To Black Men Who Have Survived Sexual Assault: We Have to Speak Up

If we don’t, we contribute to a culture of rape that will lead to more black girls and boys walking around broken. And we will never have a chance to heal.

Generic image
Generic image iStock

Author’s note: The following piece is not me trying to silence or dismiss the suffering of other communities. This stems from my longing for an intersectional conversation on sexual violence. It is my attempt to talk about the pain that is inflicted when rape culture and toxic black masculinity converge. I do not know what you will take from this. All I can promise is this is my unapologetic truth.

I have been involved in a number of social-justice collectives over the past three years. In some of those spaces I found a family, and we sustain each other amid a multipronged assault on our blackness. In others I have come across people who say they believe in liberation for all, but really seek to place themselves atop existing oppressive structures.

Putting aside their ideologies and strategies for a moment, I’ve noticed a common thread running through these groups. The thread being the idea that there is power in sharing one’s story with others. It is an understanding that speaking your narrative provides room for personal healing while simultaneously granting those around you opportunities to work through their own trauma.

I was vehemently against it initially. I considered story-sharing to be another mechanism designed to exploit black suffering. Most of the people who were brave enough to share their pain were black people—specifically black women. Their stories focused on intimate-partner violence, rape and state-sanctioned brutality toward them and their families. 

More often than not, there were white people in their room who expressed how moved they were after hearing these horrendous stories. This angered me the most. I asked myself, “Why are we always the ones called to educate at the expense of retraumatizing ourselves? Why was it that a majority of white people could not bring themselves to act until we exposed our abused and scarred bodies?” I wanted no part of it. 

While I understood it was a courageous and conscious decision for people to share a piece of themselves, I hated the idea of black pain constantly being served for public consumption. I promised myself that I would not participate in it. I kept that promise until I was sexually assaulted.

I was raped in the fall semester of 2015. I was raped by a black woman and it hurt me. It hurt me to know a black woman­—someone I rode for and with in this movement—hurt me in such a way. As a result, my grades slipped, I distanced myself from my community and convinced myself not to seek help because I did not want a white person capitalizing off my pain. 

I would be lying to you if I said my rigid conception of black masculinity did not keep me from getting the help I needed as well. There were a number of things I said to convince myself that I had not been hurt:

* “These things do not happen to men, especially not black men.”

* “You are a leader. You do not have time to waste on this white s–t.”

* “They are going to make you talk to a white psychologist and make you leave school. You can’t afford it.”

* “Just move on and get back to work.”

I want to spend some time on that last one.