Where’s Becky When You Need Her?
I’ve been sexually assaulted more times than I can count. The first time it happened I was seven. I was at my grandma’s house and went down the street to play with my best friend at the time. I’ll call her Dom. Dom had two brothers both in their late teens who we called Man Man and PJ. We grew up on the block and we didn’t have much, so we spent a lot of time playing with each other. All of us were well acquainted, all of us were friends.
I remember going there on a Wednesday afternoon before my weekly trip to choir rehearsal with my grandma. They had a Sega Genesis, so Dom and I would play Sonic the Hedgehog nearly everyday. That day was different though. That day, Man Man and PJ joined us. Two seven year-old girls. They sat down beside us and told us they wanted to play and for a moment we did. Man Man was the older brother, so he ran the show.
I remember sitting on the nasty, blue carpet, controller in my hand, inhaling the smell of cigarettes, when I feel a large hand rubbing my back. I closed my eyes for a second, but peek to see if Dom will say anything. Instead, I see her frozen, staring at me. I nervously laugh and push the hand away. Man Man whispers to PJ, “Go head,” and immediately PJ begins fondling the breasts of his seven-year-old sister, Dom.
I was too afraid to move, I was too afraid to leave. I was seven. I remember them laying us both down on the nasty floor and masturbating in front us while fondling us in between. Seven years-old, me and my best friend. After it happened, I went grandma’s and we went to church. I felt dizzy the entire night.
I was ashamed. I was terrified. I was quiet. I was never the same. The abuse continued until I was ten. Except for each time they would go further and further with us, by using weapons to intimidate us, like knives. Dom and I both were sexually assaulted hundreds of times by both brothers until the age of ten when I finally stopped coming to my grandma’s house. Till this day I have no idea what happened to Dom after I left, but I think of her often and hope she’s okay.
I thought that they would be the last time I was taken advantage of. I thought it was the last time I would freeze. I was terribly wrong. I was groped, molested, and assaulted more times than I can count after that day. By the time I was 14 I stopped counting, I stopped feeling, and I stopped living.
I thought it was my fault. I heard my family talk about “fast ass girls,” messing with “big boys,” and “grown men,” and I assumed I was one of them. I mean, I wasn’t ever even allowed to sit on a male relatives lap as a child because I had a “cute little shape,” and I assumed responsibility. The progression of abuse, abandonment, and being voiceless became normal to me and I didn’t want it to be.
Here at 25, I’ve been sexually assaulted in some capacity (groped, fondled, molested, raped) by over a dozen men in my lifetime. Six of them were before I was 12. At 14, I attempted suicide for the first time and instead of dying to get away from the abuse, the cycle of sexual abuse, shame, emotional manipulation, and suicide ideation continued as I’d been groomed, broken down, and made an easy target for predatory men and best believe they saw my weakness and took advantage.
Fast forward 11 years later and here I am. I’ve had lots of therapy, lots of healing, and a lot of love to balance out the pain. I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the rise of Tarana Burke’s 2006 #MeToo movement. I’ve seen Ashley Judd start a movement by coming forward and calling out Harvey Weinstein on counts of sexual assault. I’ve seen Alyssa Milano reignite the phrase #MeToo through a call to action on Twitter. Lawrence G. Nassar, the Olympics team doctor, was sentenced to over 60 years in prison for sexually assaulting dozens of young girls. I saw the 2017 Women’s March where close to 5 MILLION people came together to march against Donald Trump’s “locker room talk,” reproductive rights, and anything else you could image that was harmful to women.
And while it was beautiful to see great strides being made, I didn’t attend that march. In the words of Gabrielle Union it felt like, “The flood gates had been open for white women.” And with the erasure of creator of #MeToo, Tarana Burke, less than 72 hours into the movement, I knew the march wasn’t for black girls like me. It was for promising, white women whose pain deserved to be addressed now… And that’s exactly what happened. The pain of white women was addressed immediately.
