** TRIGGER ALERT * *
if you are sensitive to mentions of rape, molestation, or other violent acts you may not want to read this post.
he was her first boyfriend. she wasn’t really a fan of the boys we’d gone to high school with, so college created a new opportunity: an abundance of black men to admire and possibly date. but she didn’t even take it that far. this one was a neighbor. we grew up jumping rope with his sister. i didn’t like him. thought he was a know-it-all dickhead with poor fashion sense and no knowledge of when to shut the fuck up. but she’s my sister; i’m never gonna like anyone for her.
so they dated. she spent lots of time at his father’s house across the street, walked with him to his mom’s house about a mile away, and i tried to ignore the whole fucking thing. i told our friends “i don’t like him,” but they just assumed that i was being protective as big sister. i wasn’t. i genuinely did not believe that anything good could come from the two of them dating for the year or so that they did.
i was right. i didn’t know how right i was until this past december, when my sister told me that this foolish boy raped her. i stopped dead in my tracks and started crying. it all made sense: her uncharacteristic and constant uneasiness, the brooding, the slight touch of OCD, the near-fundamentalist ways in which she worshipped christ, flying headfirst into work instead of allowing herself to kick back or goof off . . . my loving, bright, kind, just, fair, beautiful sister . . . shattered
by someone who himself was the product of abuse & dysfunction, someone who did not respect the safety of another human being enough to leave well enough alone and believe in no when she said no.
i was livid, hurt, sad, tired, angry, shocked . . . all those things. and i still am. i never felt inadequate as an elder sibling, not through my college dropout situation or my towering financial woes, not through the shacking up w/ an ex-boyfriend to the chagrin of my entire family . . . none of it. but i wished at that exact moment that she had reached out to me 7 years ago. i wished at that exact moment that i had been able to read the terror in her face when she could not speak of it. i wished at that exact moment for the chance to travel back and take her out of that equation — not to share the pain with any other woman, but simply to save my sister. i never had to defend her, she always fought for herself
and here she was telling me that her light was nearly stomped out.
i told her she didn’t ever have to apologize. “i haven’t told anyone except my therapist because . . .”
in my head, i was screaming. no. fuck the therapist. call mommy. call every grimy person you know. let’s do this. his ppl still live across the street, all we need is to catch him coming out of the fucking house . . . . so what he’s got a girl and a baby — they ain’t got shit to do with it! i want to kill him with my bare hands. he doesn’t deserve air in his fucking punk ass lungs! why should this piece of shit have the luxury of going unpunished for raping my sister? who else has he done this to? why is he alive?
i resigned myself to doing and saying nothing. i nodded and told her i loved her. i went to the house that night. she asked me to come over, because of something else that happened to her which was a trigger. i was thankful for and resentful of the situation all at once. i stood beside her as her sister, and played the role she wanted me to. she never made a rumble for fear of upsetting something/ someone. she didn’t want to have to explain that she had already had sex w/ this bastard and that he didn’t understand her desire not to do so; she didn’t want to be blamed; she didn’t want the weight that often comes with speaking the truth. she thought she would have to stand alone. she did not know that she could stand tall and strong. she didn’t know . . . my sister did not know that coercion was the source of my first sexual experience with a man. she didn’t know how many women experience that (as adults, adolescents, as elders and especially as children) and swallow it up . . . and how likely it was that she’d not be shamed for something that was not in any way her fault. that she was not less of a woman or less of a human being because of something she could not stop, that she is not presently less of a woman or human being because of his wish to destroy the part of her that shone brightest.
and it is because of her story, the stories of so many women i do and don’t know that i say safety is neither a luxury nor a privilege. it is a right.