ZEKE THOMAS: JOURNEY TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Zeke Thomas, the son of NBA legend Isiah Thomas, shares his cautionary tale and journey to self-acceptance.

Aired on October 11, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> WE TURN TO THE STORY OF ONE YOUNG MAN SPEAKING OUT ON AN IMPORTANT BUT RARELY TALKED ABOUT TOPIC.

ZOOEM THOMAS, A MUSIC PRODUCER, DJ, AND THE SON OF ISAIAH THOMAS HAS GONE PUBLIC WITH REVELATIONS HE WAS RAPED TWICE.

FIRST WHEN HE WAS 12 YEARS OLD AND AGAIN IN A SEPARATE INCIDENT LAST YEAR.

HE'S HOPING THAT HIS PAINFUL ADMISSION WILL HELP OTHERS SURVIVORS.

HE'S PARTNERED WITH THE NATIONAL SEXUAL VIOLENCE RESOURCE CENTER AND APPEARS IN A NEW PSA AIMED AT REMOVING THE STIGMA FELT BY MANY MALE VICTIMS.

MY NAME IS ZEKE THOMAS AND I'M A SURVIVOR.

IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW TELLS YOU THEIR STORY, HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF THINGS YOU SAY.

THANK YOU FOR TELLING ME.

IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.

YOU DID NOTHING WRONG.

I AM HERE FOR YOU.

YOU ARE BRAVE.

YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.

HOW CAN I HELP?

YOU ARE A SURVIVOR.

EVERYONE HEALS IN THEIR OWN TIME AND IN THEIR OWN WAY.

THE PAST ISN'T ALWAYS A STRAIGHT LINE AND YOU DON'T NEED TO GO IT ALONE.

ZEKE THOMAS JOINS US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

NICE TO MEET YOU.

PLEASURE TO MEET YOU.

PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

FIRST QUESTION I THINK MOST PEOPLE HAVE IS WHY HAVE YOU CHOSE TON GO PUBLIC WITH THIS AND TALK ABOUT YOUR OWN PERSONAL STORY?

AFTER GOING THROUGH THERAPY AND MEETING WITH OTHER VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS, IT WAS SOMETHING THAT I WANTED TO SHARE.

I DIDN'T KNOW AND THINK IT WOULD BE ON A LARGE STAGE, BUT WHEN I STARTED TALKING IN VARIOUS GROUPS AND VARIOUS MEETINGS I WAS ATTENDING, JUST, YOU KNOW, SUPPORT GROUPS AN STUFF LIKE THAT, PEOPLE WERE ASKING ME TO CAN WE WRITE ABOUT YOU ON THE BLOG.

WE KNOW YOU'RE A POPULAR DJ, MUSICIAN.

I STARTED THINKING TO MYSELF, LIKE, IT COULD SHAPED THE WRONG WAY.

NOT THE WAY I WANT TO TELL MY STORY.

YOU WERE WORRIED ABOUT HOW IT MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN OUT THERE.

AND IT WOULDN'T BE THE WAY YOU WANTED IT TO GET OUT THERE.

WHAT WAS YOUR FEAR?

WHAT WAS THE WAY YOU WANTED TO TELL YOUR STORY?

MY MAIN FEAR AND I GO BACK TO WHAT HAD HAPPENED AND THE DAYS AFTER.

NOT KNOWING.

BEING AFRAID.

GOING THROUGH THIS IS MY FAULT.

TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO PRESS CHARGES.

HOW, YOU KNOW, TO FIND THIS NEED UNTIL THE HAYSTACK, SO TO SPEAK.

AND I REALIZED THEN THAT THIS WAS MY WAY TO KIND OF CONFRONT MY RAPIST.

UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO FIND HIM.

AND THIS WAS MY WAY I WANTED TO GET THAT POINT ACROSS.

AND WHY I WAS AFRAID MORE SO WAS THAT I DIDN'T WANT SOMEBODY TO LABEL ME A VICTIM, AT THAT POINT.

YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS A SURVIVOR.

YOU DON'T SAY I'M A VICTIM.

YES.

THAT MIGHT SURPRISE PEOPLE.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR YOU YOU NOT BE VIEWED AS A VICTIM AND YOU DIDN'T WANT TO USE THE WORD VICTIM?

BECAUSE THERE'S DEFINITELY A CHANGE IN ANY TRAUMATIC EVENT THAT HAPPENS.

WHETHER THAT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE, OR, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING THAT YOU'RE DEALING WITH INTERNALLY THAT YOU DEFINITELY FEEL LIKE A VICTIM IN THAT MOMENT.

THAT PAIN, THAT TRAUMA YOU'RE FEELING EVENTUALLY YOU EITHER MOVE ON AND DEAL WITH IT, YOU GROW, YOU DON'T LET IT SWALLOW YOU, SO TO SPEAK, AND YOU SURVIVE.

I'VE HEARD YOU SAY, ALSO, WHEN YOU HAD TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO, YOU KNOW, AS A GAY MAN, AS A BLACK MAN, THERE WERE OTHER BARRIERS THAT YOU SAW TO THIS NOTION OF GOING PUBLIC WITH ALL OF THIS.