The #MeToo movement took off. But when women like Lupita Nyung’o with claims about Harvey Weinstein, they were immediately met with resistance, unbelief, and silence. Nevertheless, Harvey Weinstein was ultimately arrested for assaulting white women, Bill Cosby is ultimately in prison for assaulting white women, and now we have R. Kelly with 25 years of receipts and a sex trafficking ring running as we speak.
On January 4, 2019 Lifetime began a three-night, six part docu-series about the heinous crimes of R&B singer and songwriter, R. Kelly. After watching 6 hours of some of the most disturbing and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever heard, it was clear that Robert Sylvester Kelly is running a full on sex trafficking ring, exposing details as to how he began grooming girls as early the age of 12. As of right now he is still free, he is still touring, and he still has girls that he’s “trained,” manipulated, and brainwashed under his control today. He’s a pimp by definition.
The docu-series trended all three nights on Twitter and by night three I realized someone was missing. White women. Three nights and six hours of testimony from girls he’d taken advantage of, parents, employees, hell, even his brothers and somehow there was radio silence from white women and NBPOCs. I thought maybe I was just disconnected from the conversation so I began to seek out these famous white women to see if they were talking about the manipulation, sexual assault, and trafficking of these black girls.
I search both Twitter and Instagram to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. All women have to be talking about this, organizing, preparing for the next Women’s March, right? I mean, this is HUGE. So I begin searching. First up, Sophia Bush. I love her. I mean she’s basically my bff in my head and she’s one of my favorite follows. She usually speaks up, claps back, and lends her voice to issues involving marginalized communities. I go and search.. Nothing. She’s retweeting and posting about Congress and the wall.
Okay, cool. Let’s see what Alyssa Milano is up to. I mean, she is the one that brought the #MeToo movement back to life, let’s see what she has to say. Well, that’s interesting.. I mean she’s tweeting about immigrant children in Arizona. She’s also sharing threads about the government shutdown. Nice, but nothing about these black girls.
I mean, SOMEBODY has to be talking about this. Let’s try Chelsea Handler! She’s into politics now, up to date on pop culture, and is usually dragging someone on Twitter, I know she had something to say about this. I search… Nothing. Reese Witherspoon? Nada. At this point I’m aiming for anybody not black. I mean young, black, girls are being trafficked by a SUPERSTAR! I know Gina Rodriguez has something to say. I go over to her page… Not a word. I go through this process for two and a half more hours. Silence. No white women celebrities had ANYTHING to say about the violence being inflicted on black girls.
I mean, it’s not even like R. Kelly is a thing of the past. We know that right now he has at LEAST three girls that he’s “trained” and groomed in his care at this very moment. It’s trended three nights in a row on Twitter, it’s on network television, all of Black Twitter, the most POWERFUL social discourse community on the internet is talking about it so they HAVE to be aware and still, nothing.
But like clock-work, I saw black women speak up and talk about it.
Gabrielle Union. Kerry Washington. Jemele Hill. Anika Noni Rose. Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Black girls showing up for black girls.
People always ask, “Key, why don’t you share your whole story? It’s so impactful!” And I exactly know why. It’s the same reason why I didn’t attend the Women’s March. It’s the same reason why I froze in fear the first time I was molested. It’s the same reason I said nothing the first time I was raped. It’s because I know the truth and I know the history.
History has shown us over and over again that stories of sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct that happen to black girls like me matter to no one else, except for black girls like me. Black girl pain is something to be tolerated, not fought against; Therefore the voices, resources, and actions of famous white women who claim to be our biggest allies will continue to remain silent, stagnant, and complicit.
I was groomed from a young age by predatory men like R. Kelly. I see myself in all of those girls. I am those girls. The only difference is that I survived it and got a second chance at life. These girls deserve the same. They don’t deserve some voices. they deserve every woman’s voice roaring for their freedom.
As black women, we go to bat for everyone. Black men, black women, other nbPOCs, and Lord knows we’ve fought so many battles that have only benefitted and protected white women. The stories in the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series are proof of that. History shows us time and time again that when given the opportunity to fight for black girls, the world and our supposed ‘gender allies,’ white women, will go silent and “women’s rights,” matter no more.
It’s the exact reason why black girls like me fight for us, fight for them, but can never find Becky when we need her.