What I’m about to say is something I’ve never told anyone: not my husband, not my best friend, not even my therapist. I guess a cyberworld of people I don’t know feels safer. With that said, careful on comments for this post? Please? Everyone makes mistakes, and if I’m wrong feel free to tell me, but be nice about it. I need some nice regarding this topic.
Also, to put it out there up front, I have no jokes in this post. Sorry…I know most of my posts include at least thin attempts at humor, but I have no jokes in my locker about sexual assault. I hope none of you do either.
Speaking of lockers…let’s discuss some now internationally known “locker room talk,” shall we? Our potential (PLEASE NO) next president, Donald Trump, had some truly awful things to say about how he has treated women in the past. I was so angry when I saw those words that I was concerned I would literally throw up. I’m not going to repeat them here. If you’re living under a rock in America or in a country that doesn’t follow American politics (lucky you), then feel free to look it up if you don’t believe me. It was bad.
One thing that surprised me out of this whole controversy was the accusation that Trump was condoning sexual assault. “He’s absolute scum,” I thought to myself. “He’s lower than the algae that feeds on scum, but those actions are not actually assault.” Assault, I believed, was violent. It was creepers hiding behind trees and bushes and jumping out of nowhere. It was rape or at least something really close. They’re practically the same thing, right? Everyone always talks about “rape and sexual assault” like “salt and pepper” or “milk and cookies.” They’re in the same class. If you weren’t physically injured, if you weren’t bruised and trying to physically fight off an attacker, then you weren’t sexually assaulted. That’s what I thought, anyway.
I think I was wrong.
After a bit of research (and not just on sites written by women super pissed off at Trump, though there are many of those), I discovered that the definition of sexual assault is a lot broader than I thought. Also, in studying some of the psychological effects of sexual assault and what falls under that umbrella, I think that term might apply to me. I’m very hesitant to even consider claiming that term in my case, because I don’t want to cheapen the traumatic experiences of women who were exposed to truly horrific violent crimes. Mine was not violent. I didn’t have any broken bones or have to go to the hospital. I didn’t tell anyone about it (as I said, not even my closest confidantes). It’s not that I didn’t care about the experience…it’s that I was afraid I was wrong about it.
Let’s call him Z, shall we? Z and I were on a trip to study the education system in South Korea. We were with some other American teachers. We had a lot of meetings, school visits, etc over a two week period. We became good friends rather quickly, and we started being kind of flirty. I was worried he might be reading too much into our joking around, so I said, “Hey, I want to make this clear…I’m like, really really married. I love my husband. I’m not going to do anything physical with you.” He acted all defensive: “Obviously. Geez. I have a fiancée back home; what kind of guy do you think I am?” He made me feel guilty for questioning his character.
A day or two later, he was still being flirty. It seemed like he really liked me, so I told him, “For real – if you try to kiss me or anything, I’m going to be super mad. Promise me you won’t make a move or try anything.” He acted annoyed again that I was questioning him, but he promised. Also, to clarify: there was nothing (NOTHING) flirty when I said those things. I was dead serious, which is why he got all defensive and annoyed. Just to be on the safe side, I made sure we were never alone together. I didn’t want to give him an opportunity.
Unfortunately, we were put in a group to work on a presentation for some Korean teachers. We had to work together. He wanted to work in one of our hotel rooms (HA! No), but I insisted that we work in the hotel lobby. Public place = no opportunities.
Would you believe that there was almost no one in the hotel lobby that night? Seriously – maybe one person would walk by every ten minutes. I would have insisted we go to a coffee shop or something, but we were in a foreign country and there were none I could see from the hotel road (I looked). I didn’t know how to ask for one in a taxi. Hotel lobby it was.
I had the laptop on my lap. He was in the chair next to me and looking over my shoulder. At one point, after making some joke, he reached over and grabbed my chest.
“Hey!” I said. “I said no! Seriously, don’t do that.” He said fine and put his hands up defensively, but laughed it off like it was no big deal. I wasn’t laughing. I was freaking out. I thought, “Oh my word, what just happened? Can I tell my husband about this? He would be so mad. I didn’t want that to happen, but I can’t undo it now. What if he tries again?” Then, seeing Z’s joking demeanor, I felt guilty and thought, “Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of this.” I turned back to my laptop.
A few minutes later we were talking about something else. He put his arm around me and then dropped it low, resting it on my ass. “Cut it out,” I said, getting annoyed. “Don’t touch me there either. I’m not joking. Stop it.”
“You look so good in that dress,” he told me. “It’s tough not to.” So then I figured that really this was all my fault, because if I was wearing sweats and heavy sweaters (a little rough in the summer, but whatever), then this wouldn’t have happened. You can bet that for the rest of the trip I wore my baggiest clothes and scarves every day. I didn’t want to be the cause of him “not being able to help himself.”
