BY: Francesca Sam-Sin Rezaie
January 19, 1989. I was 19 and a sophomore in college. I was a young sophomore because I started college at 17, but I was independent, fearless and didn’t care whether people liked me, my hair or my clothes. I didn’t blend in and I wasn’t a follower. My personality was not much different than it is now- opinionated, stubborn and at times, a little defiant.
It was drizzling, and I was rushing to get to my lunch date with my boyfriend, who, in perfect nerd fashion, had formally asked me to be his girlfriend the previous day. I hurried past a group of guys hanging out in the quad -the center of campus situated between four academic buildings- which included the campus bully, an intimidating football player and member of a popular fraternity, four years older but only two years ahead of me, academically. I often went out of my way to avoid him. He was loud, obnoxious and never passed up an opportunity to humiliate someone. This day was no different. As I passed him and his fraternity brothers, I did a generic, all-inclusive wave and tried to make it clear that I was on a mission. Destination: Jones Hall, the cafeteria where my boyfriend was waiting. I was almost in the clear, when I heard my name, “FRAN!” It was him. Yelling for me to come back, demanding to know why I was in such a hurry and what was more important than acknowledging him in a “proper, respectful” way. This was typical behavior for him. I told him I was late meeting my new boyfriend (“mistake” number one), and that I really needed to go. His response was: “Fuck him, he can wait!” I rolled my eyes and started to walk away (“mistake” number two). The guys laughed and he grabbed my arm and said: “You need to learn to be more respectful.” At 5’5” and barely 110 pounds I was no match for him. He was 5’11”, 240 pounds and built like a brick. He picked me up, flung me over his shoulder and started to walk toward his vehicle, which was illegally parked on campus almost daily. As I screamed for him to put me down, the guys continued to laugh and eventually went their separate ways.
He threw me into his truck from the driver’s side, and by the time I made it across the passenger seat to the other door, he was driving down the hill. I demanded he stop the truck. He said I had two options: apologize for being disrespectful or jump out of the moving vehicle. I chose neither, and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade insisting that he turn around and return me to campus IMMEDIATELY! My demands were ignored as he drove farther away from campus, lecturing me on how I could have made the situation so much easier by being respectful and simply apologizing. I was unamused, angry and defiant, growing more upset at the thought that my boyfriend was waiting for me, assuming I had stood him up. It’s 1989 and there are no cell phones. I can’t text or call him. Or anyone else.
We arrived at an off-campus trailer (I learned later that he lived with a police officer) and I refused to get out of the truck. He reminded me that it’s this same defiant attitude that created this situation in the first place. I ignore him, arms folded, staring straight ahead. He tells me that he needs to go inside to get a few things, promises to return me to campus and strongly suggests that I get out of the truck. I refuse. He walks around to the passenger side and pulls me out, picking me up and cradling me like a baby. He holds me over a large puddle of water, and again demands that I apologize for my “bad attitude.” I respond with, “Go fuck yourself! Put me down, NOW!” He complies and drops me. I’m covered in mud. He laughs, and feeling defeated, I start to cry. For a brief moment I see what appears to be compassion as he helps me up and says: “I’m sorry, I was just messing with you. I don’t want your boyfriend to kick my ass, so come on, and get up. I’ll give you some sweats to change into and I’ll take you back to campus.”
I believed him (“mistake” number three). After all, he wasn’t a complete stranger, he was just the campus bully- a jerk, a prankster with a mean streak who targeted both, guys and girls.
I stepped into the trailer and he handed me a pair of oversized university sweatpants, a matching sweatshirt and said I could change in the bathroom. I changed, grabbed my pile of wet clothes and as I exited the bathroom, I was face to face with him. I smiled uncomfortably and said “Ok, I’m ready. Let’s go.” He said: “Say thank you.” I smirked and responded sarcastically: “Ooh kaay…thank you.” I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes (“mistake” number four). He pinned me against the wall and tried to kiss me. I turned my head and tried to slide past him. He grabbed me, forced me onto the bed, aggressively pulled off my sweatpants and brutality assaulted me. I screamed and begged him to stop, and he told me that I needed to stop playing hard to get and that it would feel better if I didn’t resist. I fought, but lost.
