TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
At this very moment I have never been more driven to share something in my life. But I know it’s so much bigger than me.
This month marks the 3rd anniversary of my sexual assault. On January 24th 2015, I was raped. It was the culmination of trauma to my body. A trauma I became especially comfortable with. Each person, each situation, each moment I was afraid to speak up for myself, culminated on this day. I remember feeling numb. I remember the emptiness, the feeling of a loss of control of the body I walked through life with. The feeling that this body was no longer mine but instead belonged everyone that had violated it.
I remember after it happened I felt very alone and afraid although I wasn’t in imminent danger. I just couldn’t let my guard down. To me a stranger was a potential predator. I no longer lived in the world of promise but one that I expected to be attacked. It didn’t help that my partner at the time was emotionally and verbally abusive, so the thought of opening up to him was terrifying. I could just imagine the blame game that would have been played and the gaslighting that would have persisted; at the time I was so weak to it all. Despite all of that my biggest concern after being raped was making sure I can hide my discomfort with sex and please my boyfriend while not passing on any STD/STI I may have contracted during the assault. That’s how broken I was. Here I was worried about someone who didn’t care too much for me while at my lowest and I couldn’t even tell him about what happened without fear of judgement.
I remember it, the rape. I remember it as much as my body allows. The night it happened I was working at a new restaurant and it was probably only my second or 3rd shift there. I was training so I only made my tips for the shift, and my tips amounted to 27 bucks that night. It was a slow night due to the snowstorm turning into an impending blizzard and I was over making no money there for a full shift of work.
At the end of the night, I decided to fully enjoy my shift meal and drink because I figure why not at least eat and drink on their dime since the money wasn't right. One of the regulars at the restaurant invited myself and another waitress out for the night to continue the libations since we weren’t far from a nearby bar. She was down at first and last minute she cancelled, I had already said yes and wasn’t in the mood to commute home because although it was late I hated the idea of being in the same space with my roommate at the time. I avoided being home as much as possible because despite not paying rent she controlled the apartment as if it were here’s particularly the common areas which left me in a prison of a bedroom.
So I decided to go out anyway. The bar patron and I walked over to the nearby bar that was open till 4ish to continue the fun. We got there, ordered more drinks and started chatting up with the bartender and the other guests. Time flew by, he kept ordering me drinks and next thing you know it was closing time. We left and started trudging through the snow. At this point I was figuring how I was gonna commute home. I lived only a few train stops away and maybe a 20 minute bus ride but at 5am during a blizzard it seemed madd far. So we walked to the bus stop and the patron offered I wait inside his place which was only a block a way instead of doing the half hour wait outside in the snow. In my altered state this sounded fine and we went into the nearby cornerstone. grabbed Lime-A-Rita’s and I headed back to his place for shelter. I get to the gate and I'm standing in front of an abandoned building. This was his home. Somehow he found a way to move in to a vacant brownstone and live there with inconspicuously not getting any attention from the neighbors of the recently gentrified Clinton Hill.
We sat and talked and drank and I mentioned my boyfriend who did film and he recommended BRIC for film classes.. it was around here I blacked out. I don't remember anything else until I finally came back into consciousness for a brief moment and he was between my legs. I couldn't move, I wanted to scream and I couldn’t. I remember moving my head trying to avoid his kisses and I barely had the strength or body control to do that.
At that moment, I gave up. I thought “I guess this is just what happens to black girls.” and in a slurred voice I said “Stick it in.” Within the moment, the blurry image on top of me got blurrier and I slipped away again. I awoke with a hand on my butt, and in a panic. I had no idea, the time of day, or if i was safe. I had my dress on and no bottoms. I panicked, I hopped up off the airbed on the floor and started pacing trying to gather my belonging, my bag, cellphone etc. He offered me his dirty toothbrush to brush my teeth to which I firmly said NO and attempted to fly out the house. We got downstairs so he could let me out and he says to me, “You wanted it.” SMFH I responded “ You know I didn't I have a boyfriend that I love you know what you did.” and I just left. I was still processing what happened and the last thing I wanted was to be there any longer.
