All Articles Tagged "rape"
Fox Searchlight seems to be a little shaken up. After their $17.5 million investment into Nate Parker’s film The Birth of a Nation, it seems that they could possibly lose some money if audiences are unwilling or unable to forgive him for his past “indiscretions,” to put it lightly.
In case you’ve missed it, 17 years ago, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin (the man who co-wrote The Birth of a Nation with him) were accused of rape. Celestin was actually convicted but the case was thrown out when the victim refused to testify a second time. But Parker was acquitted because he and the young lady had had consensual sex before. If you read the transcripts from a conversation with the alleged victim and Parker, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. And the testimony of another man who was there at the time of the incident paints an even worse one. Not only were they accused of rape, afterward they spent weeks antagonizing their accuser, following her after classes, to her dorm room, revealing her identity to fellow students.
Then in 2012, after a couple of suicide attempts around the time of the incident, the woman finally succeeded in taking her own life.
These days, though Celestin is credited as a co-writer for the film, Parker has chosen to distance himself from him. Even though according to testimony, it was Parker who summoned Celestin into the room, with the alleged victim back in 1999. And Parker has said that Celestin was the first person he ever told about his Birth of a Nation idea.
Today, he says: “I wrote the screenplay by myself,” Parker said, adding that no one helped him on the first of 40 drafts he’s worked on since 2007. When pressed about Celestin’s contributions, Parker said obliquely: “I just did a lot of research. I hired a lot of people. I had researchers. I had all kinds of people. I just wanted people to feel whole.”
The emergence of all these details had many wondering whether or not they should still support the film. I’ve said that I could not. And there are others, perhaps most notably, writer Roxane Gay, for The New York Times.
In a recent article for Variety, sources close to Parker reveal that he is a bit surprised by the reaction.
Likely because the facts of his rape case have never been hidden. It’s been featured on his wikipedia page for years now. According to Variety, a source who has been in close communication with Parker says that “he’s in a low place…He vacillates between thinking the case is resurfacing now after 17 years because of a Hollywood conspiracy against him or just bad luck. He’s disappointed over the backlash on social media and that the African American online community hasn’t been more supportive. And he’s even mad at himself, for underestimating the public’s interest in a court case that happened so long ago.”
Well, I won’t speak for the whole African American community, but I’m disappointed in Nate Parker. I would have loved to see The Birth of a Nation. But it’s his actions that, albeit a while ago, that are distracting people from what I’m sure was a beautifully made, game-changing film. And while we’ve all made mistakes we wouldn’t want drudged up and made public, I’m willing to bet that most of our mistakes didn’t forever alter the course of someone’s life. As I’ve said before, it would have been convenient if this rape scandal presented itself at the beginning of Nate’s career, so he could have moved past it by now. But that’s not how karma works. It comes when it’s ready. And it’s something like poetic justice that Parker finds himself disappointed and low, probably in the same ways the young lady did when he and Celestin were taunting and harassing her after she reported the alleged rape.
As much dissent as I, and a few other vocal people online, have expressed. I doubt that the film, if it is released as planned, will suffer. Instead, I’m sure that there are plenty of Black folk, mostly men, who believe, like Parker, that this is some type of twisted conspiracy to keep the Black man down. Even after the White man put $17.5 million into the project. I’m sure there are those who are able to separate the art from the artist.
We’ve all done it at one time or another. Woody Allen is nominated for an Oscar every other year, even though he married his ex wife’s adopted daughter. Marv Albert sodomized someone and NBC makes sure that he eats very well. R Kelly’s track record with little girls is disgusting but he’s still touring, selling out venues. Bill Cosby still, after 50 + rape accusations, has people who swear he’s Heathcliff. And even me. I love me some Al Green and James Brown, though they were both notorious for abusing their wives and girlfriends. Even my beloved Prince, God rest his soul, had a questionable relationship with Mayte, most likely before she was of legal age. There is a lot the public is willing to forgive, especially if there is art or entertainment value attached to the person. Who knows where their heads will be in a few months, when it’s time for the movie to come out. Maybe then, we’ll all have forgotten, rationalized, dismissed, or completely ignored our disappointment for Nate Parker’s actions 17 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nate Parker is a little less disappointed in the Black community come October.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”
Nate Parker has been in the news a lot lately and unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. It’s been a little over a week that Parker, who wrote, directed and stars in the hotly-anticipated film The Birth of a Nation, chronicling the slave revolt led by Nat Turner, found himself regurgitating details regarding an old rape allegation from 1999 that had conveniently resurfaced during his press run.