How I got back to the truck is unclear. I don’t recall the conversation on the ride back to campus and I don’t remember him escorting me to my dorm room, but there I was…and so was he. My roommate was frantic, worried about where I had been because my boyfriend had come by repeatedly looking for me. As I was about to explain, my rapist interjected and told her that I had been disrespectful and needed to be taught a lesson. I verbally lashed out at him, feeling a sense of safety in the presence of my roommate. I was wrong. He said: “There she goes again. She hasn’t learned anything.” He removed the belt he was wearing, grabbed me like a small child, put me over his knee and struck me on my legs several times. My roommate yelled at him to stop and he laughed, sat me up and as he left our room, pointed at me and said: “Behave yourself.”
My boyfriend arrived later and asked what happened to me, why I was a no-show at lunch. I was embarrassed and traumatized, but I told myself that I could never let him know that I had allowed myself to be raped. There were visible marks on my legs from the belt so there was no getting around that. My roommate and I explained that the campus bully (unbeknownst to him, now also a rapist) was responsible. My boyfriend stormed out of the room and I later found out that he had driven to the trailer and confronted my rapist with a baseball bat. The following day I received a call: “Tell your boyfriend that the next time he decides to confront me, he better bring a gun, because I will shoot his ass.”
In the months following, my rapist was confident that I hadn’t shared his crime with my boyfriend or anyone else. Not even my roommate. However, as a means of additional “insurance” he initiated a friendship with my boyfriend, which began with an apology for the “spanking incident.” An apology to my boyfriend.
We occasionally had superficial interactions with my rapist which finally ended when my rapist graduated and my boyfriend and I broke up. The following year, he graduated and was drafted by the NFL. I continued my education at the university and graduated in 1992.
I told myself that their friendship would never last. After all, the threat (me) had been eliminated.
A few years after I graduated, my ex-boyfriend and I reconnected as friends, on Facebook and LinkedIn. He had retired from professional football and was a successful radio and television broadcaster, published author and motivational speaker.
In 1999, a college classmate shared that my ex-boyfriend and my rapist were business partners. I finally mustered up the courage to tell him what I had kept secret for 10 years. I felt that he deserved to know that he was doing business with a sexual predator. I told him my story and his response was shock and compassion. He was supportive and said that he wished I’d had the courage to tell him when it happened, and then glossed over his business partnership as a onetime investment rather than a long-term relationship. I was relieved.
Over the years, I have relived the experience in my mind more times than I can count, but I redirected my focus and got married, had children, obtained my Masters degree and became a Director at a hospital in one of the largest healthcare systems Texas. In 2016, I called my ex-boyfriend to discuss my need to confront my rapist. He advised against it. It was then that I learned of their continued business and personal relationship, how a one-time business investment turned into a close friendship, mentioning that he helped him write his papers to complete his masters degree. Despite his glowing endorsement of my rapist who had become a family man, attended church and joined him on family vacations, he expressed concern for my well-being and safety. He reminded me of how well-connected and powerful my rapist was and that he had the ability and the means to “destroy” me.
He had quite the resume: From campus bully and rapist to semi-professional football player to CEO to University Board of Trustees. Our university.
We continued our discussion via text message as he encouraged me to “heal internally” and expressed concern for what my “allegation” could do to the rapist’s reputation, business and family. The conversation went from “I’m really sorry this happened to you and that it still impacts you” to “after weighing what I know about him today, the conclusion is that it is unprovable and unknowable.” With that, our contact and friendship ended. I was devastated. The one person who was my protector for two and a half years in college and a supportive friend in the years after, was sounding like a misogynistic assclown.
On November 13, 2017, after confiding in two of my close friends (a man and a woman) I decided to contact my rapist, and prepared myself for it to go one of two ways: 1. He would respond, be accountable, accept responsibility, apologize and acknowledge that he was a bully in college who made awful decisions that he regretted and has spent the last 28 years becoming a better person, remorseful for any pain he may have caused. Or 2. He would ignore my message and pretend that it never happened.
It was both: He responded and he pretended it never happened.
