Today on twitter I shared for the first time that I have been the victim of sexual assault, unfortunately, twice in my life. It was something I never planned on sharing, but recently on social media I’ve felt backed into a corner and accused of not understanding the feelings of victims and worse, not caring. No matter how I tried to keep things light, the weight of the situation kept falling on me. I do find it compelling that I have been so heavily scrutinized regarding this subject matter considering I’m not the only person connected to it. Sadly, I find that women tend to hold other women responsible for everyone in these instances, and wouldn’t you know I’m the only female here. Today I’d had enough of it and I broke my silence on a real life situation.
Why now? Well, to be honest, I’ve never wanted to speak out. Many haven’t been as lucky as me in these situations. Able to endure, move on and continue to thrive. And let’s be honest, the current climate is a dangerous space to speak your truth ESPECIALLY if you’re a public persona. Many times, we are discounted just because we aren’t “real people”. Things become heavily dramatized, stories get manipulated and the pain from these experiences tend to grow rather than subside. Instead of uplifted we are shamed and made into a spectacle. People make jokes and light of our real life situations. You cannot imagine how painful that can be unless you’ve been a public person in a deeply personal situation and had it subject to every Jack-with-an-opinion’s thoughts. Nonetheless, I don’t hate myself, so I didn’t wish that upon myself. Secondly, my situations were handled. Difficult as each one was to face, I spoke out and was relieved to be met with professionalism and respect for doing so. Not everyone is so lucky. Many aren’t believed and are made to feel like things were their fault, when they weren’t. No matter what you wear, no matter how flirtatious you may be, no matter how someone else perceived you, there is no excuse for someone taking advantage of another person that cannot defend themselves. When these things happen, many times people are silenced. I remember confiding in a friend on the second situation and telling her I was going to come forward. She said “well, he’s going to get fired. Can you live with that?” Not the response I had expected, but I’m sure people have said MUCH worse and been shamed into holding it in and just hoping someday they forget.
I was angry today when I came forward to another survivor that had found somethings related to my wrestling career to be distasteful and coming from a place of ignorance. I came forward to show that indeed I’m not ignorant to such abuse and don’t take it lightly. I’m angry because I felt pushed to pull back the curtain into my private past to pacify other people. I think it’s wrong to force people to be good enough for “the world”. I’m more sensitive about the topics of black slavery and racism than the assault topic. Everyone is different. But I know when I see portrayals that it’s just that. That’s different than me walking down the street and finding a black man bleeding today because he was assaulted by a group of KKK members. Ever seen Get Out? That made me squirm in my seat but that can’t discount the quality of film it was. I’ve had white people tell me I’m not black because I don’t have a big ol’ booty (exact words). People suck sometimes, but you can’t hold it against everyone. My twitter account says THEBRANDIRHODES...doesn’t it? No one is surprised that RHODES is a stage name right? Cause some of y’all attacking me are the same who attacked me when I took on the name saying “I didn’t deserve to use it” All of this to say...you know the difference between a persona and a PERSON.
I’m not going to share details of these accounts, I don’t want to. What I will share is what helped me speak out in these events, Incase someone is going through this right now and afraid. If you’re asking yourself if this is your fault, it is not. So stop asking that question, or trying to find a reason to justify someone else harming you. Next, think about what happens if you don’t tell someone. Three things can happen. It can get worse, it can hopefully just go away and be forgotten, OR...it could happen to someone else. That was the one that I couldn’t shake. Suppose my situation just went away, and then I found out later it happened to someone else. Suppose my speaking up could have prevented that? I couldn’t let my fear allow that possibility to become a reality so I spoke up.
Thats all I have to say about that. And, if you’re a survivor, don’t forget that these events unfortunately are common. They happen to people like me, people like you, the lady you just yelled at in the grocery line, the professor you cannot stand, the family member you’re annoyed by. It happens to people. I don’t know how this works for everyone, but finding healing is key to moving on. For me? I found healing in friends and family and I found healing in the things I loved. I tried to keep my life rich with those things. Life isn’t perfect. But it’s nice to enjoy things and not feel personally and defensive every time the subject matter comes up. It’s going to come up, and you’re not going to always like it. But learning to deal with our feelings is very important. It’s part of self love, and that starts within ourselves!