Updated: Nov 20, 2019
I am overwhelmed by the love and support that has been given to me on the heels of me releasing 'Me Too,' my personal story of survival.
'You said you were lost, a sweet smile you tossed. I didn't know the cost ...'
This is how the 2nd verse of Me Too starts and where I begin Part 2 of my story.
I didn't know what the cost would be for being kind to a stranger. I grew up on the south side of Chicago and in 1976 there were very few white people living in my neighborhood. Yet, the day I was approached by a youngish white man wearing a fast food restaurant uniform asking for help to find a house on my block, this didn't seem out of the ordinary. We were at the entrance of the alleyway that ran behind the houses on my block, and when he mentioned the name of the person he was looking for, which was a name I knew and a person I thought I knew, I told him I could show him the way.
I was 10 years old and it was a bright, sunny afternoon. We arrived at the house I thought he was looking for, and when we walked passed the stairs that led down to the basement of the house, the man grabbed me and led me down the stairs. He tried the basement door, but it was locked. Then he said I have a gun, get down on ground and don't make a sound. I did what he said.
He started asking me questions like 'Do you have a boyfriend?' and 'Do boys like you?'. I am laying on the ground looking at this man with tears streaming down my face as this man is tugging at the shorts I was wearing while also unzipping his trousers. During this time, I was involved in gymnastics at my school so I lived in a leotard. Almost everyday, I had one on. And thankfully, this day I was wearing one. My shorts are around my ankles now when the assailant realizes he doesn't have easy access. Clearly frustrated, the man jumps up and tells me to get up. As I am struggling to pull my shorts back up he tries to make light of what he wanted to do by saying, 'I was just playing with you ... I'm not going to hurt you.'
Then he grabs me by the arm leading me back to the alley way. He let's me go and I head back in the direction that I came, and he heads in the opposite direction. Once I saw him turn the corner, I ran home and immediately told my mother what happened. I was so embarrassed and humiliated. Why did I put myself in the situation? I should have known better, right?
We didn't report what happened because by all appearances, nothing happened. But something did happen. That moment of feeling terrified and trapped left a seed of trauma that was silently growing and affecting how I was navigating my world. Writing Me Too has been healing in so many ways. I realized that my desire to please people, even to my own detriment, is related to what happened on that day. Feeling not quite good enough is the poison that was left in the wake of being threatened with sexual violence. I am painfully aware that so many men, women, boys and girls have suffered much worse than I have. But maybe by sharing my story, others will feel strong enough and ready to say 'Me Too.'