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#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

I Am A Man And I Am A Survivor

March 13, 2019
assault

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Arturo the Cuban

I am a man who is the survivor of sexual assault perpetrated by a man when I was a child.

Someone who was a member of our family so to speak. He was my mother’s common-law husband for ten years. He was the reason I disappeared from home around the age of 11. He was the reason I became a street kid until the age of 16.

I never spoke out. Not as a child anyway. There was the fear of embarrassment that comes from being raised in a tight-knit Hispanic family. I would later find out that I wasn’t his only victim. He also tried to perpetrate the same acts on my cousin who was much older. My cousin beat his ass. He told everyone. My mom’s so-called marriage was done and we moved a couple cities over.

It was then that I came out and spoke to some close friends at the time. We were a tight-knit community of hardcore kids who spent most of our time between the Lower-East Side of Manhattan, The World Trade Center, and Washington Square Park in New York City. We took care of each other in order to survive in a city that was not only harsh, but violent at the time.

I would go home every few days or so. Make an appearance. Let my brothers and my mom know I was alive. It was on one of those trips home that one of my closest friends came with me and beat the living shit out of the perpetrator. Did it stop him from ever doing it again?

I would find out later that it did not.

It turns out that the only thing that could stop a monster like this was death. He is dead. Not because his life was cut short, but because several massive strokes and heart attacks would inevitably take his life. He died after living more than ten years with a bag of shit attached to him, pissing himself. He died after spending decades moving all over the country for what I assumed was to avoid detection. Out of fear of being ratted out. I know this because my youngest brother shunned our biological father and considered this sick fuck his dad.

He called him Pop.

God I hated that shit. But as a kid I didn’t want to destroy the image in my younger brother’s head of what a father is. He treated my brother well. As far as I could tell anyway. I remember asking both of my brothers, in a roundabout way if they shared similar experiences. I didn’t go into detail as they laughed it off. As I suspected, I was alone. At least for awhile.

My father wasn’t around much. So I felt that for my brother to have a father figure was a good thing despite the evil only I knew lurked within this man.

The three women he was with after my mother, spoke of him raping them. His daughter too. For the first time in my life I felt a kinship with some of his other victims. I spoke to them and they encouraged me to speak out. But I didn’t. At the time I felt like maybe they were using me to get back at him. Revenge. I was just a teenager at the time. A very confused one at that.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Kids” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Those kids in the movie didn’t just represent my life. They were a part of it. Some of them were my friends. I wouldn’t get involved in drugs or alcohol until later in life. At the time I was a straight-edge kid. No drinking. No drugs. No cigarettes. None of that. Well, except some weed. I’ll admit I sucked at being a straight-edge. But we all shared so many commonalities when it comes to sexual assault.

It was then that I tried to speak out. Nobody in my family heard me. I was just some street kid who was perceived as some junkie bum who slept on park benches. It was a tactic that was used to ruin my credibility. I was confused they said. Looking for attention they said. Looking for some kind of out for my bad decisions. All of us were treated the same way. It was a time when no matter what a child, male or female, would say, the word of the perpetrator would be taken over that of the victim.

Because of that I lived my life with resentment towards my mother, my brothers, and everyone else who ignored me. At the same time I was to preoccupied with being a part of a community of street kids that took care of each other. We had older brethren, as we called them, that helped look after us. They showed us how to eat, bathe, survive. Occupying empty warehouse space. Squatting. Buildings that were abandoned as the city skirted bankruptcy.

No one ever came to check on these places. We lived in abandoned factories occupying an entire floor. For as bad as it was, we had each other. We made the best of it and had some really great times. Most of those friends are gone now. Dead. Drug overdoses, suicide, murdered. All a result of struggling to cope as they all got older.

I survived.

I survived with a sense of guilt. I wasn’t there. Forced to move away and live with my biological father. A move that would save my life. The guilt overcame me not because I felt that I was to blame. But because the city was in recovery mode and the sanctity and security that came with being a street kid was quickly disappearing. My street family was dying and I was nowhere to be found. A ghost thousands of miles away. No contact. No connection. None of it.

I miss them. I always will.

We were all survivors who no one gave any credibility to. But when I look around I still see some of us in the real world. Some are quite successful. An actress. The front-man of a world renowned Hardcore band. An author. And me. A still struggling, but not starving, artist.

I’ve had my share of successes too. From a semi-popular underground band, to a studio musician for many popular artists, to a government contractor. If you know my story, all that came crashing down four years ago after a mild stroke.

I’m a survivor.