I walked home, in the snow wondering what to do. All I wanted was to change my clothes take a shower and be in bed. When I got to my bedroom, I took my sweater off to check my pockets for the tips I made the night before only to find it was gone. I was struggling at the time and I be damned if I didn't get my money. Previously, he and I exchanged number because he wanted to follow Latitude + Avenue and send me the link to his Youtube cooking channel, so I text him. I asked for my money and he said I had to meet him at work. Here I was heading to Tribeca to collect 27 bucks from my rapist because my pride couldn't allow me to let the money go. I arrived and he asked “ Are you ok?” WTFFFF. I wanted to scream ‘NO TF I’M NOT” and beat the shit out of him in front of everyone, but instead I said “Mhmm” because I barely wanted to speak. He handed me 40 bucks and said he put in extra for my trouble and I left. Thankfully, I would never see him in person again.
I got home, showered in the hottest water and scrubbed my body with soap and used rubbing alcohol. My thought was if I erase it, it didn't happen and I could move on with my life. The next day I quit my job. The days to come I avoided going outside. Then I remembered I signed up with a friend to go to volunteer at an influencer event in the city. She was my closest friend at the time and I knew if I flacked it would have led to tons of questions since we both spoke about looking forward to volunteering. I went and I couldn't keep my composure. We had some down time and during the conversation I kept telling the other girls to be safe. I couldn't stop thinking about what happened. I asked Ana* to go to the store with me during our break because I didn't want to go alone. It was obvious something was wrong. I kept face until the end of the event and on the train ride home I told Ana. She said “We have to go to the hospital.” I didn't want to go, the thought of being poked, prodded and touched scared me. She insisted and I felt her support, plus I was fearful he may have had an STD or got me pregnant.
At the hospital a nurse sat down with me and asked me questions, questions I felt I couldn't even comfortably answer because it was a week later, my mind was pushing the event to the back of my head and now I feel like I was getting quizzed on it. Afterwords I was told to disrobe, I put on a gown and waited for the nurse. While waiting two detectives from the Special Victims Unit came in to speak with me to gather more information. The female detective within minutes showed bias and judgment. She asked how many drinks I had, and her line of questioning was all leading to the answer I could tell she wanted. Because I worked at a bar and was drinking they kept saying it was consensual and was trying to hint it was guilt that made me cry rape. I was disgusted. I started doing a police report and asked if i would be able to press charges. The offices said NO. ( Now I know it isn't there place to make a call on that, only the District Attorney could have done that!) So I literally laughed right in their face. I was so angry, what did I expect from NYPD? Help? Laughable. The irony is I could never stomach and episode of SVU and here I am in one. I told them if nothings gonna happen i might as well just leave. I felt why should i put myself through anymore torture if he is still going to roam the streets. I started walking out and had to check out at the from desk. The woman at the front asked me why was I leaving and I told her everything. She said “Honey, I believe you. Please call this hotline.” She knew she couldn't talk me into staying so she slid me a piece of paper with RAINN, The National Sexual Assault hotline number on it. I took it, in tears an left.
Just one month and a day earlier it was Christmas, I was raised not celebrating Christmas yet Christmas for me was a big deal. It was my time to show the person I loved how much I cared with lavish gifts and quality time. I remember coming to my boyfriend’s house that day with such excitement! I had saved and gotten him a bike. Financially it was extremely hard for the both of us, I had lost my job earlier that August and although he had a good job, he worked very few hours. This left us in quite a bind so I really wanted to make Christmas special, and in many ways it definitely was memorable. I got to his house I met his sister and nephew, who were both very sweet and quiet and then got to show him the Citizen folding bike I had bought because I just couldn’t wait for him to see his new way of commuting to work. I spent weeks before deciding the color, private messaging his best friend on Facebook for his opinion because I wanted to make sure it was perfect. Once his family left I waited because I expected a gift, nothing fancy but I thought there’d be something. To my surprise there was no gift, he cooked dinner and expected me to eat and that would be his way of showing me he cared.