While many are wondering whether or not to support Parker’s film, which sold for a whopping record $17.5 million at Sundance, one man has his mind totally made up. Rev. Al Sharpton believes the resurgence of the case that was already public information for nearly a decade is simply a sabotage to turn the anticipation for the film flaccid.
“I want answers,” Sharpton told the New York Daily News. “I’m suspicious.”
The details of the rape trial show that Parker was acquitted of all charges, but it still could definitely sway the buzz, support of the film, and even award nominations, which Sharpton strongly questions—especially the timing.
“If a person is accused of a crime and is acquitted, are we now saying they should not be considered for an Oscar?” asked Sharpton.
Parker, a now 36-year-old married man and father of five, addressed the case in two various interviews so far. After finding out that his accuser committed suicide in 2012, he wrote a Facebook post:
“While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is mortality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and a person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Sharpton’s suspicions?
As more details arise in the rape accusation case against Nate Parker at Penn State, the editors of MadameNoire discuss what should happen next. Should Fox pull the plug on Birth of a Nation? Should audiences boycott the film? Should the actor apologize for his actions or is his latest statement enough? And how long should a formerly accused rapist atone for his wrongdoing? Watch and weigh in with your opinion below.
Nate Parker Addresses Latest News: “No One Who Calls Himself A Man Of Faith Should Even Be In That Situation”
Nate Parker’s life has become one shocking headline after another as fans first struggled to accept the actor’s white wife last week prior to much more pressing news of a rape accusation in college followed by the disovery the accuser committed suicide in 2012. It didn’t take long for many, including us, to come to the conclusion that dismissing a charge as serious as rape as a something that merely happened 17 years ago wasn’t enough for the man poised to usher in a new chapter of great fame with the release of Birth of a Nation this fall. And even Nate Parker himself seemingly agrees, having shared this response to the latest unravelling on Facebook.
These are my words. Written from my heart and not filtered through a third party gaze. Please read these separate from any platform I may have, but from me as a fellow human being.
I write to you all devastated…
Over the last several days, a part of my past – my arrest, trial and acquittal on charges of sexual assault – has become a focal point for media coverage, social media speculation and industry conversation. I understand why so many are concerned and rightfully have questions. These issues of a women’s right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult. And more personally, as a father, a husband, a brother and man of deep faith, I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.
I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family.
I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.
I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.
I cannot change what has happened. I cannot bring this young woman who was someone else’s daughter, someone’s sister and someone’s mother back to life…
I have changed so much since nineteen. I’ve grown and matured in so many ways and still have more learning and growth to do. I have tried to conduct myself in a way that honors my entire community – and will continue to do this to the best of my ability.
All of this said, I also know there are wounds that neither time nor words can heal.
I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will. Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.
Do you accept his response?
When I first saw the words rape and Nate Parker in the same sentence I thought he was speaking on the Stanford rape case or some other infamous rape case. I figured since the story was being tweeted about, he’d probably said something side-eye worthy. After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.
But when I clicked to see the “ridiculous comments” he made, not only did I find the comments I was looking for, I also noticed that the rape case folks were talking about, was Nate’s.
In case you missed it, over the weekend Ashley Monae wrote about a 1999 rape case against the actor, writer and director. But I’ll summarize quickly. According to Variety, in 1999 Parker was a student and wrestler at Penn State University when he and his friend Jean Celestin were accused of raping a 20-year-old, fellow student in Parker’s apartment. Both Parker and the woman acknowledged that they had consensual sex with each other before. But the young woman said that, on the night of the assault, she was unconscious and did not consent to have sex with either Parker or Celestin.
According to court documents, which I encourage you to read, Parker was eventually acquitted of the charges based on the fact that he and the alleged victim had had sex on a previous occasion. Celestin though was found guilty and sentenced to 6-12 months in prison. The mandatory sentence for rape at the time was 3-6 years but the judge departed from that sentence because of the letters that were written on Celestin’s behalf, some of them from officials at the university.
Celeste applied for a retrial and in 2005, the case was thrown out because the young lady did not want to testify again.
