TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
Trauma responses vary, but not just person-to-person. Mine have evolved; expanding rather than replacing my visceral reactions to the bullshit I’ve experienced. Fight, flight, freeze, fawn — I’ve done them all.
Here’s how Creek and Ofuskee County District Attorney Max Cook helped me unlock my final form — fighter.
My Vice-President is a Black woman.
I woke up on January 20, 2021 – hopeful and hungover – just in time to watch Donald Trump take his final walk across the South Lawn of the White House.
My BWST group text was burning through the remainder of my battery, and I made it home with just enough time to wash my face and change into a white dress.
I cried as I watched Kamala Harris walk from the inaugural motorcade to the White House — domestic terrorists be damned. I could feel the energy shift. I could feel my ancestors’ shoulders square a bit more beneath my feet.
I knew I had to do something worthy of the sacrifices that paved the way for this moment. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to take that walk, but I could do something.
So I did.
TW for real
Leslie King was my abuser who I thought was my boyfriend. Turns out he was also an insurance cheat who was operating a chop shop out of his wrecker business. (More on this in a minute.)
I grew up on the same dead end road as Leslie but was 16 and homeless when I truly entered his orbit in 2009. In what felt like a matter of weeks, the grooming moved to exploitation which amplified after I moved in with him. Within a month, I was being sex trafficked. He was every kind of abusive. I was drunk… all the time. After a particularly heavy drinking night, he let his older brother take explicit photos that I was in and then Leslie text them to his ex-wife.
I moved out pretty quick after that. The timing makes much more sense these days.
Max Cook has entered the chat.
I first met Creek & Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook in February of 2010. His office (and I think the FBI) was investigating Leslie for insurance fraud and wanted to chat with me after Leslie’s ex-wife alerted the police that he had sent her child pornography.
Just days before I met Max, Leslie’s dad came to my sister’s house (where I was staying) to tell me the DA was going to talk to me and what I was to say to him. He was intimidating, by nature and by choice.
So I sat across from Max in his Sapulpa office while he and three other men questioned me about Leslie’s various misdeeds. I was scared and defiant. He was threatening and condescending.
From my mom’s memory, we spent maybe 3 minutes addressing the photos. I refused to identify myself in the distorted blown-up image, and from all appearances that’s where the investigation stopped.
My mom remembers the uniformed officer stopping her on our way out to tell her, “You shouldn’t let her date older men.”
(Note: Max Cook has been the district attorney for Creek County since former Governor Frank Keating appointed him in 1997.)
“I knew you were lying.”
I left a voicemail with Max’s office and a few days later, on inauguration day, he called me back.
I stumbled through a minute of word vomit before I told him it would be helpful if he could tell me what he remembered so I knew where to start. I assumed, wrongly, that he would have pulled whatever record there was. I later learned, if it exists, it might be misplaced forever.
He said he remembered there was a photo that was explicit in nature. He remembered that I denied it was me. He said, “I knew you were lying. I don’t know why you were lying, but I knew you were.” That statement threw me. I responded that I didn’t think it was unreasonable I would feel uncomfortable affirming it was me in the explicit photo being held by a man I had never met, in a room full of men I’d never met, while sitting next to my mom.
A quick note.
Before I start this section, I want to be clear about something; I went into these meetings in good faith, on my own accord and feeling empowered as fuck. I had never even said some of this out loud before. I spent my entire adult life ashamed and trying to pretend none of it ever happened. But I had finally released ownership of the abuse and taken control of my story— and it felt really. damn. good. Scary, but good.
My first meeting with Max; “Conscious enough to give consent.”
I really don’t want to type out a narrative on this part. Instead, here’s an audio clip.
Some context: we were discussing the evening the photos in question were taken. More things happened that evening, but I’m not ready to discuss that at this time.
& before any trolls come for me — I encourage everyone to always record their interactions with law enforcement.
I left our meeting feeling absolutely gutted and dismissed. I was insulted and battling feelings of guilt – talking myself out of reverting back to the belief that I was responsible for my abuse. Mostly, though, I felt like shit thinking about the victims Max might have interviewed throughout his long career who didn’t have the benefit of 11 years worth of processing their trauma like I had.
I froze. For an hour and a half, I froze, found strength, froze, found strength. But I left emotionally and physically exhausted. I walked out of his office and straight to the restroom to cry.
An estimated 85% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and a reported 97% of these attacks are committed by perpetrators who are not Native. And an overall three out of four sexual assaults committed in the United States go unreported.
It makes me wonder how many of the few reported crimes are actually prosecuted when we have district attorneys like Max, though.