I Do Not Consent: Musings on Sexual Terrorism

In Commentary on November 18, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I am the history of rape

I am the history of the rejection of who I am

I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of


I am the history of battery assault and limitless

armies against whatever I want to do with my mind

and my body and my soul and

whether it’s about walking out at night

or whether it’s about the love that I feel or

whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or

the sanctity of my national boundaries

or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity

of each and every desire

that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic

and indisputably single and singular heart

I have been raped

From A Poem About My Rights by- June Jordan

I have been steadily dodging the writing of this blogpost, however the words you are reading haunt me.  I would like to say that my thoughts about rape began just a few months back, but this would be a lie.  As a woman, and especially a Black woman, unkept and unsafe, the threat of rape is almost as constant as breathing and books.  What I will say is that rape has been at the forefront of my thoughts since POTUS Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which may seem odd, although it is not.  Once the announcement was made, I became curious to see who else had been

nominated.  I consider myself solution oriented and felt that if I would denounce my support of the committee’s choice, I certainly would need to provide the name of a more deserving victor.

As I searched the list and read the stories, one name in particular was familiar to me, although unfortunately not in cheer. It was Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, who has dedicated his life to treating the women of DRC who are the victims of rapes so brutal that I would need an entirely separate blogpost to describe them.  Dr. Mukwege’s hospital is overrun with battered, tortured, mutilated women, whose only offense in this world is being born into it. In one province alone, over 27,000 rapes were reported, which accounts for at least 70% of the women living there.  While addressing the US Senate last year Dr. Mukwege made the following statement, that has etched it’s way into my memory much like my favorite lovers or Baldwin quotes, “It is important to point out that this sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner”.  It had never occurred to me previously to describe rape as terrorist or methodical, but therein lies the truth of it.

Moving forward in time, again my thoughts and heart are bombarded with the ugliness of rape after reading an article about a fifteen year old girl being gang raped by five boys as more than twenty people spectated.  My blood boiled so terribly that I assumed it was fever and that this world had been successful in literally making me sick.  And as I spoke about the incident on twitter, I began to receive all of these private messages from women who had been victims of gang rapes themselves.  I didn’t want to believe that such violence against women was so prevalent, so commonplace. Subsequently, the days and nights following the details of that rape were exhausting.  Thoughts of my and my daughter’s safety began to eat away at my sleeping hours, and I kept wanting to embrace all of the women who contacted me, somehow allowing my love to spill through my pores, providing protection where others had failed them.  Yes rape is terrible and a terror, even for those women not raped.

Rape is terrorism, especially if one defines terrorism as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce”.  Certainly, there is no stronger example that one could present to contest an individual’s (and possibly a group’s) humanity than a publicly viewed rape and torture, as were the cases in the Congo and in California.   Suddenly there did not seem to be so much distance between the US and the DRC.  Consequently, as tragic as these rapes are we cannot afford to limit our anger and remorse to these specific cases of abuse.  Sexual violence against women also includes sexual harassment/extortion, spousal abuse, incest and child rape (May peace be upon Shaniya Davis), forced sterilizations, and an overall inability to choose, as a woman, what happens to one’s body.   My revolutionary crush, Angela Davis, agrees, which I noted while reading an address she presented at Florida State University in 1985 entitled, We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society. She writes:

These particular manifestations of violence against women are situated on a larger continuum of socially inflicted violence, which includes concerted, systematic violations of women’s economic and political rights. As has been the case throughout history, these attacks most gravely affect women of color than their white working-class sisters.   The dreadful rape epidemic of our times, which has become so widespread that one out of every three women in this country can expect to be raped at some point during her life, grimly mirrors the deteriorating economic and social status of women today.

If we disconnect rape, and consequently, all sexual violence against women, from their socio-economic foundations, we cannot adequately discuss solutions to said abuses.  We dis-serve women by only acting or objecting to sexual abuse in extreme cases.  We have to understand that a woman should control her reproduction, or desired lack thereof- and be allowed to do so safely and with no judgment.  We must admit that, no matter how “provocatively” dressed or sexually explicit a woman appears to be, we have no right to objectify her and/or harass her.  We cannot emotionally abuse women, use women, treat them as receptacles, even if they contend that such treatment is okay, because we know that it is not. We have to sincerely view women as human beings before we can wholeheartedly respect and protect them.

There is no truth but this.

Please read the rest of June Jordan’s poem A Poem About My Rights here:

To truly understand the intersection of race, class and gender, please read Angela Y Davis’ Women, Culture and Politics

More on Dr. Denis Mukwege and his mission here:

  1. thank you so much for writing this. do you mind if i re-post to my blog?