Within minutes an argument ensued — it was so silly! He started bashing my character off of an innocent joke. I remember seeing someone from high school on my Facebook page and I turned to him and said “oh my God babe she looks like such a bird” because of the way she was dressed as well as posed. I get it, I was mean but really it wasn’t worth arguing over. I felt like if he didn’t like what I said all he had to do was say “babe that’s not nice” those four little words would have probably gotten me to shut up and we could’ve carried on about our night. But instead he went on and on explaining how I wouldn’t have said that about Draya (at the time I was a big fan of hers because I felt like she was a rags to riches story and was able to change your image and make a name for herself and I respected that.).
Anyway, he continued so I did what I would usually do when things got heated: I got quiet, because I hated arguing, I hated confrontation and I just was in shock as to how me bringing a gift turn into a discussion about Draya and birds.
So once he started to slow down and it started to really just get quiet between us I told him I was going to the store and got up and left. By this time I was already feeling extra bloated I was working out regularly and I would feel like the wind was knocked out of me. There were times while I was training at the gym and I felt like crying because I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t finish a few jump squats without feeling like I wanted to pass out. I was naturally top-heavy but at this point my boobs felt so huge and full (ladies you know I mean by that), so when I left for the store I left to get a pregnancy test because at this point I needed to know if I was having this dude’s baby. His manic depressive behavior was too much to take and I needed to know if I would potentially deal with it for 18 years. I can’t tell you my nerves… I never had been pregnant before I didn’t even know how to properly use a pregnancy test and I was also tight on cash so I bought the cheapest one and prayed it would give accurate results.
I got back upstairs, took off my coat, dropped my little plastic bag and went straight to the bathroom. He had already sensed something was wrong and once I got in the bathroom and peed on the stick he knew something was wrong.
I, a woman in between jobs, in a dysfunctional relationship and confused— was pregnant.
I saw the lines pop up and immediately started bawling. I knew I couldn’t have this child.
I knew I couldn’t take care of this child and I knew my relationship was too rocky to bring a child into it. I also felt a deep sadness because despite everything between us I really loved him and I wanted nothing more but to one day have a family with him. Strange enough our first date was an indie movie called Unborn Child, that we watched in a theater in Williamsburg as we stuffed our faces with snacks. Oddly enough, we felt so disconnected from the characters but now we were so much like them.
As I walk out the bathroom I went straight into his bedroom while he was still sitting on the couch. He knew something was the matter and came into the bedroom and asked me what did the test say. I told him it didn’t matter, because honestly it didn’t. My gut told me it wouldn’t happen, my mind told me it couldn’t happen and my heart told me it shouldn’t happen. I didn’t know how to handle it I mean we just argued. He just read me for filth, basically judging me for what I said and tried to make me seem superficial and shallow which are qualities I abhor and now was consoling me or at least trying. My instinct was to be alone so I asked him to bring me a cover which he refused because he knew I was going to take it onto the couch and he wanted me to stay in the room with him. At this point he felt bad, I think the realization that he picked a fight with his girlfriend who had just gotten him a bike so he can get to work and now is carrying his child finally hit him. I went to the couch and cried myself to sleep because at that point what else do you do, I mean nothing was going to change that night. It was Christmas. As I slept I had the most vivid dream one of the most prophetic dreams I’ve probably ever had. I saw my life with our child and it was the saddest thing. I was miserable I felt stuck and very, very, very alone. I didn’t want to raise a child like that I always imagined myself as a hippie mom one that would fly all over the world with her child, allow them to paint on the walls, not go to traditional school but instead be unschooled (like Jaden and Willow) and master whatever it is they were interested in. The type of child that would love to eat fruits and wear their hair wild and free and have the cutest boutique baby clothes.
The reality was the complete opposite.
I knew the signs. I knew I was pregnant the weeks before. I would constantly see pictures of little girls and linger on images for one second too long. And not just any little girls but little girls that look like me, had curly hair like me, dimples and bright smiles like me.
