You came to my birthday party last night with my friend. She didn’t know anyone on the guest list, so I told her to bring a friend. She chose you.
You seemed harmless enough. Confident, talkative, easygoing. You jumped right in when we were drinking shots and having cocktails. You shook all the men’s hands and chatted with all the women. You were generous with the smiles and cracked a few jokes. You blended right in. It was a great party, wasn’t it?
When my friend and I were dancing in my living room, you were sort of dancing next to us. I say “sort of”, because at this point, you were pretty drunk, so to just say “dancing” would be an exaggeration. You were swaying, holding your drink, staring at both of us. Not in to our eyes, but watching our bodies. As soon as I noticed it, you went into the kitchen for something, probably another drink. As you walked past me to get back to your spot in the living room, you sort of squeezed behind me, between me and the coffee table. As you did that, you brought your hand around my waist in front of me…and rubbed your palm across my crotch. I didn’t say anything. I’m still wondering why I didn’t, which I suppose is the reason I’m writing to you now. You know how after someone does something to you, like way after, you think of all the things you should’ve said? Well, that’s exactly what I did, so I’m saying them now. I didn’t say anything because it was easier not to. It was easier for me to hope it was just an accident. That because you were drunk, you maybe stumbled behind me and I just didn’t see you stumble and your hand just so happened to fall down on my crotch. God, that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I told my friend, right there as we were dancing, that you touched me inappropriately but I wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not, and if it happened again, I was going to have to say something. She was mortified. She brought you there as a guest, because she didn’t know anyone at the party. You were there in a supportive role to her, you know. I felt bad for telling her. Can you believe that? I felt bad. I didn’t feel comfortable dancing in front of you anymore, so I walked into the kitchen and told the story to a few of my friends, saying how maybe it was an accident and how you might have stumbled behind me and I just didn’t see it. Because that would be so much easier to deal with than admitting a man I didn’t know touched my privates in my own living room in front of all my friends and I didn’t say anything to him…on my birthday. One of my friends cut me off and said, “No way…I saw everything from in here. He touched you down there and it was completely intentional and completely inappropriate.” She looked serious. Her eyes were saying “This is not OK“. The women I was talking to all stared at me. God, that left me feeling like an idiot for even trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. And still…I said nothing. I didn’t want to embarrass my friend who brought you here, as it’s not her fault. I’m sure she didn’t know you liked to touch women inappropriately in a sexual way without their consent. So, I minimized it. I said, “Well, I’ve had a lot worse happen to me in my life”, laughing it off. They still stared at me. I just wanted the party to go back to being the fun celebration it was, before it turned into this. I didn’t want to ruin the good time by making a big deal out of it. I didn’t want everyone else at the party to think I was looking for attention, or blowing things out of proportion. I didn’t want my friend, the one who brought you here, to feel badly about me talking about you groping me, so I laughed it off . That’s right… you groped me, and I’m the one feeling like I’m ruining my birthday party. That’s how sexual assault goes, you know. But no, you probably don’t know that. Because most women don’t do anything about it, so you think your actions are OK.
Not too long after, my friend comes over to me and tells me it’s time for her to get you out of there. I’m not sure what you did to make her feel this was urgent, but I can imagine. After you leave, TWO other friends tell their story of being groped by you at my birthday party. You reached out and touched one of my friend’s breasts. Another one, you stared at her body for several minutes, making her very uncomfortable, before reaching out and grabbing her ass. The other two women didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about it until after you left. After you left. Are you starting to see how men keep getting away with this bullshit? Needless to say, once the men here heard about it, they were fuming. They were angry that they weren’t paying enough attention so they could have seen it happening, because they would have taken you outside and taken care of you. These are military men, so I think you can be assured you would probably not be walking today. Later on, when you came stumbling back to get your coat, I left it on the porch, because I knew if you came in, my party would become violent and I didn’t want that. This was supposed to be a night of friendship and love. And I also think that part of me felt bad for you. Part of me didn’t think it would be fair for you to be punished for touching me, when I didn’t say anything to you about it in the first place. Like it would be my fault for you getting hurt because I didn’t speak up. Did you read that? I didn’t think it would be fair to you. Even as my mortified friend waited for you in the car, and you put your coat on, you tried to come back in my house. You reached for the door to come in, smiling at me. Swaying in your drunkenness. Leering. I can only imagine what you thought you were going to do. I shut the door tightly on you, and you stumbled to her car. I was glad you were gone, but also worried about my poor friend, having to be that close to you.
Jesus, you sexually assaulted three women last night, and none of us said a word to you. I was so worried about looking like I was making a big deal out of nothing, or ruining the party, or making my friend feel badly about bringing you into my home, or anything except what I should have been worried about. Isn’t that crazy? I was worried about me ruining my party by reporting being groped. I would have blamed me for my friend feeling bad. I would have blamed me for you getting beat up. This is how men like you keep doing what you do. It becomes normalized. We become conditioned not to say anything, so you think doing things like that is harmless. That it’s OK. That it’s no big deal. You know, because no one ever says otherwise to you. Well, I’m saying something now. It’s not harmless. It’s not OK. It’s a HUGE deal. There were over 25 people here last night, all local people, and they all know about what you did. Not just because I said something, but because the other women did, too. The entire party talked about you being a “groper”, and not one person had ever met you. I felt ashamed for not saying something to you, for not doing something to stop you. My friends were surprised to hear about how I froze. They were surprised, because I’ve just spent the past 2 years in therapy, overcoming a very long and varied history of sexual abuse. I am now an empowered woman who speaks up on behalf of other women. I verbally challenge people who minimize sexual assault. I knew better than to stay quiet…yet I did. Because discussing this type of thing and experiencing this type of thing are most definitely two separate things. I was ashamed. Me, of all people, should have said something. But I didn’t, and that’s OK. I’m still learning. I’m still healing. I’m still traveling my journey. So no, I didn’t say anything at the time, but I sure as hell am saying something now: “Hey....This. Is. Not. OK.”
This post was written in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness Saturday