It’s been three years since I was raped.
It took ten years and a horrific, sordid tale of a famous white movie producer, to take #MeToo from obscurity to the front page. It wasn’t overnight. And nevermind that the stories we hear and repeat, the stories that we’re told that matter, are of actors, politicians, professional athletes, prominent professors, journalists, and other public-facing men.
There are no stories gripping the headlines about Janelle at the Stop & Shop being pressured by her manager to have sex with him because he knows her child’s father isn’t helping pay the bills. You won’t find a story about Kim’s co-worker at the manufacturing plant dropping a pill in her drink. The front page will not hold space for Erika’s run-in with her ex, when he stuck his tongue in her mouth and reached between her legs, just to make sure she knew he was still his if he wanted.
Some may consider who raped me “internet famous.” Google him and you’ll find interviews and spotlights by various publications. He has a public-facing role at a major media company. A seemingly successful black man.
We cannot continue to pretend like rape and sexual assault cannot be committed by people we know. People we’ve grown with. People we’ve cried with. People we’ve celebrated with. People we’ve honored. People we count on. People we trust. People we love. People we “couldn’t believe would do something like that.”
It is time to start believing.
The truth for many women is that the #MeToo movement has not meaningfully changed their lives or changed the behavior of men around them, in their lives, workplaces, communities, and on the street. Men still act the same. The same rampant sexual assaults and rape still occur. There are still impediments to addressing it in the legal system. For women who are not famous the world has not changed, and there is a sense that many are just waiting for it to pass, like a storm on a summer night. Even for those like me who have endured rape, #MeToo has proven more salve than salvation.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be in a position where I must now take ownership of the fact that I am a victim of rape. I am a statistic. I am one of thousands of women who’ve been raped by someone they know.
You may know this person too.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be in a position where, even today, my experience, my trauma, my truth may not be sufficient for the masses or may be written off as just another woman trying to take advantage of the #MeToo movement.
Since February 2018, I have tried to get my story published with three different outlets. I have had to revisit the night that I was raped again and again and again only to be told again and again and again in so many words, that my story, my rape, my trauma, my suffering, wasn’t worthy enough to be published.
The closest I ever came was in July 2018. When Mr. Drakeford was lawfully informed that a story was going to be published about what happened that night, he attempted to contact me. He texted me on July 18th and sent me a DM on Instagram as well. I did not respond to either. His lawyer tried to contact me on July 19th, leaving a voicemail saying that his client, Mr. Drakeford “has heard rumors that there’s an article coming out about your time together a few years ago and in that article, you are going to state that he had non-consensual sex with you, which is obviously a very serious matter.”
Non-consensual sex is called rape.
His lawyer continued:
“Rashad was able to obtain all of his texts that you guys shared and communicated and earlier today I was able to review all of them. I’d really like to speak with you if we can have a conversation that is off the record and that neither of us would use in any statements or any future or current article. Hopefully we can talk and see if I can get more information of the details of the and we can somehow come — understand how to avoid the article being published.”
That publication decided that it was too much of a risk to publish my story.
Their legal department would not clear it for fear of a lawsuit.
Fear overrides freedom.
I am freeing myself.
That night in November 2015, my ability to choose whether or not I wanted to be penetrated was taken away from me without consideration or hesitation. I have not seen the floodgates open for Black women who’ve been willing to come forward with their stories. I refuse to withhold my story any longer for the sake of avoiding “airing our dirty laundry,” “saving face,” or “protecting black men,” or any other forms of oppression manifested as silence, intertwined with misplaced guilt and shame, that keeps Black women from speaking out against men who like us, are black, but who, like men of any other race, are capable and in my case, culpable of rape.
Writing in 1985, Sister Angela Davis detailed the following:
Myths About Rape:
1) The rape victim is morally responsible for the crime committed against her.
2) Women have control over whether or not their bodies are violated during the act of rape.
3) If a woman does not resist, she is implicitly inviting the violation of her body.
