Somewhere around 4 months ago I was sexually assaulted on a bus. I've talked about it a little bit in previous posts, but today I feel the need to talk about it in more depth.
I will warn that this post is very lightly edited and written very much from the moment, and consider the above a trigger warning.
So, the short story is that one lovely Fall afternoon I was catching a rush hour bus home when some creep trapped me in a corner, pressed up against my side, and rubbed his junk for a good ten minutes until it was his stop. I tried to take up less space, and when that didn't work elbow him off. His response was to glower and puff himself up.
I tried to gaslight myself the second I was off the bus. Maybe he just had super itchy balls? I mean, he was a creep either way, but you know, people on buses right?! I promptly realized what I was doing, and pointed out that if I felt this rattled and violated it wasn't "nothing". Some people have an angel and devil. I have an optimist who insists on seeing the good in everyone and a someone who is brutally pragmatic. The optimist wins more than you would think.
So I filed a police report and spent a few weeks being so anxious I could hardly eat. I am not an anxious person, but every day, getting on the bus to go to work and to go home (or any other running around I did) I was just a ball of rattled nerves. I was scared to take public transit alone. Something I had been doing (often late at night!) for five years. I had a few guys sit too close or ask questions like "SO YOU'RE ALONE WHERE ARE YOU GOIN BABY?" and I've had to deal with obnoxious close talkers and guys who called me a bitch when I told them no I didn't want to go out with them. None of that had traumatized me. This did. It got better, and I'm almost totally comfortable on the bus again.I mean, I still scan it every day just in case, and if I see a large bald man with a pencil thin chinstrap get panicky, but it's been (mostly) fine.
Today I saw him again.
Not on the bus though. At work.
I work in a medical building, and there are a few coffee shops in it. One is right beside the kitchen I work in, which is right at the entrance. I was coming in for my shift and there he was. I did a double and triple take, being guided by my coworker who I bussed in with that day. He looked puzzled as we rounded the corner into our own dining area. "You okay?"
I shook my head and told him what I had seen. He looked back but my attacker had vanished into the bowels of the building. Which is probably for the best. I wouldn't have wanted to file a second police report.
At this point I was freaking the fuck out. I serve customers directly. I was suddenly in a situation where the man who had assaulted me on a bus could walk in and ask me to make him a sandwich. My hands were shaking, and my job involves using knives. I tried to talk myself down. I had told a few of my co-workers what was going on, if I suddenly bolted, they'd know what was up, right? I did not need to deal with him if he came in. There was also the nagging little voice in the back of my head. What if I was wrong and it WASN'T him and I was potentially about to bring a whole lot of awful onto some innocent random guy who's only crime was thinking a chin-strap was a good idea? They're really not, if anyone is thinking about it. Just, don't.
So I spent a few hours trying to calm the fuck down and get my prep done for the day. I managed the second half of that before I went to talk to my boss. I started by telling him I was freaking out and kind of needed some help getting my head back on straight. He looked intrigued if not wary. As did my kind-of-sort-of boss who was also in the office. I know many people would be shy and quiet about this sort of thing, but I've come to feel that if I can talk about something it's less scary, so I tend to be pretty open about... everything.
So I told them that I had seen the guy who assaulted me on a bus over the summer and was freaking out. For reasons I don't quite get, they asked for details of what happened, which I gave. I was a saint and didn't loose it on my not-actually boss when he started saying I should have gotten up and moved or screamed or or or. I just said "It's hard when they're twice your size and have you trapped in a corner" and he seemed so confident that had I just piped up, someone would have come to my rescue. I've been harassed in public before, and it's been loud and obvious, I've never had someone come to my rescue. I don't know why he was so certain I would have been saved. Maybe he needs to tell himself that so he doesn't hate the world? After I explained that no, I saw him IN THE BUILDING and I think at that point was on the verge of tears because why was my not just saying I was freaking out because I saw a guy who assaulted me on a bus not enough? Why did they need to know HOW? Did they have to decide if I was the "right" kind of victim (turns out I am. Yay?) before we moved on? I was told if I saw him to grab one of them and he'd be promptly banned, and my boss agreed to stick me in back for the day while he handled my station because I just couldn't stomach being on the service side that day.
So I have spent almost an entire day in a rattled, panicky state, simply because I saw the fucker. I imagine it will take a few weeks before I'm back to being almost totally okay with taking the bus again, and now I get to look around anxiously for 8 hours a day, too. What really struck me however is, my story, which isn't really that dramatic, has left me rattled and traumatized. Facing the victim blaming. People trying to push on me that I could/should have done something differently, because these are things that are stoppable if you follow the rules for their own peace of mind. A well meaning but incredibly condescending "Don't worry. We'll protect you from the big scary man" were enough to make me want to hide in dry storage and cry for a bit. I didn't because I'm stubborn like that, but damned if I didn't want to. It was so frustrating and just added to the helplessness I was already feeling. In all of this there was one thought that struck me- how much it must suck for so many other people who've lived through truly horrific things. Yes, what I went through is terrible and I shouldn't try to brush my own shit under the table because other people have it worse. I know that is the jerk-brain talking, but sometimes "It could be so much worse" is comforting in its own horrific way.
I don't have a clean way to tie this all together. I just wanted to share my sudden and horrific perspective of "Oh god if this is anything like what rape survivors deal with I need to get right the fuck to work on that mind control device so people will stop with the victim blaming and the "BUT HE SEEMED SO NICE AND YOU DRANK SO YOU'RE A DIRTY WHORE" bull shit."
So, as always, I'd like to hear your insights/thoughts in the comments, but I WILL be moderating them more closely than usual. If you slip into victim blaming, or rape apologisim, or anything of that ilk, depending on the severity you might get a single warning. If it's bad, you'll just get banned and the comment deleted. 50 Shades (and less heavy topics) on Thursday.
Also a quick note: I'll be tagging more "personal" posts with "Erika's diaries" for future searching ease.