I am going to tell y’all a true story. There’s a lot to it, so read on and bear with me. There’s a point, I swear.
It was a cold ass night back in…..gosh, I forget, 2008….2009? I mean, bitterly fucking cold. The kind of cold that is painful, that hurts your feet and fingers, makes you long for summer. My homegirl and I, like most weekends back then, had decided to hit up our regular haunt and brought hot chocolate to the bouncers we knew at the front door, forced to stand in the nasty cold. They, of course, were grateful and their gratitude meant we didn’t have to wait on a line outside in the cold. Score! As soon as we passed the metal detectors and paid our (discounted) door fee, we got on the coat check line. My homegirl was doing the pee-pee dance, squirming from foot to foot as we waited, so we agreed that I would check our coats and she would use the bathroom. She texted me that one of the bouncers we knew let her use the VIP bathroom, which was up a short flight of steep stairs and overlooked the general dance floor of the club.
After checking the coats, I made my way through the club and waited for my homegirl at the foot of the steps that led to VIP, leaning against a banister that overlooked the dance floor. I was alone, watching people gyrating and grooving, trying to hype myself up for the night. That’s when a man approached me.
He came up from behind me and rubbed himself against me, whispering hotly into my ear that I wanted to dance. Not “Do you want to dance?” but “You want to dance.” I turned to face him and said, “No thanks, man,” my hand on his chest without force. He was tall, towering taller than my 5 foot 10 inches, with a square jaw and broad shoulders with pale, pasty skin. He was also utterly drunk as shit. He grabbed my waist and pulled me close to him so that I could feel his semi-hard penis and repeated, his hot breath all on my ear lobe, “C’mon baby, you want to dance with me. Stop it.” I pressed my hand against his chest a little harder and managed to pull away, saying again, “No thanks, I’m good.” He again, pulled me to him, his hands groping my ass, gyrating his hips, his breath stale with alcohol. I pushed him away from me much harder this time (I think there was an elbow thrown in there) and said forcefully, “I said NO!” I turned away to get the attention of one of the bouncers I knew. And that’s when it happened.
Pasty dude grabbed a fistful of my hair and pulled me so hard that I fell to the floor. He then got on top of me and banged my head on the ground a few times. I desperately kicked him away as his friends came and dragged him off. I watched as they walked away with him, arms around him, as if HE needed the help, offering him support as I was on the floor. As if HE was the one that had been violated and attacked. I stood up and watched as people laughed at ME, smirking and giggling as if my pain and my violation had been a highlight of their night.
And then my Bronx card came out.
I had an expensive tan leather clutch with me that night. It had this intricate and sturdy metal frame and the leather had been dyed this amazing brown that seemed to match my favorite boots perfectly. I LOVED that fucking clutch. I had spent nearly an entire paycheck to get it. My anger seized me as I watched him walking away, as I watched people laughing and not asking if I was okay, if I needed help. My anger pushed my legs towards them as they walked away. I proceeded to bend my beautiful metal-framed clutch over his head. He turned and overpowered me and again pulled me by my hair until I was on the floor, banging my head against the ground until I was dizzy. His friends grabbed him by his shoulders, urging him to move so the bouncers wouldn’t grab them up. I scrambled up when they started for the door and found a bouncer, yelling, “He hit me! That guy just hit me!” Bouncers appeared everywhere all of a sudden and grabbed up pasty dude, walking him up a flight of stairs that led to the exit of the nightclub. I ran to them as they talked to him and crying, I yelled in his face, “Why? Why did you hit me when I just didn’t want to dance?” I’ll never forget his smirk and the way he spat out, “You hit me first.”
My pushing him away that last time, me finally getting forceful after two failed attempts of being chill and tranquila about saying no, was me “hitting” him first. Can you fucking believe that shit, b?
I pulled out my Bronx card again.
Rest in peace to my beautiful metal framed clutch as I slapped pasty dude with it.
He lunged at me and ripped my top, yanking on my hair and yelling the word “Bitch!” in my face. It took three bouncers to get this man off of me. When they finally were able to get him off of me, two women who had been watching (I forget their names but may the Universe bless them forever), grabbed me close to them, smoothing my hair and hugging me, telling me that I was going to be okay. I started sobbing. The kindness was overwhelming. Soon, my homegirl came bounding up the stairs, yelling for me. Coming out of the bathroom, one of the bouncers had told her what happened and she had raced around the club looking for me. And there we all were, four women crying and hugging in a nightclub.
My top was ripped and I was sobbing. Not as fun of a night as we had originally intended. So, we left. On the way home, we picked up my homegirl’s at-the-time paramour. Let’s call him Elmer Fudd, because quite honestly, I forgot his damn name and you’ll see why I don’t care for him in a bit. I slid in the back seat, still shaking and crying. My homegirl starts to tell Elmer Fudd about what happened, giving him details about this guy and how fucked up it all was and so on and so on.
“Well, what did she do that he did that?” His question silenced my tears.
They stopped dating that night for some other shit, but I don’t think that question helped.
Okay, here’s why I tell you this story. Recently, I read about a young woman named Tiarah Poyau, a graduate student, who just like me all those years ago, was out with friends at Brooklyn’s 2016 West Indian J’Ouvert festival for a fun night out. All she said to her murderer was “Get off me,” when he came over and began to grind on her without asking her to dance. “Get off me.” That’s what she said to get shot, close range, in the eye. She died because a man couldn’t take rejection. You’d be surprised at some of the responses to this murder that I’ve read in comment threads. The “Why didn’t she just dance with him?” or the “She must’ve said some other crazy shit” comments are the most sickening.
