Dear 21st Century African Girl,
I’ve thought long and hard about typing this post. It was going to be a twitter thread but I realised I had too much to say and a thread just wouldn’t cut it. It’s been almost two weeks since I was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance from the media industry and I’ve spent all this time trying to a) deal with it b) decide how to address this.
I’m calling it sexual assault because this is what this was. By general definition Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity or contact that you do not consent to, and I did not consent to this.
The other weekend I had been invited to my friend’s birthday party. It was a Friday night and by virtue of who my friend is, many people from the media and media-adjacent industries had shown up to celebrate her. It was one of those events where if you didn’t know someone directly, you’d most likely heard of them or seen their name in a work email.
Her party was held in a big open room, a gallery to be exact. Said acquaintance walked in and proceeded to say hi to the two guys I’d been talking to first. My ‘hi’ came third and during my interaction with this guy, my two friends had turned back to each other and continued talking. We said “hi”, and hugged as per usual and then he decided it was a good idea to motorboat me.
I was shook.
Urban Dictionary defines The Motorboat as:
“Vibrating ones lips over a females, hopefully large, chest.”
My first reaction was to scream, “What the hell!?” To which he replied simply, “Sorry.”
So I said, “I’ll probably tweet about this later, but right now I’m walking away from you.” (Funny how Twitter seems to have become a threat these days.)
At this point I had only been at the party for about 45 minutes. I walked back to my group of friends, who promptly noticing the change in my demeanor asked what was wrong and I told them. They too were shocked.
After about 30 or so minutes, after my shock turned into anger, I finally worked up the energy to tell the two friends I’d been standing with what happened. They advised me to talk to him, and honestly I wanted to deck him so bad but it was my friend’s party and the amount of restraint it took to not cause a scene was on a whole other level. A little later I confronted him about it and all he basically said was, “sorry” and “I wasn’t thinking”.
Firstly, hats off to the ladies (especially) and the men who’ve held me down on the night and since the incident happened. In narrating this incident I’ve gotten many reactions. Firstly, everyone has been appalled by this. So we all agree that unsolicited motorboating should not be a thing.
That incident made me think about a lot of things and brought to mind many emotions. I spent the whole weekend subdued and largely mute going through the motions. If you’ve never been violated before whether in being or your space I’d like to share some thoughts that ran through my mind, and if you have I’m sorry for the triggers if any. I’m sharing my thoughts in the rawest form of how I felt and perhaps still feel them.
I asked myself Why me? Why must I be the one to experience this? Who the hell does he think he is? What the actual hell just happened? I thought about so many things. I was so angry. I felt dirty, and exhausted and still I kept on partying. I refused to let it get to me. Because every time I stopped to attempt to understand that 5seconds of that night’s timeline I felt myself about to breakdown.
That seemingly small inclusion to the clock turned my weekend upside-down. It brought back 18 years’ worth of emotions I’d been battling from previous abuses. Emotions I was so sure I’d dealt with, and had swept under the rug came tumbling down like a ton of bricks. I was paralyzed and I hated it.
Knowing exactly the sequence of emotions you’re going through because of trauma and being able to pinpoint the changes makes the hurt different. I got mad at myself for feeling things I knew I would feel as I was feeling them. The duality of emotion is not fun.
I spent 3 hours after that incident socializing and dancing because that’s the reason I’d left the house in the first place, and also because I needed to distract myself. I got home at 1am and then the tears and hyperventilating started. Being in my own space, my safe zone, I had nowhere to go to run away from my emotions, no choice but to feel.
So I woke up the one person I knew would most likely be able to calm down because that’s just the kind of person he is. I was scared he wouldn’t pick up my call but he did. I started my call apologizing for waking him up. He could tell I was distraught and assured me it was ok. And in-between fighting back tears I told him what had happened and why I thought I felt how I did, and he listened.
That’s probably my favourite thing about that interaction. He listened and kept me on the phone for an hour, until I had gone through the motions and was able to genuinely laugh again. He told me “we’d be ok” and that “we shouldn’t let him get to us.” I suppose those statements were enough to calm me down. He made it a point to assure me I wasn’t alone and that my emotions were valid. And that this incident didn’t change who I was.
I remember saying all I wanted to do was stay in bed and never leave my house again. The next day I was committed to attending the #YellowCard protest and he advised me to go. He said “you can’t let this disturb your plans. Do what you’d planned to do, we’re going to be ok.” Again, more reassurance that I wasn’t by myself in this. So I went, joined the protest and afterwards I spent a pleasant afternoon with my friends. But it was hard.
If you know me personally, you know I’m a chatterbox. I had very little desire to talk that weekend, but I’m getting my voice back. It’s a work in progress, but we keep surviving.