About a year ago, I went dancing with a couple of dancer friends and had a great time. We had eaten and walked around and, yes, drank some wine and cocktails. There was loud music at the bar in the W in downtown Austin. So, we danced. With each other. With other groups. I danced with men and women alike. One guy bought us drinks, most of which I spilled because we were so busy dancing…
and then I saw a guy sitting on a couch looking very sad. Tipsy & yet still me, I approached him and asked him what was wrong. Turns out he had just broken up with a girlfriend so I let him talk for a minute and I told him that shit happens and the trick is not to let it keep you down. We both giggled at the drunken cliche and I hugged him. There could not have been anything less romantically inclined than that conversation and hug. He was lonely on the couch and I just let him talk.
But in the next moment after the hug, I’m was pulled off the floor and down the hallway. I stumbled to keep upright as some person decided to grab my wrist and drag me away. I half thought it was one of my friends and we were heading to the bathroom to conference on something. But when I gathered my bearings and heard the door lock, I looked up and saw Drink Boy. I also knew I was in trouble.
We’ve all been taught the “Fight or Flight” reactions, but few people talk about a third which is Freeze. It’s the reaction that is *very* common in sexual assault situations because it’s the brain recognizing that you can’t escape unscathed and thus better to reserve your energy for the time you *can* escape. It’s why survivors don’t fight back like they most people think they would. It’s why you see victims shut down and seemingly “let” things happen. It’s what happened to me, in that moment the lock clicked; my brain very precisely showed me two options:
* Let him do what he’s gonna do so you can get to the door with as little damage as possible, or
* Fight back, scream, and most likely get very hurt
I went numb. He was between me and the door and I knew, I just *knew*, that he was going to rape me on that bathroom floor, but I’d rather be raped than broken so he could just start doing what he wants to; I just had to get to the door. I was pushed up against the wall. I put my hands on his arms in an effort to maneuver him; he took it as encouragement. He grabbed my hair so he could use his other hand. I scooted closer to the door. For every action he took. I took one movement closer to the door. I could hear the loud thumping music and focused on the door. Nothing that was happening to my body, just the door.
I wasn’t raped. You see, I had worn tights under my skirt. They thwarted him long enough that I had managed to get closer to the door and frustrated him to the point that he ended up just rubbing himself up against me and then leaving the bathroom, point made:
I had accepted a drink thus he felt entitled to my body.
As I made my way down the hall, looking for my friends, the line waiting to use the bathroom was filled with people looking at me. Some annoyed. Some faces seemed to know. Others living in their own experiences. I found my friends and asked to leave. I had already been through another incident involving assault and knew that calling the cops most likely wouldn’t help me. Just like the security guard as he escorted us out of the bar, they would shake their head at the drunk girl and chuck it up to just another “unfortunate incident” that happens downtown on Saturday night.
It’s like I heard our collective society saying, “Don’t you know better, sweetie? Men are pigs and you shouldn’t drink so much. Remember, you are responsible for your own safety and thank goodness you were decent enough to wear tights. Imagine if you’d worn something more revealing.”
Here’s the thing about my story, though. It’s minor. It’s a blip on the screen of these types of incidences. I’m not belittling it. I’m trying to get through to you that ALL women. Every. Single. Woman you know has been harassed, or stalked, or inappropriately grabbed, or verbally harassed. The statistic of 1 in 4 being raped is bad enough. Add all the factors that feed our rape culture, our culture of male entitlement, and it the number is 100%. Have a mother? Have a sister? Have a girlfriend, a female friend, a coworker… Have a daughter? As it stands, she’s gonna be harassed at some point in her life, probably several times in her life… probably much more than that.
Ready to do something about it yet? I can’t be the only one.