TRIGGER WARNING: Let me preface this story by informing you there are details below regarding sexual assault, rape, and emotional abuse. Do not read if you may be triggered by any of these details.
Since the occurrence of the following events, I have both told Mineh’s girlfriend the truth about his indiscretions (including those involving me), and pressed charges of sexual battery against Mineh. The purpose of these words is not to attract attention towards me or request sympathy, but to inform the public about the truth regarding Mineh Ishida.
My name is Jamie Graffman. Many of you know me as Mineh’s most loyal advocate. Whenever he started drama, I was always there right by his side to back him up. Let me tell you why.
Mineh and I first really met in early 2014 when I posted a Facebook status about wanting to improve my dancing, back when I was a proclaimed Lindy Hopper. Mineh responded, saying he would love to offer his knowledge. I accepted. We then got to talking, and Mineh was blown away by my personality and how much we had in common. He loved talking to me. Soon enough, I was at his apartment for a “dance lesson”. To him, this apparently meant a date.
Mineh didn’t try to keep his girlfriend a secret. In fact, we had quite a few conversations about her at this point. I’m sure it’s general knowledge that Mineh has been cheating on his girlfriend all these years while she’s been in Ohio. Many people notice how he acts around certain girls, and can safely assume they used to date or used to sleep together. Mineh has even announced his indiscretion in public, using the excuse that “she’s not here” to validate the fact that he can neither control his sexual urges nor be honest with his girlfriend about what he wants and needs.
Soon enough, we were casually dating. While the relationship quickly got sexual, I had told him I was a virgin, and, though he made it clear he wanted to have sex, he never forced it at this point. I only assume this was the reason the romantic side of our relationship died out within a couple weeks. We then became close friends.
I know now that what I did was wrong. Knowing that Mineh was in a committed relationship, I should have stepped back and refrained from entering a romantic/sexual relationship with him. That decision is not one I’m proud of, and not even because of the way the rest of this story unfolds, but because it hurt somebody who did not deserve to be hurt. Even if it was Mineh’s decision to cheat, I can only assume that his girlfriend has remained loyal to him for the past four years.
Mineh quickly started telling me about other girls he liked, including the woman he’s in love with – he often referred to her as his “Florida girlfriend”, so we’ll call her Florida. He didn’t mention the intensity of his feelings for her for a very long time, just that they had been dating for a few years. While he told me about these girls as a friend, I gradually found myself getting jealous. For some reason, I wanted him for myself. I started to miss how affectionate he had been towards me when we were dating.
In the last days of March, after my 21st birthday, Mineh and I had sex. I wanted him to care about me like he had cared about me before, and I hoped that if he wanted to sleep with me, it meant he would care for me again. There was never any kissing, cuddling, or sweet words. It usually started with a massage – he always said he needed one to fall asleep. He would ask me to massage his pecs, putting my crotch against his and rubbing them together. He would then tell me to grab a towel, lay it on the bed, and take my pants off. He would finish a couple minutes later and tell me to take a shower. This is how sex would always be between us.
Sex did not become regular for quite a few months, but I got increasingly jealous. I realize now he made me jealous on purpose. When his girlfriend or Florida were in town to visit him, I would not hear from him until they left and he got lonely. I knew I was simply a replacement, but I ignored the fact.
In June of 2014, Mineh lost both his job and Florida, who ended their relationship. He became mind-blowingly depressed, and asked that I didn’t leave him alone for a while. This meant moving in with him. So I did. When he ran out of money, I was there to feed him every day and sneak money into his wallet. When he woke up in the middle of the night crying over Florida, I came to his side and held his hand. When his car broke down and he couldn’t get to meetings for the new business he had just founded, I paid for the car part he needed (part of the $272 he still owes me). I was expected to do his dishes, his laundry, and clean his apartment every once in a while (including hiding the used condoms scattered around his room before his girlfriend came to visit).
As we continued to live together, an idea appeared. Now, those of you who know me personally know how rational and level-headed I am. Nonetheless, now that Florida was out of his life and all the girls he wanted kept rejecting him, I had this dream that he would want to be with me in the end, that when his business could officially be labeled a success he could work remotely and travel the world with me. I knew in the back of my mind it was absolutely ridiculous, but I had this glimmer of hope. Mineh fueled this daydream. He suggested I move into his apartment complex and talked about putting our phone services together on a family plan back when I didn’t have an actual phone number. When he hired me to work for his business, he told me he would “take care of me” when they started making real money. He would tell me I was his best friend, and his only true friend, that all his other friendships (as few as they are to begin with) were either bad friendships or completely fake. Mineh planted these seeds and grew them for months.