Sister Davis continues,
“Men’s motives for rape often arise from their socially imposed need to exercise power and control over women through the use of violence.
Most rapists are not psychopaths, as we are lead to believe by typical media portrayals of men who commit crimes of sexual violence. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority would be considered ‘normal’ according to prevailing social standards of male normality.”
Before you try and analyze my situation based on your opinion, your criteria, and your understanding of what constitutes rape and who is capable of rape, let me share with you the FBI’s definition of rape:
Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
That night, Mr. Drakeford penetrated my vagina with his penis without my consent and without protection. I kicked him from inside of me and demanded what he was doing, to which he responded, “I thought you wanted it.” Prior to this moment, I allowed Mr. Drakeford to perform oral sex on me but nothing else. And prior to that, not too long after I arriving to his apartment, Mr. Drakeford leaned over and told me he wanted to tell me something. He whispered in my hear that he “wanted to taste me.” I told him no. Apparently that no was not enough to keep him from repeatedly asking, suggesting, prompting until he wore me down into submission.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be in a position where my no and my refusals are not enough, simply because I am a woman.
I met Mr. Drakeford almost three years ago in DC. We exchanged numbers and a few months later, I let him know that I’d be coming up to New York. He asked to take me out on a date. I obliged.
The date was decent. Burgers, banter, basics — but then he mentioned something about my butt after I came back from the bathroom. My comfort level began to dissipate. That summer, while at a day party in DC, a man grabbed my butt while I was walking through the crowd. I turned around, ready to slap whoever it was but it was a group of three men and no one was willing to admit who was responsible for sexually assaulting me. Yes — unwanted sexual touching is a form of sexual assault. When I asked them if they’d be fine with someone grabbing their mother or their sisters, they replied, “They grown women, they can handle themselves.”
Fast forward back to the date and I found myself regretting wearing that dress. I considered wearing something completely different because I had grown to not feel safe in my own body, my own clothes, because of how others made me feel.
After lunch, in the elevator of my friend’s apartment, and then again in the apartment, Mr. Drakeford pushed up on me and tried to kiss me. I was uncomfortable. I hoped he’d stop pressuring me. I did not know how to handle his advances. We hung out for a few more hours that afternoon. He seemed kind, patient, caring. He waited in line with me outside of a store in SoHo, bought me tea while we stood was waiting, then parted ways, with the possibility of meeting up later.
That night, after hanging out with my homegirl, I texted him asking if he was going to call me an Uber to his apartment. He did. When I arrived, we sat down on his couch and began talking. He offered me some Hennessy. I accepted. We started watching Master of None. Soon after, he tried kissing me again. After a moment, I pulled back. I didn’t want to make out. I didn’t come there to make out. A few episodes later, he asked if he could tell me something. He leaned over and whispered into my ear — “I really want to taste you.” I told him no. That I wasn’t in a rush. That I wanted to take things slow. Apparently slow meant asking me again. Then asking me to come lay with him on his bed. Then laying on his bed. Then underwear coming off. Then oral sex. Then non-consensual, unprotected penetration. I didn’t even so much as hear the crinkle of a condom wrapper being torn open.
I was in shock. I kicked him out from inside of me, demanded what he was doing, to which he responded, “I thought you wanted it.” I told him he didn’t even ask. I did not know what to do. I remember sex happening, then leaving. I had never been in that situation before. I had never been violated in that way before. I had never been what it’s taken me two years to come to terms with the reality of my rape— I had never been raped before. It was a Friday night.
I did not see him again while I was in New York. On Saturday, he texted me saying he couldn’t make it to the panels I was speaking on that morning. I went back home to DC on Sunday.
On Monday, I texted him:
“In thinking about the time I spent with you this weekend, what sticks with me most is that:1) You slid in raw without consent. (Eating me out does not equal automatic consent for sex; also, classic example of male privilege).
