It's On Me

I wrote the following on April 13th and then sat on it for so long because it's a massive piece of me I don't share with many people.  I thought it was something I wrote just to get my frustrations out.  I'm not even very happy with how it's written; there's so much more I want to say but just can't seem to formulate the right words.  And then this piece came out by Brock Turner's victim. I realized, my silence only gives the perpetrators of sexual assault a leg to stand on.  So, here's my chance to throw my voice into the conversation.

***

Two weeks ago, I sat at my desk and watched a live feed of Joe Biden supporting the It's On Us campaign.  "No means no," he repeatedly chanted to the applause of all of those surrounding him at the Petersen Events Center.  He pleaded with us to not be ashamed to speak out and to help those who need a voice.

A few hours later, while sitting at my desk I received a garbled phone call I couldn't understood.  When I asked the caller to repeat himself, he stated clearly that he would simply come up to my office and hung up.  I didn't recognize the voice but I assumed it was someone I worked with.

About ten minutes later a man arrived at my desk and began asking questions that I couldn't help him with.  Instead I wrote down a name of someone who could help him with what he was looking for.  As I grabbed a pen to jot down the correct address, he commented he had seen me around the building before he grabbed my information off of our department website.  Alarm bells started to go off in my head.  If he had gotten my name and information off of the website, he would know I was the wrong contact and would have contacted the right person.

I shrugged it off and smiled as he asked me some questions about myself.  He commented how beautiful I was and finally, after reminding me he'd seen me before, wanted to know if I would go for coffee.  All this while standing at my cubicle in the middle of my office.  As he noted earlier, he had my e-mail address so I told him to e-mail me.

I notified one of my co-workers who immediately found the situation strange.  Immediately, he sent two e-mails requesting I meet for coffee.  It unnerved us both.  I decided to leave a little earlier than normal; I needed fresh air.

I was halfway through my route to my car, noting how loud my heels clicked along the tile, when I looked up and saw the man standing in the middle of the hallway staring down at his phone.  I froze.  And then, I turn and fled down a set of stairs I'd never been down before.

I paused in front of the security desk before flying through the rest of the building, running to my car, locking the doors, and pulling out before I strapped myself in.

Maybe this all seems a little panicky.  I had just watched Biden talking about predators and my nerves were on edge.  True.  But Biden's talk stirred the old fear and dread I felt ten years ago every time I saw him somewhere I didn't expect him to be.

Ten years ago, I was assaulted/groped/inappropriately propositioned by someone twice my age.  I was seventeen years old.

I recently had a conversation with someone who commented (something along the lines of), if there's no proof then there's no point in bringing it to court.  You can't prove it.  Girls make stuff up all of the time.  (I'd like to interject that boys can lie as well.)  The truth here, though, is that I have no proof.  There's no video, no witnesses (he was extremely careful to ensure there were no prying eyes).  So all you have, you poor person reading this and wondering how you ended up here, is my word.

It's the most narrow-minded thing I've ever heard.  But, it's the exact logic that sewed my mouth shut ten years ago and kept me from properly reporting.  I didn't have proof.  Who was going to believe me?  Worse, I thought I was going to be punished and removed from the activities I enjoyed.  At the time, I didn't want him to steal that from me, so I did and said nothing.

He repeatedly tried to get in contact with me.  He stalked me at after school activities.  He sent me e-mails trying to lure me into contacting him on his "private cell" under the guise of "forgetting" to include the rest of the group on the e-mail.

He didn't rape me, he didn't molest me, but I know the damage is there.  Sometimes I can forget about it, gloss over it.  But I also know the impact he's left on my life is larger than the forty minutes he forced me to endure.  I'm terrified of male attention.  I walk around with Resting Bitch Face to discourage strangers from engaging with me.  When a man approaches me aggressively, usually in a bar setting, I nod and smile and do anything I can to keep from provoking him.

If this is what he's done to me, I can't imagine the emotional turmoil women who are raped suffer through.  As though that wasn't enough, we force them to be re-victimized in a courtroom.  We discuss their trials over coffee at work and fling judgement on the women, determining how "worthy" their story is.  It's sick and disgusting.  Why are we so quickly to side with the "innocent male" in this situation?  Why is there always a "but" to these statements?  He assaulted her.  End of story.

For me, I need to stop holding myself accountable.  I need to stop thinking that my actions and behavior are responsible for the behavior of others.  It wasn't my fault then and it's not my fault now.  I was worthy back then, just like every woman who's ever been victimized is.  I have to change my own mindset.  Not every man lurking nearby wants to harm me, but that shouldn't be a free pass for those who do intend to harm women.

I still have the business card he gave me that night.  I keep it in a box under my bed.  I can't bring myself to toss it because it's the only proof that I have.  He lives 6 miles from my house.  He's still married (from the brief creeping I did ten minutes ago).  He's in a position where he oversees teenage girls on a daily basis.  I allowed that, but I also have to forgive myself and forgive him.

I think I felt compelled to write this because I realize that much hasn't changed in ten years.  I haven't changed much in ten years.  But I have to start to try.  Every time a guy grabs me in a bar or shouts an inappropriate comment on the street, I'm allowing them to see me as nothing more than my defined sex.  I'm more than that.  I'm going to be more than that.  I'm not going to allow it any more.  It's on me.

2 comments:

  1. That is one well-written and well-said post. Kudos to you for putting it out there, I'm sure it has helped others and will continue to help many more to feel that they're not the only one. Or push them to speak up.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, you have no idea how much your kind words mean. <3

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