He quickly took control of my life. When I went on dates, he told me why it was a bad idea (I mistook this for jealousy). If I was spending time with someone else and Mineh needed me to do something, I would instantly drop the other person (for those of you who I became very wishy-washy with and told you I didn’t usually act that way, I was being honest. This is why I left your company within a moment’s notice and cancelled plans at the last minute).
As Mineh’s business became profitable and he slowly brought himself out of his depression, there was tension between us. He was often hostile towards me, becoming angry that I wasn’t paying rent, despite the fact that I was in his apartment every night because he asked me to be there. As time went on, hostility became emotional abuse. I was in tears almost every time I was in his company. He would tell me I was over emotional, dramatic, and thought the whole world was against me (I now realize this was a deflection of his own issues). When I got angry at him for something, I knew he didn’t care, so I would push it back and ignore the emotions. He would insult me daily, telling me I was a terrible dancer and that I looked terrible. He would then turn around and talk about the girls he liked and our mutual friends, and all the things he loved about them. He even made up girls to talk about to make me jealous; one night, after coming back from a networking event for his business, he talked about this gorgeous blond he had flirted with the whole day and asked “if she gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek, does that mean she likes me?” He found a picture of a blond in a business suit and showed it to me. And I believed him.
By now we were sleeping together regularly. A lot of the time I didn’t actually want to – he would keep asking me until I finally gave in or start small, getting me to perform oral sex first. If he wanted oral sex and I didn’t want to give it to him, he would sometimes grab my head and shove my face in his crotch to convince me. One night he made a game out of slapping me in the face with his penis. I didn’t like it, so I ran away. He followed me into his living room and chased me around for a little bit until he eventually sat on me and continued slapping me in the face. Now, Mineh is a heavy guy and I’m a small girl. When he did this, it hurt. I stopped fighting back and just lay there, whimpering. He then got frustrated with me and went to bed.
And, somehow, I loved him. I cared about him so deeply. I wanted to give him everything, and I did. I thought that one day he would repay me in some big way. That’s what I told myself, at least. When I got frustrated and thought about how happy I was the days when his girlfriend or Florida were in town, I remembered he had promised to build me a website for the business I’m starting. On the hardest days, that’s why I kept him in my life. That’s exactly what he wanted me to do. I never got the website.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve, the last night of 2014. His girlfriend was in town and his business was throwing a party. Now, there was a reason I had never created a relationship with Mineh’s girlfriend: I couldn’t stand to be friends with someone I was keeping such a horrible secret from. All of her Tampa friends knew, had even spent time with both Mineh’s girlfriend and Florida, and were perfectly comfortable. I couldn’t understand it.
That night, watching Mineh flirt with his girlfriend, I got angry. Not angry out of jealousy, but because he was doing these things to her. This anger absolutely consumed me. After a few days, my emotions spiraled out of control. I cried, had panic attacks, and got angry for seemingly no reason at all. I know now that this was a year’s worth of repressed emotions coming back to bite me.
When Mineh’s girlfriend left, he asked me to come over. Aware of how negatively he responds to my emotions, I told him it was best I didn’t, and that I was trying to prevent an argument. Mineh got offended and angry anyways, ending the conversation.
The next day was worse. I broke down and texted him about it. I told him I was terrified and paranoid of all these things that I hoped beyond hope weren’t real – that he was manipulating me and didn’t actually care about me. I realize now that these weren’t fears but facts that I refused to believe. He responded negatively again, telling me he was busy in meetings and didn’t have time for my drama. That night I talked myself out of my emotions, as I had grown accustomed to doing with Mineh, and forced myself to calm down. When he asked me to come over, I obliged the pull I always felt when he asked me to do something. This was the night Mineh raped me.
