When you are a 20-year-old single mom who is beautiful, working, and living in your own apartment, you tend to feel as if you have it all together.
Until someone rapes you.
Back then, I was no Miss America ladies, but I had a shape that would stop traffic, the face and smile of an angel, and a voice that could soothe the most aching soul. Okay, I was all of that and more--and it had taken quite a while for me to get to that place.
It took mere minutes to take it all away.
The morning that I was raped began as any morning would.
I got up, fixed my daughter a quick bowl of cereal with bananas and an apple on the side, and then she was off to the sitter, while I headed to work. After I completed my duties at work, I headed home and was ready for a hot summer night. My typical night consisted of dinner with my daughter and a lift to the park to play with her, before taking her to grandma's house, while I played until the wee hours of the night.
It was steamy out, and of course I was dressed the part.
A group of us were listening to music, dancing, and having a great time. I decided that my daughter would stay the night at Grandma's house, so I had to go get her clothes from my house. While I did not want to make trip, I knew that she needed the clothes. However, I could not find anyone from the group to take me because they were having just too much fun.
One volunteer emerged from the sidelines, and it was a family friend that we will call Uncle Cletus. He was seemingly drunk--but I needed a ride--and I just wanted to get the clothes and head back to the group and party for a while longer. I hopped in the ride, he cranked up the music, and we headed to my apartment.
Upon arrival, he asked to use the bathroom.
I thought, it's Uncle Cletus, he's been drinking, and it will only take a second. Ok, let me insert caption of "don't be so naïve," right here.
We entered my apartment. I headed for the bedroom to get my daughter's clothes, and showed him where the bathroom was located.
As I packed my daughter's bag, I felt a presence in the room. I turned around to find the "family friend" half-naked and looking at me with the most evil eyes.
I laughed it off because I thought, "he's drunk and I need to get him the hell out of my apartment."
However, it was too late, he charged at me, attacked me, and the rest has become a part of my painful mental and physical history. It was hell getting out of there and back to my daughter that night.
I was threatened and feared for my life if I ever told, so I never said a word for many years.
Even after getting back to my family, I endured years of being in the same room with him for family functions, because I was mentally afraid that something might happen to me or my daughter.
So why do you need to know about this chapter of my life? You need to know because someone out there has experienced the same horror and she is still living in fear of what may happen if she tells.
You need to know because I don't want your daughters, nieces, sisters or friends, being naïve about certain situations. Watch for the potential warning signs, and just be alert as women.
As I reflect on that night, the warning signs were there, but I did not pay attention to them.
My signs were:
· He was intoxicated. Never ride in the car with someone who is intoxicated because you risk losing your life and theirs.
· There were sensual stares and brushing up against me before this night, and that was NOT normal for a family friend that is supposedly considered my "uncle."
· Do not allow men into your home with the "can I use your bathroom?" ploy. There are plenty of restrooms in public places, send them there.
I will also say that women must take self-defense classes, report it when something like this happens, and seek professional counseling.
Don't allow years to go by as you're held hostage by bottled up hurt, anxiety, and fear of what may happen.
You deserve a fear-free life.
Stand up for you, and claim it.