Today, I am angry.
If you’ve been following any social media platform over the past few days, you’ve seen the hashtag, #metoo. This tag is to give awareness to how often women have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Post after post, message after message from my friends read, “Me too”. Some meekly acknowledged it, still holding on to the shame; others finding their voice. So many women, and some men have posted.
I remembered this post, my “me too” sitting in a draft that I have been writing for multiple years. It’s embarrassing, it’s awful. It’s one of many situations, some worse, most better. I cringe when I read the words I have written, as I don’t see myself as a victim. I am loud, tough and pride myself on my years of work in the sexual assault education, prevention and research field. THIS was my background, all I lived, breathed and ate for years. But nonetheless, it happened. This is my story.
Today, I am angry. I was angry yesterday and the day before, too. I was disappointed. I was hurt. I was trying to make it not my fault.
If you follow this blog solely for happiness, recipes and all the good stuff, you may want to pass up this post. I hope you don’t, since this needs to be read.
Saturday, I went to pick up kids books off of one of those Buy Nothing Facebook pages. As I was driving there, I passed a house; one I hadn’t seen in years. It was a house that belonged to a man who tried to assault me.
I passed his house and I froze. I stopped my car in the middle of the street and thought about getting out. I didn’t, but good gravy, I wanted to. I wanted to scream at it, drag him out and yell at how low he made me feel, how he made me question my worth and every decision I made, and still make. I gripped my steering wheel, my face getting hot. I stared, eventually driving away. How did I fucking get here…
Years ago, after a long term relationship ended, I went on a date. It was way too soon and I was not thinking with my head or heart, I was thinking with my hurt. I wanted to feel attractive, like there was hope for my future, and I needed that pain to go away. I had met a man at my neighborhood pub, and we hit it off, him chatting me up about a book I was reading-some Russian Lit novel (yes, I am that girl that reads random books in bars). An hour quickly passed, and it was time for me to go home to my empty house. He asked if I wanted to go out another time, and I said yes. I walked home feeling happy about things.
We met up a few days later at a place I felt safe, a local brewery owned, staffed and visited by my friends-he would be on my territory. When he showed up in socks and Birkenstock’s, I let that go (I am open minded you know). The plan was to have a beer and chat, and go for dinner in the area. I’d drive my car, and he’d drive his. No pressure. When he brought me to a vegan restaurant, I let that go too, as he noted, animals are just so cute. The night would go on and we would chat, the charm of the first night fading, but I was still interested in how this could go. We talked about our recent failed relationships, him lamenting “if she had just listened to me”….Hi, flashing red light. We opted to go to another brewery, again owned by my friends. I thought, “what could happen”, so I left my car in my ‘hood and took his, despite being against every rule I had. We played darts, we talked; we didn’t have a lot in common but it was still nice to be out. Towards the end of the night, I was done. I was ready to go home. I wasn’t feeling it, he had recent relationship issues and I was tired of looking at his socks and sandals. I asked to head out and go back to my car. “Sure, I gotta make one stop”.
To his house.
I offered to stay in the car, I didn’t know this guy well, but I changed my mind. I didn’t want to be rude despite every part of me knowing this was a bad idea. I knew in my head this was the wrong decision and I went in anyway.
I wanted to go home, but I was in his space. He showed me around his house, bragging about the remodeling he had done, his mountain climbing pictures, and all the crap he collected. I was getting uncomfortable and mentioned it was time to go, but he expected more, since he took me out and I entered his home.
Suddenly, hands, arms, and a mouth were everywhere. A man that outweighed me by at least 100 lbs thought it would be ok to see how far he could go, and I said no, which he didn’t get. I remember looking at him, his sneer. His shirt came off, and I asked him what he was thinking. As he came closer I remember my heart sinking.
And not because of him, but because of me. I broke every rule I had. Everything I taught classes about, I ignored it all. I wasn’t just angry at him, I was angry at myself. I started to push him away, and he laughed and told that it was either put out, or figure out where I was and find a way to get home.
So I bargained. If he just let me go home, I’d go out with him again. Words like, “please”, and “I’m sorry” came out of my mouth softly. I didn’t want to make it a bigger thing than it was. I wanted to go home.
When that didn’t work, I fought and I yelled. I pushed and hit him.
And when that wasn’t enough, I threatened to call the police.
That was finally enough for everything to stop and it was like a switch flipped. He got off me and put his shirt back on and looked for his keys. It took the potential for arrest when all I had wanted was to go home. He looked at me, shrugged and said “whatever”, eventually driving me back to my car, asking if I had any “bitches” he could hook up with. I looked at him and asked if he ate paint chips as a child (in retrospect, probably not a wise move).
As a woman you end up assessing situations in advance. You size up situations and men and think about how the situation could go. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t and sadly this isn’t a one-off.
So, why am I angry, dear reader? I was in a shitty situation where someone took advantage when they shouldn’t have. I put myself in a situation that I shouldn’t have. I didn’t call the cops when I should have and that son of a bitch has likely done that to some other girl. I am left with a lot of should haves.
I am fierce, loud and I don’t take shit and it scares me that this could have happened to someone else who isn’t that way. More than that, I am angry my friends have gone through this, and so much worse. I am mad that so few men are speaking up on behalf of women. I am angry that I carry this shame and embarrassment and that I feel like I need to apologize for my actions and justify every step I took.
And yet I do. Like millions of women the world over.
So, what do we do?
We stand united. We share our voice. We demand change in policy that holds rapists and harassers accountable with legitimate sentencing terms. And we don’t stop. We leverage our ally’s, so our voice is louder and we work to forgive ourselves, when that voice of self-blame says otherwise. And we breathe.
I love all of you who have gone or will go through this. To each of you, I am so, so sorry. I love you and if your voice is silenced, I will be there to make it loud.