HOW DID YOU GET PAST THAT?

DEFINITELY IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY, THERE'S A LOT OF STIGMA AND WALLS AROUND NOT JUST SEXUALITY AND GENDER BUT, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A CERTAIN TYPE OF BRAVADO YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO CARRY YOURSELF AS A STRONG BLACK MAN.

A STRONG BLACK WOMAN.

SO MY MASCULINITY, I FELT, HAD BEEN COMPLETELY TAKEN FROM ME IN THAT MOMENT.

WHAT WAS IT?

WAS I, YOU KNOW, LESS THAN?

EVEN MORE?

WHAT STIGMA WAS I GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT NOW?

AND IN THE GAY COMMUNITY, YOU'RE FIGHTING THIS STIGMA YOU'RE SEX CRAZED, THIS, THAT, BUT THAT'S NOT THE REALITY OF THE GAY MAN'S WORLD.

ONCE AGAIN, YOU SAY THAT ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO TELL A VICTIM AND THEN TELL A SURVIVOR IS 'I BELIEVE YOU.'

I WANTED TO FEEL --

WHY IS THAT SO IMPORTANT TO SAY TO THEM I BELIEVE YOU?

BECAUSE WHAT YOU'RE DOING IS TELLING YOUR TRUTH.

YOUR STORY.

EVEN WHEN YOU'RE TALKING TO A LOVED ONE, LIKE MY PARENTS OR, YOU KNOW, A DOCTOR, IT'S A SHOCKING MOMENT.

IT'S NOT THAT YOU DON'T BELIEVE THEM OR WHATEVER.

IT'S YOUR FIRST REACTION IS, WHOA.

IT MIGHT THROW SOMEBODY OFF GUARD, YOU KNOW.

WHY DON'T YOU BELIEVE ME OR YOU'RE DISRESPECTING MY STORY.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS --

YEAH.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS MY FAULT.

YES.

THAT GOES QUESTIONS THAT THE ALLY NEEDS ANSWERED AREN'T REALLY WHAT A VICTIM SURVIVOR WANTS TO TELL AND SHOULD TELL.

YOU MENTIONED YOUR FAMILY.

WE SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION YOUR DAD IS VERY FAMOUS.

WAS WHAT SORT OF TREND DEDICATION DID YOU HAVE ABOUT TELLING THIS TO YOUR FAMILY.

HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT?

I BELIEVE DEFINITELY IMPACTED THEM AND STILL IMPACTING THEM AS I'M NOW SPEAKING ABOUT IT AND SPEAKING ABOUT IT IN A FORM OF TRYING TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR THIS.

I FEEL FOR THEM AS PARENTS HAVING TO RELIVE MY TRAUMA OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN NOW MT.

MEDIA.

I FEEL LIKE THE GREATER WORK THAT IS HAPPENING AND HOW THEY RAISED ME.

THEY'RE PROUD OF ME.

DO YOU GET THE SENSE THAT PEOPLE ARE RESPECTING AS YOU TELL THE STORY NOW PROVIDING YOU WITH A RESPECT AS YOU TELL THE STORY OR DO YOU FIND THAT PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT YOU EVEN THOUGH THEY USE THE WORD VICTIM TO YOU, BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT THEM TO, IN A SENSE THEY'RE STILL LOOKING AT YOU AS A VICTIM.

WELL, I DEFINITELY FEEL THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO LOOK AT ME AS A VICTIM BUT THE OVERWHELMING OUTPOUR OF SUPPORT AND PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMS AND GOING THROUGH THIS, AND PEOPLE WHO ARE SURVIVORS WHO HAVE GONE THROUGH IT AND THE WAY THAT THE NEWS MEDIA, SO I OWE YOU A GREAT THANKS AND JOURNALISTS OUT THERE HAVE TAKEN THIS STORY AND REALLY PUSHED IT TO NOT JUST THE UNITED STATES BUT NOW IT'S AROUND THE WORLD.

I NEVER IMAGINED THIS WOULD BE POSSIBLE.

I GOT PHONE CALLS AND, YOU KNOW, FROM HIGH-RANKING GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TO CELEBRITIES TO YOUNG CHILDREN.

IT'S OVERWHELMING.

IS IT HELPING YOU?

IS IT HELPING IN YOUR HEALING PROCESS?

100%. I THINK EVERY TIME THAT I HEAR THAT SOMEBODY ELSE HAS DONE WITH THIS, IT MAKES ME SEE THERE'S, YOU KNOW, HOPE THAT LIFE DOES CONTINUE.

IT TAKES AN AMOUNT OF COUNSELOR.

PEOPLE SAID THAT TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO COME FORWARD, NOT ONLY TO HELP YOURSELF BUT HELP OTHERS.

AND I THINK YOUR FAMILY IS PROUD OF YOU AND I THINK A LOT OF FOLKS OUT THERE WILL WATCH YOU AND SAY, YOU KNOW, HE CAN DO IT.

MAYBE I CAN DO IT, TOO.

I THINK THERE'S REAL VALUE IN WHAT YOU'RE DOING, ZEKE.

PLEASURE TO MEET YOU.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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