In the current popular discourse on so many topics one has stood out profoundly for me. I have repeatedly refrained from speaking much on the topic of Bill Cosby and the current allegations against him involving allegations of rape going back over twenty years. The topic itself has been the source of many heated debates about rape, rape culture, character assassination defamation and even racism as directed at this seeming icon of black culture. Many voices have been raised in indignation at the women coming forward now to tell their stories and instinctive mistrust has risen to the fore front of many exchanges and arguments as to the validity of the claims and the culpability of Mr. Cosby himself.
In my limited personal experience I felt from the outset that my perspective would only hold value to other women who have themselves been victims of rape and or assault. I felt that my experiences precluded me from speaking without bias to the realness of the situation. An inability if you will of providing an unbiased take on the situation led me to say very little. However I continued to listen and on levels I was not readily aware of, to contemplate the scenarios as they were brought forward and to aggregate the information presented into how and what I felt about it.
I wanted to for the most part to stay out of the dialogue. I realized why today. See I was raped at the age of 13 by a neighbor who was 25 at the time. It was a family member of a neighbor who was staying with them at the time and who I had my first crush on. The family was well known in the community the father being a local business owner and the mother being a stalwart fixture in the church. My connection came through their youngest daughter who was a cousin to this person and so my coming over to “visit” was not something anyone paid any particular mind to.
My crush was actually a running joke and something that was discussed and laughed about on many occasions. My understanding at the time of relationships and sex was absolutely nil. Up until that very moment I did not even know exactly what actual intercourse consisted of. It would be the first of several encounters with this person which in my innocence and ignorance perceived at the time was part of being “boyfriend and girlfriend”. There was always however a feeling of disquiet and something not being “right”. So now we come to the $64,000 question – why didn’t I tell? So many reasons not to and not enough belief in myself to come forward. I was a latchkey kid, raised as an only child with a tenuous connection to the kids on the block I grew up on as they all were or had siblings I was the only one who did not which wound up with me being subjected to constant ridicule fights. Etc. I was ostracized and “othered” even at that young age and as a result didn’t have a BFF or friend to tell. My relationship with my mother at that time was very strained as we all were dealing with my father’s cancer diagnosis. So who was I going to tell? Who was going to believe me? What exactly was I going TO tell? I instead would go home after these “encounters” sore, and climb into my bed with my radio and cry myself to sleep. At one point during this time, I recall an instance where myself and this individual went to the hospital to see my father after having had an extensive surgery. No one knew about anything going on between myself and this person we were not “openly” involved but when we showed up at the hospital and I saw my father he looked at me and him and I could see in his face that he knew and at the same time felt defeated because of his condition-there really wasn’t anything he could do. That look he gave me never left me.
Years later when I was able to fully understand what happened, it was still not enough for me to tell anyone. My father had passed away and I was somewhat estranged from my mother. Who was I going to tell and what would be the point? So instead I buried all the memories all the things that I could that were associated with it. I never spoke his name again. I eventually stopped communicating with the neighbor who he was related to. Buried and silenced and put away not to think of or process again ostensibly. Even as I would encounter the neighbors there was always the dark, foreboding belief that no one would ever believe such a thing from that family and those people. No one would believe me and those words were the hammer that allowed me to pound that nail away into forgetfulness. Until today where I remember all of it. My shame, my guilt, my fear he became angry with me on one occasion because instead of lying still like I normally did during the “encounters”, I had the audacity to move and he interpreted that as evidence I was messing around with someone else. He raised his hand to hit me and shook me till my head hurt. My terror and disconnect when my period came late and the days spent crying and not knowing what to do (I miscarried).
Yet there was really nothing to tell in my mind everything I knew and was experienced with said that telling now years later would do no good at all and would just subject me to abuse and ridicule.
I would see and hear stories about rape cases and the memory would flicker for a moment – for all the time it took for me to bury it again. I have until today never spoken about this to another living soul.
Then the questions started coming – why wouldn’t a woman tell, call the police, report it. Why would a woman, any woman wait so long to tell. What could she possibly gain since no charges can be filed..
I know the answer now. One word,