This is an account of a sexual assault I wrote in September of 2016, one week after it happened. I have never posted it, until now. It’s been a year, and I’m releasing it now as a cathartic thing.
CONTENT WARNING: Language, Sexual Assault, and Sharks.
In April 2016, I wrote a piece chiding my coworkers for being paranoid. They’re scared of their own neighbors, which I saw as being small minded and faithless.
Have some faith in your fellow men. Truly, it is not likely that you will be attacked, especially in your own backyard. Just as the danger of sharks is wildly overestimated, the danger of being attacked is as well.
There aren’t any sharks in your backyard.
The fact is, as I’ve learned rather heartbreakingly, there are sharks. There are sharks everywhere.
The fact is, that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
The fact is, no matter how much self-defense and self awareness you have, the preparation isn’t always enough.
The fact is, your city isn’t safe. Because there are goddamn sharks. Everywhere.
I want to have faith in the world around me. Faith that the man behind me on the street is going to mind his own business. Faith that strangers are safe. Faith that strangers are just like me; out for a walk at night, trying to live, not trying to cause issues.
I want to have faith that people are good. At their core.
Growing up in the church, I was taught that people are flawed at their core. Slightly more harshly, I was taught as a teenager that people are despicable. You should deny yourself — hate your sin, which is all you are — and follow God.
That’s another topic, one that put me off. I didn’t think that type of thought was productive, especially since so many young people (like myself) struggle with depression and other things. No matter how flawed humanity is, I couldn’t stand the thought of looking my friends in the eyes and telling them they were vile at their core. I made up my mind then make an effort to see the good in everyone, no matter how difficult it was.
My mission wasn’t to save people or make excuses for bad behavior, but rather to expect the best in people. Expect that people, in general, wouldn’t bite.
It’s like swimming with sand sharks. They can bite, technically, but more than likely, they won’t. I expect that outcome to occur.
I didn’t want to walk around paranoid of being hurt, especially since I had no prior experience to warrant that type of thought. But facts are facts. And the fact is, people aren’t good at their core. And sharks bite.
I was sexually assaulted on September 1st, 2016. I was physically unscathed, but my worldview changed.
My mistake, my entire mistake with this situation was that I put entirely too much faith in a strange man.
I went to the square because there are people in the square always. It’s well lit and it’s often patrolled by police.
I went to the square because i was too drunk to drive home. I needed about a half an hour yet.
I went to the square because my other friends went to a club and I didn’t want to.
My friends usually walk me to my car, much to my annoyance. I’m a bit stubbornly independent. I didn’t take all those self defense classes for nothing! Plus, this city is safe.
I want to believe the best in people, so when a man approached me in the square, I didn’t immediately freak out. I also know that it’s better to talk with people instead of trying to avoid them. Humanize yourself to them.
He was a short, built Indian man. Dressed oddly, but well. He was wearing a red and white striped sweater. I had seen him at the previous bar.
“Hey, I don’t mean to freak you out,” he said in s heavy accent. “But you were at the other bar, right?”
“Yeah,” I said, still buzzed and outgoing-feeling. “Yeah I was.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Right here, man. I have to sober up.”
And we talked. We talked for a good 20-30 minutes. Just about basic stuff… where he was from, what his ambitions were, what I did for a living.
He talked about his family and I like it when people talk about their families. It reveals a lot about their character. He has sisters.
“I’m sorry… Can I touch your hair?” This question wasn’t out of the ordinary. At least he asked– I’ve had strangers caress my hair before without so much as a ‘hello’.
“Yeah I guess.” I began to formulate my exit from the situation. My brain was still working slowly.
“You have the coolest hair. My sisters… they love it when I braid their hair.” I thought that was sort of sweet. He obviously missed his family. And he seemed to have a respect for girls.
Then he asked the dreaded question. “So are you single?”
I laughed. Of course. “I am yeah.”
“Really? Because I thought one of those guys you were with was your boyfriend?”
“No. Not to freak you out,” I said cautiously, “But I’m actually gay.”
I don’t usually play the gay card. I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business. And I’m not even sure it’s 100% accurate. But he didn’t seem to want to leave me alone, and I had to try something. I didn’t know if it would work. He was from a different culture, one that doesn’t treat LGBTQ individuals kindly. He was also currently attached to my hair. He was strong. What if he attacked me?
He didn’t. But it didn’t make him leave either.
“So, you’re a lesbian, then?”
That was a stupid question. I don’t remember my answer because at that point it became apparent that he wasn’t going to stop touching my hair. His hands were tangling and scraping my scalp… the back of my neck. They reached around my throat.
“What’s your name?” I asked, turning my shoulders to him, dislodging his hands from my neck.
“True. Like true or false.”
I lied about my name. “Nice to meet you.” I shook his hand, and had my out.
“I’m going to head home,” I said. “It was nice talking to you.”
He wouldn’t leave me alone. He clung to me as I walked, leaning heavily and wrapping his arms around my waist. I just wanted to go home. My brain was now racing; what if he jumped in my car? What if he abducted me? Who could I call? Where could I go instead of my car? My friends lived across town. My guy friends were at a club and wouldn’t hear their phones ring.
