The Anti-Rape Movement Must Include Discourse About Same-Gender Sexual Violence5/16/2015
by Kadijah Ndoye Trigger warning: Discussions of sexual abuse and violence It was the beginning of my freshman year of high school and...
by Kadijah Ndoye
Trigger warning: Discussions of sexual abuse and violence
It was the beginning of my freshman year of high school and I attended my first high school party. I remember being so excited on the car ride to the party and being so elated on the way back. That same night my mom had invited my half-sister to spend the night. I went home to my bed and slipped into my pajamas. My half-sister was home when I arrived and we laid in my bed as I gossiped about the cute guys I danced with at the party and tried to remember all the new songs I had heard.
We both fell asleep… or so I thought.
At first, she tightly wrapped her arm around me, which she had never done before in all the times we had shared a bed. Next, she slipped her hands down in between my legs. She put her hands in a place no one, not even a doctor, had ever been. In that moment, I had a flashback.
I realized then, triggered by the movement of her hand, that she had done this before.
When I was around 8 or 9 years old, she eased her hand down my legs. I remember disliking it and moving to my parents room for the rest of the summer. Neither of us ever brought it up again. I forgot she had tried this once before until she touched me again. This time, I contemplated screaming and banging on my mom’s door. In the time I was thinking about what I should be doing, everything was happening. Everything was a dark blur in a dark room on a dark night.
I do remember waking up alone, confused and damaged, as I mourned the loss of the sister I once loved.
Fortunately for me, my mother and I had the type of relationship where I confided in her for everything. I told her what happened the next day, and she called my half-sister and cursed her out with every breath in her body.
Admittedly, I felt a little better after telling my mom. However, I could not help but question my sexuality. As a young, impressionable Senegalese and African-American girl in a society that places a price on a woman’s virginity and virtue, I asked many questions:
- Was I still a virgin?
- Do I like men and women now?
- Did I bring this on to myself?
- Did she see something in me that caused her to assault me?
- Why did I just lay there?
- Why didn't I have more strength to walk away when I was little?
Now I'm in college. I identify myself as a queer black feminist who is passionate about reproductive justice issues. I am passionate about people’s fulfillment of their lives and the safety and wellbeing of all. I find myself sexually attracted to women and men despite the experience.
The most difficult question I asked myself was: Is my attraction to women my way of coping with my experience? I am just recently learning that my sexual preferences and attractions are a part of me. I have to believe that I would still be attracted to both men and women, no matter what happened with my half-sister.
The more I become entrenched in the campaigns and literature of the anti-rape movement, the more I realize that my narrative and other narratives have gone untold in the framework.
In most cases on my all-women’s campus, the anti-rape movement discusses ways in which women can protect themselves from sexual predators in hetero-normative party scenes rather than discussing complicated feelings that arise from assault within a family. These familial ties make telling police, family members, and friends even more complex. Also, the rhetoric is inaccessible to children and young teens.
Telling me to be careful with mind-altering substances at parties is important, don’t get me wrong. But it does not address my personal experience. In my case, I was sober, young, in the comfort of my own home, and trying to sleep in my own bed.
So much of the anti-rape movement also ignores the possibility of women as sexual predators. When it happens to boys, they are often considered to have sexual prowess. Women assaulted by other women and girls are almost never discussed.
This gives the impression that women, like my half-sister, are incapable of sexually assaulting others. I remember having a conversation about rape with a friend of mine. I brought up that women can be raped by other women as well. He laughed it off. Unknowingly, his comments erased my narrative and others like it.
I have decided to share my story rather than continue complaining about the invisibility of my narrative. But the trauma I experienced continues to have an impact on my life and how I interact with others.
Last year, I visited an all-natural spa and got a massage for the first time. I knew how I felt about touch but I refused to let it prevent me from having new experiences.The masseuse was one of those “conscious-type brothers,” if you will, with a sensual voice and a kind smile. During the massage, he spoke calmly about black beauty and played instrumental neo-soul tracks.
He touched my lower back and I was immediately triggered. Once triggered, the nice comfortable massage was no longer nice or comfortable. I told him not to touch me there. Rather than apologizing and continuing with the massage, he interpreted my discomfort as an irrational fear of him.
To this day, my heart beats rapidly and I become anxious whenever I see or hear anything that triggers me. The discomfort I feel when strangers touch me exists. The fact that people continually cross into my personal space after I have expressed my discomfort is a daily struggle. When I say I feel triggered by past memories, believe me.
As survivors of same-sex rape and sexual abuse in our youth, we must grapple with our sexual identities and methods of sexual expression, sometimes before we are ready.
I must grapple with touch in the daily encounters I have with others. I must deal with the fact that others in my family were sexually assaulted by my half-sister. My goal is to encourage people to broaden their understanding of rape and make space for conversations around same-gender sexual violence, especially involving family and non-family members.
Because if not now, when?
Kadijah Ndoye is a Student Journalist for URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. She has a passion for all things black feminist and vegan.