Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
A few months ago, I moved cross-country from NYC to Los Angeles. My first weekend in LA, I was sexually assaulted. The person who assaulted me identifies as a gay male.
I was out at a dance party with my partner and a friend. The theme: Michael Jackson mashups. Amazing music, flashing lights, disco balls, and confetti. I was right up in front near the DJ booth dancing all night, non-stop. I don't stop 'til I get enough, and usually that means 'til the lights come up at closing time. According to the dude dancing next to me and his gleeful proclamation that he had one hour left to cruise for beautiful menfolk, it was about 1 AM, so my partner and my friend went to go grab one last drink from the bar and close out their tabs.
As I was groovin' to a particularly fierce MJ-Adele-Nirvana mash-up, I felt someone grab a large handful of ass. I figured this was my partner signaling to me that he had gotten back from the bar, so I grinned and turned around to give him a little loving.
Except, when I turned around, he wasn't there.
Puzzled, I glanced around. I couldn't see him or my friend anywhere in the crowd. Awesome, I thought, I just got groped by some creeper. Disturbed though I was, I decided to shake it off and keep getting my dance thing on.
And then, I felt it again. The hand, caressing my left buttcheek.
This time, perhaps because of my heightened Spidey senses due to the initial gropage, I was able to discern that the groping had come from the left side of me. I glanced over and I noticed that same guy, the one who had been so excited for his last hour of cruising for mens, grinning at me.
Bewildered, I asked him if he had just grabbed my ass. He nodded and giggled, saying that he couldn't help it because my ass just felt so good.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
I told him thanks but no thanks. He smiled and shrugged and went back to dancing with his two lady friends.
Again, I shook it off and kept dancing, praising myself for having the strength to stand up to a person who thought it was okay to touch me just because I have a nice bootay.
A few minutes later, I felt a hand on my ass again.
I chose to ignore it, to keep dancing. I looked around frantically for my posse.
Another few minutes later, I felt another brush of a hand against my ass, this time just beneath my left buttcheek.
I glanced at the guy and he returned my glance with an impish grin and a mock hands to cheeks "oops" face.
That's not actually okay, I told him. I told you to stop and it's not actually OK to keep touching me, seriously, I said.
"Honey, I like boys," he told me. "It's a compliment, don't worry about it," he said. His two friends laughed along and agreed that I had a nice ass and that it was a compliment. These were women with whom I'd chatted earlier about how nice it is to go out dancing, and they had agreed, saying they were having a girls and gays night. We'd had a rapport and now they were defending their friend's creepy behavior.
"Whatever," I said, and I kept on dancing. In my peripheral vision, I could see them talking and pointing at me.
A minute later, I felt a hand, his hand, brush against my inner thigh. I stopped dancing and stared at him. He stared straight back at me, his eyes steely, his face expressionless.
I rushed as fast as I could to the outside of the venue. I could feel the searing hot tears threatening to erupt from my tear ducts and my throat started to thicken and tighten. Somehow, I managed to choke out my story to the nearest security officer and she hopped right into action.
She asked me if it would be okay for me to go back in and show her the guy. I led her to him and his group. She kicked them right out and I went back to dancing. I could think of nothing else other than it was crucial that I carry on with what I had been doing at the time of the assault. I kept dancing.
I fought back tears. I kept dancing. I was fighting against myself to behave normally. I texted my partner frantically, cursing the lag of the cellular network and/or the lag of his intoxication level preventing his response. About 15 minutes later, he finally texted me back, and I gathered up my peeps and bolted out of there.
I managed to keep my shit together until the valet brought the car around. My partner and my friend kept checking in on me and I kept telling them to leave me alone, for now. We got the in car, and I drove us to the nearest parking lot. I parked in a nearly empty 24 hour laundromat's lot, and I began to sob loudly. My friend sat quietly in the back.
My partner tried to comfort me, and I screamed at him to leave me alone. He's a good guy, but he has no clue how to be an effective ally, drunk or no. As I watched the oddly soothing tumbling motion of the laundromat's sudsy washers, I cried for my violated body, I sobbed for the disempowerment I felt, and despite the two other people in the car, I felt so alone.
After about five minutes, I felt an impossible calm come over me. I apologized for yelling at my partner and my friend. I drove us home. My partner asked me what I needed. I told him that I needed him to be sober as fast as possible.
I have a history of serious trauma including childhood trauma, a psychologically/emotionally abusive relationship, and a dear friend and I'm honestly not sure how I would have fared psychologically if I didn't have official training in the arena of advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and if I hadn't received years of highly effective psychotherapy.
We spent the next day at the beach. I lay upon my towel, doing some deep stretching and letting the sunshine heal me a bit.
I can't believe that this guy's two lady friends condoned what he did to me. It blows my mind. I am reminded that things like my assault can happen where ever, whenever. We live in a society that implicitly condones and corroborates with rape culture. I'd shared warmth and laughter and camaraderie with the guy who attacked me and his group of friends. That connection did not prevent him from violating my body, it did not stop from him transferring blame to me/my ass because it "just felt so good," and it did not keep his friends from defending his violent behavior.
I am also floored that the guy who attacked me was gay. I know intellectually that sexual assault has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power. I hoped that I would never get sexually attacked at all, but never in my wildest meanderings through fear did I ever imagine that if I got attacked, it would be by a guy with cheerfully flashing LED rings with whom I'd gushed about the hotness of the male dancers on stage.
I think it’s also notable that the person who attacked me passes for white, and I am a brown lady. I don’t discount that a sense of entitlement played into the power dynamic between him and me. I’m still trying to unpack the significance of these factors.
Mostly, my strongest feeling is that I just don't have time for this shit. Recovery from trauma is hella time consuming, and I just moved straight up cross-country to a new city. I'm pouring myself into my fantastic job and amazing side projects as I get adjusted to my new life.
And in the end, that's what it is, right? It's my life. I'm going to do what I've always done. I'm going to keep fighting and surviving and I’ll do what I can and what I need to take care of myself and be good to others and live my fabulous life.
In the words of the King of Pop himself:
Lift your head up high and scream out to the world
I know I am someone and let the truth unfurl
No one can hurt you now because you know what's true
Yes, I believe in me so you believe in you