“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
― Zora Neale Hurston
When the editor of The Socialist asked me if I would write a short statement on why this piece was removed, I was initially elated. Over the past three years, people have not asked for my voice. As a queer black single mother, my voice somehow lands the softest, even if it is, at times, the loudest. For a long time, I stopped speaking. I stopped attending leftist events. I focused on raising my daughter, who is now a chattering two year old. She likes coffee, a good large fluffy dog, and stars. Living in the city, we settle for golden decals stuck to the otherwise bland beige walls of our apartment. Every place we have called home for the past two years, I have held the hope it will be the last time we move – I place each permanent decal on the wall as a small wish – small reverses of shooting stars. Let this be our home. Let us stay.
Now, we are moving again. I am relieved. The next place will be quieter. The next place will be safer, because the writer of the piece you attempted to access won’t know our address.
Christopher Helali sexually assaulted me in 2016. As a result of that assault, I have a daughter. And I love her very much. Though I have always enjoyed coffee, I never much liked dogs until she did. I never much noticed stars before she did. Through knowing her, I have noticed so many things that I now like. Through knowing her, I have noticed many things I don’t like – mostly about myself – and I have worked hard to change those things. And yes, accept those things about myself I cannot change.
Many people reading this perhaps know Helali. A self-described traveler, Christopher has been to over 40 countries. Or maybe you know Helali because you remember the incident where an officer stole funds from a branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) to fund his travels to Rojava. In that statement, you’ll find an email from Helali, in which he writes of the donation: “In the end, I decided to donate money to the ongoing revolutionary efforts here in Rojava.” Later, I would hear from a person who was a member and good friend of Helali, “I don’t have a problem with where the money went, but he should have asked us. We should have gotten to vote on sending the money. I don’t understand why he would just take it. I think if he had asked us to vote on it we would have agreed.”
I nodded, because I understood very well. At the same time Helali was emptying the IWW bank account, we were engaged in a strictly sexual relationship. The sex was consensual. But Helali told me he didn’t need to use condoms as he had a “low sperm count.” I believed this, because I had no reason to think a man, especially one in our radical leftist community, would say this to a woman he barely knew. After about a week of coupling, I visited Christopher. He had texted me, stating he had a “very draining” day in suicide counseling. He had left before they could push him to stay overnight. Sitting on his bed, Helali revealed to me he had lied, his sperm count was fine. But that he had been in love with me from the moment he met me, and he wanted us to have a baby together.
I didn’t know what to say, I was staring at a man who had just finalized a divorced, who was desperately in love with me, and suicidal. I felt trapped. The day before, I had agreed to let him live at my apartment until he left to live in a squat in Greece for six months. I felt I couldn’t back out. He asked me if I thought he was a bad person, and if I loved him, and I said maybe, and then I said yes. Because I know like many people know, to be so in love with someone and they not reciprocate is a horrible feeling, and while I didn’t think I loved him, I certainly did not want to leave his apartment and sentence him to die, as I was thoroughly convinced he would if I spurned his affections.
But it was untrue. What I know now is that while Christopher was trying to impregnate me, he was actively stealing funds from the IWW bank account. To this day, Christopher holds to the story that he wasn’t sure he would be leaving to serve in the YPG, that he decided after he thought I wasn’t pregnant. But the timeline and testimony of several people in the Boston leftist community tells a different story – that Helali had been planning to leave for the YPG for months. And it would suggest that Helali sought to impregnate me, originally without my consent, knowing he never planned to support me or the resulting child.
When Helali abandoned his YPG service, he returned to the States and enrolled at Dartmouth College. Contrary to statements from Helali, he was not injured to the degree he needed to suspend his service; he was, essentially, dishonorably discharged from the YPG. Our child was not yet a year old. But Helali hid from me and the Boston community that he was back. In this time, I was a new mother, not working, living on savings and a pool from a GoFundMe, and living in an unstable environment. He and I exchanged emails about our daughter, but he never revealed where he was, claiming to be in Greece or Cuba, or other various locales outside of the States. During that time, he often promised to send money, but never did. All the while, he was attending an expensive private institution, hiding from me and the child he claimed to want. That he wanted so desperately he blurred the lines of consent and agency to create.
Despite everything, I have attempted twice now to engage Christopher Helali in a restorative justice process. In December 2018, when he finally revealed he was living (at least “some of the time” in the States), Christopher claimed to want to participate in a restorative justice process with me. But when I caught him misrepresenting information and lying (again), I went to the IWW to help me with this process, as I knew Christopher was unwilling to engage openly and honestly with me. In January 2019, Helali agreed to a paternity test and was only willing to show up if I agreed to meet with him. The State of Massachusetts requires that or a signed affidavit to establish paternity, the latter Helali refused to sign.) It became clear in that meeting that Christopher’s idea of a restorative process was for us to “be a family,” and for me to move to Vermont with him and immediately have another child. Over the years, Christopher has often tried to coerce me to move to Greece, Rojava, Cuba, etc. in attempts to isolate and control me. So I contacted the Boston IWW for help, fearing I might be compelled to move against my will. I had already retained legal counsel, as Helali had refused to terminate his parental rights.
Since then, Christopher has attempted to hide his whereabouts to dodge paternity and child support. At the time he wrote the piece that once lived here on The Socialist, he was actively dodging paternity papers. Despite knowing I and his daughter were in need of financial support, Helali not only found money to attend his second Ivy League institution for a second master’s degree, Helali also felt it just and appropriate to take a personal trip to Venezuela and further postpone his parental obligations in the name of “The Revolution.”
As of today, Saturday, May 25, 2019, Helali has not contacted me or the IWW to engage in the accountability circle. (Additionally, he has not contacted the IWW about his commitment to repay the funds he misappropriated in 2016, despite emailing this intent to the IWW back in December 2018.) In fact, Helali has gone as far as to use the State against me in an attempt to have me stop sharing this story on the Internet, primarily posts on Reddit. Even now, writing this statement is a huge risk – I have been told by the State of Vermont’s Orange County Superior Court that while the restraining order Helali attempted to put against me was found without merit, continuing to speak on this matter might give Helali enough cause to file again, and drag me back to Vermont for court. But I do not plan to stop speaking on the harm Christopher Helali has not only committed against me and his daughter, but the harm he has done to his countrymen and hevals in the YPG, his countrymen and comrades in Greece, and several other communities.
At this time, the asks remain the same. I, Zipporah Legarde, ask that the pan-leftist community not give Christopher Helali any platform until he engages in an accountability process, and has fully made amends for his poor behavior in our community. Additionally, I ask that, outside of de-platforming, folks not engage in any other activities that might lead to my being summoned back to Vermont to defend another restraining order.
Those who wish to have additional details are invited to read my account of this experience at christopherjhelali.com.