I sent a message via LinkedIn and within seconds I received a reply. It was simple: “Hi Francesca. Thanks for reaching out! I’m open to talk.”, and he provided his cell phone number. I was hopeful as I’ve been told that I am an eternal optimist often giving the benefit of the doubt to people who are undeserving. I didn’t call right away. In fact, I drove around my neighborhood nervously and eventually parked in a church parking lot. I sat in my car for about an hour before I finally decided to call. I’d had 28 years to think about what I would say, except that I never imagined I would actually get a chance to say it to the person who raped and physically abused me. I finally called, and he answered on the first ring. He said: “Hello Fran. How are you?” My heart was racing. Suddenly, I was 19 again. I answered, “I’m okay.” And he said: “It doesn’t sound like you’re okay.” And I responded: “You’re right. I’m not.”
I took a deep breath and explained how difficult it was for me to make this phone call. He asked why, as if he didn’t know the reason for my call. I said that what happened in 1989 had a profound impact on me and shaped the person I had become and that as the mother of daughters, I would never want them to go through what I experienced. He sat silently as if he was waiting for me to enlighten him on the details. I started to recall the moment I was walking through the quad and he interjected “Oh! You mean that time I was teasing you and dropped you in the water?” Suddenly he remembered the exact day.
He remembered stopping me.
He remembered giving me a hard time.
He remembered throwing me over his shoulder and carrying me to his truck.
He remembered dropping me in the mud and offering me a change of clothes.
He even remembered using his belt to “spank” me and getting confronted by my then-boyfriend with a baseball bat. He also remembered apologizing (to my boyfriend), saying that he didn’t know I was his girlfriend, as if to say that a single girl was fair game. What he didn’t remember was cornering me and sexually assaulting me. That part, he conveniently did not remember. His voice was calm and confident, almost compassionate, but mostly, arrogant. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
He mentioned that he had heard my story before, from other people, asking him if it was true. He said that he had never touched me in a sexual way because he “could never do that to his boy”, so I reminded him that 1. He and my boyfriend were not friends at the time, and 2. His apology (excuse) to my boyfriend was that he had no idea I was his girlfriend.
Then, the bully emerged.
#1: Intimidation & Shaming. He said that during his recent conversations about me with former classmates, he recalled I was promiscuous, and that now, after hearing the story directly from me, he would need to consider going back to those people to get “documentation” of my promiscuity. So I told him that I would gladly provide him with a list of all my sexual partners, because the simple fact was that I chose to sleep with those people. He, however, raped me.
#2: Victim Blaming. “Why didn’t you ever come to me and talk to me about this back then?” I responded: “Quite honestly, I was 19 and you were extremely intimidating and I was absolutely terrified of you.” I purposely spoke in past tense. The truth is I did blame myself for providing him with information that ultimately motivated him that day: I made it clear that I was unavailable, spoken for, taken, and completely uninterested in him.
#3: Invincibility. When I realized that the conversation was not going in the direction of an acknowledgement or an apology, I assured him that my intention was not to ruin his life, his family or his career. That I simply needed closure and an apology would do that for me. He laughed, apologized (for laughing), and said: “I can’t apologize for something I don’t remember, and I’m definitely not worried.”
And finally, #4 Manipulation. At the end of our 19 minute conversation, I said I appreciated him taking my call. And, that despite his claim of not remembering, I would never forget. He responded: “Hey Fran, I want you to know that if anyone ever mentions your name to me in the future, I will always tell them that you’re a good person and that I always considered you a friend.”
Thank you for the endorsement. To me, you will always be a rapist.
Texas Law: Aggravated Kidnapping under section 20.04(a)(4) if the defendant committed the offense “with the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually"-from the day of the victim’s 18th birthday.
Update: On November 25, 2017 I emailed my story to the Executive Directors of the Alumni Association and Board of Trustees.
I have sat on my hands more than the required amount of time to maintain unity with groups who don't wish me well. We talk about Black men being kings, kangs, and leaders, but we throw folks away in the process of "building the Black community." More often than not, many men who are respected nationally and in the Houston community perpetuate homophobia and transphobia as love, they are just out to save the community from the white man, they say. But, anti Blackness can and does get perpetuated by Black men, Black men like Wesley Muhammad who claim that “Homosexualization of the Black Community is one of the clearest and most egregious illustrations of the US Government’s Scientific Assault on the Black Man.”