The term victim-blaming is defined as “a devaluing act where the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment is held as wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them.” Tiarah said “Get off me,” and she was killed for it. I said “No thanks, man,” and pasty dude felt it was okay to physically assault me. Countless rapes and assaults are devalued with victim-blaming. Shit, Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint this past weekend and motherfuckers was victim-blaming HER, as if her infamous (and boring) sex tape, her vapidity, and her riches are all valid and legit reasons why it’s okay for someone to put a gun to her face. I have no interest in the Kardashians (and admittedly made a shameful joke about watching the robbery on her show which I have acknowledged and apologized for), but as a victim of an attempted home invasion myself, that shit is traumatizing and scary and it’s NOT her fault. That’s NOT okay to say it’s her fault or she deserved it. NOPE.
You gotta understand, victim-blaming is just another tool of the patriarchy. Take the Brock Turner case and how the victim’s drinking was questioned, her sexual relationship with her boyfriend analyzed and critiqued. Dude sexually assaulted her when she was PASSED OUT and UNCONSCIOUS and yet, it’s still homegirl’s fault somehow. This kind of thinking is dangerous and perpetuates not just rape culture, which itself is a clusterfuck of disgusting, but perpetuates the fear women have of just fucking saying NO. Saying NO can get us shot and killed, physically assaulted, raped, robbed, what have you and then for some odd and insane reason, WE are blamed for being brutalized and traumatized. Does that make sense to YOU? Because it sure as fuck doesn’t make one iota of sense to me.
I left a part out of my story. As my homegirl and I were preparing ourselves to leave the nightclub after my assault, a female friend of my attacker approached me and timidly said, “I’m sorry. He’s not like that. He’s not violent with women, it’s just the alcohol.” Of course, the two women who had hugged me and my homegirl went bananas on the girl, but in hindsight, I feel bad for her. Her idea of this man she knew personally, this man she maybe loved or cared for, was shot to fucking hell. Sure, she tried to meekly defend him, but I am sure she was all, “What the fuck? Who ARE you?” after that night. Shit, I mean, I would have.
His homegirl’s behavior though, is just as dangerous as victim-blaming. Let’s call it “Culprit-Coddling.” It’s the reason why this kind of shit is always perpetuated. It’s the reason why Elmer Fudd felt it necessary to ask what I did that led to my assault. It’s this kind of shit that encourages men to act this way, perpetuates this idea that men are merely thoughtless animals with no self-control which in and of itself, is a tool of patriarchy. Men are NOT thoughtless and they are certainly NOT animals. Saying, “Oh, he’s a good guy, he’s not like that usually,” only traumatizes the victim further, except on an entirely different level of fucked-up because it compounds the victim-blaming. He couldn’t do that, he didn’t mean it, he’s a good guy just means you’re bugging, that never happened, or something you did sparked him off.
His friend, I know, was essentially trying to be a good friend to him. I can’t blame her, really. I mean, how would I behave if it was one of my brothers, one of my male friends, one of my cousins that acted like an asshole? I know how. I would defend them if they didn’t deserve the accusation, of course, but if they clearly victimized someone, I wouldn’t try to get them out of it by talking about how good of a person they are. Sure, I love them and I will always love them, I will die for my brothers. But if they fucked up, I can only speak about my love for them and not their actions. I would have no defense for them if they clearly and blatantly hurt someone. I can only love them and support them in the hole they dug for themselves. It’s like that. They would certainly get an earful from me, that’s for sure.
What should happen is discussions with young men on consent, shit…with older men. Teach our sons about consent instead of teaching our daughters to be prepared to die for saying no. Consent is literally giving permission for something to happen. There is no such thing as non-verbal consent and that kind of patriarchal hogwash is an entirely different fucking essay. Teach our boys that it is NOT okay to lash out after rejection, that they will NOT be coddled if they hurt someone, that they are going to be held accountable for their actions. That a woman is not property, or a voiceless object, or something to claim or conquer. Teach them that they DO have thoughts and compassion and empathy and self-control. Teach them that.
And here’s some advice to everyone, women AND men. Please note, that for this specific piece, I am discussing men who are the victimizers, but this advice is applicable to anyone who cares for someone who has come out of pocket and harmed someone else: If your friends, sons, cousins, brothers, fathers, husbands, have clearly victimized someone, there is NO excuse. Alcohol or drugs does not excuse it. Their past does not excuse it. Their own pain does not excuse it. Acknowledge that they done fucked up and show empathy to the victim. Stop coddling fucked up behavior. I will thank you. Brock Turner’s victim will thank you. Tiarah Poyau will thank you. Countless women who have been blamed for their trauma will thank you.
I can tell you, I went back to that nightclub a few weeks later. My mother couldn’t believe I would bother to go back there, that I should be too embarrassed to want to ever go back there. As if his attack was something I should be ashamed about. Fuck that…fuck all of that. I wasn’t going to let that pendejo take my fun away. I wasn’t going to stay his victim. So, I went back and partied my ass off with a pair of small gold boxing gloves attached to my belt as a joke to my last visit.