I Am the Warden (and You Have Been Raped)

by Leslye Joy Allen

 

Copyright © Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

!!!!!!!!!!WARNING!!!!!!!!!!: THIS BLOG CONTAINS GRAPHIC ADULT LANGUAGE AND GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND SOME PROFANITY.

This is for anyone who wonders about what women who have been raped deal with.

The first thing any college woman is taught in those early orientations is to never allow a man to know exactly where she lives until she gets to know him really well.  This one can be tough, particularly when a young woman has had a really nice evening with a guy.  She doesn’t think about rape.  But, she better.  I still remember the night my late friend Lynn called me on the phone in a panic.

“What’s wrong Lynn? Where the hell are you?” I asked.

“Girl, I had to fight this man off. He said he could cook. He wanted to make me dinner at his home. I didn’t think anything about it since a co-worker introduced us.  Everything was fine until I got up to leave and he told me ‘You aren’t going anywhere.’ I had to hit him with a paper weight to get out the door.”

I remember that night. Lynn was so upset that she got on I-285, and circled the entire city because she literally forgot how to get home.  She’s gone now, but I still think about it.

Then there was the friend that went to a party and woke up on a bed with her clothing on backwards. Scared to death for her, I made her go to the hospital.  Well, they found  semen with active sperm in her vagina.  She never told anyone but me.  She told me to “keep my damned mouth shut.” I’ve never betrayed the confidence of a friend in my life, but it annoys me to the point of not sleeping some time. “I just want to forget this,” she said.

I wish I could tell you that this doesn’t happen often, except it does. Every man reading this either knows some guy or guys that have run trains on drunk women or some of you reading this have done it yourselves. Some of you keep each other’s secrets; you shrug it off when a woman complains about some guy that follows her or won’t leave her alone. He’s just being a man, right?

My lifelong friend and brother G told me once that he didn’t like a particular guy we both knew.  When I asked him why he didn’t like him, he said, “I think he got __________drunk one night and took advantage of her. I can’t prove it, but I know he did it. I hate that m*therf*cker!”  Now let’s be clear, most women that are raped are raped by men they know and most rapes are not particularly physically violent.  Most rapes happen in a flash with a much stronger and heavier man easily forcing himself on a stunned woman who may or may not be able to fight off her attacker or get away.

To all those men (and the women that protect them) who worry so much about what some poor man accused of rape is going through even when his alleged victims are credible, I have this to say.  I’m not going to chapter and verse anyone about why women take so long to come forward. You already know why.  Yet, the following scenario is for all those men who conveniently politicize the whole issue of rape; those men who not only defend their political allies who are accused of rape, but also those who gleefully jump on the bandwagon to support rape victims when the alleged rapist is on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Here’s what I’d like for you to imagine happening to you, since empathy on your part, seems to be in short supply:

Let’s say you find yourself in jail; and for the sake of argument, let’s say you are innocent of the criminal charges that have put you in that holding cell for a few days or in that prison for some years. Now, let’s pretend that some hardened prisoner whose nickname is “Beast,” is known for being a bit of a bully and he suddenly decides to “make you his bitch.”  And please don’t even bother to claim that you’re not a Gay man and you would not let this happen.  Let me stop you right there.  Sex in prisons has nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation; no one of any sexual orientation wants or deserves to be raped. These rapes are not aggressive sexuality; these rapes are sexualized aggression and violence, acts of power and control over a victim, because after all, “making you his bitch” is technically saying that he’s turning you into “a woman.”  The language itself says a lot about how women are devalued in the first place. Suddenly Beast grabs you; you yell for the guards, but no one comes.

Beast has you pent down, with his knee pressing on your back and his massive hands over your mouth.  He tells you, “You know you want it.”  He rams his penis into your rectum without wearing a condom and without any form of lubrication.  The force of him hurts, but you can’t move until he’s decided he’s finished.  Beast tells you that he knows you enjoyed it.  He also tells you he will “kill your ass” if you say anything. You swear to yourself that you will tell the guards, that is, if you can muster the courage to let anyone know that you, a grown man, has allowed this to happen to you.

Finally, you get the courage to tell one of the guards that you think likes you and might hear you out. You eventually demand to speak to the warden. When you finally get to the warden’s office, I’m sitting there. That’s right, me, the person writing this blog.

When you tell me you’ve been raped, I ask for proof.  There isn’t a rape kit.  So you’re forced to pull down your pants and bend over so that I can take a look at the tears and bruises on your behind.

I look at you and say, “I’m sorry about this, but anything could have done this to your behind. You could have fallen on something.  Are you sure you’re not just making this up to get out of some of your duties or to get even with Beast about something?  Beast has been in here nearly ten years; and he was a lot of trouble at first, but he became a model prisoner. He’s up for parole in about a year.  I would hate to ruin his life over something frivolous.”  I am the warden and I have your life and well-being in my hands—and I know it.

