July 27, 2011
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
Sunday, I went on one of my famous Twitter rants and my bottom line is this, men keep your dick in your pants, if the person is not the age of sexual consent. Stop using your power to take what you ethically and morally have no right to take! I went on to say to my followers, "If you have a problem with my raw tweets on Sunday, Whatever! *Shrugs* because I'm still mad that Pastors have not spoken up about Eddie Long using the Bible to groom those boys to fuck him." Yep I said it! Basically this needs to be a Sunday morning discussion.
What prompted this rant was a news report of another powerful person accused of having a sexual encounter with a teenage girl. Now the details are sketchy, but in a nutshell; Congressman Wu of California is accused of having a "Sexual Encounter" with a girl who graduated from high school last year and does have a voter registration card. So she is at least 18 maybe even 19 years old and he is 56. There is apparently a recorded phone conversation with this girl after the "Sexual Encounter" and what she is describing appears to be rape, reports say. Neither she nor her family has commented on the case. The Congressman says, it was, "Consensual." But why does a 56 year old think it's OK to have sex with a 18-19 and apparently he is a friend of the family. *Blank Stare* With friends like that, who needs enemies?
There are some underlying issues for me when it comes to sexual abuse and rape: Age, consent, misuse of power and boundaries, as with many of these cases. This stands true whether its Congressman Wu, Eddie Long and, yes I'm going there, even R. Kelly.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and in the aftermath of years of therapy, I understand the core of this issue. I also understand how it alters a person's life. The sad thing is, some survivors never even understand the damage, they just go through life living without boundaries, thinking what is abnormal is normal behavior. That was me for years, going through life doing more damage to myself, because of the damage done early in life. While other survivors numb their pain with drugs, alcohol and other forms of destructive behavior. Either way, make no mistake, there is damage to the victim.
Let me try to unpack one of my childhood rapes. For me, this experience is somewhat reminiscent of both the Eddie Long and R. Kelly cases which I will be dealing with in this blog post.
I grew up unloved and unwanted and was told often that nobody wanted me. So when my Step-Brother started showing me attention, boy was I happy. It was our "Special Relationship." I was 10 years old and he was around 18-19. We started out watching TV together; Just us, me, my big brother, penny candy and popcorn. With someone to love me, my young mind thought that I had struck gold. One day while watching TV he put a blanket over us to keep the boogie man away while we watched scary movies.
He started molesting me slowly and over time earning my trust and locking me into the sickness. At first, a hand on my thigh that eventually made it's way to my clit; And I don't care who touches the clit, unless they are beating you up side your head, it feels good. So I had no reason to be alarmed. And in time, he progressed from rubbing my clit over my panties to moving my panties to the side. It was our "Special Relationship" and I loved him. And I cherished the time spent with my big brother showering me with love.
Then one day he met me at home on my lunch break. I was the only child that came home because I was given the task of feeding a boarder my mother took in that was old and immobile. Too much responsibility for a child of my age, but that's another blog post. That day my big brother met me at home for lunch- boy could you imagine my excitement. So I hurried and fed Mr. Tom and made my way up those stairs.
But this was different. The TV wasn't on and he was in the other room. When I called out, he told me to come to where he was. I did as instructed. When I walked into the room he was laying on the let-out sofa under the covers. I could see his chest, which I had never seen before and I was confused. Why were we taking a nap in the middle of the day? I didn't understand so I asked, "We not gonna watch TV?" "No, we gonna lay down," he said all chipper, "Take your clothes off. Don't you want to lay down with me?" I did. I mean I liked being close to him but this made me nervous.
I was scared. Not of him, he had never hurt me before, but scared of getting caught with my clothes off in bed with him; Scared of falling asleep and not getting back from lunch on time. But I didn't want to disappoint him. I didn't want him to stop loving me. So I did as he asked. I had no idea that day my life would change forever.