But I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want a child out of wedlock.
So the next morning we got up, we talked, we made up and we had that difficult conversation. “What are you going to do”, he asked. Despite his anger issues, when it came to things like this situations that obviously required spousal support he was very nurturing and compassionate. He had a boyish way about him. He assured me that if I did have the child he would be there and will do whatever he could to support although it would definitely make his financial situation even harder and really would affect our relationship. I broke down and told him the hardest part about this is that I wanted this family with him but not now and that’s what really broke my heart. With that conversation the decision was made and later that week I made a few phone calls, did a bunch of research (google has and will always be my best friend) and found a clinic in Manhattan that took my health insurance (which by the grace of God I renewed right before I found out thanks to my mother being so persistent on me filing before the deadline of December 15). We went to the office together and I had a surgical abortion. Within that week, we grew so close we thought this horrible situation would bring us and keep us together. As we sat around and saw so many girls by themselves or with their parents or with boyfriends who didn’t care and I thought “WOW I have this great guy” because he came with me to get an abortion. I had the abortion on December 30 just a few days shy of the new year and physically I felt lighter. The anesthesia had me giggling and the presence of my boyfriend made me feel loved but mentally I felt so much guilt because I was raised believing that abortions are murderers and I was taking a life. I was heavy, my body was preparing for a baby, my hormones were thriving and I walked around with such a weight on my shoulders.
Now let’s go back a few more weeks to the job I was working at. I lost my big girl job August 2014, The company cited they were restructuring the company interestingly enough just months before they had given me a 10% raise. Anyway, my boss or should I say bosses had it out for me and I was gone. I had to figure out how to survive without the cushion of corporate America and a bi-weekly paycheck while handling New York rent and bills. But when it happened I had my boyfriend and my love life is on the up and up and I had all these great ideas about start ups and entrepreneurship and I figured I’ll be OK so I took the unemployment and started creating. During this time my boyfriend and I had talked a lot about my travel blog and creating a name and while we were going back-and-forth brainstorming on the train he came up with Latitude + Avenue and I was like that’s perfect and the nerd in me looked it up to see if avenues run north and south and of latitude is east and west so it’s not just a name but I needed it to make sense. And it did! I loved it and I stuck with it and that was the beginning of Latitudeandavenue.com.
But of course New York bills and lifestyle require a lot more than just unemployment so I decided to find a job preferably something that was off the books because I needed multiple incomes. I ended up at Ocean’s 8, a pool hall in Brooklyn and it was ratchet and kind of a shit hole but it was cool. I made pretty good money for working a few nights a week and I felt I couldn’t complain because I had freedom and income. What more could a 20-something year old want?
But like I said this place was a shit hole and shit holes usually come with shitty situations so it’s about the second week of December now I’ve been working there for a few months ( I just came back from traveling all over the world I did four cities in four different countries and 16 days and I was so liberated I was living a life that I created that was better than sitting behind a desk being demeaned by racist boss.) and I went to work not realizing it would be my last day there. The bar closes super late because it’s New York, the city that never sleeps so everything is open till 4 AM. Around 2 AM one of the waitresses ask if I can take her table which is rare because honestly the more tables the more tips but she was one of those who did a lot of under the table selling and scamming so she really didn’t care about giving this one little table away. Me, off my trip and pressed for cash figured why not I take the table. It ends up being a group of rowdy girls barely over 21 (if they were even 21 the bar was known to let a lot of underage teenagers in with fake ID’s).
