By Shermeeka Mason
As I write this, my eyes burn with fatigue.
My body is tired, but my spirit and mind are alert, yet bothered by both past and recent events.
It all started earlier this week when I hung out with a friend of mine. While we were talking, I found out that a local radical we both dated moderated a discussion about misogyny in the Rochester radical community.
Needless to say, I was floored and somewhat sickened by this piece of information. The guy in question not only uses a well-known community space and political events to cruise for find potential sex partners, but uses poly and labels such as Pansexual and Demisexual as an excuse to sleep with them. In fact, he is one of the reasons why I don’t attend that space.
I knew this because he and I dated for three weeks. He approached me after an organization meeting and I thought he was genuinely interested in me. I found out over the course of time, however, that he was more comfortable being a “friend with benefits” than my long-term partner. This was AFTER I shared with him my history with sexual trauma.
Around the same time, pictures, news articles, and think pieces about Brock Turner continuously showed up in my newsfeed. Turner is the former Stanford University swimmer who was arrested and sentenced to six months in county jail for raping an unconscious young woman last year. I went through a plethora of emotions as his blank expression and blood shot eyes stared back at me time and again, burning into a mind already fogged by medication-induced insomnia. His father’s letter and the judge’s leniency on the Turner further perplexed and angered me due to the gross lack of accountability.
In addition to all of this, a friend of mine spoke up against their rapist, a prominent Black radical in their community. Though this young man violated them, it was my friend who was banned from Facebook for forty-eight hours for just posting a picture of their perpetrator! What bothered me was that they were one of many who were sexually assaulted by an activist and/or pillar of the community.
So between this fact, the constant coverage of the Stanford rape case, learning of the hypocritical behavior of the so-called radical I dated last month, and the lack of adequate sleep, I broke down crying. This recent chain of events pushed me back to Saturday, February 7, 2015 when I traveled to Peekskill, New York to visit Alec and Sharon, a poly couple I met online a year prior. What was was supposed to be our last romantic weekend together turned out to be one of the most traumatizing. This couple not only joked about me being dead, but crossed boundaries that involved Alec hitting my body with a crop and threatening to hit me in the face with it. To this day, I can’t talk about that night without having panic attacks and flashbacks.
Without feeling ashamed.
The shame was one of the reasons why I remained silent about the assault in Peekskill for the most part. In fact, this was the reason why I kept quiet about how I was treated by the local activist I dated. And I thought that just keeping quiet and going about my life, would let forget what happened. Forget about all of them.
But I can’t. My own PTSD won’t allow me to. The flashbacks, panic attacks, and wave of emotions won’t let them get away with it—won’t grant me the desire to distance myself from the fact that I allowed myself to succumb to my self-blame and their gaslighting.
So as exhausted as I am, I write this passage because I’m mentally and emotionally done with seeing victims of sexual assault not believed by the media and judicial system. Done with hearing stories about perpetrators in radical clothing lingering around within the community to somehow seek sexual gratification and then have the nerve to occupy spaces not created for them. Done with domineering sexual perpetrators using the polyamorous lifestyle to traumatize others.
In other words, I am done with rape culture.
And I’m done shielding myself from it. That’s why I have my pen, my laptop, and my books at my disposal—so these tools can be utilized to at least talk about what rape culture is doing to people and to our society. I cannot and will not allow my perpetrators and ex-partners to frighten me or continue to get away with how they treated me and possibly others. Writing is my way of holding them accountable for what they have done. And if someone reads this and relates to it somehow, then my experiences served a purpose.