Black Women Betrayed: The myth of ‘the strong Black woman’

JAZELLE HUNT | 2/6/2015, 9:45 a.m. | Updated on 2/6/2015, 1:10 p.m.
A woman gets raped every two minutes in the United States. According to the U.S. Justice Department, nearly 1 in ...
Sharita J. Lee is forced to revisit her rape of 20 years ago in the midst of the Bill Cosby controversy Sharita J. Lee

“I would’ve never thought, prior to that moment, that that was something he had done before, but it happened so fast,” she said. “I couldn’t even say ‘what happened,’ I just felt him go in. In my mind I’m thinking, ‘Wow, is this happening, are you serious?’”

Afterward he got up, apologized, kissed her and left. She didn’t move. She couldn’t speak. When he was gone, she got up, cleaned up and cried. Then she carried on as if nothing had happened.

“Every time I think of my grandfather, that comes to mind,” she said. “My grandfather died, but I was supposed to go and see him that night. And I didn’t go because I was dealing with my friend. And that friend raped me. It’s like, oh my God, if I had been where I was supposed to be – you know, all the would’ve, should’ve, could’ves.”

Called a ‘whore’

At the time, Lee told exactly one person: her then-boyfriend, when he came to visit her on the Navy base after her grandfather’s funeral.

“He responded by calling me a whore. He said I invited it and cheated on him, purposely,” Lee recounted.

They argued all night and ended the relationship. The reaction pushed her into stoic silence.

“I never told anyone else,” she said. “That was the first time I actually went that far, and for his reaction to be the way it was … I felt humiliated but I also felt unworthy.”

Slowly, she lost her bearings.

“I became very promiscuous. I put myself in the mind of a man. However they thought that they could handle a woman, is how I began to handle them,” she said. “I know I was angry and bitter for some time. I was drinking a lot – try to couple that with being in the military – and I was having sex a lot.”

Her pain hardened to numbness, then curdled into a bad temper, worsening as years slipped by and hardship bubbled up. There was the birth of her first child and a young and unhappy marriage and then divorce at 25.

“I was 28 when I first sought therapy. I went for depression, because my brother was murdered. I was having anxiety attacks, but I couldn’t cry over it,” Lee said. “I realized I’d hit rock bottom in my emotions, or lack thereof. I knew I was to my limit with not dealing with anything.”

Path to healing

Today, Lee is the only person in her immediate family who has sought professional help as part of dealing with her trauma.

“People are afraid to go to therapy – my mom is afraid, in my opinion, that she is going to hear the absolute truth. It’s facing your truth, I think, that’s hard for people.

“… The biggest thing for me was allowing myself to deal with whatever hurts I had buried. I had to have healing in my own home. I told my husband and my sister things … I’m not a writer, but I wrote … dealing with my mother, stepfather and my father, writing letters to them … As time went, I felt better,” Lee said.