I Was Raped. This is Why I Never Told.

by Sharita J. Lee

When I came across a headline of Hannibal Buress calling out Bill Cosby's molestation and rape allegations, I stopped. I needed a moment to try and remember if I had heard this before. I am old enough to have witnessed history making moments after the Civil Rights Movement, but young enough to not remember all of the details. I didn't remember so I Google'd it, as Hannibal suggested. I was a bit taken back, but not too shocked. He is a man, not a TV character and quite capable of rape. As I scrolled through the comments, like many of us regrettably do, I found people questioned why now. It seemed the resounding question was why all of these years to make these claims wait. There must be a motive. Why not when you were raped? I could not help but think about my own experiences. The men I encountered were charismatic and unsuspecting. Instead of commenting, I found myself becoming angry with those who could not understand the pain and fear of a rape and/or molestation victim.

The first time I experienced the threat of molestation, I was eight years old. My uncle's wife kept my cousins and me during the summer months. In the afternoons, we would all walk in the hot and humid sun, seemingly two miles to get the younger kids from daycare. She was a fast walker and I hated it. One day, I asked to stay back with her brother. She obliged. Sometime after she left, he called for me to come sit with him. He then tried touching my leg and asked me for a kiss. I vehemently said no and got off of the sofa. As he childishly laughed and chased me around the room, citing he would not hurt me. I was terrified. I ran to the bathroom at the back of the house. As I closed the door, I could see him walking toward me. I slammed and locked it, placed my feet on the claw foot tub wall and stretched my body as straight as I could. I locked my knees for sturdiness. In that moment, I decided he would have to break my legs to enter. After a while, He said I could come out and that he was playing. He returned to watching TV as if nothing happened. I remained in the bathroom until my aunt and cousins returned. I never said anything. I was too afraid he would hurt me, she would not believe me, my uncles would kill him, or maybe my step-dad. I did not know what to think. Many years later, as an adult, I ran into him and felt a jolt of fear run through me. I chose to act like he was not there. Needless to say, I stayed away from him from then on.

I was ten or eleven, it was the Christmas holidays, and my step-father’s best friend stopped by our home. I used to love this man. He seemed to be so much fun. While we sat on the couch, him in his patchwork leather jacket and leather Kangol-type hat and me in my pink princess ankle-length nightgown and pig tails, my step-father went to back of our home for whatever reason. This particular day, he asked me to come give him a hug. I hesitated because he never asked that before. My antennas flew high as he saying it’s cool to come hug him. He smiled invitingly but I did not budge. I chose not to go near him, shaking my head "no" while standing frozen in fear. When step-father returned, the friend acted like nothing happened and in that moment, I realized it could have gone terribly wrong. I never mentioned any of it to my step-father or my mother. I was most certain he would kill this man and I did not know how I felt about that. I felt my mother was powerless because she was an active victim of domestic violence. Her fighting for me with her husband about his friend was unfathomable to me. I did not want to be the reason for her to experience any violence on my behalf. I chose to be more careful around him, avoiding close contact and conversation. Somehow, no one noticed a change in my and his behavior but him and me.

At sixteen or seventeen years old, a cousin's husband, on my stepfather's side, boldly asked to have sex with me in his sister-in-law's house. He felt we were far enough removed in relation where it was not considered incest. I only ever considered him to as family. I looked forward to seeing him when I went to his wife's sister’s house, which was somewhat like a mentor to me. Baffled, I reasoned with him explaining he was married to my cousin and I was technically still a child. He said he thought I was mature and we had a great relationship. I did too, but as something like a favorite cousin. I was dating, but it had never crossed my mind to sleep with this man. He got the message that it would not happen and asked I not tell anyone. I obliged because I did not want his wife to experience a divorce on my behalf or I be held accountable for anything inappropriate. I was afraid of being blamed by this family. I avoided him, as well, and found myself spending less time at my cousin/mentor's home in an attempt to avoid contact with him.