The rape is troubling enough. But it’s what happened afterward that is also disturbing. In these same court documents, after they were accused, arrested and then released, the university took no action against Parker and Celestin except suspending them from the wrestling team. According to the alleged victim’s report, Parker and Celestin “began an organized campaign” to harass her. The two hired a private investigator who showed a photo of the young woman to students on campus, asking for information about her. In doing so, the private investigator exposed her identity to her peers and her alleged rape was publicized. As a result, the young woman became a target on campus and was no longer able to eat or socialize in public areas.
Not only that, she accused both Parker and Celestin of standing outside her classrooms and following her to her dorm. They enlisted the help of their friends to direct sexual epithets toward her as she matriculated throughout campus. Though she reported the incidents to the University and campus police, they took no action. After attempting suicide on at least two different occasions, the woman dropped out of school. She went on to sue the university and was awarded $17,500 in a settlement.
Parker and Celestin went on to write, direct, star in and produce an award-winning film that secured a huge budget from Fox Searchlight.
And I know y’all read Parker’s comments before, but I think they’re so interesting they bear repeating.
He told Variety:
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now. My life will be examined and put under the microscope in ways that it never has. There are numerous things that are surfacing, but I’ve always been an open book. I’m an advocate of justice. I’m an older man. I’ve matured a lot. I’ve had many obstacles in my life. I grew up very poor. My father passed away. There are so many things that happened. At the same time, I am the man that I am. I am open to the scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past.”
And then, as a bit of a rationalization.
“Look at it through the context of 17 years,” he said. “It was a very painful for everyone who went through it. What I learned through 17 years of growth and having children and having a wife and building a family is that we have to fight for what’s right. We have to lead in love.”
I can’t be the only one who finds his comments odd. If I were accused of something I didn’t do, I would say, vehemently, that I didn’t do it. I mean, being cleared by this country’s justice system isn’t all that telling. George Zimmerman was cleared. Darren Wilson was cleared. The Stanford swimmer, a rapist, was basically cleared. And while the aforementioned people all posess the “get-out-of-jail-free” card that is Whiteness, the same privilege is often extended to men, regardless of race, when it comes to rape cases. The crime is just not taken or prosecuted seriously. There are thousands of rape kits that go untested. There are far too many judges who ignore mandatory sentencing mandates when it comes to sexual assault. Even police officers try to intimidate or insinuate to women reporting their rapes that there was something they’d done to deserve their assault. Hell, some of the police officers are the ones raping these women.
That’s not enough.
Furthermore, Parker mentioned the number 17, five times as if the passage of time was a rationalization for something. “Look at it through the context of 17 years.” I’m sorry what does that mean? Rape 17 years ago is still rape. Its affects don’t have an expiration date. It affects people more than people may know or understand. In 2012, the alleged victim took her own life, at 30-years-old, leaving behind a son. In an interview with Variety, her brother Johnny said that he watched his sister’s life slowly crumble after the 1999 incident. He placed quite a bit of blame on Penn State’s handling of the situation but also spoke about the justice system at that time. “He may have litigated out of any kind of situation. My position is he got off on a technicality… I think by today’s legal standards, a lot has changed with regards to universities and the laws in sexual assault,” he said. “I feel certain if this were to happen in 2016, the outcome would be different than it was. Courts are a lot stricter about this kind of things. You don’t touch someone who is so intoxicated–period.”
Parker mentions growth and maturity as if there was indeed something he needed to grow and mature from. He says he’s an advocate of justice and believes in leading with love. But what does that mean in the context of the question at hand?
The part that tripped me out the most was “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.” What does that mean? If there were no crime committed, what exactly would he need to relive?
And then, I wonder how he and Celestin were able to move on as partners. By Parker’s logic, since Celestin was found guilty, it must mean he did indeed rape the young woman. How was he able to continue working with a convicted rapist? But forget that. We know that at one point or another, Parker and this woman did have consensual sex. They’ve both admitted that much. So Parker didn’t have an issue with his current partner sleeping with the very same woman he had? All of it is just strange.
And Fox Searchlight knew Parker’s comments were strange. It’s the reason that they’ve altered the way The Birth of a Nation is being promoted. They initially planned for Parker to speak at churches and colleges to drum up buzz for the film. Now, they’re taking a “hold off” approach. And Parker is no longer doing press for the film. Because while Parker said he is not ashamed of his past, he certainly didn’t handle the questions well. And in the meantime, Fox is waiting. Waiting to see if people care about the rape and death of a woman from 17 years ago.