The molestation argument isnt working anymore as more and more poople who come out of the closet have not had the experience of some sexual predator attacking them, so they have moved on to the theory of chemically induced homosexuality. This assertion that homosexuality is a chemical attack, and that our existence is destroying the Black community is based your lack of acceptance of what has always existed within the BLACK community, HOMOSEXUALS! People like Muhammad actually are the ones who won't acknowledge the so called "elephant in the room," the one that has existed before he was a twinkle in your father's eye. WE are not some new chemical phenomenon, WE EXIST, and do I need to remind you that much of the movement for our rights have been led by HOMOSEXUALS, BISEXUAL & TRANS folks who are indeed BLACK?
"You know what destroyed the black men in my family? Drugs, the selling of them and or the usage. I watched the men I looked up to reduced shells of their former selves. I looked at my dad through bars for years, while my mom struggled to keep us above water. Most of us have been and are currently being impacted by this. But yeah sure let’s talk about the “feminization of the black man.” - Raymond Lawson - Pink
I have always had the question in the on my mind of whether or not Cisgender, Heterosexual Black men and women stand with me and others when we need them? It seems like the common answer is a strong "no" when it comes to "pro Black" people like him and his hotep ass friends. It hurts when I think about it and it really shouldnt to be honest, when Black men and their "pick mes" (see Black women who agree with them) say crap like this. When I see Black folks, I see folks that I want to protect and shield from a system of oppression, while feeling a shoe on my throat.
Its their shoe that I feel!
Take your paranoid ass shoes off of our throats and let us live! We are supposed to love, protect and respect each other from any harm towards our Blackness and that may even include ourselves. The only chemical attack is the physiological produced from the stress you bigots induce when you make quacky claims. It leads me to believe that that your faction only thinks that straight Black folks should exist and that you would stop short of full genocide against people who are not like you. The facts are available, but you dont like the facts and your refusal to stop demonizing us when all we want to do is live and love. There is no way to stop us from recognizing our sexual orientation and gender identitiy.... we don't need your acknowledgement. WE EXIST.
We know that rape and molestation does not cause homosexuality, now I will add that Chemicals dont either.
Now that we have identified that this theory is crack pot as fuck, Know that you are not welcome in Houston. Your mission to spread false claims through this event will force me to protest you and the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center. YOU are the assualt on Black America, You are ANTI BLACKNESS.... didnt anyone every teach you that ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER? Whether we are Homosexual, Bisexual or Transgender, we are being murdered because folks believe your bullshit message! Every year BLACK Trans people get murdered, at least 21 (17 Black) were murdered this year. Black people, even Black CHILDREN are being murdered for being percieved to be or for being homosexual....
At a time when Black people are under attack for just being Black, we are attacked for just being who we are. It is deeply insulting that this event would take place in the same week that 21 murdered Black Trans people are being memorialized on the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20). The planners of this event, those who extended this invite to you need to know that we have to do better than this. This fracture is for bullshit, why be pro Black if you are going to only honor SOME Black lives?
I, WE ARE DEMANDING THAT YOU CANCEL THESE EVENTS!
IF you do not, we will be at 3903 Almeda Road to protest and ultimately boycott the S.H.A.P.E.Community Center. Your mission statement says the goal is "to improve the quality of life for people of African descent (all people) through programs and activities with an emphasis on Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith" and this event does not reflect that assertion.
ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Pride Houston we Had a Problem...
This situation arises from the allegations that I wrote about on my blog S!N Blog last year. In a two part story I outlined the issues that have plagued Pride Houston with Quijano at the head of the organization. On June 29, 2016 I wrote about how a board member resigned in protest of Quijano and a source leaked it to me...
These are the issues outlined via the leaked letter:
"I simply cannot be part of an organization which conducts itself with such little regard for legal requirements and obligations, fiscal accountability, and the pitiful relationship that Pride Houston and you specifically have with the volunteers, sponsors, and the community at large."
"The power of this organization should never lie with just one or two people, it should be a much broader range of individuals. It should also have a much wider landscape and demographic which has been missing for a long time. May I remind you, the CEO, that as with any Non-Profit Organization, the CEO/President works at the pleasure of the Board of Directors, not the other way around. The CEO answers to the Board, the Board does not answer to the CEO, and that is not how this organization runs itself. The CEO of Pride Houston, Inc. is far too involved in the everyday decision making of the organization while excluding the Board on many levels. This should never be done, as it is the Board who should be making the most major decisions and not the CEO."