But today I struggle As millions of other people are. Listening to the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and how all these men treated her, talked down to her, and dragged her name through the mud undoubtedly brought out some very hardcore feelings for many women (and men) up to the surface. Everything that has happened surrounding Dr. Ford is emblematic of the suffering all sexual assault victims struggle with. My wife included.

I’ve never written about what happened to me and like Dr. Ford I’ve never really talked about it to anyone but my wife and my former therapist. I didn’t do so because I never felt like I had the support of anyone other than my wife.

When Terry Crews came out about the assault against him, I almost had the courage to do this but I just couldn’t. Instead I reached to him on Twitter and told him that I believed him and that I got him. I did so without ever revealing what happened to me. He responded with gratitude and thanks. I didn’t share my story out of fear. I saw what so many other men were doing and saying to him. I was disgusted. I wished I had that strength.

Today is different. After hearing Dr. Ford’s testimony and seeing how people were treating her online I became angry. Some of my closest friends and even family spent more time victim shaming her than listening to her. I found myself in a deep debate defending a girl I barely know.

She is the daughter of someone I once considered a friend. She joined in the conversation about victim shaming and sharing her story only to be shamed and treated like complete shit for not speaking out sooner. One of the people shaming her was mutual friends with the perpetrators of her assault. Yet he rose to their defense (while claiming he “never heard” of anything happening to her) by saying the same shit over and over again.

“You should have come out sooner!”

“You’re not a victim until you file a police report!”

“Waiting 30 years ruins your credibility!”

As I fought tooth and nail defending her she left the conversation. I imagine it was too much to bear. She kept talking to me via text and I continued to support her in every possible way I can.

I just kept getting angry and went on the attack. I lost my composure. Started hurling insults and fighting back against what I kept referring to as rapist apologists. I called them every derogatory name under the sun. I was in a fit of rage. I probably shouldn’t have gone that far, but I did and I don’t care.

Because I’m a motherfucking survivor.

Then I told her. The girl I was defending. I told her I was sexually assaulted too. By the time all that was over. She was thankful. Grateful. I felt good about what I did. At least for a little while

Then it all started to sink in. The words of Dr. Ford made my anxiety explode. Crippling depression also started to set in. I had the shakes all night as I tried to hang out with the wife and kids binge watching Trailer Park Boys. I needed to laugh. I just couldn’t. I mostly faked it and tried to enjoy our family time. After all that’s what kept me going until now. Living for the moment and trying to repress those horrible memories.

A day later, here I am. Shaking from the nightmares of what happened to me. Shortness of breath as I write this to finally tell my story. I need to. I have to let it out. I cannot bear witness to this any longer by myself. I need support. I need to give support. We all do. We need to be here for each other. Encouraging others to speak up. I have no family support aside from my wife.

The last time I brought this up to my mother, she asked that I not mention it to my brother for fear of causing a rift in my broken ass family. It was never mentioned again. Terry Crews’ story is what gave me the courage to tell my mom. But her response led to me to feel so much shame that I shut up about it. AGAIN She wants to protect my brother and his image of the perpetrator.

But what about me?

The man is dead. Never brought to justice. Fuck him. If my brother doesn’t want to acknowledge what happened to me at the hands of the monster he holds so dear, then fuck him too. After 33 years since the last time I was assaulted, it’s my fucking turn to speak my truth. I will hide it no more. I will not be silent to the appeasement of anyone else.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I love you. But I just can’t anymore. I can’t. I’m doing this for me, for my friends, for my wife, and every other woman and man out there that struggles with these thoughts. These horrifying memories. I’m doing this so I can move forward with MY life and so that I don’t live under a cloud of shame anymore for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I’m sorry mom, but fuck that shit. It’s nothing against you, but we are at the dawn of new age. I love you with all my heart. But you need to understand that I AM A SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.

I’m taking my life back from him.

The dead man.

May he rot in hell.

Arturo is a front-line anti-racism activist, essayist, and upcoming author; advocating for equality, justice, and accountability. He is a married father of three young men and a stroke survivor. He is currently working on a series of books focusing on social issues and racism in America. Arturo is also a freelance journalist.

Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, motherhood

Learning to Say No: #MeToo and Mothering

September 3, 2018
learning

CW: This post addresses unwanted sexual advances and may contain explicit language.

By Lilly Bright

“Mommy, I love this beautiful person staring back at me from the mirror!” my five-year-old daughter exclaims from the bathroom where she stands facing the sink. Inwardly I rejoice, then wonder how many of us women think that on a daily basis, or ever? An honest exclamation, wild joy for the person staring back at us in the mirror?