At first it was like normal, like what he did to me on the sofa watching TV and I relaxed. But after a while, it changed. He crawled his large body on top of my undeveloped little self and he hurt me, as I lay stiff and confused. I didn't cry because I didn't want him to be mad. His approval meant the world to me and I was not about to mess it up. And when he was done, he crawled off me, got up and looked down at me and said, "You know if you tell, we will both get in trouble." And I knew he was telling the truth, so I got up and dressed in silence and went back to school and I held onto that secret for dear life. I was locked into that secret as tight as you could get and it took another 19 years for me to tell.
My young mind didn't know how to process all of this. I knew that this was sex and sex was "being fast." I knew if I told, my mother would beat me because she had always told me she would beat my ass as dead as I got to die for being fast.
And I didn't understand that your big brother wasn't supposed to touch you so with the knowledge, I kept my secret. Looking back, I was correct, my mother would have seen it as sex rather than rape. I remember at 13 when I told that her new husband was grabbing my breast, she said, "Go sit your fast ass down somewhere. I'm not gonna let you fuck up my shit." And that was the end of that topic and I lived in terror until I left home at 17.
But back then, at 10 years old, equally as important, I didn't want my big brother to stop loving me. He was the only person in my house showing me any attention. I had to take the good with the bad. And so it became a normal thing for me to come home from lunch, take my clothes off and be raped by my big brother.
Each day at lunch time, I went back to school and sat in class with blood and semen on my 10-year-old vagina. I didn't even know to clean my body. I was a grown woman, before I even understood that I was not having sex, but had been raped over and over again.
And at 10, sex became a normal way of life for me. I remember it like yesterday, sitting in my therapist's office, I said it as a matter of fact, "I've always been this sexual being. I've been having sex since I was six years old." My therapist said so calmly, "Rae how does a six year old have sex with a grown man? How does a six year old even have sex?" It hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried for two weeks.
All my life, I was about 27 at the time, I believed that I had been having sex, when all along I had been raped. My boundaries had been blurred at a very young age. What was abnormal became a normal way of life. It took years of therapy to first understand how abnormal my childhood was and understand the impact it had on me as a young woman. By the time I was 10 I had already been taught how to have sex. My brother was only one person in a line of family members that raped me, it began at age 6. And sadly, I had been taught that sex was love. By the time I was 18, I believed if I could suck a man's dick and make him cry, he would love me forever. And for years, the older I got, the older my partners got.
Now, can you imagine a 13-year-old girl idolizing R. Kelly being excited that he chose her to hang out with him, to in the end be sexually abused, taped and urinated on. I wonder what she felt when she walked out of that room. I know what it's like to walk away from abuse and not really understand that you were abused. But yet you still have this lump in your throat and a feeling in you're belly that this isn't right.
How do you reconcile it all? And then when you are finally being vindicated all people can say is your "fast ass" wanted to get with him. Even if that was true, I wonder what "getting" with him in her young mind meant. I bet after he pissed on her, she knew her dream had become her worst nightmare. Only someone sick wants another person to piss on them.
But what do you do with that -- the degradation, the shame of it all? I wonder what he said to her about what he had done to explain it all away, to make it right. I wonder if he allowed her to wash her body before she clothed and made her way home. And does the need to have some attention, no matter how destructive it is to you, make you go back? I know grown women that stay in fucked up relationships with men because they don't want to be alone.
How does a 13 year old process it all, especially with someone famous? Who do you tell? How do you tell? What do you say? Maybe this: Yes, I had some fairy tale dream about R. Kelly, so I was willing to have sex with him, but I didn't know that fairy tales are lies. I didn't know I would get violated. I didn't understand that a man triple my age had no real use for me, but how would I know this? I mean he did marry Aaliyah. She was only 15. Why not me?
You never really know, what went through that girl's head. But what I know for sure, is that at 13 she was still a child and in our culture there is a moral obligation that an adult has when it comes to a child.
Oprah said it best to her father about his brother's repeated molestation of her when she was 13. Her father wanted to know details, he said to Oprah, " I understand, he raped you well explain to me what he did. Did he beat you? Did he throw you down, what?"