"Now is the time to take action, to make Pride Houston, Inc. the standard for LGBTQI organizations in the Houston area. Now is the time to make the Board of Directors truly diverse. It is time to have Lesbians, Transgender, African American, Bisexual, Allies, and other demographics represented to help make decisions that are truly inclusive of all. After the Juneteenth “issue” in 2015, there was to be a “Diversity Committee” and when I tried to put one together at the first volunteer meetings in September and October of 2015, I was told to “hold off” on building that committee and that it would be addressed at a later date. That never happened."
TRANSLATION: Frankie Quijano you need to resign!
Pride Houston Bylaws (2016)
I broke my silence about what happened to Ashley Yates and refrianed from sharing too much of my opinion in order to make sure her story is being told. Today, I will be going deeper into what has transpired and what continues to transpire in this situation.
On Thursday, Ashley broke her silence in an email outlining the abuse that she had to endure during her relationship with Shanelle Matthews. While it was a liberating moment for her to break her long silence, the response from the Network leadership was and still is tepid. I was included in the email thread and I saw WHO got the email... I saw who responded. In this moment, people I really care about and look up to have disappointed me in their silence. Silence that gives the feeling of cover up, that gives the sense of being diminished and I refuse to sit by and be silent. So before I continue here is the original email thread:
The response from Nikita Mitchell (BLM staff) gave me a little hope just by responding...
Thank you for this letter, and for the push to be in a process of transparency and accountability.
We, BLM Global Network leadership, are taking this very seriously. Speaking for myself, as the Director of Organizing, I am committed to co-creating a process that is rooted in our guiding principles, transformative justice, and our deep commitment to our values and shared liberation.
You didn’t state it explicitly, but it sounds like a process of transformative justice is a good next step. If you agree, I think it’s best to have this process held by someone outside of us who shares can move the process forward, and generate outcomes that offer accountability and transformation. I can begin doing outreach to neutral third parties, and suggest someone this week.
Two questions: Are you open to this facilitated process? And, if so, can you get on a call with me today or tomorrow to determine next steps?
We have spoken to Shanelle, and she is committed to this process."
But what is transformative justice?
Transformative justice - Is a general philosophical strategy for responding to conflicts. It takes the principles and practices of restorative justice beyond the criminal justice system. It applies to areas such as environmental law, corporate law, labor-management relations, consumer bankruptcy and debt, and family law. Transformative justice uses a systems approach, seeking to see problems, as not only the beginning of the crime but also the causes of crime, and tries to treat an offense as a transformative relational and educational opportunity for victims, offenders and all other members of the affected community. In theory, a transformative justice model can apply even between peoples with no prior contact.
I am really confused by the silence of folks at every level of the network, especially the ones who can make a decison to REALLY deal with this situation. Most likely they are behind the email and website response , but It is just isnt enough. honestly, it never will be enough to take back the pain Ashley felt and he follow up email from Nakita (which may very well be "well meaning") sounds like they are putting the responsibility on Ashley to handle a situation....
Nikita: "Good Morning,
Ashley, I am following up on my previous email regarding our recommendation that a Transformative Justice process happens in order for the multitude of harm to be addressed and resolved. Since your last communications, we have seen your Medium post and your call for accountability. We fully support a process that brings accountability to the forefront, as well as, restoration.
Again I ask if you would be open to a TJ process, and if so I would love to get on the phone with you soon to help shape said process. We are not trying to dictate or guide it, but want to be of absolute support. Shanelle has also committed to going through a TJ process, and have taken a leave of absence from her staff position to purse this process with integrity.
Please email me or call me at [REDACTED] so that we can chat.
...that only BLM staff can rectify. Which is how to deal with Shanelle being in a leadership roll while calling out all forms of abuse and injustice. The word liability comest to mind and thats exactly what Shanelle is now. The fact is that Shanelle took it upon herself to write a response, that contained microaggressive gaslighing and tepid admission to her role in abusing Ashley:
There is little doubt that this statement was drafted after the email thread occurred and right before the official email that circulated internally, along with their subsequent pubic statement. SEE BELOW.
THE INTERNAL RESPONSE
THE PUBLIC RESPONSE
WHY THE NETWORK RESPONSE IS PROBLEMATIC