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.