Luckily there were people standing on the sidewalk not half a block from my car. They looked suspicious as well, but at least they were unlikely to all stand by in the event of something tragic.
I made eye contact with a few of them. Trying to signal that something was wrong. They did nothing. They were ugly.
He was touching my stomach and my thighs through my clothes. My shirt was cropped and soon he was touching skin. His hands drifted over ribs and hip bones, slipping under the waistband of my pants. Fuck no.
“You don’t feel like a woman,” he said in my ear. “Your skin is soft but you have muscles and bones. You’re more like a boy, right?”
“That’s why you’re gay, right?”
We were at my car. Thank God. I reached for the door handle and he wouldn’t let go of me. He was a lot stronger than I thought. He was pressed uncomfortably close to me, and his hand was still under my shirt.
“Can I touch you?”
“What?” His hand was under my bra. What the fuck. What the fuck. “I would prefer if you did not.”
“Oh,” he withdrew his hand momentarily, only to put it under my bra again, groping my breasts. “You know what this does to me? You make me so happy. You make me hard.” Yeah, I know. I could feel it. Repulsed I finally forced my way out of his grip. He still had hold of me. “Can’t you feel anything?”
What was I supposed to feel? Desire? Fuck no. Repulsion? Yeah.
“You don’t get turned on?”
“No.” I said firmly. Finally, I had my car door open. I wedged it between his body and mine.
“What do I do if I see you again?” He said. “You make me so happy. Thank you for making me so happy. I’m really drunk.”
“Get home, sober up,” I said, closing the door and driving away. I wasn’t buckled. Wasn’t sober. Wasn’t staying there.
My skin was crawling where he had touched me. Motherfucker. Mother fucker.
Why did I let him do that? Why didn’t I stop him? I should have done something more.
My friends left me.
I was very cold. I turned on the heat.
I hate this. This week has been shit.
I hate this. I hate that this is even a problem. What do I do with this? I don’t let people touch me. Only one person. One girl. Ever.
I had something loving briefly. And everything was wonderful and happy and good. I have a lot of love in my heart. I don’t understand why someone would take advantage of a good conversation.
I don’t understand how you can say you love me, and leave me. Cheat. Everyone leaves. Everyone always leaves and I don’t know what to do.
The world sucks. Men are rude. I don’t want to go to the club. I don’t want to speak to anyone this week. I need about 8 showers.
I know it could have been a lot worse. I just…don’t have a great ratio on sexual encounters. I’m half scared of guys anyway. I’m incredibly slow to trust and I thought I was getting better at that.
I’m not angry at him, I’m mostly angry at myself. I had the power to leave the situation and I didn’t until it already was bad. I should have been more careful. Should have swallowed my pride and gone to the club with the guys, even though she was there with the guy she left me for. I’m so fucking good to her. She comes to me about everything. I can’t tell her about this. It’ll come across as desperate for attention. And she’s already very protective of me, and this won’t make it better.
I haven’t come out to [male best friend] yet, but I told him about this. His reaction was not what I expected. He didn’t take me seriously. He’s not a serious guy, but for fucks sake, I’m his best friend. I was scared. I know when I come out as gay to him, he’s going to correlate the two. This didn’t help the gay (I’m going to make that joke as long as possible) but it definitely didn’t cause it. I hope he gets that. I hope he understands.
This whole week has been whiplash. People being absurdly kind when I didn’t expect it, and people being uncharacteristically cold when normally they are the sun. I’m trying to not dwell on things, but an event like this has shaped my worldview. I don’t trust the streets of Lancaster, I don’t trust her when she calls me wonderful. I don’t trust that I can have a nice conversation with a strange man. I don’t trust myself to act appropriately in a stressful situation. I don’t trust that I can go to my oldest friend about serious life stuff and have him respond appropriately.
Fuck. I need a damn break.
Five days later, I caved. I sat on her porch and told her everything.
She sat with me and listened. Took me seriously. Made me smile. Held me when I cried.
“People are good. People are good.” I repeated those words over and over, trying to convince myself.
Her hand moved to my back in a gesture of comfort. I wasn’t crying. In fact, I was trying to put a positive spin on things. But she knew better. She sat with me while I fell apart. She pulled me close, rocking me back and forth on the front porch until my walls crumbled and I sobbed silently into her chest. She held me still.
“People are good,” She affirmed. “You are good. You are so good.”
“I don’t get why I’m so upset,” I said.
“You have a right to be. Be angry.”
“I don’t want to be.”
She stroked my hair. Kissed the top of my head. Her heart was racing. I wondered briefly what was going through her head.
“We’re friends, right?” I said quietly.
“Of course. Why?”
I was silent. She didn’t press the issue. I composed myself. My heart was too full. I couldn’t just keep saying ‘you’re the best, you’re the greatest.’ My words needed to reflect my feeling. In whatever way that was.
“Because I tell my friends I love them. A lot. But I don’t want to make it weird.” I raised my eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” she returned. I heard her clearly this time; it wasn’t whispered or slurred. “I love you so much.”