For the past year, I’ve been contemplating how to make a meaningful contribution to the #MeToo movement, a personal experience that could illuminate, an allegory, some teachable moment. Then last week, walking the streets of Santa Monica, an uncomfortable memory surfaced. One of those that never actually left but that also wasn’t a regular visitor. But there it was- Proustian in the way it overwhelmed my senses and severe in the way it challenged held notions of categorization. The event isn’t murky yet it’s felt this way whenever I’ve attempted to package it. For years I diminished what happened because I didn’t say “no” and the harassment didn’t strike me as apparent. But the truth is, a line was crossed, a red zone rife with sexual power-play and coercion. And it went like this: Continue Reading…

#metoo, Activism, Guest Posts

When your 79 Year Old Mother is Raped

May 23, 2018
raped

Barton Brooks is a dear friend of mine, and his mom, Carla, was my English teacher in high school. My heart hurt when I learned she had been assaulted, and it sang when I learned how she is refusing to let the assault define her. Instead, she is using this experience to advocate for other victims. I couldn’t be more humbled and proud to know these two humans. Read Bart’s words below, and I dare you not to be inspired. Learn about Carla’s spirit, and help if you can. -Angela

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Barton Brooks

In the middle of the night on April 17th, a man entered my mother’s home, crept into her bedroom, and started stroking her hair.  She awoke to this stranger looming above her and began a fight for her life – absolutey terrified as he gagged her, slammed her head against her headboard, and held her down as he brutally beat and sexually assaulted her.  My beautiful mother – who turns 80 in less than a year – violently joined #metoo at age 79.

I can’t type any more of the horrific details, because even though it’s been a month since it happened, my heart and eyes continue to weep for her.  My fellow adventurer, my kind, dignified, and resilient mother – we’ve cried more tears in the past month than we may have cried ever before.

Instead, I want to focus on her strength, because my God, this woman is strong! Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts

The “Me” in #MeToo

March 25, 2018
#MeTooButNotMyGirls

By Jessie Kanzer

#MeTooButNotMyGirls. That is my declaration today, on this blistery New York Sunday, after my three-year-old’s swim lesson, and before my one-year-old’s gym class. I’m not here to go into the sordid details of my own pain body: the minutia of inappropriate sexual contact when I was a wee girl, the play-by-play of getting seduced (date raped?) by my college internship supervisor. We can talk about our wounds until we are blue in the face—and we should—because change is happening as we speak. But, for me, an eternal self-help’er, it’s also important to look at the “Why.” Not why they harmed me — that’s their problem, and that will be their reckoning. But why I was the easiest of prey. Why I often relinquished my power before I was even asked. What messages did I absorb during my childhood and young-adulthood? I need to know. Because, #MeTooButNotMyGirls.

“Be nice.” “Be pretty.” “Know your place.”

My formative years took place in the Soviet Union. I was taught to obey authority from very early on (I still have an inexplicable fear of cops and principals). The strictness of a Soviet daycare center was just what you would imagine it to be. And then in school, we were further stripped of our individuality and self-esteem. I was a born people-pleaser to boot, and I worked very hard to please my young parents and stoic grandmother. My strict teachers, my relentless gymnastics coaches. The passersby who expected me to smile. The family friends who expected hugs and kisses. “I’m a good girl, a very good girl,” was my motto since the age of two. Polite? Check. Cute and neat? Check. Obedient? I bucked that one at times, but not without consequence. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, Tough Conversations

To #MeToo or Not to #MeToo Should Not Be The Question

February 19, 2018

By Megan Wildhood

In October this year, I scrolled through about five pages’ worth of Facebook statuses saying only “Me too.” A hashtag began to appear before the phrase. It was three or four days before I was able to figure out what was going on. I would say I’m relatively informed, so it was unusual for me to be so clueless. Even after much reading, I have to say I’m confused. I’ve come articles explaining #MeToo as a social media campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault, a way for women to take their power back over something they’d long been silent about, the beginning of the move from social movement to social change. I’ve read denouncements of the campaign’s exclusion of male sexual assault victims. I’ve tried to keep track of the various spin-off campaigns. Articles detailing various women’s hesitation about whether to post #MeToo, deliberating whether solidarity was a good enough reason to post or demanding that those willing to post also share their story to “legitimate themselves” proliferated. No matter the angle, each post was complete with tomes of vicious infighting in their comments sections.

