TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, rape.
Hey gorgeous, can I take you out to lunch? Damn those legs.
My headphones suddenly becomes a mental shield.
I know you heard me.
His presence is so close. The cigarette smoke fills my nostrils.
Hey let me —
“Can you just fuck off? I’m not interested, leave me the fuck alone and step the fuck back.” I cause a miniature scene at the bus stop.
He crosses the street. His eyes are darting all over the place, attempting to place his next victim of harassment.
7:30am. I crawl out of bed and head to the empty field behind my apartment. I usually begin my Fridays here. The air is crisp, the grass is damp from the rain. The sun is peeking through the overcast clouds. It’s quiet.
Ready? Let’s start your workout.
I find this men’s voice soothing yet motivating. I wake up with him every Friday morning on this field. It’s just me and Coach Kyle from the Nike Training App. I’ve enjoyed this routine.
Solitude is good for me.
8:30am. I hit the shower, ready to start the day. The water trickles down my naked body, mixed with my favorite lavender-scented, overpriced body wash creating puffy bubbles on my breasts and stomach. I pull my wet hair back with my hands–a sexy motion that makes me feel at peace with all of my imperfections.
9:00am. I suddenly remember it’s International Women’s Day–a holiday that should be celebrated every day…but I digress. AND I have a date tonight with a dude that seems awesome. I’m excited.
I carefully paint my face with make up–but not too much. I finish up with a light brush of highlighter on my cheeks. I pull an orange shirt from my closet paired with my new black pants and flats. The sales woman called them “chic gauchos.” I’m here for it, they’re comfy af.
10:30am. I’m running a little behind. I gather my stuff for the day and call my Lyft. He’s eight minutes away. Annoying, but whatever. I sit on my couch and wait. He starts to approach my apartment but I’m not seeing him from the window. Ah, I typed in 230 instead of 224, he’s just a bit to the left.
I walk outside and stop on the curb, ensuring the license plates match. My feet are a little cold, I knew I should have worn shoes with better coverage. I feel the cold breeze on my face as I start to walk towards the Lyft.
10:40 something. I see a man approach me in my peripheral. He’s getting closer, mumbles something that I can’t understand. I look at him and immediately sense drugs.
I expect him to go away, like the others usually do–I encounter this daily, I know the drill.
I’m a constant victim of harassment.
Please back away, I’m not interested.
I open the door and he doesn’t leave. I feel body against mine as I attempt to open the door. I push him away and run to the other side of the car. I jump and try to shut the door.
This is where it becomes blurry.
I’m pinned in the corner car with this strange man on top of me. I hear a “what the fuck” from my Lyft driver. The door is still open and chaos ensues.
But I feel nothing but this man and his hips thrusting against my body and his hand violently rubbing my crotch. His fingers insert himself over my pants into my vagina.
I hear nothing but my own screaming and him whispering in my hear “Hold me.”
For a brief moment, I envision myself in an extreme Escape Room–but I can’t move and there’s no one to help me.
The 911 dispatcher is on the phone as my driver is attempting to swerve and fling this man from off of me. His legs flail from outside of the door as the car hits the parked cars on the side of the road.
I can hear the thuds from his feet hitting the metal.
The driver and I are in this together, but it’s an unexplainable trap we can’t get out of.
I can feel his penis against my thigh as I continue to scream.
I am silent.
The car stops.
I’m free for a moment.
He grabs at my bag.
I somehow find the strength to lift my leg and kick him in the face. He runs off on foot.
11:00 something. My body feels numb. It’s covered with his DNA that feels like a thick layer of dirt sinking into my skin. I whimper with my arms tucked between my legs.
The driver turns back to me, I can tell he wants to hug me but knows the male touch would feel like knives in my skin.
The police arrive and I retell my story. Well, I try to.
We drive down a few blocks away to identify him. His face was so close to mine minutes ago, but he looks like a stranger. I explain I don’t have my glasses on so it’s hard to tell.
I know it’s him.
Internally, I’m still trying to convince myself that this is a nightmare. A nightmare where the characters don’t actually exist.
My vision is blurred by my overactive tear ducts and he makes eye contact with me for a brief moment. I sink into the seat and feel my heart drop to my gut.
The Lyft driver starts apologizing profusely. I thought driving like a maniac was the right choice in the moment. I was trying to force him off you. I didn’t even know what was happening. It was all so fast.
I’m not angry with him, but I disagree.
It was the slowest four minutes of my life. Like a rubber band, a long stretch with a painful whiplash when released.
11:30 something. “He was humping me,” I tell the detective. I stare down at the voice recorder. Ashamed. I can’t look him in the eye.
Describe what you mean by humping. Where was his penis rubbing on you?
I relive this nightmare in vivid detail. I usually like telling stories. Not this one.
Even for DC, this is a crazy story. I’ve never seen anything like this, the detective tells my friends.
They drive me home. The sexual assault team takes photos of my outfit before having to hand my clothes over to them for further investigation. I strip down in the bathroom, and bite my lip to avoid an anxiety attack.
I sit on my floor and touch my bare skin with my hands. It feels different.
1:30 something. I spend the rest of the day with my friends. In traumatic situations, I find comfort in good energy. I smile for the first time in what seems like days.
I still feel dirty, but I open my laptop in an attempt to work and get my mind off of things.
Fuck, I was supposed to go on a date tonight. Obviously I’m not going to go, I think to myself.
I had been talking to this guy for the past week or so and was admittedly super excited for the night we had planned. I usually have the bar set pretty low for people, but he seemed worthy of excitement.