I took their orders of course they all wanted a Long Island and chicken and fries. I collected their menus and walked away. Little did I know one of them left their phone in a menu. They came over asking me and questioning me about the phone and I honestly hadn’t seen it. Once I’m finished with the menus I put them all in a stack near the bar where other waiters and bartenders can grab them. And in that case that’s exactly what happened I found out a bartender had grabbed one of the menus I place down with a phone before the girls came to inquire about it. So by the time I checked the stack no phone was there which led them to believe that I took their phone which I would never do because honestly I have my own iPhone and pretty much everyone does at this point and if not it’s by choice. I got my manager involved because I could tell things were escalating. I was trying to help but they clearly thought I took it, so nothing I said seemed helpful it seemed like I was deflecting and because my managers know I would never take a phone they really didn’t care and their apathy was obvious. The bouncer told me to hide in the back he said “I think these girls want to jump you, you should hide”. So I did and while I was hiding I was able to communicate with the bartender I told her what was going on I asked her if she seen a phone and she nonchalantly replies “oh yeah, there was a phone in a menu my customer at the bar gave it to me”. So now I’m pissed because clearly this is the phone the girls are looking for. I feel comfortable now to leave the back because I was sure the bartender passed the found phone along as soon as I told her the situation. I step from the kitchen area to go back to the computer to look in Aloha (a computer system used in hospitality) to check on my tables and within seconds I’m punched in the face. No, the bartender did not pass the phone along. With the first punch came several more because you know gang mentality, once one friend hit’s everyone jumps in. The bartender realizes and finally slides the phone and the girls scream “SEE, SHE HAD OUR FUCKING PHONE”. I’m screaming, “I NEVER HAD YOUR PHONE” and I’m not a fighter so I didn’t even try to fight back I just tried to explain myself all while this is happening the bouncer has jumped in front of me and his big robust body has now blocked me from punches. The gang of girls started throwing cue balls and pool sticks and even a chair at one of the other waitresses backs while my manager was attacked and I fled and hid in the back. Luckily outside of a hit to my face and a torn shirt I was OK. But that’s all I was just OK just surviving, just functioning. I didn’t feel safe. It was my first time calling 911 I hope to never have to call 911 ever again firstly because 911 to me means something terrible has happened but also because the police never did anything. EMT came and I didn’t even go to the hospital because I didn’t have insurance and I couldn’t risk a ridiculous hospital bill. You couldn’t fathom how crappy I felt not only could I not protect myself but I also couldn’t even afford medical help. I quit that day and left in the cab fearful for my life. I didn’t know if these girls were following me or capable of doing more damage. They literally tore up a pool hall over a phone they clearly gave no fucks.
These three events happened within a two month period. A physical assault, an emotional assault and a sexual assault. Looking back I don’t know how I managed. And every situation I felt like my body wasn’t mine I felt like I had no control over it I felt like it must have deserved what it got because why else would all these horrible things happen to me. And now here I am three years later writing about the worst time of my life and although the situations are still very much a part of my memory I have come to peace with all of them. And I feel very much removed.
I have come to learn that my body is not a victim. I have come to learn that my body is mine. I have come to learn I have done the best with what I knew.
I also come to a place of gratitude. I have friendships that carried me through these times I have met life coaches intuitive and spiritual guides that all helped in the healing process. I have an understanding of who I was during that time and also who I was around.
When all of these things happened to me I was in a horrible roommate situation, my roommate at the time took complete advantage of my naïveté, she belittled me, she tried to control me and the whole apartment all while not paying for anything and taking my money. My boyfriend at the time was suffering I don’t want to blame him for how he was to me because he was only doing the best from where he was. Unfortunately he was in a very dark mental state and I hope that in these last three years he has found some light.
But I’m also a believer of attracting what you are so I can sit here and blame my roommate and my boyfriend or my friendships at the time but there was a part of me that was broken and drawn to them to.
The process was slow after being raped my relationship with my boyfriend soon crumbled and I was an even bigger emotional wreck. I never shared with him what happened I also felt like we needed to make things work because we sacrificed the child. But, it was a major blessing when we broke up.
