Rest in Peace .. my big cousin Keeya ! #metoomvmt @theshaderoom #metoo . #noshame #molestationawareness #molestation #sexualabuse #pedophelia #saveourdaughters #protectourgirls #stopsexualabuse #stoppedophilia #sexpredator #nomoreshame #molestationsurvivor #breakthesilence . . . I had to share this with my followers : some say I made this look easy but it wasn’t. This was not to humiliate my predator although he humiliated me. This is to give children a voice who are afraid to speak. Now that I am a grown woman and after many years of suffering, I gained the strength to confront my abuser and encourage every child to do the same & every parent to be fully aware that this is happening in our communities.
According to the American Society For The Positive Care of Children, 58,000 children were sexually abused last year. Sadly, statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Even more disturbing, according to the Saffron Centre, 90% of child sex abuse victims know the perpetrator.
While many choose to withhold their abuse as children from the public, one young woman who has been there has come to the light. Since September, 23-year-old Iyonah Fard, of Newark, NJ, has gone viral on social media for putting her aunt’s ex-boyfriend and registered sex offender, Robert L. Foster, on blast for molesting her at the tender age of six. Iyonah filmed herself confronting Foster and posted the above video on Instagram. Many have commended Iyonah for her bravery and called her a hero. Even more, inspired by her, have come forward, sharing their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of somebody in their family or close to their family.
We caught up with Iyonah to get her story and message. Check out our conversation below:
Don Diva: Where were you when you confronted the man that violated you?
Iyonah: I was at my cousin’s repast. My cousin passed away and I was at the funeral. That’s when I confronted him.
DD: What was going through your mind when you saw him?
Iyonah: Originally, I saw him at the funeral, before the repast, when I got up to speak for my cousin. In the middle of me talking, I recognized him. To the audience, it looked like I was breaking down, but I got choked up when I first saw him, because I looked him dead in his eye. After the funeral, I went to reach out to my oldest cousin and asked could he have him excuse himself, because I felt uncomfortable being there and he just nodded at me. I felt like that was him reassuring me that, “We don’t gotta talk about it. I heard what you said. I’m gonna deal with it,” but he didn’t.
DD: Did anything happen after you were finished recording?
Iyonah: He still sat there and finished his food, so I decided that I was gonna leave, since I seen that he wasn’t. Before I grabbed my son and got him ready to leave out, I had smashed my plate of food in his face.
DD: Did your family do anything?
Iyonah: As soon as I did it, I walked out. I noticed people had seen it, but nobody said nothing to me. Nobody addressed it. One of my cousins was supposed to give me a ride, but was taking too long, so I went ahead and called myself an Uber. I was around long enough to see people’s reactions and nobody said nothing to me or did nothing at all.
DD: Explain what happened the night that he violated you.
Iyonah: That night, me and my little brother spent the night over there with two my other cousins
because my aunt was watching us for my mother while she worked overnight, doing customer service at Verizon. That was a little far away from where we lived at, so my mother come pick us up in the morning to take us to school, because she would get off around that time. That night, I was woke out of my sleep. I went to sleep with my clothes on, but when I woke up, my stuff was off and he was already in the bed touching me and telling me to be quiet and not to say nothing and not to tell any of my aunts or my mother. He had a quarter and he got up and put it in my pants that was on the nightstand and put it in my pocket. He told me that was for me to get an Icee the next day and not to tell anybody.
DD: If it’s not too much for you, what kind of things was he doing to you?
Iyonah: He was touching on me in my private areas, top and bottom. He ended up having to wash my underwear out from blood being in them from how aggressively he was touching me, with my other cousins in the bed. Rubbing himself on me, stuff like that. This went on for, like, thirty minutes. Maybe more. (In an earlier conversation, Iyonah said that Foster threatened to show her stained underwear to people at her school if she said anything.)
DD: Did he touch any of the other kids in the bed?
Iyonah: I wouldn’t know. It’s possible, because I woke up to him touching me, but let’s just say somebody didn’t wake up. But their mother told my mother, once I let my mother know what happened, that they got touched on, too, by him, before me. What it looked like, it was, I guess, becoming the norm for them where they wasn’t saying nothing and letting him do it, but I spoke. That didn’t stop nothing, because he was still around.
