Trigger warning: This essay contains graphic imagery of rape and abuse.
I had just turned 21 when he raped me. I had a very fulfilling social life as a college junior, writer and editor, scholar, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I brought smiles to those who knew me -- and he still raped me.
I met him at a party in March 2013. We locked eyes, and it felt like we'd known each other forever. He had a familiar swag, like someone I would meet back home in Atlanta. I'd adjusted really well to life in North Carolina, but I still embraced any thing that reminded me of home.
That night, we danced and exchanged numbers before we went our separate ways.
We began texting and talking on the phone, and I learned a lot about him over the next few weeks. He'd moved to North Carolina in 2013 to start a new job. He had no family or friends in the area, but was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
He'd connected with some nearby fraternity brothers, which was how he ended up at the party where we met. I thought I'd found something special: He was a dad, funny, good to talk to, and very southern like me. After a few weeks, I decided to visit him in Asheville, N.C.
Driving over two hours alone to a place I'd never been before made me nervous, so I gave my sorority sister his full name and address. Then I took off, driving to the North Carolina and Tennessee border to see a guy I'd met twice and thought I'd built a connection with. I couldn't have been further from the truth.
I arrived late at night, so we went to sleep soon after I got there. I asked him to keep his distance while we slept, and he did. We hung out the next day, and learned more about each other. He had some sexist beliefs, like thinking women shouldn't hold leadership positions, especially in church.
As a burgeoning feminist, I was even more surprised that his mother, a single mother, told him that women aren't meant to be a part of the clergy or lead based on her interpretation of a scripture.
His beliefs about a woman's 'place' should've been a sign. But being naïve, I thought that there had to be more to him than his nonsensical beliefs. After dinner, we went back to his place and talked more. Time flew by, and I realized I'd stayed too late and wouldn't have enough daylight to safely drive two hours.
Against my better judgment, I decided to stay the night and leave early in the morning. I thought he'd stop when I said no like the night before. He didn't take no for an answer this time. I moved across the bed multiple times to get away from him, but he wouldn't relent. I pushed him away and asked him to stop.
He grabbed me and pinned me down instead. I knew what was coming, but I decided not to fight him because I didn't want to make myself a victim. I didn't cry because I didn't want him to know he's the reason for my tears. I didn't try to fight him off. He had already won, but I needed to keep some kind of power, even if was only over my display of emotions.
Ques, or members of the same fraternity as my rapist, often say "Running from it will not save you." I have no idea what this actually means, but it's always brought up in a sexually suggestive situation -- and it was all I could think of in that moment.
It hurt to have him inside me, but I couldn't move. I felt frozen seeing the face of someone who once reminded me of home putting me through a new kind of hell. I couldn't believe that he was doing this to me.
And then the humiliation got worse.
When he felt himself about to climax, he flipped me over and came on my back. He smiled and chuckled as he got out of the bed and handed me a towel to clean myself up. I had never felt so dirty in my life. I felt like one of those girls in cheap pornos that I would never tell anyone I've seen before. At least they agreed to that type of sex. He left me to clean up his mess like I wasn't worthy of chivalry -- or at the bare minimum, consent.
I didn't get much sleep after. How could I be laying next to someone like this? I darted out of his apartment as soon as I saw the tiniest sliver of sunlight. When I returned to school, I stayed in my room for a week.
I went to class, but I couldn't bring myself to be in any other space with other people. My roommate knew something was up, but thankfully she didn't pressure me to tell her. I just couldn't utter, "He raped me."
A list of questions kept running through my mind: Why did I go to his house? Why didn't I just leave when I planned to? Why did I stay when I realized he wasn't going to take my no? Why didn't I fight back? Did not fighting back make him think I was asking for it?
Who would believe me if I reported what happened? How would reporting it affect everything he's worked hard to attain? Who was I to ruin his life? How would this affect his daughter? I grew up without my dad around so could I live with knowing that I would be the reason that another little girl grew up without her dad?
These were the questions I asked myself for an entire week before I was able to tell someone what happened. These are the questions that I still ask myself to this day. I still have no answers, so while I eventually told my sorority sisters, I've never filed a report and I never will.
I can silently deal with the pain he's caused me, but this would ruin him publicly.
I didn't report my assault like the majority of rape victims. On average, only 33% of rapes are reported, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
My attack also happened while I attended an HBCU, which may be an underlying reason why I didn't report my attack. Sexual assaults are less prevalent on the campuses of HBCUs but they do happen, according to a 2010 federal study conducted by RTI International.
Similarly, a BuzzFeed article published in January suggests that the familial environment and respectability politics at HBCUs keep female students from reporting their assaults. Staying silent is a way to protect the smaller percentage of Black men who also attend.
This notion was cemented when a Spelman student sparked a national conversation by anonymously speaking out against her Morehouse rapist. My thoughts, and I suspect that the thoughts of many other women who have been attacked while attending an HBCU, mirrored the words of Dr. Angela Amar, who told an NPR reporter, "It's like you don't want to turn in the 'brother' that's doing well."
I couldn't press charges against him and be the reason for his demise. I couldn't be the Delta who told on a Que. I couldn't stomach being the reason he lost his career and all that he had worked hard to get away from in Texas. Most importantly, I couldn't live with knowing that my allegations could force a little girl to grow up with her dad living freely.
I didn't even want to think about the possibility of his daughter traveling to a prison to see him. I convinced myself that I kept quiet for her.
But, I'll admit that it's hard to accept that the men -- Morehouse men for Spelman sisters and Omegas for Deltas -- in our community who swear to support and protect us are the ones we need protecting from.
The case of an unnamed woman raped behind a dumpster near Stanford University took me back to that moment three years ago. I completely understand the mental strife an assault causes. Fortunately, she pursued criminal charges against her attacker.
She persevered, even with the odds stacked against her getting justice. Less than 1% of rapists are convicted and incarcerated, according to RAINN; Brock Turner will soon join that ridiculous club, since he'll only serve three months of a six month sentence.
Her letter to Turner reminded me of my attack and the damage it caused to my sense of worthiness. I allowed my experience to silence me, but she mustered the strength to use her voice -- and now I'm using mine.
My rapist didn't ruin my life but he caused great damage. His attack made me question so many things -- deciding to go to college out of state, joining a sorority against my grandmother's wishes, potentially bringing aspiring Deltas into Greek life knowing they might meet the same fate, studying hard and partying harder, 'roadtripping' to those parties and deserving this because my mother and two older sisters were raped too.
I wish I could go back and change some of my decisions but I can't. I can only remind myself that my rape doesn't define me and try daily to convince myself, and the world, that I am worthy of pure love always, all ways.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.