Breaking the Silence on Sexual Assault Pt. 1

Part 1

“With Badge In Hand”

There is a part of the movement for Black lives that is clearly focused on the survival of Black males.  We are indeed concerned with what our brothers, fathers, sons, friends, lovers are experiencing as a result of racism.  But, if we’re really going to do the work of helping the males in our communities heal, we have to not only battle against racism, we also have to break the silences in-house about some very painful places where our boys and men are hurting. 

Patriarchy insists that to be male (to be a man), is to be invincible.  Racism suggests that to be black and male is to be both threatening and invincible at the same time.  These are the kinds of myths that prevent us from seeing the vulnerability of boys and men who have experienced sexual assault, and whose healing is even further complicated by racist ideals about the threatening nature of Black male embodiment.

This week Detective Kevin D. McNeil dismantles the stigma that prevents us from seeing and caring about the pain that males who have experienced sexual assault have been forced to hide for far too long. 

Kevin D. McNeil

When it comes to violence toward women and children we need an extreme case or a celebrity offender before we have a conversation about abuse. And most of the time, we don’t believe it unless there’s some kind of picture or video proof because we don’t want to admit that abuse is happening every day.  The majority of abuse cases have no videos. There are no press conferences. For the majority of victims there are people like me, a Special Victims Detective.

As a Special Victims Detective, abuse is a subject matter I know all too well. I interview abuse victims. I spend hours listening to little children recount how they were sexually molested by someone they trusted. I have walked into hospital rooms and examined the dead bodies of children who were killed by parents. I spend relentless hours putting together court cases that place suspects in jail. I take pride in getting justice for abuse victims.  However, there is one victim I still have not been able to vindicate. That victim is me.

When I was just fourteen years old something happened to me that would change me forever. While walking home from a friend’s house I was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by an unknown adult male. After sexually assaulting me, the man straddled my bruised body, placed his hands around my neck, and began choking the life out of me. As I grasped for air all I could think about was my family.

I quickly thought about the concern and worry they would have for me if I came up missing. I knew I did not want to die this way so I fought back with all the strength my little frail body and bruised ego could muster up. I finally broke the man’s grasp, jumped up, and ran as fast as I could toward the open highway. The only thing that stood between me and death was a barbed wire fence.

I leapt over the fence and almost ran into the busy highway. Cars slowed down thinking I was some crazed person trying to commit suicide. Once the man noticed cars slowing down he decided to run in the opposite direction.

Grateful to be alive, I began my long walk home. My mind raced, “How would I explain to my mother coming home hours past my curfew wearing only a pair of muddy pants?” I thought about the embarrassment I would feel telling my family that my first sexual experience came from a man who forced me to do unimaginable things.

As a fourteen year old boy who already had self-esteem issues this would be the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I was so worried about what people would think about me, that I never pondered the severity of what had just happened.

The fact that I was almost killed or that I was sexually assaulted never crossed my mind. All that mattered to me was how I would look to my family and people who would hear my story. So when I finally got home I told my mother a lie. I told her that some boys in the neighborhood attempted to rob me but I got away. Since we lived in one of the roughest neighborhoods this was not difficult to believe. My mom offered to call the police but I told her it was not necessary.

The next day I went to school like nothing ever happened. In fact I spent the next three years playing high school football in the same stadium where my assault took place. Very few people know what happened to me that night, including my mother.

Every story of sexual assault is different, but the feeling of having to “move on” while hiding what happened is common.  Kevin’s process of “moving on” has been a long one, in which he found a way to work through (rather than deny or avoid) the pain by taking a strong stand to help others. 

The man who raped and tried to kill Kevin was never found, so his 14 year old self never saw the kind of accountability that he has dedicated his life and career to seeking for others in his work.

Every day that he shows up, speaks up, and does the intense work of tracking down people who use violence to harm others is another day added to his own healing, faith, resilience and strength. 

When he’s not on the clock, Detective McNeil is hard at work as a motivational speaker and consultant who focuses on empowering “individuals to recover their true, authentic selves and live out their life purpose.”  Find him on Facebook at KevinMcneilBElieve.

Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. She currently resides in Pennsylvania and enjoys writing about culture, religion, and social justice issues. Follow her on Twitter @smcrumpton1.

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