The last time, I was twenty years old. I was in the military and had to travel home because my grandfather was gravely ill and expected to pass soon. I ran into an old neighborhood friend-turned-ex-boyfriend at my uncle's apartment. He hung out for a while, after my uncle left. We laughed and caught up for hours. It all seemed so innocent and nostalgic until I received the call that my grandfather passed. He gave his sentiments, made small talk for a few minutes, and then raped me. In the brightest light of the living room, he placed his arms under my legs, cupped my thighs, and yanked me toward him, pushing my knees toward my face. He got on his knees and laid his body on top of mine, pinning my legs to my chest. He grabbed the back of my pants, pulled the off and up my thighs effortlessly, locking my legs in them and then penetrated me. I remember being amazed at how quick and accurate he was. This was not his first time. I tried to push him off but his 6'1" 235 pound body against my 5'1' 135 pound body was no match. I just laid there, numb and embarrassed, feeling violated and helpless. After he was done, he got up, apologized, kissed me, and left as it all were well between us. I got up, cleaned up, and cried. All I could think about was being raped after receiving the call of my grandfather's death. I never heard from him again. I returned to the base after the funeral and only told my boyfriend when he came to visit. I poured my heart out in pain and he responded by calling me a whore. He said I invited it and cheated on him, purposely. We argued all night, inevitably broke up, and he returned to his home. I was humiliated.

What I realized many years later is as a kid telling someone you were raped, molested, or even tried with no success; you fear the unknown reaction of others. We have absorbed outside influences that unknowingly shape your decision in whom, when, and how to tell your experience or if you should protect what you think is yourself or sometimes others. What we do not realize in that moment, is we are hurting ourselves for the long-term in the worse way, while protecting the very villains that should have been outed a long time ago. So while I can understand the logic in why people would ask the women who have made these claims, "why say something now", I do not understand how these same people take the stance of insinuating they are flat out liars. Why can it not be possible to have been raped and never told? In my own experiences, I felt it was my responsibility to keep this secret which would save the stability of everyone else's life. Even in my early twenties, I was not mature enough to understand I should have said something despite the fallout. The fallout is what is we fear most. You do not know what support you may have when it all hits the fan. Imagine throwing paper in the fan, trash and debris goes everywhere. Who wants that?

These wounds are embedded within us, nonetheless; and, when the opportunity presents itself to tell our truths, to release our hurts, to heal ourselves and possibly others; some of us find the strength to be bold beyond retribution. The issue I found with all of these comments is most people will not try to understand why someone keep a secret so damning to themselves, without considering the person in which they were dealing with. What other reason would there be to keep a secret so painful but fear? In each of my experiences, I knew the perpetrators very closely. Over time and because of our relationship, there was a bond that allowed them the window to sample an inappropriate moment to see if there was an opportunity they could take further. There has to be some sort of Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde, Lego Man Good Cop-Bad Cop, two-faced behavior happening in these predators to commit these crimes, all while seeming harmless. We feel we are forced to weigh the options of tell or be silent. Often times, silence feels safer. Time heals and can also provide an opportunity for those silenced in yesteryear. There is too much condemnation, with not enough concern for the victims.

One must understand we do not try to live out our days thinking of being raped or molested throughout our lifetimes. To the contrary, we spend a good bit of our lives to trying to find some type of normalcy. Some victims have trouble creating and keeping relationships, managing intimacy and whatever else was derived from scars unseen. We try; I try, to forget about these moments in the history pages of life. I do not want to relive the moments that took away happiness, security, and innocence from that present and future. As I have gotten older, I have found it much easier to talk about these moments. I have come to realize my life is not my own. Sharing your story helps to heal women who have had their own experiences. Experiences bring about wisdom. The ability to share your story brings about strength. We, the victims, have all grown stronger through our experiences. I, we, choose without fault to live by any means necessary, even if that means ruffling up a few feathers to find inner peace.

Sharita J. Lee is a Social Media Catalyst, social media blogger, and owner of JusSharLee Mangement, LLC. Sharita lives in sunny Florida with her husband and two teenage sons. Find her on Twitter.

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