DD: What happened after you told your mother?
Iyonah: My mother immediately called my aunt and told her what I told her. I can’t really remember too much of their whole conversation, but I remember my aunt telling my mother, “She lying. That didn’t happen. She making it up.” So after that, my mother discussed it with another one of my aunts, who was the mother of my cousins that was there. They was just at my other aunt’s house, too. She believed me, but she’s now deceased, as well as my mom. She didn’t tell my father right away. I didn’t know that he didn’t know, at first, but he said he didn’t. She took me to the precinct and made a police report on him.
DD: What came of that police report?
Iyonah: Shortly after that, he got arrested and locked up for three years for selling drugs in our neighborhood, but not for what he did to me. So, that’s what interrupted that.
DD: So, besides your mother and your other aunt, nobody else believed you?
Iyonah: I mean, my father told me he believed me. Besides him and my mother, nobody believed me.
DD: What effect did that experience have on you for the rest of your life?
Iyonah: I feel like during my younger years, it made me give men older than me power that they shouldn’t have had, because it was made OK. It was brushed under the rug. Nothing was done when it did happen to me. So it kinda made me feel like it was OK and to allow men to come in my life, while I was still a minor, allowing them to do things to me that was inappropriate that I shouldn’t have even consensually did.
DD: You’re now a mother to a three-year-old boy. How has your experience affected you as a parent?
Iyonah: I take little things, maybe, too serious now. Like, somebody putting my son in their lap. I ain’t saying a woman, but more so a man, even though it’s women pedophiles, as well. I don’t like little stuff like that. His father would say I’m overprotective, but I’m not too fond of him being alone with other people. I like him to be under me a lot. He still hasn’t started school yet. I’m having problems disconnecting from my son. I know it’s predators out there and I just want to be sure, before I throw him out there. I want him to be able to communicate with me and let me know if something was to happen, even if it was just an attempt. [My experience] made me harsh in those areas. I’m still scared.
DD: What are you up to now? You said that you were trying to help people who have gone through similar experiences. What are you doing?
Iyonah: Right now, I’m trying to speak out at schools. I’m reaching out to different principals. I’m already scheduled to speak at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark, NJ, to speak to the teens there about my story to raise awareness and promote prevention. Another thing I’m trying to do is create a list of warning signs, so that parents, teachers or any adults can see kids going through that, for kids that don’t want to speak about it and what’s the behavioral changes after going through things like that, off of my experience and doing my own research.
DD: What words do you have for anyone who has gone through what you’ve gone through or is currently going through it?
Iyonah: I’m not telling everyone to do exactly what I did, because I feel like I shouldn’t have had to have did what I did. That should’ve got dealt with. I shouldn’t have even had to see him again, face to face. Not where I saw him at, anyway. Not around family. I feel like you should tell somebody. Even if they don’t believe you, tell somebody else. Keep moving, even if you have to go so far as to tell a teacher or a police officer. However it go, reach out to somebody. Don’t let it get swept under the rug. Don’t let nobody tell you it didn’t happen or that you lying, because they don’t believe you. You know your story. You know it’s the truth, so own your truth. Own what happened. I feel like the healing could’ve started for me as a child and it didn’t. I’m going through that healing process now, because I’m getting love from people who actually believe me and this is strangers. I didn’t get this when I was younger and I feel like that’s messed up. A lot of things could’ve been prevented. A lot of decisions I would’ve made differently had I gotten that healing a long time ago and I’m getting it now at 23. I’ve been getting so much mail from different people telling me their stories and things that was going on and how they were afraid to speak. I just hate to hear stuff like that. That’s what’s making me go so hard now; getting myself involved and trying to provide, not only awareness, but some type some type of counseling for women and men who went through this as children and as adults, whether it’s rape or molestation. I feel like they should get some type of mental healing. There are programs for people who have been through those situations, but the help is coming from people who haven’t even been through that. I feel like it should be people like me helping people who have been there.