It was not a difficult decision for me not to post #MeToo but it’s become extremely difficult to explain why. Our culture, hyper- and singularly focused on identity as it is, simultaneously allows and demands that you be whoever you say you are in the moment. If you’re a sexual assault victim – or if you care about anyone who is – you’ll post those two words preceded by a sharp sign (the original hashtag) or you’re a liar. In a culture where the most visible means the most valuable, it’s not surprising that we’d continually have such awareness campaigns. What’s surprising is that people think they’ll help. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

Dear Little Baby Girl Child Nestled In My Arms

February 5, 2018
maybe

By Kimberly Valzania

Dear Little Baby Girl Child Nestled in my Arms,

I see you looking up at me, with big brown eyes. I see you smiling. Happy to be clean, cradled, and loved. Safe, innocent, with your tiny, feminist fist already flailing and pumping.

A girl baby without a story. No stories at all to tell, just yet.

An empty canvas of a life, just waiting for paint.

Maybe by the time you are older, old enough to do all the things you will surely dream of doing, all of this sexual predator stuff will be a thing of the past. Maybe you will grow up in a world where people do not behave this way. Where men, especially, do not prowl and prey. Where some men do not look for a way to pounce first, and then deny or downplay.

Maybe you will not know how it feels to be bullied by a boy, or passed over for a boy. Maybe, for example, you will raise your hand to answer a math question in class, and you will be called on by your teacher. Maybe your teacher will champion your worth, your potential, your intellect…at the very same time you recognize it in yourself.

If something happens, maybe you will be believed the first time you tell your story. Maybe your words will be all the proof they need. Maybe your voice will not ever be muffled, or bought. Maybe your body will not be consumed, or judged, or hurt, or caught. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Abuse, Guest Posts

On Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo, My Past and My Daughter’s Future

January 21, 2018
story

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Jane Rosenberg LaForge

My father was a storyteller. He most enjoyed telling stories about his family, my sister and I included, how life befuddled and bedazzled us, as it did to his immigrant parents. He consumed novels, newspapers, and magazine articles, and then sought out his usual interlocutors, my mother among them, to comb through every last detail so he might glean the correct implications. But he hated science fiction and fantasy, because so much was left to hocus pocus, or some deux de machine that you had to accept, lest you deflate the whole project.

My father also experimented with religions other than the Judaism he was born into. He investigated everything from Scientology to Catholicism, because he wanted   a “proscribed life” without the endless debate of the familiar Talmud. He wanted to rely on an already tried wisdom, not just rituals but an ethos that would be all encompassing and reassuring.  That he wanted this spelling out of what to do and how to do it on his own, secular terms belied the purpose of religion, and he wound up settling for a life of doubt, since the alternative—faith—could not be explained in rational terms, and was too supernatural. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Why We Don’t Tell

December 6, 2017
telling

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Teri Carter

Monday afternoon, I got blackout drunk.

I did not intend to get blackout drunk. I did not intend to drink at all, but I emerged from my home office to see Beverly Young Nelson telling her Roy Moore story and holding up her high school yearbook.

I poured a glass of wine. It was 4:00 in the afternoon.

By 5:30, I’d re-watched Ms. Nelson’s presser several times, tossed the first bottle in the recycling bin and opened another. I don’t remember much after that. I vaguely remember breaking my wine glass and being pissed that my husband was trying to clean up the glass before my dogs, including our 4 month-old, black lab puppy, got into it and got hurt.

I remember my husband leaving for his school board meeting, angrily saying, “I’m afraid to leave you here by yourself, maybe I should stay home,” and me being defiant, belligerent. “Oh my god, I’m fine, go!” I remember being relieved to see his car pull out of the driveway so I could keep re-watching that press conference, and keep drinking.

Looking back, it was the way Ms. Nelson talked about her neck — the way she described Mr. Moore putting his hands on her head and her neck, the force and the fear she felt from him — trying to push her face into his crotch. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Surviving

A Vacation from Your Brain

November 29, 2017
brain

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Whitney Bell

I wish I could forget his scent.

When I moved there the air smelled of salt and thick heat. Citrus sometimes, beer others, the dichotomies of fresh and clean, smoke and sweat, coconut lime. Perfect for an adventure seeker.

Live music poured out of bars, boats floated out for sunset sails, restaurants served the catch of the day, crab legs, lobster tails.

I got a job by the beach waiting tables, and rented a cute little bungalow with a front yard jungle. I read by day, drank wine by night, sang karaoke, and danced. Met new people.

I can’t tell you why I trusted him, other than I trusted people. He reminded me of my friends back home. Friends I’d slept next to and always been safe.

I can’t tell you why I hung out after the bar closed, other than I worked second shift, drank until 2am, and that was my lifestyle, the after-party.

I can tell you I didn’t know about boundaries. I was new in town and lonely. But where I was from, inviting someone over wasn’t a sexual invitation. Continue Reading…