Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
This has been a pretty shitty month. From an ex-gay friend/one time girlfriend sending me harassing e-mails to a male from my past engaging in some, so called, “mild” stalking. I keep telling myself that’s why I didn’t fight back. This was one thing more than I could handle, and I froze. The truth is I’m angry with myself for reacting so passively.
I was taking the bus to class. A guy was standing at my stop and he asked a question about the bus time. I took one headphone out to answer him. After I answered my question he wouldn’t stop talking to me. I answered politely, looking for a way to end the conversation so as not to be rude. He said he was Cherokee and asked for my e-mail. I had my doubts, thinking: “right and I bet your great great grandma was an NDN ‘princess’ too”, but I have fair skin and light eyes, so I didn’t want to make judgments. I know how hurtful ‘not native enough’ comments can be. I know how hard it can be in the city, separated from land and community and often dealing with racism. I politely gave him a fake e-mail.
I began to get suspicious when he followed me onto my bus instead of the one he was waiting for. He proceeded to follow me onto the 2 when I transferred. I kept looking away but I couldn’t think of a polite way to end the conversation. So far he had been completely respectful. I though my misgivings were because I was on edge about the stalking incidents earlier in the month. I’d dealt with them assertively and I didn’t want to give the people harassing me the victory of making me afraid of strangers. When he went to get off the buss he offered me his hand. I don’t know why I took it. It’s programed in I guess. He garbed my hand and pulled me, off balance, towards him and kissed me. Then he got off the bus before I had time to process what had just happened.
I’ve been spending the last few months experimenting with my gender presentation. Gaining confidence to take up space and chose how I want to present myself. This was helping me regain my power after leaving a verbally and spiritually abusive relationship with a closeted friend. With one action I was placed back in the role of a sexual object. The worst part is I was the one who felt dirty after. Like he’d gotten his dirt all over me and I couldn’t get it off.
I know if I report the incident I will only be blamed for it. After all what was I doing talking to him if I wanted him to leave me alone? By giving him a fake e-mail wasn’t I “asking for it”? I’m a two-spirited Ansihinaabe Ikwe, and therefore considered unrapeable. I didn’t fight back. But none of that matters. My politeness was not an invitation for him to touch me in any way. The moment he touched me sexually without my consent he assaulted me. That isn’t complicated. There’s no gray area. No consent = assault. Everyone reacts differently, but freezing doesn’t mean I deserved what happened. For any one else who experienced this. NOTHING you can do means you’re asking to be assaulted or harassed. Let your abuser carry the blame, none of it should ever be yours.
Next time I trust I’ll fight back. Thank you for letting me share my story and speaking up to say that this is never acceptable.
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