Mineh sleeps naked so when we were in his bed and I was giving him a neck massage, he was already naked. He asked to have sex. I told him that I had decided I didn’t want to sleep with him anymore because I never enjoyed it. He told me that was my fault, that sex was psychological, and pointed out the presence of my panic attacks in the early days of our sexual relationship. He then proclaimed we should have a naked party. For some reason, I took off my clothes, not even realizing that, obviously, he was going to try to have sex with me. The following screenshots give you the gist of the rest of that night:
Mineh was obviously very concerned that he had raped his “best friend”, a girl almost half his age and less than half his size. Obviously.
While in the moment, I didn’t understand what Mineh was doing to me. That night, the action of sexual intercourse in itself was no different than any other night – Mineh was always convincing me and manipulating me into having sex with him, whether by making me jealous or by pressing me until I finally gave in. I was in such intense emotional distress that night, I didn’t know up from down. When I started crying, I couldn’t even tell it was because I knew, somewhere deep inside, that I was being forced to have sex against my will.
The next day, I pushed through even more emotional stress. When I mentioned to Mineh that he had raped me, I didn’t believe it myself. I honestly still struggle to believe it. I know it’s true, because I know I told Mineh that I did not want to have sex with him that night, and he even validated hearing me (reference the above screenshot), but sometimes rape is not what you think it is. Through talking with those with more mature perspectives and pressing charges with the police, I’ve learned that a big part of that struggle is the media: on the news, we all hear about those being raped by strangers. What I didn’t know is most rapes happen between friends, even lovers. It’s often not violent, and therefore nearly impossible to prosecute. The image you have in your mind of a man dressed in all black attacking you in an alleyway and violently raping you is hardly ever the case. Just because a woman has consented to having sex with a man before, just because there was no physical struggle, does not mean it wasn’t rape. All a woman (or even a man) has to do is say no at any point before or during sex. If the partner ignores it, it’s rape. No question. No ‘what if’s. That is rape.
I didn’t tell anybody at first. It took a very long time. I was terrified of Mineh. When I tried to attend a dance I knew he would be DJing, I suffered panic attacks for hours, levels of physical and emotional pain that I had never before experienced. I never saw him that night, but I got so horribly paranoid that he *might* walk into the room that I was forced to leave. Eventually, it tore me up enough inside that I broke down and told one trusted friend. But I still didn’t label it as rape. I described the situation, was obviously still affected by it, but still could not piece it together. When the day came for me to finally address the situation for what it was, and someone asked me if I wanted to press charges against him, I didn’t know what to say. I knew Mineh had raped me, and I knew it was wrong, but I still could not process it. It wasn’t until the term “rape culture” was dropped, and I understood what I would be contributing to if I stayed silent, that I decided that I was going to notify the authorities without a doubt.
I was back in his apartment that next night. While Mineh did not attempt to have sex with me, I had lost even more control of my emotions. Those of you who have experienced trauma know how long it takes to heal. Sometimes, it takes victims years to even admit to themselves that what happened to them was wrong, much less be able to cope with it. I was lucky. It only took me a month or so to clear my head and emotions enough to verbally tell somebody that I had been raped. However, 24 hours does not give one enough time to process trauma. So, during that last visit to Mineh’s apartment, I woke up in the middle of the night to a panic attack. I don’t know about others who have experienced them, but my panic attacks are usually triggered by situations; when I leave the situation that is causing me stress, I can calm myself down. This time, I wasn’t even conscious. I woke up, couldn’t breathe, and couldn’t stop twitching. Mineh has a hard time sleeping at night, so he heard it happening. His response was a simple “go splash water on your face”.
As you can see in the above screenshot, Mineh then asked me to help him with Fusion, which I had done every month. While I was busy that night, I told him he had my entire day Saturday, as per usual. He got frustrated, likely because he couldn’t control what I was doing with my time that night, and told me he didn’t need me the next day, but he did need me that night. He was trying to manipulate me. He wanted to control me.
I was still unfortunately completely blind to his manipulation.
This was the last straw. This conversation broke me. Fusion had become so unbelievably important to me, and with that statement I knew he was taking it away from me.
The next day, he asked for my help at the last minute. While I had already made other plans, I decided not to respond out of pure anger. After I did not respond to his texts for a few hours, he told me our friendship was over. I was to walk away, not come to any of his events, and to never contact him again. He mentioned the money he owes me, saying to send him an invoice and he would get to it as soon as he could. (This I believed – Mineh could not afford to fund Fusion one month, so I took the hit for him. He paid me my $200 as soon as the night ended.) I went to Fusion anyways out of complete disrespect for him. Unfortunately, he was outside when I arrived. He approached me and demanded I go home.