After he grabbed my ass, he tried kissing my neck. I pushed him away. I said things were getting too weird and I didn’t want to hang out with him anymore. He said I was being a naiive, innocent, “doe-eyed little girl,” and that I needed to stop freaking out about nothing. I wondered if he was right, but I knew I wasn’t comfortable.
And the other thing is, this guy was my friend. He was a close friend (as much as one can be friends in only a couple of weeks). I didn’t want to make him mad. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I really liked him, and I didn’t want to make things super weird between us for the rest of the trip by making a huge deal out of nothing. As long as I had the self-control to keep saying no to his advances (which I did), then we should be fine. Maybe. I was getting a little worried at this point, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d never hung out with a guy who wouldn’t accept “no.”
I decided to go upstairs, and he rode the elevator with me. In the elevator, he took me by the shoulders and pushed me up against the side of the elevator. He tried to kiss me. I pushed him off and said, “I said no! I said no a million times!” He said, “Really? Are you sure? I wanted to give a chance for something to happen if it was meant to happen.”
It wasn’t meant to happen.
He walked me to my room. I was a little nervous he might try to come in even though I said no. At my door, he said, “Last chance – are you sure?” Yes, I was. Good night.
Then I took the first Xanax I had taken in months, because I was so confused and scared about what just happened, but I felt so stupid about being upset. After all, he never kissed me on the mouth. He didn’t try to forcibly have sex with me. We just joked around and had fun, but in the process he did some things I told him not to. Repeatedly. But that’s not assault, right?
Now I’m not so sure.
I immediately changed the way I started dressing. As I said, the rest of the trip I started wearing the baggiest clothes I packed. Even when I got home, I started really freaking out if my shirts or pants were too tight (and I know you don’t know me, dear reader, but I really don’t wear clothes that are that tight in the first place. I just don’t). I’ve bought a lot more sweatpants and hoodies. I only wear “cute” clothes when I’m around my girlfriends and we won’t be with guys. I told my husband that it was weird how women pay a lot of money to get fake boobs, and now I spend half my time trying to make sure they’re covered so no one will notice them.
Also, since I’m over here disclosing all my secrets, sex with my husband was sporadically weird for months after that. I would be randomly very afraid. We would start kissing, and I would say, “Wait. Ummm…If I don’t want to have sex with you right now, that’s okay, right? Like, you’re not going to make me or anything?” And he would look really surprised and hurt and say, “I’ve never asked you to do anything you don’t want to do…why would you even think that?” Which, he’s right. I couldn’t figure out why I felt nervous. And I can honest to goodness say that I never connected that irrational fear with that event in Korea until I started thinking about this whole assault issue.
The one person that knows part of the story, and not even the worst parts, was completely shocked and said, “Wow, you must have been sending him some seriously mixed signals.” Then I once again was certain that this was my fault. I had been flirty with the guy earlier in the day. Sure I had told him no, multiple times, in a completely serious tone, but maybe earlier flirtation overrides a present “no”? I probably shouldn’t have talked to him at all. I worried that telling the full story to anyone would cause them to say, “Well, if he felt comfortable making a move like that, you must have done something to make him think you wanted it.” Except I didn’t. I can promise until I’m blue in the face that I didn’t want it and that it upset me immediately, but I’m afraid no one would believe me.
I do think that flirting with him was a bad idea. Flirting with anyone not-your-spouse is a bad idea. I own that. Also, I should have cut contact as much as possible on a trip where you’re with the same people 24/7, but I don’t think that excuses him doing directly what I asked him not to. It wasn’t okay. It made me feel like a complete sluttress, because I must have been sending some “seriously mixed signals,” and my dress must have been too tight, and really I should have kicked him in the balls in that elevator. I was angry, and the next day I told him so in no uncertain terms, but he once again minimized it and said I was being a total drama queen. No one wants to be a drama queen. Also, I didn’t have anyone to tell, so I couldn’t find out if it was okay for me to be upset. I ended up believing him because he seemed very, very certain that he was right.
I’m still unsure if I can call that assault, but what I call it doesn’t matter. Again, it wasn’t violent. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But you know what? It was bad. I didn’t like it. I was uncomfortable, I made sure he knew it, and he didn’t stop. If I can’t call it assault, I can at least say that it’s okay that I was(am) angry about it. I wasn’t overreacting. All of the “we hate Trump for those comments” blogs and news stories have made that clear to me.
So thanks, Mr. Trump. Your imbecilic behavior has helped me see some of my experiences in a new light. It has validated a fear that I’ve wondered about for months, and it has made my vote for the 2016 election crystal clear.