As for the victim’s brother, he believes the decision of whether or not the movie should be supported is “up to the people.” Johnny said, “I don’t think a rapist should be celebrated. It’s really a cultural decision we’re making as a society to go to the theater and speak with our dollars and reward a sexual predator.”
There was a third man who left the apartment after he realized what was going on. You can read his account of the evening below.
You can also read a conversation between Nate and the woman after the incident here. Again, very telling.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor for MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of the recently released book “Bettah Days.”
Actor, director, writer, and permanent #MCM of many ladies, Nate Parker, has been heating up headlines this new year when his movie The Birth of a Nation had a successful premiere at Sundance in January and scored the festival’s largest sale of $17.5 million from Fox Searchlight.
However, the multi-hyphenate’s hotly-anticipated film and its Oscar campaign is being overshadowed by a rape trial from his past. According to Variety, in 1999, Parker, a then student and wrestler at Penn State University found himself and his roommate Jean Celestin — who actually co-wrote the story for “The Birth of a Nation” — in a snafu as they were both charged with raping a 20-year-old female student in their apartment after a night of drinking.
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker told Variety. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
During that time, Parker did admit to having sex but claimed that it was consensual. The young lady had an opposing view point, saying that she was not only unconscious, but did not consent to having sex with Parker or Celestin. “She also claimed that she was stalked and harassed by Parker and Celestin after she reported the incident to the police,” Variety reports.
The incident cost Parker suspension from the wrestling team. Subsequently, he later transferred to a college in Oklahoma. Two years later, he went to trial and was acquitted based on testimony that he had previously had consensual sexual relations with his accuser. However is roommate was found guilty and served six months in prison. Celestin appealed the verdict, and a second trial in 2005 was thrown out because the victim didn’t want to testify again.
After the young lady sued the university and was awarded a $17,500 settlement out of court, nearly a decade ago, the specifics of the trial are bound to be scrutinized as Parker begins a month-long press voyage.
“My life will be examined and put under the microscope in ways that it never has,” Parker said, referencing individuals on Twitter who criticized him for having a white wife. “There are numerous things that are surfacing, but I’ve always been an open book. I’m an advocate of justice. I’m an older man. I’ve matured a lot. I’ve had many obstacles in my life. I grew up very poor. My father passed away. There are so many things that happened. At the same time, I am the man that I am. I am open to the scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past.”
During the interview with Variety, Parker, who brought along his 6-year-old daughter declined to speak about the case at length.
“Look at it through the context of 17 years,” he said. “It was a very painful for everyone who went through it. What I learned through 17 years of growth and having children and having a wife and building a family is that we have to fight for what’s right. We have to lead in love.”
Late last year, we reported that Nicki Minaj’s brother Jelani Maraj, was charged with raping a child.
Today, new information was released that doesn’t seem to be working in his favor at all.
According to an exclusive on our sister-site Bossip, prosecutors revealed that Maraj’s DNA matches the semen found on the 12-year-old accuser’s clothes.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said that Maraj’s DNA profile was more than a billion to one match of the semen on the victim’s pants.
“…A DNA profile, a partial profile matching the defendant or consistent with the defendant, your honor, to the point in the hundreds of billionths of chance of it being any other individual, was discovered in the…pants of the complainant in this case, and also tested positive indicating the presence of semen,” Anthony Pirri, the assistant district attorney told the judge at a hearing July 26 in Nassau County Supreme Court’s sex crimes division.”
The victim told police that Maraj raped and sodomized her from April 1 to November 30, 2015. He was arrested the day after the alleged rape.
A grand jury later indicted Maraj on felony child rape charges, including predatory sexual assault against a child and first degree sexual conduct against a child.
Prosecutors offered him a deal of 15 years-to life, the case is still set for trial in November.
Before Maraj, who has worked for his sister, was indicted, the District Attorney’s Office offered him seven years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea to the sexual conduct against a child in the first degree change. But Maraj rejected the offer.
During the hearing, Maraj did not testify. He only spoke to confirm his name and that he understood that the next hearing would be in August.
He still pleaded not guilty and is out on bail.
I don’t care how much money he or his sister has, a child molester should not be free to roam the streets. Period.