The next day, he texted me and said he had a couple hours to talk everything out. I responded, saying I was too emotional and needed some time. He agreed. I spent the rest of the week attempting to meet up with him to talk about it. It didn’t work out too well.
(Notice the day and time stamps in these texts.)
By this time I realized his game and would no longer be under his control. As you can see, this is not something he appreciated.
The next time I heard from him was late Sunday night, the night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I was spending the night at a friend’s house, and he called me and yelled at me, essentially telling me that he was the victim. How could I be so horrible to call him a rapist? I had rejected his attempts to save our friendship on Wednesday and it was all my fault. When he was my age, he was homeless, living on the street, while his girlfriend at the time was giving up his child for adoption. It’s not his fault he couldn’t relate to my emotional distress. He had been through so much worse and it was not his responsibility to offer emotional support. I hung up and turned off my phone. The next morning I received several missed calls and texts. I would not be hearing from him again and was no longer permitted at any of his events. I was to keep quiet about the entire situation. He would not speak negatively about me if I didn’t speak negatively about him. As he had said a week before.
I later sent him an invoice for the money he owes me. $272. He asked for proof of the exact quantities. I sent him all I could find. When I couldn’t find a receipt for an amount, I wrote out the numbers and explained exactly what he owed me. There would be no confusion.
A month later, I began sending him daily PayPal invoices. He finally responded while I was at Sweetheart Swing.
It was then made clear to me that he would use any excuse he could find to not pay me back. Funny – he would often criticize me for making excuses. Now that Mineh no longer needs me as a part of his life – as a friend, potential employee, or even paying customer – he no longer has any reason to treat me as a decent human being. I realize now that he doesn’t care about me nor anybody else. He pretends to in order to get something out of them. Mineh would often say things that I assumed were meant to be taken as jokes – that no means yes (in regards to sex), that he hated feminism, and that he was a god. Now I’m convinced he allows people to take these statements as a joke to appear more socially acceptable.
Many of you have read the article about Steven Mitchell, a well-known Lindy Hop instructor who has admitted to sexually assaulting multiple girls. This article reached the Tampa swing scene the day after I told a friend that Mineh had raped me. This friend sent me the article and told me it sounded very similar to my situation. I read it in my car as soon as I got off work. There were parallels in our stories that I hadn’t even told my friend. I sat there and cried as hard as I could for half an hour. I was terrified. Both this article and conversations that have come up because I’ve been vocal about this situation have shown me how often this happens. This isn’t rare, and it needs to be stopped. In the past week or so, I’ve had several acquaintances approach me and tell me that reading my story was like reliving their own experiences. Honestly, Sarah Sullivan’s open note is the reason I have chosen this medium to tell everybody about what happened to me. It hurts me to have women tell me that they were too afraid to speak up, loved their abuser too much to hurt them, or simply didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until years later. I am breaking their, and my own, silence.
I am still so hurt that someone I loved and who I thought loved me would treat me this way. It hurts to find out that someone who filled such a prominent position in your life didn’t genuinely care, that they pretended to care to get what they wanted out of you. I’m angry that after a year of defending Mineh against those who saw through his facade, they were right. I am furious at how he hurt me, disrespected me, manipulated me, and used me for his own gain. I will not stay silent.
If anybody else out there has received this same treatment from Mineh (or anybody else, for that matter), please speak up. Even if it’s just to me. Don’t keep it inside you, because it will destroy you. I don’t care if it happened 10 years ago – I didn’t report my rape to the police until almost 2 months after the actual incident. While there is no longer any forensic evidence to prove my claim and I know Mineh will never admit to any of this, filing a report with the police will follow him for the rest of his life, and I am now telling EVERYBODY. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m prepared for the worst. But I know that staying silent is the wrong decision, and I know that if, god forbid, Mineh ever does anything like this to anybody else, he has my charges against him already, which will make it easier to prosecute him. Please, do not let a man get away with abuse and rape. He will twist and confuse this story any way he can.
If you have a similar experience, feel free to contact me at Jamie.Graff4@gmail.com.
Since the publication of these words, numerous women have come forward and shared their own strikingly similar stories of abuse, assault, and rape. These stories are linked below.