Why I'm Participating in Slutwalk
Okay, I'll say it. I do not get why some women of color (WoC as some like to say) feel an initial disconnect from Slutwalk. I am a WoC. During the summer break from school in 1962 I was gang-raped and had my nose broken at the age of eight by 17 kids from the neighborhood, ranging from 7 to 19 years old. Two of the participants were girls.
I was dragged into the campus stadium, up all of the walkways, to the top, fighting, kicking, screaming, out-numbered. I was held down by the biggest girl. The other girl unzipped my shorts off, tore away my panties. "How could you ?!" I yelled at her. One of the boys punched me in the nose; I heard and felt it break. My blood sprayed him and several others. I continued to yell at the top of my lungs.
When they were finished, they ran off, laughing. I got up, pulled up my shorts and chased them in a blind rage. I was in unbelievable pain but I didn't care at the time. I caught up to the one that had broken my nose, tackling him. Sitting on his chest I was able to land one, good, solid punch. Momentarily I was gratified at the sound and feel of his nose collapsing under my fist. Then I was pulled off of him and thrown against the wall.
They escaped. I ran out, screaming, crying, bleeding. I saw a taxi, and tried to flag him down. He slowed down, I jumped in. He got out and tried to pull me out of his cab. Fortunately, a white man passing by came up and told the white driver to let go of me and to take us immediately to the hospital. My rescuer asked me if I knew where my parents were, could I talk. Through sobs and gasps I told him how to contact them. They worked nearby. The driver cursed me, and threatened to sue my parents if I got blood in his cab. My rescuer snapped at him to shut up an drive; couldn't he see I was hurt. Once at the emergency room, he took charge, demanding that I be treated for what had happened.
Somone said that they weren't going to treat me because I wasn't his child. Furiously he told them they had better, that he knew my parents that they were already on the way. A nurse came and took me to a room, where she began to try to examine me. I can honestly say I wasn't very calm. But her voice was soothing. She explained that she "had to look there". But I couldn't let her near. Then a nurse I recognized came into the room. She said that she would take over. She wiped my tears very gently and explained that it was necessary. She also said that I needed to have my nose x-rayed.
I couldn't put my face down into the mold for the x-ray. The tech said I had to, but the pain was excruciating. My nurse told him to wait a moment for her to get me something for the pain. She left the room, he said something into the intercom on the wall. Suddenly two big orderlies burst in, grabbing my arms, holding me down. The x-ray was taken, but by then I was beside myself.
When they let me go, I grabbed a chair and threw it at one of them. It connected. He cursed me and lunged at me. Just then my father ran into the room, followed by two other hospital workers I recognized to be friends of my Dad. They yelled to leave me be. The mean orderlies left. The other two whipped out syringes and each one gave me a shot, one in each arm, simultaneously. Later I found out I was given morphine, for the pain and to calm me down. My dad picked me up, and clutched me in his arms, tightly against his chest. "Who did this to you?!" He hugged me.
He carried me to another room, escorted by his friend-orderlies (they were chess players like my father). My mother was there. When she found out I had been given something for the pain, she became livid, saying that it wasn't necessary."Children don't feel" were her exact words. Then she commenced to berate me for having to have to leave work on account of me. There were two fat, red-faced police officers waiting. At first, the police were interested in the crime. However, when the description of my attackers did not agree with the descriptions of some perpetrators who were alleged to be attacking white girls and women in the area, they stopped interviewing me and walked out of the hospital room, saying "who cares about some little nigger girl getting raped, anyway?" They looked at the man that rescued me like there was something wrong with him. Since my parents were there he prepared to leave. Before he walked out of the door, my father shook my rescuer's hand very vigorously, and thanked him. The man said that there was no way he could have possibly not done what he did. He even apologized to us for the cops' lack of concern.
As angry, hurt and confused as I was before, I was not prepared for the unbelievable rage that then encompassed me. My mother told me to forget about it. In fact, her reaction was that somehow I had brought it upon myself. She had called me from work, to ask me to bring her the can of coffee she had forgotten to take with her. In her mind I had taken too long to bring it, although I left immediately after she called and walked the twelve blocks to her job. It happened on the way back home. She called me "damaged goods" and said that I was now worthless.
