tw:sexual assault, rape culture
Again, warning: Practice self care. This happened to me. Not someone I know. Not a friend of a friend. I am not, nor will I name names because that is not the point of this.
I was, as per my usual, working a con. I was on duty and is often times the norm in that culture, when a hug is offered you tend to accept. Standing in the hallway near a function room a male-identified person (X) that I knew well enough on sight to nod to (it was a small-ish con of a couple hundred people, you do get to know them by the second day) who was a foot or so taller than me gave me what I thought was a regular hug. It went on a bit long and I leaned back a bit in that way you do to signal ‘enough now’ and his hands slid down my hips, paused, and then down to my butt where he squeezed tightly, then to my thighs, picked me up off the ground and rubbing against me before letting go. He grinned and walked away.
I’m going to be honest. I was so shocked in the moment that I was weirded out but I was working and on duty so I let it go. A couple of hours later, now towards dinner time I was off for a few hours and in my room, changing when I shared the moment with one of my roommates. She looked me in the eyes and said ‘You don’t have to stand for that. You should report it.’
It brought it all back up again. I’d convinced myself X was just getting ‘a little handsy’ ‘like men do’ and he ‘didn’t mean anything by it’. It must have shown on my face because she kept going.
‘Would you want him to do it to someone else?’
So, in one of the odder moments of my life of being a con staffer I went down to convention operations, looked at the shift lead and said ‘I need to report a sexual assault. On me.’
I made the report. I was asked if I wanted the rest of the weekend off (I didn’t). I went on my way to enjoy my evening and by then, word had spread because of the roommate about the incident. To her credit it was more in the sense of ‘hey, there is this handsy dude, watch out for yourself. if you wanna know more check with Jamie.’
Folks, in the space of three hours I had at least a dozen women ranging in age from 15 to 60 come up to me and tell me about X. He had a rep a mile long. People *knew* who this guy was and that you avoided him, especially the more he drank. And that they would keep an eye out for the younger women and make sure that they didn’t let him get close or get left alone with X.
Well. I went back to ops with that info and the phone calls (on a Saturday night) to other con chairs apparently started up. Lo and behold, he’d had reports at two other cons that could easily be reached by phone. There is a rule, among that region of cons, three strikes and you are out. I know that in the US justice system that has been perverted to terrible things, but in this particular case, it was a good standard. The con chair decided, based on my report and the corroboration from other chairs that X would be removed from con.
Here’s the point tho (or two of them): I was the one assaulted and it wasn’t until someone else pointed out to me that the behavior was unacceptable that I’d realized it for myself. I’d said it out lout – expecting to be disbelieved, expecting to be told I was over-reacting, expecting that I just misunderstood and that he was being appreciative. It was a female-presenting person who validated my experience that made me believe it.
Rape culture is insidious. I’d grown up on tv shows that talked about how much women lied about assault. Read articles about false accusations. Seen that pulling a ponytail on the playground meant ‘he likes you’. I’d shared what happened with other women and wasn’t expecting to be believed, or at least comforted that a shitty thing had happened and UGH and ‘what’s his name so I can avoid him’.
I didn’t have to go to court and bring the outfit I was wearing to prove I wasn’t asking for it. I didn’t have my character questioned by opposing counsel or the court of public opinion on Facebook. I had the standing in my community to be believed.
None of that? Can be taken for granted. All of those factors led to the temporary removal of a person from a con that indulged in behavior that lacked the consent of the other party.