Commentary: Are we ready to talk?

Commentary: Are we ready to talk?
December 14
03:00 2017

By Micha James

I am very open about having been raped in 2003, but I talk very little about being sexually assaulted in high school and molested in the eighth grade.  I delayed telling an authority about each incident because I was in shock, embarrassed and seemingly cared more about the perpetrators and the effect on their families than I did about myself. 

After the accusations about Charlie Rose became public, I posted a couple questions on Facebook: “Do we believe Clarence Thomas did what Anita Hill said he did yet? Are we ready to talk about the hometown “Charlie Rose” at church, work and school … or do we want to remain in our comfort zones?” 

I thought I was ready to talk about sexual assault, the attacks a victim receives if they don’t immediately report the incident and the lack of support in the workplace, particularly from women.  I thought I was ready until I was at work last week and read the census I receive each day containing the names of the patients I am supposed to visit.  One of those names was the man who molested me in the eighth grade who now has also been diagnosed with prostate cancer (oh the irony). 

This is when “stuff got real” and every emotion I have been carrying or suppressing for over 23 years surfaced.  I felt anger for each time I was made to feel ashamed of my curves because women called me “fast and only dressing like that to gain attention,” and hurt because there are things I still can’t voice with those who have said to have my back because the conversation turns into them having a “boys will be boys” mentality while justifying the perpetrators’ actions.

Standing at my molester’s hospital room door, there I was again putting my feelings aside to do my job of supporting the cancer patient, when what I really wanted to do is detail for him how my sexual curiosity did not surface until he violated me. I wanted to point out to him that Karma seems to have finally found his address.  I wanted to ask his wife and daughters, who were also in the room, what he says about men like him? But I had a job to do.  A job I realized I had been performing for years without pay.  I had a job of continuing to keep the secret versus outing him even while on his hospital bed.

I ask the question, “Are we ready to talk?” but realize I need to deal with some things before I can continue talking.  I will keep talking, however, to support other women and offer them a safe space because as Ann Curry said when asked for her response to Matt Lauer’s firing, “The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there.”

While we have not heard the last from sexual assault victims, there are many more who will remain silent.  For them, I will continue talking because Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” and #VictimsOfSexualAssaultMatter.

Micha James is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University who works as a health care advocate by day and a volunteer in a variety of capacities by night.  She can be reached via

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