My father had a far different reaction. He asked me if I could really identify them and were they indeed from the neighborhood. I assured him that I could. When we left the emergency room after my nose had been set/pushed back into place, he asked me if I was up to looking for them. My response was absolutely yes. I was out for blood.
It didn't take long to find them. A mere three blocks from where we lived, I saw them out in the street, laughing and recounting what they had done, much to the enjoyment of the others outside with them. They were quite pleased, bragging and laughing. They said that they had "taught that bitch a lesson, thinking she's better than us, talking 'white', going to the private school instead of the public school." I was ready to leap out of the car, but my father wisely restrained me. He told me he would "take care of it". That night, he announced to us after dinner that he was getting out of shape, and was going to go running.
It didn't take long for our paper boy to hear about what had happened to me. I was surprised that when he came over that he already knew. He was always very helpful to us generally, assisting my mother and I on the weekends to carry groceries home from the store. He would also do odd-jobs and errands for some of the elderly in our building. After church on Sundays, (he was Catholic, and went with his family) Arrow would come over and he and my Dad would play chess together; my father having taught him a few years before. Arrow was about twelve or thirteen, I think. He too, asked me if I knew who they were. I told them who; he said that they were in a rival gang to his. I didn't know what he meant. "Like West Side Story", was his reply.
This was news to me because he was so soft-spoken, and always behaved with decorum. He was extremely polite and courteous to his elders. He was even trusted to go to the bank for the landlord, to make the rent deposits. In fact, my Dad gave him permission to call him by his first name, but Arrow demurred, saying that it wsn't proper for him as a child to address adults by their first names.
Arrow told my parents that the neighborhood was "changing", and that I would need more protection. He started walking me to and from my ballet, art and music lessons. Someone he introduced as his "cousin" accompanied me to and from the YMCA, where I swam regularly. Arrow taught me to use a knife, how to open it quickly, throw it, sharpen it. I learned to play mumbly-peg, a knife-throwing game, and became proficient.
Meanwhile, he and my father started trolling for my attackers. My father referred to it as "going for a walk", code so that my mother would not know what he was really doing. But I had my suspicions. Gradually, stories started surfacing that kids were disappearing, kids were getting stabbed, knifed. I monitored them, but did not recognize the names. One summer afternoon, Arrow came over. He had blood on his white T-shirt, his hands. There were a few flecks on his jeans, but they weren't very noticable. He asked me if he could wash up in the bathroom. I agreed, took his shirt, and brough him one of my father's to put on. While he was doing that, I washed his shirt out in the kitchen sink, using bleach to remove any stains. Of course I pressed him as to what had happened to him. All he would say was that I probably wouldn't have any more trouble. He said I was "protected".
I never mentioned any of it to my parents. My curiousity aroused, a few days later, I gathered my courage, and I walked over to the block where my attackers lived. There were lots of cars on the street. People were dressed in their Sunday clothes in the middle of the week. There was a lot of weeping and wailing by several women. The men looked very somber, dressed in black. I observed very dark stains on the sidewalk. Innocently, I asked one of the adults what was going on. The woman was not dressed up; she had curlers in her hair. She said that three of the boys that lived on the block had been killed. "From an accident?" I asked. "No", she replied. "They was stabbed, and last week they was two more disappered. No one has seen them".
I thanked her for telling me. She admonished me to "tell my Momma" and watched for a while longer. Then I saw one of the girls that had been a part of the group who attacked me emerge from on of the apartment buildings, crying "I want my brother! Why is he dead?" Then I knew. As quietly as I had come, I retreated not wishing to risk being identified.
After that I never spoke of it to anyone. A few weeks later, Arrow came by to tell us that he would no longer be our paper boy. His family was moving to another part of the city, too far for him to deliver to us. Everyone in the building said they were sad to hear this; he was such a good boy. Arrow winked at me, shook his head, put his finger over his mouth. I winked back and nodded. I understood.
Later we heard that several families from that street had moved away, that they were afriad for their children. No, I did not feel the slightest bit of guilt. I still don't. I'm glad. I'm not sorry. I am proud that my father and Arrow rose to the occasion. My only regret is that my mother blamed me for what happened.