2) I’ve not heard from you since Saturday. To me, it seems as though the lunch date + hanging out was just a gateway to get me somewhat comfortable with you in order to get me alone at your apartment. Yes, I chose to come over. Yes, I eventually consented to sex, but I am left questioning your motives and sincerity. Lines like, “I want you think about me the entire cab ride home,” say to me that you are more concerned about good dick than a good impression. Like seriously, who says that? (Also, male privilege/machismo again).It’s like time and time again I try to give “nice guys” a chance but the physical seems to supersede any real chance for anything else. There was no “taking it slow” from you. I am reminded why I don’t even bother with dates because it can rarely remain just that — a date. Perhaps it is my fault. Perhaps I should’ve left it at lunch but I like to think of myself as a woman who does not date for free meals.I am not distraught, heartbroken or “in my feelings.” I am getting this off my chest because it’s been on my mind.”
Drakeford:“Hey, what’s up Gloss. Few things:I apologize for going in raw in the moment. Just curious, why aren’t you bringing up my male privilege as it relates to me eating you out?I said, “come over if you’d like, if not, no worries, just let me know,” — you decided to come over Gloss. I was chilling in my robe watching ‘Law and Order’ lol. I just thought we had a dope day just kicking it and talking.”
Gloss:“I could’ve also tacked male privilege to you saying that to me while we were watching TV, you saying no & then you trying again on your bed…but didn’t feel the need to pick out every instance.”
Drakeford:“Wow. Just wow. Now I have male privilege. The revisionist history here is crazy. If you wanna chalk up YOU deciding to have sex with me to male privilege be my guest. Unlike you, I’ll take the L and won’t blame my actions on anybody else.If you still want to be friends, cool. I’d love that. If my male privilege scarred you or left a bad taste in your mouth and you’d like to put distance btwn us, I understand that as well.”
You may wonder why, after sitting up and kicking him out from inside of me, why didn’t I leave? Why I laid there and was repeatedly penetrated. I was not in control. I was not in a position to make a decision that would’ve “saved” me from the shock, trauma, and violation that I’d already experienced. Sister Davis foreshadowed this moment. My moment. The moments of too many women who must live with the unfortunate reality that they too were raped and that society has allowed that to happen.
Even in 1985, according to Sister Davis, it was reported that:
1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime
1 in 4 women will be raped before she reaches 18
There’s only a 4% conviction rate of rapists, and that’s only of rapes that are reported
More than half of the rapes occur in the home of either the survivor or the offender
1985 feels a lot like 2018.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be in a position where, over the next year, Mr. Drakeford continued to make sexual advances towards me.
I. In February 2016, I traveled to New York to shoot a Black Excellence feature for REVOLT TV, where Mr. Drakeford was employed at the time. Following the shoot, he walked me to a corner market so I could grab lunch before heading to my next appointment. In the market, he asked if he could kiss me. I replied no. “Is it because you don’t want to mess up your make-up?” he asked. Yet again, my no was not enough.
II.In November 2016, I briefly attended a networking event following the first night of the AfroTech conference. Upon entering the venue, I saw Mr. Drakeford and then attempted to avoid him by walking to a different area of the room with friends. Later, he found an opportunity to approach me when I was moving through the room. He asked why I “made a mean face at him” to which I responded, “I don’t make mean faces to anyone but the devil,” and told him that I’d already addressed my grievances with him. At some point during the conversation, Mr. Drakeford put his finger on my shoulder and slid my dress strap up onto my shoulder. He also attempted to place both hands on the brim of my hat to “fix” it. I did not ask to be touched. I did not want to be touched. I did not want to be approached by the man who raped me and the man, who, as Davis asserts, “would be considered ‘normal’ according to prevailing social standards of male normality.”
I have wanted to burn the dress I wore that day. I have wanted to watch it go up in flames and smoke and burn and disintegrate until it was no more. But I nor the dress were to blame. It is not my fault. I did not do anything wrong. I was not given an opportunity to say yes. I was not given an opportunity to say no. I was not given an opportunity to make a choice at all.
Today, I’ve made my choice.