Rainy Day Writing

Writing, Reading, Inspirations and Aspirations

Sexual Assault and the Deplorables

I was sexually assaulted. In broad day light. On a bright and sunny afternoon as I walked to work in a middle class neighborhood in south Tacoma, Washington.

I was in my early twenties, working a retail job in a strip mall. I was walking down 56th street a couple of blocks from my home. It was such a lovely day. Two young men passed me on the sidewalk, one on foot and one riding a bike. As they passed, the youth on the bike grabbed my breast forcefully. I turned myself around to look at him as he rode away, shocked, embarrassed and angry. I yelled to him that he best never do anything like that again and turned back to continue on my way, badly shaken. There was a warehouse across the street from me where a number of men and women were taking a break, sitting on the landings smoking cigarettes. They watched our exchange. Not a single one of them, man or woman, made a move or any effort to see if I was in distress or in need of help. I walked on as fast as I could.

Then I heard him returning on his bike. He challenged me as to why he should never do that again. He followed me and we argued back and forth for a couple of blocks. He grabbed my breasts and my buttocks several times as I tried to walk away from him.  I was a young and serious evangelical at the time, used to talking salvation to people. I tried to reason with him as to the error of his actions. I tried to talk to him about Jesus. He responded with foul language and more painful grabbing. The longer he followed me and continued to put his hands on me, the more frightened I became. The assault ended when I realized the young man was sexually aroused by our interchange. I began to run. There were homes on the street where we were walking and I ran to the nearest one and rang the doorbell, crying. A nice grandfatherly gentleman listened to my story and recognized my distress. He and his wife let me sit in their living room chair, tears streaming down my flushed cheeks, as they called the police for  me. They said they had heard our voices on the sidewalk but thought we knew each other and were just arguing.

The police came and took my statement and drove me to work. The young assailant was long gone by then. I suspected he lived in my general neighborhood and wondered if the police would ever find him. Would I run into him again?

My breasts and buttocks were bruised and tender from the force of his attack. I felt victimized, violated and vulnerable.

I was still feeling that way a few days later when I spotted him in the parking lot of the neighborhood grocer. This time my husband was with me. We were able to track him to a side street before he ditched the bike and disappeared. My husband stopped to grill the boys he had been with. His friends Mother came out to see what all the commotion was about and gave my assailant a name.  And that is how the good detective assigned to  my case found him. He admitted his crime, was charged and ended up in juvenile detention.

And here’s the kicker and the reason I am disclosing this very personal information that I rarely ever speak of, so much so that my family doesn’t even remember it ever happened: I was relieved that it wasn’t worse. I was grateful that I had not been raped. I was glad it had happened in broad daylight in a neighborhood where I could run up to a house and find a nice but somewhat bewildered elderly couple to shelter me in their home until the police came. But I was also aware that a small group of people watched as I was grabbed by this boy, and as he followed me down the sidewalk, assaulting me, and did absolutely nothing.

Which is why when I heard the comments our President elect made about how his celebrity status entitled him to grab women by the pussy, the gall rose up in my throat. And it rose higher as grown men, and women, down played the ugliness of his words and the implications of his attitude. And it rose still higher as his followers and apologists ridiculed the responses of those who were rightfully shocked and angered by this new revelation of this man. This man who will soon be our President. As if it didn’t matter to them at all.

They reminded me of that group of people, smoking their cigarettes, putting them out, and going back to work while I was being sexually assaulted across the street. As if it didn’t matter to them at all. I hadn’t thought about the incident in years. But I am now.

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12 Comments

  1. It’s hard to push the “like” button, because of course I’m appalled at what happened to you. But it’s an important story, given current context. I’m sorry for all of us that people learn so slowly, that we still act as animals when we know enough not to.

    Like

  2. I think we’re all feeling the bile rise in our throats for a wide range of reasons, but I feel badly for people who have experienced all those ugly words in action. And for the people who will continue to experience them. For those of us who chose to vote for someone else, the only silver lining is the anger that has driven us out of complacency. The very complacency you saw with those bystanders. I won’t be a bystander. Thanks for sharing your story and take care of yourself.

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  3. I’m really sorry this happened to you, Ilona. I’m glad you ended up finding that asshole so you could turn him in but I’m sorry you’ve carried the burden of this experience with you ever since that time in your life. If I’d been one of those people on my break at the warehouse, I promise you I would have taught that kid some kind of lesson while the police were on their way (of course, who knows what the police would have done…… in another lifetime I helped get programs funded that were instrumental in bringing certain law enforcement agencies out of the stone ages, equipping them to effectively handle domestic violence and sexual assault cases). I’ve never been one of those apathetic bystander-types. I can’t believe those people just watched. Fuck them for just sitting there. Just fuck them. I don’t care if it was the 1820s.

    Don’t get me started on Trump.

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    • Thanks TF, my reliable friend. I am sure you would have responded. I’ve never talked about this before and don’t think about it much really. We compartmentalize these things away. But it seemed like it needed to be shared right now.

      Like

  4. I am…. disturbed. I don’t know how a group of people can stand by and watch something like that happen. It honestly scares the shit out of me. I would have charged over and put my cigarette out on his forehead if I saw that happen. How can people be okay with any of this? I DON’T GET IT. It’s disturbing and it makes me so fearful to have daughters one day. I’m sorry this happened to you. Very sorry. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blair, I can only hope that the conversation about this shit opens up and we can talk about it like responsible adults. That’s why I wrote the post. Unfortunately, the people who need to hear this stuff won’t read it or will shout that it’s being politicized and therefore isn’t a real issue. UGH! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A terrible truth is that people often do not respond to emergency situations like the one you describe. I’d like to think it is shock and not knowing what to do. That’s on my better days. Sadly, I think it is more likely that people just do not care about things outside their personal influence and interests. As you said in your article about the divisiveness of this past political year, you can only make your choices based on what you would like to see in the world around you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh man, I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m 33 and I don’t know if it’s just perspective, but things in all manner of bigotry seem to just be getting worse, or just uncovered. I thank you for writing this because Trump and that culture are NOT helping but a lot of brave people standing up against it are. I have hope this will cause things to, eventually, be better then they were.

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    • I hope people will begin to understand how common it is and how many women have experienced it and just don’t talk about it. If nothing else, I would hope people might try to be more understanding and less flippant about it. Thanks for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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