    -L. (@loryn24 on twitter)

  2. Thank You- Love

  3. well stated…

    i’m not surprised about the congo…rape has always been used as a weapon of war. but the depth and breadth of it is staggering.

    all the more reason why women need to be elevated to their rightful place(s) in the world.

  4. Peace,

    I read this — twice in my travel and I still don’t think I have the words.

    I don’t know that, as a man, I can even capture the empathy I feel for (black) women the world over.

    I agree fully with sister Omi that the world has failed to revere its living Goddesses. I feel like I’m failing you all by not keeping you safe. I feel like less of a man because I’m nearly powerless to stop not only the full-out abuses, but the root behind it all.

    I’m so lost right now. I am now taking inventory of my own hand in this destructive behavior. Have I added to this? Do I subtract from it? I’m so unsure about so many things now. It all baffles me, confuses me. It flat out hurts me.

    I need to read this again and share it with my male peers. Perhaps if we Men continue to rub our noses in the oppression we’ve wielded, perhaps we’ll end this vile cycle.


  5. […] Wise Math Leave a comment Go to comments Peace. My good sister JoNubian penned one of the more enlightening blog entries I’ve read in some time. It stirred in me a variety of emotions ranging from sadness to anger […]

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. Though I can not fully articulate the words that I feel on the situation, this hits home. The world has done a horrible job with expressing the true value of a woman, particularly, a BLACK woman! Lots of Love. Peace

  7. What’s terribly noticeable is that some forms of group sex (many people with one person) are actually tamer forms of rape (if anything is ‘tame’ about it). It’s a psychological abuse and power that is taken as “acceptance” in the lowest of forms by the men from a woman. I have heard many in my collegiate days brag about teaming up with others to sexually misuse one female. In several cases, the Duke lacrosse team comes to mind with one female who just so happened to be of African descent. They often hear of a female’s past and dismiss the accountability of rape and/or assault and molestation due to the fact that a good lawyer and a woman’s personal life are weighted on the scales of justice, especially when it comes to Caucasian males. This does not dismiss the men of African descent, of course, wanting to be cowardly pressing their lack of manhood upon a woman, because of their failure to adhere to the respect of the male/female relationship. I could go on about Eurocentric beginnings throughout raping histories, however, the fact remains: Power isn’t bestowed upon one who dominates one with malicious intent. It is cowardice and proves to be hidden within the heart of the attacker.

    I would hope to never experience nor hear about rape from any person to come upon the shadow of my future. I have, however, dated plenty of rape and molestation victims, and I become easily mortified and speechless when it is revealed to me. One that I have seen in the past explained that trust was misused often, and she couldn’t speak on it to anyone who’d think she’d be lying, for the fact that they were all male friends of his. I’m not sure how to approach someone who has been unlawfully and spiritually breeched in a physical and mental sense. I am afraid for our future, due to the pop trends of females loving to physically “play fight” with males, as a tactic of adoration (as I see here in Third Ward, near the schools). What will be accepted as abuse then? What would constitute protection for those unaware and unprotected?
    I start to go back to a brother’s blog and rethink now…”Where did the brothers fail?” Or is this something learned?
    God help us if it is. Poignant blog, sista.

  8. Powerfully written and thought-provoking.

  9. mgreen410 basically said what I think after reading this. Powerfully written and thought-provoking. That’s all I can type about this subject right now.

    Peace & Blessings.

  10. this piece touches my heart.
    i live in africa where the cases of rape are so unbelievably high hospitals dealing with such and other cases of gender violence operate.
    there are towns like you said known for their cruelty against women and high rape cases even in non-conflict societies.
    speaking of conflict zones, somalia, sudan and notoriously the d.r congo have high cases where war is waged on women’s bodies and high stigma attached to women who have undergone this horrible trauma as you have mentioned in your piece above.
    my friend was raped. i found myself in a difficult situation that almost went wrong but didn’t and for that i continuously give thanks, but for those who were not so lucky, my heart aches for them. the constant fear of danger lurking condemns a happy life.
    i was in a women’s hospital where a woman who had just been raped walked in. i cannot explain to you what it felt seeing her in that state, eyes full of fear, anger, distant, stuck in a time and place her life changed forever while on the other side of the room an expectant mother with her baby’s father celebrating her sexuality. that contrast hammered the point home much further. would this woman ever get over this trauma of rape? would she be alright? would the perpetrators be brought to book? would she get infected with a life-threatening disease? i was wounded deep inside, like claws had been ploughed deep in the pit that is my stomach. and when i went home that night, i couldn’t sleep without writing about that. would she remain just another statistic? more needs to be done to protect women and children against sexual predators stalking the same earth we try to view through eyes of hope.
    so thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing this to your and the world’s attention.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: