In-depth Story: Cola Bennett Shares Inspiring Story of Surviving Multiple Rapes and Losing Her Son

In the midst of insurmountable pain, a ray of sunshine appeared. His name was Kayshaun. Finally, she had a reason to live. If no one else on earth loved her, he did. Life was now bearable because he made sense when life didn’t. Until his birth, love had been a convoluted concept to her, and efforts to find said love had left her a victim of rape four times over.

Cola Bennett grew up as a pastor’s kid and had a very active yet sheltered life in and out of the church. She sang in the choir, played the piano, participated in the arts, and was involved in a slew of extracurricular activities.

Life was normal and fun until one fateful day when she was gang-raped at the age of 14.

Bennett had gone to her aunt’s hair salon to get her hair done. And since she was family, she had to wait until all paying customers had been styled before her hair could be done.

That day was a particularly busy day at the salon, and fumes from hair spray and other chemicals overwhelmed Bennett.

“I went outside to get a breath of fresh air, then I went into a convenience store that was right next door to the salon,” Bennett told The Weight She Carries. “I met a group of guys there and one of them asked me if I wanted to go for a walk.”

She agreed.

Following a brief walk in a park nearby, Bennett went back to the salon to check in with her aunt.

The young man she had walked with invited her to go back out with him, but instead of going back to the park, he led her to a secluded area which had an abandoned staircase.

The man, who said he was 18, disappeared and a different man suddenly appeared. That was the beginning of Bennett’s nightmare where at least six men took turns raping her.

“One by one they would come down the stairs. They would push me, rip my clothes…just one by one, by one,” Bennett said. “I was too afraid to leave, and when I did try to, two men dragged me back down the stairs, and the rest of the guys stood at the top of the stairs and blocked the way.”

Three hours later, Bennett arrived back at the salon in excruciating pain but couldn’t bring herself to tell her aunt what had transpired.

“I swore I wouldn’t say a thing and kept it to myself,” Bennett said. “I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was sodomized, I was forced to give oral sex and I was penetrated vaginally. The only person I told was my best friend.”

According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to authorities, meaning 2 out of 3 cases go unreported.

Of the sexual violence crimes not reported to police between 2005-2010, fear of retaliation was the number one reason why victims chose not to report the assault, according to RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S.

Other reasons for not reporting the crime were belief that:

  • the police would not do anything to help
  • it was a personal matter
  • it was not important enough to report
  • the police could not do anything to help

Another reason provided was that the victim did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble.

Try as she might to keep the ordeal a secret, word soon got out. The boys were bragging about the act and Bennett’s aunt caught wind of it.

Bennett’s parents were informed, confronted her about the ordeal, and took her to the police station.

Bennett refused to admit that she had been raped, and in an effort to avoid discussing the matter further, lied and said she had consented to everything.

“I just knew I didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to be over it, I didn’t want to talk about it, I just wanted it all to just go away,” she said.

Her parents took her to the hospital to be examined, and on the way home, Bennett’s mother asked her father if they could send her to a group home.

“That broke me, and I thought, ‘She doesn’t even want me.’ That began the conversation in my head that I’m not good enough. I’m not a good girl and they don’t want me. That created a whole bunch of unhealthy relationships with different men and different situations.”

– Cola Bennett

As the days passed, not only was Bennett tormented by physical and emotional wounds, she was chastised and alienated by her entire extended family, who believed she had willingly participated in the sexual acts that had occurred.

“My cousins called me every name you can think of. I still had to go to my grandmother’s house, and I would sit in a room and they would sit outside the room and taunt me constantly,” Bennett said. “They would text my phone, they would send me emails and write on my social media. The taunting was endless.”

A sole supporter emerged, it seemed. It was her aunt’s boyfriend. He was the only person who would speak to her.

“What I didn’t understand at the time was that he was grooming me. He understood that I was isolated around my family, and because he was the only one who was talking to me, I felt comfortable with him. And eventually, he took advantage of me in the worst way.” – Cola Bennett

Soon, he began sexually abusing Bennett every time he thought no one else was around.

Fearing no one would believe her, Bennett stayed mum. But certain family members noticed a pattern in her behavior.

“Whenever he came around me, I would move,” she said. “So people began to wonder why I would do that when he came close to me. They asked him if anything was going on. He said no, and they believed him.”

Feeling alone, devastated and misunderstood, Bennett turned to the internet for solace and struck up a relationship with someone she met online.

Bennett opened up to the man about the sexual abuse she had suffered, not knowing that he would eventually track her down and do the same…and bring a friend along to watch.

“I felt so low. Nobody wanted me; nobody wanted to make the effort to get to know me. I told myself that I was really that unlovable. I was really struggling, but I always did whatever I could to make it seem like everything was OK.”

– Cola Bennett

At the age of 16, Bennett discovered she was pregnant.

The birth of her son, Kayshaun, brought her immediate family closer, but further alienated her from her extended family and her church family.

Despite all the turmoil in her life, Bennett had maintained good grades in school, so her teachers were willing to accommodate her situation so she could still graduate high school on time.

When her son was one, he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“The doctor explained that he would probably never walk. He would have difficulty talking and learning, by the time he was 10 he would be in a wheelchair, and by the time he was 18, he would probably pass away,” Bennett said. “I had to sort through that and navigate what that meant.”

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