When I was in the eleventh grade, I went to an adult house party on the West side of Detroit that I attended with one of my older female cousins. My cousin and I had become very close after the death of her brother, so close that we practically lived over each other’s houses. The night of the party, I remember being so excited to finally hang with "the big dogs.” Trying to fit in or as most would probably think, “trying to be grown,” I smoked weed and drank alcohol, as everyone else did. Being not even 100 pounds and an inexperienced drinker, I became extremely intoxicated, which resulted in my cousin taking me outside on the rainy porch and attempting to literally slap some sense into me.
Afterward, I remember coming back inside and my cousin removing my soaked sweater, alongside a random guy that attended the party. What happened next is a blur, but I woke up on the wooden dining room floor to the same random guy on top of me, thrusting his penis inside my body, as Nas’ “Oochie Wally” blared from the stereo system. Terrified, I slightly looked around, hoping to see my cousin, who wasn’t in sight. Neither were the partygoers. Baffled, scared and in awe of what was taking place, I closed my eyes and drifted back off. The next morning, I woke up on the same couch where my sweater had been removed to my cousin telling me to thank my rapist because “he was a big help” with me the night before.
My cousin set me up to be raped.
Initially, I didn’t tell a soul besides a friend of mine who was already sexually active. Prior to being raped, I wasn't and I felt like my friend was the only person who would understand and that I could trust. I confronted my cousin, warned her to stay away from my younger sister and made several threats that if she were to even think about continuing to communicate with her, that it would be trouble. My cousin apologized to me a handful of times via Black Planet, but after the threats and messaging back and forth I no longer spoke to her until about a few years ago. I would see her at family functions, at my sister’s school while she was picking up her nephew, look her dead in her eyes and not say a word.
My rape wasn’t brutal. I wasn’t beaten. I wasn’t in a dark alley. A family member was involved. And I was high and drunk. According to rape culture, it was my fault. Who would believe me? Who would feel like I wasn’t responsible for my rape? These were thoughts that I had for years, but even at the tender age of 15, I knew better. I knew that I was raped because I was incapable of giving consent and I knew that it wasn’t my fault, but I didn’t want to be judged for my actions prior to the rape. I also blamed myself for trusting my older cousin to have my back at all times, as she once told me that she always would.
I didn’t report my rape to police and I didn’t seek medical attention. I never told another soul about my rape until a few years later. I shared what happened with another cousin, after she shared some other foul actions that had taken place by my older cousin. As an adult, it took a great amount of confidence to share what happened to me with lovers.
The ironic part about sharing my story now, is that almost a decade ago, I sat in a room full of fellow sexual assault survivors, feminists, activists and supporters, where the guest editor of EBONY.com's "Ending Rape 4ever” series, Lori S. Robinson shared her story. After she spoke, I watched what seemed like an endless stream of other women approach the podium and also speak about having been raped. I remember sitting in the audience watching these brave women tell their truths and feeling guilty for not having the courage to tell mine.
This past March, while conducting an interview with rapper and singer Angel Haze, a fellow sexual assault survivor, I silently sat on the phone and cried as Haze explained that although they’ve* been very candid in their music about being raped, they never wanted to be a poster child for sexual assault. Haze took the words right out of my mouth. Initially, I never wanted to share my story because, sharing the same sentiment, I never wanted to be a poster child. I didn’t want to be that person. I also didn’t want anyone to use the major misconception and equate my queerness to me being a victim of sexual assault, which sex therapist De-Andrea Blaylock-Johnson mentions in her recent interview with Robinson . Today, I feel differently. I know that sharing my story is urgent and important. It is extremely important that we shatter the stigma surrounding rape and sexual assault. It is extremely important that we stop placing the blame on victims and survivors.
Last year, when Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union made a statement that “being a victim is comfortable” during a visit to ABC’S The View, I wrote a piece for EBONY, stating that being a victim is not comfortable. I referenced the frequency of having anxiety attacks and being terrified to walk home at night. There’s no comfort in that. Due to still being affected, I still identified as a victim. Unfortunately, there is comfort knowing that I’m not the only person to suffer from long term affects of sexual assault. This year, after recognizing how much I have accomplished while simultaneously battling the effects of sexual assault, I finally feel like a survivor. Do I think that I’ll ever “get over” it? No, I don’t, but I've accepted it and I work very hard at continuously finding healing and peace. Society can help other survivors to find healing and peace by helping eradicate the stigma associated with sexual assault so that they won’t feel compelled to remain silent.
Below are a few tips on how you can help.
• Listen: If a survivor is brave enough to come forth and share their experience with you, listen. It’s that simple.
• Stop asking survivors what they were wearing or if they had anything to drink. I was raped in a turtle neck sweater and blue jeans. If a rapist wants to rape, they’ll do so no matter what a victim is wearing. Regardless, no matter what anyone wears, it does not give the okay for anyone to have sex with them against their will or without them giving consent. Consuming alcohol, even in large amounts does not equal consent.
• Stop believing that rape is a personal and or private matter, that should not be shared: Survivors are not seeking attention by sharing their stories. Sharing experiences creates awareness.
• Stop victim blaming: It is NEVER a victims fault. Place the blame and responsibility back on the perpetrators, where it belongs.
• If you have children (male, female or agender), teach them not to rape: Teach them the importance of consent and that "yes" means "yes" and "no" means "no."
*Angel Haze uses gender non-binary pronouns.
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist, writer, photographer and filmmaker. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop and the women in it, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan or at www.GlennishaMorgan.com.