Hollyweird or the reverence and stardom of Cosby equates to these women being so stupid and deserving of shame, judgment, and ridicule.
And I want to ask them if they thought I deserved it, because I was too scared to speak up.
And why is it so important that these women came out during his comeback. Why are we considering feelings of attackers instead of victims.
And this is why sometimes people do not speak up.
Because people make jokes and say nasty things. I never got that. What is funny about sexual abuse of any kind?
This entry has been on my mind, and there is never a good or bad time to write it. I waited and hoped the feeling would die out. And I asked myself “why write it now?”
Because, probably, there is someone out there who thinks nobody will believe them. That it’s better to keep it all to themselves. That people will blame them and pick things apart. And that will likely happen.
But maybe it will move someone to speak up. Maybe not.
But that wasn’t something I could keep with me.
Believed or not.