So, I tell you that I will look into the matter. Without any further conversation I send you right back to your cell. You want special protection, but I inform you that doing so would make it seem like we had already tried and convicted your alleged rapist. I literally send you right back to Beast. After you leave, I tell the guards not to worry about any further investigation because this is a prison, and Beast was probably just another horny and sexually frustracted convict.  “This shit happens all the time.”  I have no sympathy for you at all. I have work to do, a prison to run. You and your allegations are just another inconvenience…I’m going to stop and leave this right here.

Copyright © Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

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Why We Fail: Forgetting Malcolm and Martin’s Internationalism

Weary Self-Portrait 2

“Weary Self-Portrait 2” (Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.)

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

As bad as things are in the USA—in particular, the killing of a young Black man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—what we Black Americans are enduring is “a cakewalk” by comparison to some of the tragedies that are currently taking place in India, parts of Africa, Iraq, Israel, and so many other places around the world.  Yet, our current Black leadership has been conspicuously silent on so many of these international matters, including the excessive policies of Israel against an already displaced Palestinian people.  Yet, Arab, Jewish, African, and African American women found enough of a unified voice to write a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people.  I wonder why they could do it, but not our elected officials.  These women understand an important component of previous human rights struggles—including the Civil Rights and Freedom struggles that took place during the 1950s well into the 1970s in the United States—the international component.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X always placed Black American freedom struggles in an international context.  If you do not believe me, then read or listen to Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots” and listen to him rattle off the names of those nations and peoples that too many of us frequently ignore.  Listen to King speak poetically and prophetically against the Vietnam War.  These are only a few examples, often scary examples.  Yet, there are many others.

What happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri is going to resonate with other people in other parts of the world.  When we lost Trayvon Martin, you found people across the globe putting on “hoodies” in solidarity.  And, if it were not for the women of Nigeria taking full advantage of social media, most of us would never have known anything about the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls, who have still not been returned to their families.  Yet, when was the last time you saw a massive movement of Black Americans speaking out against and lending assistance to anyone outside of the USA.  Arguably, there has been no massive international activity on OUR part, at least not since the zenith of an internationally led movement that demanded that colleges and businesses divest from South Africa in protest of the country’s brutal and virulent social system known as apartheid, and that was in the late 1970s into the 1980s.

The question is when are we going to get our international legs back, and stop looking at what and who we are as if we are isolated in one country called the United States.  Does it not matter that two teenage Indian girls were gang-raped, and then lynched just a few months ago in Bengal, India?  Does it not matter that several hundred Nigerian girls were kidnapped and—sorry to say this—will probably never return to their families?  Does it not matter that former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stayed on top of the problem in Nigeria and spoken out about this problem of female trafficking in Nigeria and elsewhere, and more often than many Black American politicians and self-appointed pundits?  You are damned right it matters.

I can count on one of my former English professors to regularly post articles and his own occasional eloquent outbursts on his page on Facebook about many of the atrocities that happen to women worldwide and, also what happens to Black Americans—He, however, was born in Pakistan.  The Executive Director of Greenpeace International was born and raised in South Africa, and spent his teenage years in the anti-Apartheid movement.  He regularly articulates how women’s oppression, the problems with the environment and human rights struggles are tied together.  I knew something had become completely out-of-whack when the only men I could count on—with any real regularity—to lend their voices and support against sexism were men of color who were also NON-American.  The difference is, they can and do connect the dots and see environmental problems, discrimination and the persecution of women, and battles to end racism and/or ethnic violence as connected problems in ways that so many Americans simply do not.  Yet, a few Black Americans do connect the dots, but they are not part of what is traditional Black leadership, which is a good thing.

Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis—the Black teenage boy that was killed in Florida when a man shot into his vehicle over a quarrel about loud music—took his complaint about the senseless murders and expendability of young Black men to Geneva, Switzerland at the 85th annual meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The talks in Geneva run from August 11 through August 29, 2014. This was a bold move by Mr. Davis, but proof positive that he was paying attention in the sixties and seventies when international opinion about the United States government’s slow response to discrimination and racial virulence damaged the USA’s image abroad.  Both Mr. Davis and the women of all colors and nations who signed that Solidarity Pledge fully understand what Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to teach.  We can hope that some citizens in Ferguson, Missouri are paying attention.

Now, thinking internationally or being concerned with tragedies or the well-being of people outside of the United States will not stop police officers from killing unarmed Black male teenagers.  My interest and sadness over the senseless gang rape and lynching of two teenage girls in India several months ago will not stop the rape and abuse of women anywhere, neither will my continued anguish over the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria.  Yet, to be a Black woman born and raised in the American South is to understand that racism and sexism come from all quarters of the country of my birth, and indeed all quarters of the world itself.

To fail to see the connections I have with peoples who may or may not speak my language or belong to the same racial and/or ethnic and/or gender group is to forget the real lessons of the Civil Rights Movement—that WE are not alone if WE will simply acknowledge that WE need allies, and international allies at that.  Yet, WE will be alone if WE operate from the position that people in other parts of the world do not have anything to teach us.  WE cannot afford to function from the position that because WE dwell in the United States that no one else’s problems or persecution matters as much as ours matter.  If WE do, WE will have missed Martin and Malcolm’s most important lesson, namely that if WE labor alone, WE, and everybody else, will lose.

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

CCThis Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen & is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly and visibly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.