I’ve been feeling very uncomfortable lately.
Ever since the Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was given a short six month sentence for a rape he committed behind a dumpster on an unconscious woman, I’ve had flashbacks to an assault I faced when I lived in Minneapolis. It wasn’t rape, but it was a sexual assault that occurred when I was at the local bar in my neighborhood. Like the victim in the headlines now, I had been drinking and casually talking to a guy. It was innocent. I wasn’t really drunk but probably had a good buzz going because I can see it clearly in my mind. I remember hearing the guy and his friend count down from five and then his hand reached into my shirt and squeezed my breast. It happened so fast, I had no time to react. He squeezed it so hard, it hurt. I was so stunned, I couldn’t even react before he pulled his hand away, leaving me standing there in shock. It was crowded that night so I don’t know if they left right then or stuck around. I stood there for a a few seconds wondering if that whole episode had actually happened or if I had imagined it. When I told the bartender, he was shocked and said I had just been assaulted. He came around to my side of the bar, took my hand, and led me through the crowd towards the door. The bouncer said he had just left. It was too late.
That’s when it hit me I HAD been assaulted. My first thought wasn’t anger or disgust–it was shame.
I felt ashamed I had let it happen. It was my fault because I had been drinking in bar that was a known meat market, very crowded, and hyped up on alcohol. I felt stupid and embarrassed. I had surgery on my breasts a couple weeks prior so I was still suffering a little pain and still had healing left to do. The ghost feeling of his hand under my shirt as it squeezed me lingered. I felt so small and just wanted to crawl out of my skin. The look of pity and rage from the bartender, who was someone I was dating at the time, brought tears to my eyes. He hugged me and asked if I wanted to call the police. He also said had he caught up to the guy, he would have probably beat the crap out of him. I know he said it to make me feel better, but it only made me more self-conscious. What I just couldn’t shake was the shame.
This type of assault is nowhere near what other rape victims have experienced but it still brings up the word consent. I never, EVER, gave that man consent to reach in under my shirt and grope me like he did. He should have been arrested because it was wrong and it was criminal. He had no right to take advantage of me–ESPECIALLY since I’d been drinking. Just because I had alcohol in my system does not give any man a “get out of jail” free card for HIS choice to assault a woman. Women should not be made to feel guilty for being drunk during an assault. Does it really matter if she is sober or drunk? NO. Any man should know not to force himself on a woman no matter her state of mind. If she is slurring, she cannot consent. If she is asleep, she cannot consent. If she has no time to say yes or no, she did not consent.
He also should know that even a quick grope under her shirt and bra is assault and it’s criminal.