Hours pass and I start to consider going on this date. I feel crazy for wanting to do so, but I’m also unsure of the best way to move past this. Do I stay in and miss out on something I had been looking forward to? Or do I go and risk having a horrible time/breaking down crying in front of a complete stranger? Is there even a right way to deal with this?
I really have no fucking clue.
I choose the former. I’m going to a comedy show, what better way to get mind off it?
Like I said, I find comfort in good energy, and I had a good feeling about this guy.
He approaches me outside of the comedy club and goes in for a hug. I felt fragile, but not triggered. While the earlier incident was replaying in my mind, I was distracted by laughter and the company of a really awesome guy.
Neither one of us wanted the night to end.
He apologizes for pulling an antiquated chivalrous act by wanting to walk to my right, putting me on the “protective side.” It was just engrained in me as a child, I just feel inclined to do so. But, trust me, women are more badass than men, I know that, he explains.
I find it charming.
9:30am, the next morning. Hi Beth, this is the DA, I’m with your detective on this case. We’re calling to let you know the charges. He is in custody and will be charged with first degree sexual assault and attempt to kidnap and robbery.
I thank them and roll over on the pillow on my friend’s couch.
I couldn’t sleep in my own bed the night before. After my date, I went home and stepped on the sidewalk, the scene of the crime just hours ago. My body starts to shake and I hailed down a taxi.
I couldn’t sleep alone.
Maybe this seems too soon to talk about. But, you all know I find comfort in my fingers dancing above the plastic keys of my laptop. Admittedly, my track pad is soaked with tears as I relive this nightmare once again. It was only a couple of days ago, and I’m doing better than I thought. I’ve told all the people closest to me, their reactions have varied.
I don’t know really how to move past this. It comes in waves. I’ve cried a lot, but never for too long. I’ve experienced moments of complete silence where I find myself back in the Escape Room, unable to figure out how to actually escape.
I woke up last night at 3am feeling a body forcibly on top of me, swatting what was just air.
I leave for Colombia on Wednesday — a solo trip I have been looking forward to for so many months. Are you sure you want to go? It sounds crazy, but I’ve never been so excited to leave.
I don’t know the best way to cope with this. I don’t know if I’m accidentally pushing the trauma in the depths of my brain, or if it’ll hit me like a ton bricks while on the beaches of Cartagena.
Maybe it’ll come in small moments. A light touch that triggers me. The broken brick on the sidewalk that marks where it all started. An inevitable cat call.
I don’t know.
But, I do know this, based on scientific studies:
- Over 99% of the female respondents said they had experienced some form of street harassment (only three women said they had not). In one question they could indicate the types of interactions they have had with strangers in public, here is a sampling of their responses.
- 95% of female respondents were the target of leering or excessive staring at least once, and more than 68 percent reported being a target 26 times or more in their life
- Nearly 95% of female respondents were honked at one or more times and 40 percent said they are honked at as frequently as monthly. Nearly 94 percent of female respondents were the target of whistling at least once and nearly 38 percent said it occurred at least monthly.
- Over 87% of women said they were the target of a sexist comment, and about 45 percent said they’ve been a target of a sexist comment in public at least 25 times in their life.
- Nearly 81% of female respondents were the target of sexually explicit comments from an unknown man at least once. More than 41 percent have been the target at least 26 times in their lives.
- Seventy-five percent of female respondents have been followed by an unknown stranger in public. More than 27% have been followed at least six times.
- Nearly 57% of women reported being touched or grabbed in a sexual way by a stranger in public. About 18 percent said they have been touched sexually at least six times.
- Every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted)
- 34% of women reported being sexually assaulted more than one time in their life.
This doesn’t include attacks that have gone unreported.
A cat call is not just a “cat call.” Approaching a woman unannounced to call her beautiful is harassment. Following somebody and whistling at her is anything but innocent. Touching my hand and complimenting me as I’m pouring you a drink at the bar is violating. We don’t flip out because we’re being overdramatic, we flip out because we fear what could happen next.
I tell my story for a few reasons.
I find strength in writing. There’s something comforting about being able to string a series of words together that don’t make sense in real life.
I want to shed light on this problem and make sure my story is heard. Admittedly, this isn’t the first time I’ve been violated by someone. And unfortunately, I’m sure there are several of you who read this and can say the same.
Is there something you could’ve done to avoid this? That’s victim blaming. And to answer your question, no. What’s more safe than ordering a Lyft in a residential neighborhood at 10:30am? I was attacked in a 20 foot radius of walking from my house to the Lyft. This problem is more than just “avoiding dangerous situations.” Life is one, big dangerous situation filled with fucked people.
In my life, I’ve had lots of trauma. It wasn’t too long ago where I was sharing a serious health scare that wound me up in the hospital in a coma. Some people read my blog and think, wow, this gal has been through some shit.
We all have — I’m just more open about my shit in hopes that I can make a reader feel like they’re not alone in their own shit.
I’m not going to end this blog telling you “be careful” and “always be on the lookout on your surroundings.” You already know that. Street smarts can’t stop a drugged up (or sober) man from jumping in your Lyft at 10:30am.
I will say that I feel a lot of gratitude towards whoever’s reading this. While, yeah, sure I’m a victim, I hope that you read this and think of me as something more, too–which is the goal of all my blogs.
I don’t really know how to end this, other than to say you’re not defined by the shitty cards you’re dealt. I don’t want to be labeled as a “victim of first degree sexual assault” no more than I want to be labeled as a “Type 1 diabetic.” Sure, these things are a part of my story, but they’re not who I am.
I’m only who I want to be.
Thanks for reading and thanks for continuing to be a part of my story–even if it’s only through the interwebs.