And Oprah said, "It does not matter what he did. What matters is that I was the child and he was the adult, if I was walking through the house naked it was his responsibility to say go put some clothes on." And for Oprah it became a way of life. Leading to early sexual activity that led to a pregnancy and miscarriage at 13 and years of shame to follow.
And don't tell me that girls at 13 in other counties are married with children. It does not make it right. Patriarchy and the devaluation of girls needs to be rooted out in every country, And by the way, I live in the Western world, where there are boundaries and laws. Someone tweeted me last week and said that the family of the R. Kelly rape victims knew. Then they were as sick as R. Kelly. Who offers up a child's body, with maybe the hope of some kind of financial gain. And I might as well say it, Aaliyah's family was out of order. There is no amount of money that will make me agree to my 15-year-old daughter marrying a man. I don't care who he was.
We spend so much time focusing on predators on the streets and in the Catholic Church, that we overlook that same behavior in our homes and our own churches. We turn a blind eye and blame the victim. How soon we forget who is the adult and who is the child when it is convenient. Most often if a girl is in an older man's face at church, a woman tells her to go sit her "fast tail" down somewhere. But what we should be trying to figure out is why she is so comfortable in a grown man's face. And who taught her this abnormal behavior?
There is a power relationship between child and adult. There is even more of a power relationship when the person comes with fame such as Congressman Wu, Kelly and Long. While rape is wrong on any level, there is something really sick about the abuse and misuse of power relationships.
Let's look at Eddie Long's predatory behavior for example, he hand picked young boys to mentor. They were typically ages 12-13, fatherless, with single mothers in his church. He spent time with them, lavished them with gifts and a certain lifestyle. Then he took the Bible and coached them on how to love him. Using the Word of God he taught these boys what "their special father-son relationship" should be. And then when they turned 17, of legal sexual consent in Georgia, which dissolves criminal liability, Long then began having sex with them.
Can you imagine the turmoil in these young guys. Sucking Long's dick in his office on Sunday morning and then going out to worship to hear him preach? Then the mental chaos around their sexuality: Am I gay or not? It could have been something like this: I'm not gay because the Bishop couldn't possibly be gay. He speaks publicly against homosexuals. But then how do you reconcile his homosexual acts with his ideological views? Imagine the confusion, Long had taught the whole church that homosexuality is a sin, but privately used the same Bible to explain their relationship. What do you say and who do you tell?
How does a son tell his mother who trusted her pastor enough to give him guardianship of her son that he has been moved into a house to have easy access? Who can you trust when others in authority are implicit? Long moved the young man into another parishioner's house and apparently paid some of the the bills and spent nights there. And what adult agrees to this? *Blank Stare*
The brainwashing that took place over the 5-6 years. And then we must address the issue of love. It had to be a constant in their heads. If I ask him to stop or if I say no, will he stop loving me?
These were fatherless boys who looked to Long as a father. As their pastor and mentor he assumed that role, he had no RIGHT to cross that boundary. He was a grown ass man and it was wrong on so many levels. Long exhibited, Clergy Abuse, Predatory and Pedophilia behavior.
Then imagine how these boys felt when they learned there were other boys. For years they had been made to believe that they were "Special." Then they discover that it had all been a lie. The hurt and betrayal. The self-loathing that must have taken place with these boys. How could I have been such a fool ... Why didn't I see it for what it was?
And then when you are finally being vindicated, people reduce it all to being gay and being financially cut off. I understand what it's like to be violated in the name of love, power and admiration.
Both Long and Kelly used their power of celebrity and pastor to overstep boundaries and possibly Congressman Wu as the dusk settle. My step-brother and Oprah's uncle use their power as an authoritative family member to overstep their boundaries. Rape hurts on so many levels. This type of molestation carries long and deep wounds. We spend years trying to understand it.
My question is when are we going to accept our culpability in this as a community? When are we going to validate victims and give them voice?
When are we going to stop blaming the victim? When are we going to create space in this world to have a real discussion. When are we going to start protecting our children from the predators that live in our homes and pastor our churches?
And YES! I'm mad as hell that Black Clergy and Leaders have been silent. It sends a strong message to victims, there is no room for you at the Inn.