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I Am Not A Victim

August 23, 2013

imagesI wasn’t sure I was going to write this. Part of me doesn’t want to acknowledge that it happened at all. But… not talking about it makes me feel like it was somehow my fault, like I should be ashamed for how a stranger made me feel about myself. I refuse to let myself feel that way and I want all of you to know that you never have to either. How you see your body is all that matters.

I went to Las Vegas with some friends last weekend. I had a great time and I’m glad I went, even though Vegas definitely isn’t some place I’d want to go every year. It was nice to be in a place where strangers felt like friends and the night never had to end. As sinister as Vegas can be, there is a lot of beauty in walking those brightly lit streets with people who are there for the same reasons you are.

If you’ve been with us from the beginning you’ll remember that I’m tall and blonde, so needless to say I got a lot of attention this weekend. On Saturday night I played into it, wearing a short dress and my long hair down. But I felt comfortable, my dress was loose and covered my chest and I even had black spandex shorts on so I could bend over freely. It shouldn’t matter what I was wearing though; what happened next wasn’t caused by my clothing.

My friends and I found ourselves dancing in a dark and crowded club around midnight. I love to dance so when a friend pulled me up onto the open platform next to us it felt good to have some room to move. There were platforms all over the club so I didn’t feel too exposed and as cliché as it sounds I really just wanted to dance, letting go and feeling truly happy as I rocked out.

Sometime later a tall guy came over and reached for my hand. He was good looking and though I protested at first, I agreed to come down and dance with him. He led me away from my friends deeper into the crowd and I’ll admit it felt good to be signaled out, especially by a decent looking guy.

We started dancing and it was fine at first; I made it clear I was shy and not used to this kind of grinding. But as we continued he pulled me in anyway, turning me around so we could get even closer. For a little while I went along with it; it was fine, a little contact wouldn’t hurt. But as it started escalating I started pulling away, doing all I could to let him know he needed to slow down or I would bail. But instead of backing off he pushed harder, taking my hands and putting them inappropriate places and taking liberties with his own. It was uncomfortable and jarring, but I’ve dealt with guys like this before and this time I wanted to give him a chance to pull back before I ran. I hoped he’d recognize my protests and make the choice to be a decent person.

dfshfBut he didn’t. And when he reached past my hips for the third time I was done, pulling away and wrestling my way out of his grip. There were people around so I was never really afraid, but I was just so disappointed in him, I’d given him a shot to treat me as a person and instead he chose to treat me as a body. It sucked to feel that hollow, like if we had been alone I would have had to be fearful of him.

I went back up to my friends and avoided their eyes, not knowing quite how to explain my disappointment in his actions or how guilty I should feel myself. After all I had put on a dress that night and come out dancing, maybe by letting him touch me in some places I was asking for him to touch me in others. Maybe I overreacted and should have let him go further. Maybe it was my fault for leading him on.

A friend of mine, she was actually there in Vegas with me that night, was inappropriately touched by a coworker a few years ago. I can’t actually remember all the details and it wasn’t anything more than a few comments and some wandering hands, but it was traumatic for her. So much so that even today she has trouble letting me hug her and when it comes to getting close to a guy she’d rather not. I know every experience is unique and everyone feels things in different ways, but it kills me to see her still reeling from some asshole’s actions. He affected her life in a major way and everything she does is influenced by him, even now. It’s not okay, and I hope all of you know that.

sometimes-the-victim-20090910--BergelsonBkCoverI refuse to let that happen to me. Shit like this has happened many times before, if not to you to everyone else you’ve ever met. One time a guy even had his penis out and asked me and my friend if we were interested in ‘two for one.’ Cindy wrote a post about this a few weeks ago, explaining how vulnerable having a vagina makes us. and part of me knows that I could easily never go dancing again, avoid wearing short dresses, and even stop smiling at strangers to avoid feeling this objectified. But I won’t because doing that only gives weight to their mistake. If I run from harassers it means I believe that part of what they did was deserved and that isn’t okay. I will not change my behavior just because a few assholes see me differently than I see myself.

After I write this post I’m going to forget this ever happened. I’m still going to trust people and think they’re all trying their best. I’m still going to dress up and dance with strangers. I’m still going to put myself in situations where I could be harassed and I’m still going to give people a chance to avoid it. I absolutely refuse to let his (or any other creep’s) actions influence my life. I know the people reading this aren’t the ones who are the problem here, and I know that sometimes we can’t help but pull away from the things we love when they hurt us, but please, please know that we don’t have to live as victims. What other people do, think, say about your body is their problem and has absolutely no bearing on your life unless you allow it to.

As I stood in the center of my group of friends, hiding from my harasser that night, I made a decision. Instead of running away, feeling guilty and telling my friends I had to leave, I got back up on the platform and started dancing. I am in control of my own body. And no one is ever going to make me feel like I don’t deserve to dance.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. habitsofthought permalink
    August 23, 2013 8:42 am

    It has become normal to have an experience like this for women. And that is a sad reflection on how women are still viewed. I will never forget my experience, but when it happened I chose to purposely remember it, so I could recognize the signs and avoid getting that deeply involved. Does it stop me from having a good time? Nope. But I am aware now.

  2. August 23, 2013 11:53 pm

    Good attitude. The truly sucky thing about stuff like this that men do is that often WE are the ones left feelings the effects for a long time, like your friend. Don’t let it get to you, and keep on dancing. Dancing with a guy does NOT mean you were asking for this.

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