— Avery. (@Philosavery) May 3, 2016
Can I be honest with y’all? I’m so tired of reporting about rape stories. They take a lot out of me mentally and emotionally. So yesterday, when I stumbled across the story about a new Twitter profile with the user name @RapedAtSpelman, I skimmed the story but decided not to report on it.
It was one we’d heard before.
Similar to one I’d discussed briefly just a few months ago. There are plenty of stories in which the needs, even the urgent ones of Black women, get pushed to the back burner for the mere comfort of Black men.
But today, when I read all of the tweets from the account, including one that said, “The Dean also said that Superman and Morehouse and brother and sister so I should give them a pass,” that I realized I couldn’t ignore it.
The problem is too big, there are too many women’s lives and safety at stake and far too many boys and men who still need to be educated about rape and rape culture.
And really, I don’t have to tell the full story, they were all laid out there in the tweets.
When the tweets started gaining traction across social media, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman, issued this statement to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“Our hearts go out to this student and I want to personally offer her our full support and assistance. We are a family at Spelman and we will not tolerate any episode of sexual violence. No student should ever have to suffer and endure the experience she has recounted on social media. Spelman is conducting a full and thorough review of these events.”
Many people tweeted in solidarity for the anonymous young lady, even asking that the all male HBCU issue a statement on the allegations.
— Chandlerr✨ (@xochandlerr) May 3, 2016
As of now, they have yet to do so. And in their silence, #RapedByMorehouse became a hashtag, sparking an intense discussion online.
There were those who wondered why rape wasn’t being associated with predominately White and Ivy league institutions. Again, proving the point that the reputation of the institution was more important than a young woman having been violated to the point where she can no longer attend the college she once loved.
Thankfully, this student’s tweets inspired a demonstration on campus with several Black women who were fighting for the end of rape culture on college campuses.
— Avery. (@Philosavery) May 3, 2016
Hopefully their efforts and the attention they draw to this international issue will result in some policy and mindset changes.
“I Never Got A Chance To Heal:” How One Survivor Came To Terms With Being Raped While Her Attacker’s Mother Was In The Same House
When many women create online dating profiles, their first thought isn’t that they will encounter rapists, and yet earlier this year VICE reported that the incidence of online date rape has risen within the past six years because offenders use “the ease of access” afforded by dating websites to lure “potential victims not thinking of them as strangers, but someone they have got to know.” JJ, an anonymous survivor of online date rape shared her account of being attacked by a man whom she met online with us. Read on to understand her story, how the attack changed her view of rape, and what advice she would give victims as she continues on her journey of healing.
MadameNoire (MN): How old were you at the time of your attack?
JJ: I was 22 years old at the time of my attack; it was 24 days before my 23rd birthday. I met my rapist –I seriously don’t remember his name, it is something I repressed so deeply, but I think it starts with a J — on an online dating site, either OK Cupid or Plenty of Fish. We talked for a few weeks, did some casual things, like Starbucks for coffee, before he invited me to his house. He was the same age as me, a recent college graduate, so he was still living at home with his parents.
MN: Can you walk us through what happened?
JJ: The day I came over, his mom was home so he had to sneak me in. We watched TV in his room, he showed me his diploma and college things; it was very casual. We hooked up a little bit but I didn’t feel comfortable doing more. He kept going and I said, “No.” He ignored me and even though I pushed him off, he pinned me down to where I couldn’t fight him anymore. I gave up fighting him. I was terrified. I was too scared to scream, too scared to move so I just laid there and waited until he was done. I don’t really remember what happened after or even me leaving his house. I was so numb and in shock. I just wanted to get home. That’s when my tire burst on the Long Island Expressway (LIE). That whole day was extremely stressful; I’m honestly not surprised that I repressed what happened for so long.
MN: What was your perception of rape before you were assaulted?
JJ: My perception of rape before it happened was largely based on myth and fiction. I watched a lot of Law and Order: SVU and thought rape happened in dark alleys and by abandoned buildings. I never thought it would happen to me. I mostly thought that rape was perpetrated by older men, criminals, and “creepy” guys; it was unfathomable that a rapist could be my own age, someone fresh out of college and who surely dealt with all of the consent campaigns most college campuses had. I know some people looked down on rape victims and asked about what they were wearing, the circumstances, etc. but I never held any of those viewpoints before I was attacked. I always believed the accuser and felt sympathetic. I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself if I held any other notions on rape, especially since I ended up being attacked.
