I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of being groped three blocks from my home – and I’ve never really written about that experience publicly. Then I saw this article: And now I need to say something.
For the record – I see her assault as much more violent than my own, but groping is still sexual assault, and it’s still incredibly traumatizing.
I was walking home at 11pm on a Thursday. I’d been at a burlesque show, and for those who aren’t aware, I carry a white cane. I was carrying my camera on one shoulder, a purse on the other and had my phone out. I was getting a text message – and I tend to use my phone’s flashlight to get around in the dark – I was trying to navigate to the flashlight app…
That’s when someone grabbed my left breast. I turned and screamed to get the fuck away from me. He ran away, and then turned to look at me, assuming (correctly) that I would not chase after him. I then ran – from that spot, to my home. Sobbing. I can’t remember who I called, but i called someone (I think it was my mom) and I was freaking out. I got home, and my then fiance helped me calm down while we called 911.
The first thing you should realize is that while this is not my first brush with sexual assault, it is my first brush with letting the police in on it.
My determination? They aren’t very helpful. And while I encourage every woman to report any sexual assault they experience, whether it be a random groping, or a rape – I totally understand why people don’t want to deal with the cops.
First, the cops shined their flashlights into the windows of SOMEONE ELSE’S house. And then when they came into my home they were unhelpful.
The male cop asked me if I should drink my tea since clearly I was already upset and they wanted me to calm down. They continued to ask me questions about my blessedly brief, but very traumatic incident, and then came the line that pissed me off the most.
“You shouldn’t be walking out by yourself at night” The female cop said. “You should ask a friend to pick you up, or take a cab, or walk home with your friends.”
And they played the blind card. That maybe I wouldn’t have had this happen to me if I’d seen him. They were looking for a serial groper, and clearly I was of no help to them. They called me back to follow-up, but they had nothing, and they continued every time someone spoke with me, to chastise me for leading my life. The Lieutenant in charge specifically called to tell me that I needed to be “more careful” and that I should “always have someone with me” and shouldn’t “go out after dark”.
Everything they said to me – and everything they said to the woman who was assaulted – give markers that we are to blame for these incidents.
Both myself, and the young woman who was assaulted on the subway were treated as though our choices to use public transportation, or to be out in public, or for that matter – to just walk home – were the cause for our attacks.
Guess what? Calling the assaulter a “Gentleman” as the cops did in the article, is not okay. Asking a woman who is panicking if the guy is her boyfriend? Also not OK.
Society blames survivors of sexual assaults for what happens to them. We are told not to dress a certain way, walk a certain way, or get home a certain way – when the truth is that the cops, and society, need to change to protect everyone.
And no. It was not my fault.