Fear kept Yusuf Bey abuse victims from seeking any help
Even when they got pregnant at 13 and 16, no one launched a serious investigation, although it was common knowledge at Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland, where they lived and worked, that bakery owner Bey was the father, according to court records and accounts by bakery associates.
“When I tried and tried to get help, I couldn’t get help,” said Jane Doe 1 in brief telephone comments with the Chauncey Bailey Project last month. Her real name has not been released because of the sensitive nature of her allegations.
Investigative Report: Women of the Bakery
Women, Part I
Main story: One police officer cracked case
Second story: Fear kept abuse victims from seeking help
List: Reports to authorities
Women, Part II
Main story: Testimony reveals life of abuse
List: A chronology of abuse
List: Profiles of abuse
A spokesman for the Alameda County social services agency said the social workers gave Jane Doe 1 and her sister, Jane Doe 2, opportunities to talk about any problems they might be having, and the girls never said they were being sexually abused.
“The social workers were hard-working people who did the right thing,” said San Francisco attorney Edwin Wilson Jr. Wilson represented the county and three social workers when the two sisters and a third woman sued them and others in 2003. The county settled the case for $188,000 last year to save the cost of going to trial, Wilson said.
Social workers became involved with Jane Does 1 and 2 in 1979, not long after their father took them and their brother to live with Yusuf Bey at his bakery.The girls were 9 and 10, and Bey arranged for his mistress Nora Bey to become their legal guardian, even though they usually did not live with her, Jane Does 1 and 2 said — and Nora Bey confirmed — in sworn depositions in connection with the lawsuit.
Nora Bey said the county made welfare payments to her of about $450 a month for each child, and she turned over every penny to Yusuf Bey. Nora Bey, whose birth name is Esperanza Johnson, has more recently been linked to allegations of real estate fraud using the Johnson name.
Although Yusuf Bey claimed to be a millionaire, for 20 years he required his women and children to get welfare, low-income housing and medical benefits and give the cash to him, according to sworn testimony in 2005 from Jane Does 1 and 2 and Nora Bey.
Alameda County Counsel Richard Winnie said Jan. 29 the county investigated the women’s allegations of welfare fraud in 2005 and turned over its evidence to the Alameda County District Attorney for further investigation. The district attorney’s office determined there was not enough information to proceed, said Assistant District Attorney Tom Barni.
Yusuf Bey began raping and beating Jane Does 1 and 2 when they were 10 , the girls said in reports to police in 2002 and in sworn testimony in 2005.
A social worker occasionally came out to the bakery to see if the girls were getting the proper level of public assistance, and Yusuf Bey warned the youngsters not to tell that they didn’t live with Nora Bey, Jane Does 1 and 2 testified.
When the girls started having Bey’s children, he told them not to reveal that he was the father, they said in sworn depositions.
Nora Bey did not return several calls, a letter and an e-mail requesting comment for this story. Through their Lathrop attorney David Washington, Jane Does 1 and 2 also declined to comment.
In 1980, when Jane Doe 1 was 12, her dad took her and her brother to his home in Tahoe for a visit, and he talked about having them live with him.
“My heart was very happy in the thought of thinking that my father was keeping us,” Jane Doe 1 testified.
A social worker contacted the girls’ father about returning the children to Nora Bey. He told her he was concerned that Yusuf Bey might be molesting, or planning to molest, Jane Doe 1, according to the social worker, whose testimony in the civil case was obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project.
She reported his concerns to the Oakland police, but an officer said there wasn’t enough information to justify police involvement. She said it looked like a family dispute to her, but she advised the social worker to interview Jane Doe 1 and call back if warranted, according to the social worker’s account.
The social worker then interviewed the girls, who seemed happy and denied they were being abused, according to the worker’s notes at the time. The girls later said they lied, because they feared Yusuf Bey.
“We were little and we had a lot of fear in us,” Jane Doe 2 testified in 2005.
The girls’ father decided the Bey home was the best place for his kids, and the social worker concluded the girls were in no danger, according to her account.
“I felt stuck. Oh, my God. How am I ever going to get out of here?” Jane Doe 1 testified about her feelings at the time.
Five months later, the social worker visited the girls again, and Jane Doe 1 told her that the bakery people beat her and her sister, made them work at the bakery and didn’t let them go to school, according to her account to police in 2002 and her sworn deposition in 2005.
The social worker’s notes say only that the children complained about having to work long hours at the bakery.
The worker discussed the complaint about long work hours with her supervisor, who said the county had no jurisdiction, because the court had appointed Nora Bey as the children’s guardian. Nora Bey had the right to decide how to raise the children, the supervisor said, according to the social worker’s notes.
Meanwhile, back at the bakery, Yusuf Bey was mad because Jane Doe 1 had complained about not going to school, Jane Doe 1 testified.
“For a month straight,” Jane Doe 1 said in her sworn deposition, “they woke me up at 5 o’clock in the morning and made me sit in the middle of the floor and hold a book in my hand and threatened me that if I fell asleep reading the book that they were going to beat me again.”
Two years later, the girls’ stepmother was surprised to see that Jane Doe 1 was pregnant at 13, and she asked the social service agency to investigate.
Two social workers did visit, but Jane Doe 1 lied about the father at Yusuf Bey’s direction, Jane Doe 1 testified, and no action was taken.
“That really made us feel like we weren’t safe,” Jane Doe 2 said in her deposition, “when someone called in when my sister was pregnant and the county still left us there.”