MN: Did you seek legal ramifications against your rapist?
JJ: I did not pursue any legal action against my attacker even though I know could have. At the time of the attack, I was not in a great place mentally. My father was dying at the time and I did not want to stress and shame my family by going through the ordeal of a trial. I also worried that my sexual history would be on display because when I was in college, and even before I started talking to my attacker, I did hook up frequently. I did not want to be judged by anyone or be labeled a slut. I still can report the crime if I want because the attack is within the statute of limitations and I do have proof of the attack — he messaged and texted me apologizing, asking for forgiveness, etc. — but I probably will not because of the time that passed.
MN: Did you share that you were sexually assaulted with your family members or friends?
JJ: It was easier to share that I was sexually assaulted with my friends before my parents. And even then it took me two weeks after the incident to say anything. And I only told my one best friend and a few coworkers at my previous job that I trusted. It took about a month after it happened for me to tell my parents. They were so upset and my mother wanted to know why I didn’t report it, why I didn’t tell them sooner, and it’s awful because I was more concerned about stressing out my family than my own mental health. I told my therapist almost by accident and she was shocked at how nonchalant I was about the whole thing. Only then did I realize the extent of what really happened to me. If I didn’t see her for a session when I did, I most likely would have repressed the whole incident.
Marcie Gerald was your average Midwest teenager. She was a member of the Rainbow Girls, a Masonic youth organization that teaches leadership training through community service. She took dance classes, modeled, acted in her school play, was loved for her humor and was “an amazing little girl.” But all of that changed after she was sexually assault.
At the time Marcie was 14; her rapist somewhere between 28 and 30. Recently released from the Illinois Department of Corrections, he saw the young teen walking down the street one day and her life would never be the same.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Marcie’s mother, Elizabeth Gerald said. “Before [Marcie] was raped she was beautiful. She was an honor roll student, she was interested in going to Harvard Law. After the rape, she was very depressed; she spiraled down, she would sit in the tub and scrub herself raw. She would have anxiety attacks. It was like night and day. He took her soul the day he assaulted her.”
The day of the brutal attack Marcie sent a text to her mother saying she had been assaulted. “I thought maybe she got into a fight or something,” Gerald recalled. “She told me where she was and when I got there she was crying and she told me what happened.” Gerald called 911 and officers transported the teen to the hospital; her uterus and ovaries were so inflamed she couldn’t walk. When doctors administered the rape kit, they immediately knew who Marcie’s rapist was because he was already in the system. But catching the man who sexually assaulted her didn’t stop Marcie from feeling raped over and over again in the court room when she had to face her attacker during his trial. In order to take his plea deal, the repeat offender had to confess every detail of his crime and, according to Gerald, that’s what made things worse.
“[Marcie] became suicidal after that. [Her rapist] had to tell everything he did and the bad thing about it is to this day, as far as I know, he’s never really showed any remorse. I don’t know if he knows she’s deceased or not but never once did he apologize. He would look at her and wink. He just kept saying, ‘Look at how pretty she is.’ He basically told her that if she wouldn’t have been so pretty he wouldn’t have been so attracted to her and that was why he attacked her and that made her feel worse, to know you’ve been raped because you have a pretty face. He never took any responsibility.”
It was the court room experience that actually convinced Gerald to push for her daughter’s rapist to take a plea deal. During the trial, Marcie would come home and cut herself after hearing her attacker’s testimony. “I said we can’t keep doing this; we have to take the plea and get it over with.”
Marcie’s first suicide attempt took place in April 2014. Her older brother, Hermari, found her lying on the floor of her bedroom foaming at the mouth after drinking bleach. EMTs took her to a pediatric hospital where her stomach was pumped and she spent time in a mental health hospital for a couple of weeks after the incident. The second time Marcie attempted suicide by cutting herself. The third time, Gerald said, was after her daughter’s rapist took the plea and confessed to sexually assaulting her. “She had to relive it all over again and she never got over that.”
Because Marcie’s rapist threatened to have members of the Chicago gang Gangster Disciples harm her and her family, she began homeschooling following the attack. Freshman year she was placed in a therapeutic school and still maintained honor roll standing while getting treatment from the Laynie Foundation, a non-profit mental health agency in Matteson, IL.
