I almost apologized today. I almost apologized for being absent. In fact, I haven't been absent. My skills were required to push back against women-hating institutions. Those same institutions that preach that women are inferior, black women are much less, and men are entitled to take our bodies, trample our rights, and starve our ambition.
I cannot answer your calls, grow you, show you the way, and become less so that you can feel good about yourself. I cannot like Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tweets, and make small chat while hate marches fill the streets and that guy who gave my attacker an at-a-boy, wink, nod, smile (maybe blew him a little kiss) sashays around as if he is untouchable.
So, I role up my sleeves, shelve my Alice Walker collection, pull my gentleman close and whisper be patient, turn off my email, and neglect my business(es), plural, which reminds me...
I get down on my knees and give thanks. I am grateful for the happiness, opportunity, love, favor, and protection I am blessed to know today, despite the racism and gender discrimination that I am forced to overcome, most often in the country of my birth.
Nowadays I can't decide which business to manage first. But today my job is clear: today, I read the defendants' "Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint and in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Further Amend her Pleading."
Today, I go to war against discrimination, hate, civil rights violations, women's rights violations, human rights violations, fraud, misrepresentation, harmful business practices, persons and ideologies that elevate and protect such values. Now is not the time to be silent in the face of discrimination. Today, as always, I am standing up for women's rights, civil rights, and human rights. And when history looks back on this moment in time for those who demonstrated a belief in and support of civil rights, women rights, and human rights, the history books and court records will show that I was present.
Before Taylor Swift was awarded the U.S. national civil and women's rights medal for stoic heroism, for testifying in her counter suit against the DJ who she alleged - and a jury found - groped her bum...
In New York City, in a well-lit hall, with just a single camera above us, I stood, frozen with fear, with just one other person opposite me.
This isn't my secret to keep. When I was in law school (less than 3 years ago) I was attacked by a white male student outside of the law school's restrooms. What happened next and what is actively unfolding by way of courtroom drama inspired the formation of companies (in the hundreds) and a global brand.
Women who have been victimized by gender-based violence, and have seen an inadequate response, came together to support the radical notion that women are people, and that women are deserving of justice. (If I had a dime for every time I experienced wrongful misconduct and spoke up I'd be queen of the feminists.) My point is that it isn't like women don't speak up or fight back. However, with few exceptions, society takes notice only when the woman taking action is famous.
To be made vulnerable to gender based violence in a New York City law school in 2014 is beyond my comprehension as someone who supports civil rights and has served in the U.S. military in defense of these ideals. So, in 2016 I sued. My lawsuit came after patiently reporting the violations I suffered and awaiting aid that never materialized. I didn't have a fancy high paid lawyer, but I marched down to the supreme court of New York and filed a complaint against New York Law School, the Dean, the Assistant Dean, and several others, in forma pauperis. Today I stand up for women whose pleas and injuries are not likely to be redressed in this country of privilege.
Below are the last documents I submitted to the court in the matter of Bailey v. New York Law school, et al. (Today, August 14, 2017, at 6:48pm, New York Law School's lawyer submitted yet another Motion to Dismiss to the court.) The documents below do not reveal a full picture of the torment I endured at New York Law School after I reported my attacker. I would still report him, if I had to do it all over again. But, I would also call the police and accept the aid of a battalion of combat trained Marines, requesting to stand guard in uniform at New York Law School's entrance until justice was done or until the police arrested us all. The Women's March would have happened a lot earlier if I had known then what I know now.
I needed an advocate, but I didn't know it at the time. I thought law schools and law school staff were mandated to abide by laws that would have ensured that my attacker face legal justice as prescribed by the laws of the United States. Now, I am suing to ensure that no other woman has to endure what I went through.
As you read the real-life case documents below, know that this hasn't been easy for me or my loved ones. I would rather be planning a wedding, researching cancer treatments, and fighting sex trafficking of women of children. Still, this has been the proudest moment of my entire law school career. I stood up to race and gender violence, and supported civil rights and women's rights through a pro se lawsuit before it was cool, without cameras, without a high-paid lawyer, and without fame. If I had to do it all again, I would only do it bigger, better, and louder.
This is what feminism looks like. This is what real life looks likes. (Only the private addresses and phone numbers have been edited.) We are the women who put it all on the line in support of our beliefs. We are the women who fight for our rights and your rights. We are entitled to college campuses and professional schools that are free from campus assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination and other unlawful conduct. And we are not sorry at all.
Being homeless in the United States may seem several times more tolerable than being trafficked or kidnapped by a power-craving, blood thirsty militia, in the grand scheme of things. But damn, something is wrong when girls, women, and children are without housing in a country that boasts a leading economy, competitive technology, and a sanctuary for human rights. In spite of everything I do to chip away at glaring injustice - like homelessness in the wealthiest country, this issue still gets to me.