A few months later I started talking to a guy who I had known for a while, I met him while I was attending a start up event and I thought “wow, maybe just maybe this is just divine timing”. I felt there could be possibly a silverlining to the end of my relationship and maybe hope for love or at least romance. I was jaded but deep down I was a hopeless romantic and I thought this may be the start of something. He seemed so nice he was a bit younger than me, very personable and charismatic and other than the age his “resume” was good. He came from a good home, he went to a good school, he was starting his own business and he lives within walking distance. To make a long story short not only was it not a fairytale but we barely talked and he took full advantage of my emotional state. I introduced him to one of my friends who invited us to attend the barbecue she was having and while at the barbecue he decided to talk to one of her friends another girl that was there. I didn’t even realize because I was at a barbecue playing beer pong trying to be “chill girl” and just trying to enjoy life. I later came to find out he took that girl out on a date brought her to an event he knew I would be at and then when we all left to go to a second bar he was making out with her right in front of me there. Again, we can talk about how boys can be boys we can talk about how it’s cool for a guy to be a player, but I really want men to understand when you meet women you may not have known what they’ve been through, how a man has treated them before and even if you do have an idea it’s not cool to play with her emotions. It’s also not cool to blatantly disrespect her.
He may not have been my rapist he may not have been emotionally abusive but this kind of behavior is extremely misogynistic and is also at fault and it helps to perpetuate rape culture. It makes it OK for men to treat women like objects, it makes it OK for men to leave their families and makes it OK for men to not be accountable and all of the above are unacceptable.
I hope in these three years he’s grown up. I hope that he has learned to respect and value women I hope that he realizes that he has a sister and a mother and he wouldn’t want them to be treated that way.
I couldn’t share my story without talking about my upbringing. I grew up in a Caribbean household I am a first generation immigrant. My mother moved to the United States from Jamaica when she was 17. She studied to become a nurse and somewhere along the way she met my father and they had two kids. My father was never really around and he blamed it on my mother he blamed everyone but himself for not being around. I honestly never felt a strong connection to him because he was never around so for me being raised by just one parent was normal. My mother after dealing with the trauma that is my father studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses and when I was seven years old, she became a baptized member. She instilled in us Christian principles she also was very strict and did her best to protect us from everything and everyone. Oh, I guess at this time I should mention I have an older brother who is three years older than me. With that being said I was raised that children especially girls are meant to be seen and not heard and this is extremely unfortunate. Looking back, I feel this logic when it comes to raising children is extremely toxic and it sets the tone for young girls to believe they are meant to please and should not do anything to offend other people.
It also teaches children that they don’t have a voice and that doesn’t change because they are a older. What we are taught when we are young tends to stay with us throughout adulthood which is why many other situations I’ve encountered and interactions I’ve had I try not to hold a hard heart to those people because I know the trauma we face especially during childhood and what we are taught in childhood lingers and stays with us for the rest of our lives.
So although we may not be able to change the past or the things that happened to us we can learn from them and we can share our experiences. Know that it’s imperative to talk. We live in age where we all have opinions but we don’t just talk, we don’t just share stories, letting it fall where they may lie. Sometimes that’s all that we need to do the more stories, memories, experiences we share the more the lesson comes through. It’s not about being right or wrong it’s not about being a victim or survivor it’s about being a human hoping to help another human. I truly hope sharing my story helps another human because other than that it’s just a really shitty time in my life that I would love to put in the back of my head but I know keeping it there isn’t going to do anything.
My prayer is that the man who reads it treat women with respect understand that we have souls and bodies and that we are needed and are equal and hold as much value as they do in the world. My prayer is that for the women who read and become mothers understand the importance of teaching your daughter self-worth and allowing her to have a voice. I also pray that any survivor of any gender, background and sexual orientation knows its not their fault. I believe we can change the narrative and in so change our future.
*** Since starting to write about this time in my life, I have continued to find peace and clarity with the situation. I started and completed my training as a counselor advocate with Peace Over Violence, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. (POV works to build healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.)My training as a advocate helped me realize how much different my situation could have been with law enforcement if I had known my rights as a survivor of rape, in my romantic relationships had I understood the cycle of violence/power and control and had knowledge as a woman living in a society that perpetuates rape culture. I can’t change what happened to me but I'm grateful it was turned into a way of bringing me to advocacy and activism work.