“She would have her ups and downs,” Gerald said, “but the last year, 2015, was just a bad year for us because my sister died of cancer in January, then my brother called me crying saying his son had been murdered, one of my best friend’s died. It was just death after death after death and I think it was just too much and it pushed her over the edge.”
July 19, 2015 would prove to be the day Marcie could no longer put up the fight, though by all accounts the day was like any other Gerald said. “That Sunday she had a regular day; we had Sunday dinner, we went to church. Marcie was into healthy hair and her weight so we would go to the health food store and she would get natural soaps and products and I asked her did she need me to do anything for her before I laid down and she said no.
“She did ask me to make her a bath — she liked lavender oil and almond milk bath beads — so I did that and she took a bath and relaxed and I laid down. After midnight she came downstairs and said ‘I love you mommy’ and I said ‘I love you too baby’ and gave me a hug and kiss and she just laid down with me like she always did.”
Around 6 am Monday, July 20, Gerald attempted to wake her daughter and couldn’t. “I said ‘Marcie, get up” and nothing happened and I said it again and shook her and when I still couldn’t wake her up, I grabbed her from the front and said ‘Marcie, Marcie’ and she wouldn’t wake up.”
Hermari told his mom to call 911 and paramedics arrived on the scene within a few minutes and transported Marcie to the emergency room. Gerald threw on a robe and slippers and rode with her daughter in the ambulance. While in the waiting room a nurse told Gerald the doctor wanted her to start calling family members and she didn’t understand why. A few minutes later, the nurse, doctor, and a third person asked Gerald if they could speak with her in a private room and asked her to take a seat.
“At that time the third person informed me he was a chaplain and it still didn’t dawn on me what was going on. The doctor said ‘Miss Gerald, this is one of the hardest parts of my job’ and I said ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong? Does she need to be switched to another hospital?’ and he told me she was expired. He said there’s nothing else they could do. She’s gone. It’s like I could hear it but I started going into a twilight zone.”
At 15, Marcie had overdosed on Tramadol, the narcotic she had been prescribed to deal with the pain and inflammation she’d suffered as a result of her rape.
Though it has yet been a year since Marcie passed, her mother wasted no time turning her pain into action to prevent other people from having to experience the loss she did. “One thing I learned is that when people don’t stay active they sit in the house and they break down. I decided not to let her death be in vain and I started going around spreading suicide awareness and I speak on mental illness issues and rape. That’s what helps me.”
Gerald said it was hearing people repeatedly say “Black people don’t kill themselves” that made her share Marcie’s story with the world.
“The thing is, suicide is the third leading cause of death and I’ve had people say they have lost children, husbands, wives, all types of best friends to suicide but a lot of people don’t want to come out and say it was suicide. They’d rather say it was a natural cause or accidental death because of the stigma in the African American community… We brush it under the rug; it’s a secret.
“Since I’ve been going around talking on sexual assault and bullying I’ve had women and, believe it or not, men tell me they were molested as children and their mothers would say ‘What goes on in this house stays in this house’ and they never got treated.”
It’s those stories that keep Gerald motivated, and though suicide and sexual assault are personal to her, she has a message for the Black community at large.
“One of the things we have to learn to do as African Americans is we have to learn how to love and be kind to one another. We’ve got to unite. We’re the most religious race, but were also the most dysfunctional; we’re the most separated. Men call women hos, thots, B’s; women think it’s cute to be a bad B. We’ve got to come together. We’re the only race that doesn’t come together and the stuff that happens to us we don’t hear about, and the stuff that does make the news is the homicides and gang shootings but it’s just as many suicides as it is homicides. I’ve lost three nephews to gun violence and I lost my step-son. I tell people, the pain is the same whether it’s a homicide or a suicide because they’re not coming back. We’ve got to come together to save our youth and our adults because mental illness is real in the Black community.”
Gerald is also doing work on the legislative front to get a bill passed that would impart severe consequences for individuals whose actions tangentially lead to another’s suicide.
“I feel like if a person causes a person to take their life, whether it’s assault, bulling, taunting, domestic violence, sexual assault you should be charged for that person’s death.”
Such a law would certainly affect Marcie’s rapist who was only sentenced to eight years behind bars after coping his plea deal. He will spend the rest of his life on parole.
“Marcie just had a sweet 16; her birthday was January 3 and because of this man I had to take flowers and balloons to a cemetery,” Gerald said. “She should have been here, but she’s in peace; her pain is over.”