No one wants to tell this story, but I know what it's like to be homeless. I was homeless. I didn't do anything wrong to end up homeless. What I did do was pour my trust, earnings, faith - everything I had into family. I thought we were going to make it together, by helping each other. The problem? My name wasn't on the lease.
I got myself together really fast after that. I vowed never to return to that house. (After some time, I went back. We were family. And I regretted it.) I turned down job offers, and I left (2) jobs, because the plan we agreed to in advance was for me to focus on building a successful legal career. Then I got hit with that reality check - again.
I felt so stupid. Once again I listened to family: "just focus on your law degree and pay a smaller rent here." Then Boom! Reality check!
The reality was that I didn't have the option of going to school and just focusing on building a legal career. My first priority had to be to have a roof over my head - where I was the lease holder. (Yes, I have trust issues now if the subject is housing. I am still traumatized after those experiences. I will never again trust a housing arrangement if my name is not on the lease.)
If you are at this point now
1. Find safety
Housing you do find is likely going to be temporary at first, and probably not that comfortable, but you at least need to make sure that you are safe.
Tip: The public library is a good, relatively safe place to spend daytime hours, if you don't have any where to go during the day. Most U.S. states have a public libraries. If you have no place to go during the day, consider volunteering at a local small business.
2. You have to tell someone (or several someones)
A young girl, woman, or child on the streets will get eaten alive! (I'll tell you more about my experience in a later post.) If you're out of options, and afraid to contact a crisis center, ask for help at a hospital, police, or fire station. Go into your local government official's office and get help. If you belong to a school, email several professors on the same email. You have to be BOLD.
3. Find God
This may sound crazy, but every person who goes through something really difficult finds God. You need to stay sane throughout this ordeal. Find God.
4. Don't make a bad situation worse
Drugs, alcohol, prostitution - just don't. It will be much harder to get help if you engage in these behaviors.
5. Get smart
Don't be like me and return to a situation that landed you in this mess. Don't fall for it: your priority #1 is finding safe housing in a sustainable situation for you. This may mean being temporarily uncomfortable until you get there, but keep your eye on the goal.
6. Get healthy and stay healthy
Money may be really tight (I've been there), but you cannot risk your health with everything else going on. (Water is free. When I didn't have much money and I needed to eat, I chose nuts or popcorn over other snacks, bagels over donuts, and green tea (it has antioxidants) over coffee when free food was available.)
7. Distinguish yourself - get skills
Come up with a way to come out of this stronger. Take any free learning experience that you can get, but prioritize experiences that will give you a competitive edge and propel you into a career. Choose something that you can turn into a source of income.
Tip: alison.com offers free online courses in several disciplines, including STEM fields, marketing and public relations, and paralegal training. *This isn't a perfect solution because many jobs will require you to have a traditional education. But, this site does offer diplomas (there may be a cost for the diploma, but the diploma is optional), and many jobs will hire candidates who can prove they've mastered a skill. This will distinguish you from others in the same position who are not seeking new skills.
8. Build a community
This is the biggest mistake that I made (after putting myself back into that situation). I isolated myself, became depressed, and lost valuable time that I could have used to find a solution. (Seriously, you may have to Jedi mind f*ck yourself into believing that the situation isn't that bad, but you have to do it.)
Tip: start a blog, find free events on meetup.com, many colleges offer events that are open to the public, and local community representatives frequently ask local people to get involved. Use any opportunity to create a network. Any of these contacts could be an invaluable resource for you.
9. Be realistic, be humble, be gracious and learn from this
You are down on your luck today, but you can come out of this. You will come out of this. Your options will vary because our situations are different but remember that this is temporary.
When everything seemed hopeless and I thought I would die of complications from poor nutrition - and I had no access to medical care - I accepted that I would die, and I started to live meaningfully for what I thought were the last months of my life. Oddly enough, that fight in me, that wanted so desperately to leave something good of myself for the world to find after I had departed, seemed to be the answer to my prayer. Those were the happiest, boldest, bravest, and most meaningful months of my life! That isn't something that you can replicate. Finding new life or hope after you were certain that you were finished is the greatest sensory experience you can ever have.
10. Don't give up
Every time something gets to me now I think back to the time when I made my peace with God, because I knew I was dying. I give thanks that he spared my life, even when I was so tortured by my circumstances that I probably prayed for death at the time.
With everything I have accomplished, I am not where I want to be in life. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy. But I also have goals - really big goals. For example...
Hopefully, one day, preferably soon(ish), you'll read a Reality Check blog post on how I ended homelessness.
Have faith. You're going to make it.
Do Something About It
We don't care *How you engage (*as long as it's responsible), We care that you Do engage.
Yelling STOP or screaming NO wouldn't have saved me. My Marine Corps training couldn't save me. I've had plenty of time to punish myself by going over that night again and again, thinking of things I could have done differently, to prevent you from nearly snapping my neck or choking me to death so that you could feel like a man. Finally, I realized this wasn't my fault.
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