According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Furthermore, on average each year, there is about 434,000 victims of rape and sexual assault. While sexual abuse knows no color, culture, occupation, zip code, or socioeconomic status...sexual abuse in the African American community runs rampant, yet remains one of our best-kept secrets. Being told to pray, keeping biases against mental counseling, and avoiding uncomfortable conversations such as this...fathers, uncles, pastors, step-siblings, cousins, doctors, law enforcement, celebrities, co-workers, and the like remain protected while victims remain lost, silent, and burdened with shame, guilt, trauma, and grief. I use the word 'victim' very carefully, realizing how harmful that label in itself can be. In this post, we do not see a victim. No. Here, we are faced with a survivor...an overcomer...and one of my loving friends, as she shares her story. So, let us lean in...whether you can relate, having beared the brunt of abuse...whether you're supporting a friend or family member on their healing journey...or whether you simply just don't know how to navigate abuse in communities and rape culture. This was just written for her...for you...for me...for everyone that's bottled up guilt, fears, and words we thought couldn't be shared...even in safe spaces. So, here's to the freedom that accompanies the truth set free....the healing between words unraveling in stories. Her too. Me too. Them too. Us too. Welcome, Tatyana. Thank you....and be free.
*Trigger Warning for sexual molestation & sexual trauma.
The following story is not for the faint of heart…
From the ages of approximately 3/4 to 8 years old, I was sexually molested by two adult men who were almost like family. Beginning at around 3/4, I was made to believe that to get something, I had to give something in return. What I was supposed to give in return... was my body. I remember shouting out, “He’s bugging me!” to his siblings...and no one came to my rescue.
Fast forward to around 5 years of age. His older brother forced me to perform fellatio on him. When I did not get it correctly, he verbally chastised me and sent me to look for lotion so he could finish. I remember crying profusely and feeling like a failure early on for something I was not even supposed to know how to do.
At 8 years old, the perpetrators visited my home. One came into the room and allowed me to play games on his phone. But of course, to play those games, I had to allow him to touch me. Eventually, I became so uncomfortable that I walked out of the room, with his phone, and stood under my mom for protection.
To get away from the pain of it all, I sought refuge in school. But as a Black girl, even that was not a safe haven for me. I can recount numerous times my White female teachers questioned my intelligence and rendered my presence invisible. To be honest, it was not until I entered graduate school that I started to recognize my own brilliance.
Through my own experiences, perfection became a means of survival. Now it is the very thing that I am battling to break down. I did not share details of my sexual trauma until the age of 22. I did not feel that I was in a healthy space until the ages of 24 and 25. I say all of this to say, that while you may have judged me for being too strong or too vocal, there was a time when I was too afraid to say anything.
Everyone has a story. So, don’t judge others until you know their history.
With Love and Pain,
Tatyana Donaldson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and is an alumna of Claflin University (Orangeburg, SC) and is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work at the University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC). She is currently a Special Education Teacher and a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Tatyana’s career interests include educational policy and social-emotional intervention for Black women and children. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, spending time with friends and family, and blogging. Her blog can be found at: https://anonymouslytad.wordpress.com/.