Four years ago, a man attacked me during a shift at a restaurant.
Adam was a server and I was a bartender. After shouting at me for not making his drink quickly enough, I told him I was going to speak to management. He charged at me, grabbed my arm – pressed down until my skin turned hot and red – and threw me across the room while I shouted, “Is anyone seeing this?”
Out of the 15 people at the bar, only three of them looked.
He ran inside where he proceeded to tell his story first while I corrected his accusations.
He said words. “That didn’t happen.” I said words. “I could sue you for what you did to me.” Management said words. “Adam, let’s go talk.”
15 minutes later after I finished worrying about serving my guests at the bar and wondering when management would come over, I found myself crying in the kitchen of the restaurant, unable to voice what just happened to the back of the house workers – just uncontrollable sobs.
After I gathered myself, I went to the general manager and asked him why hadn’t anyone come to me to see if I was okay or ask what happened.
“Go to table 92.”
“Colleen, Adam told me you were being snooty. Is that correct now? Were you being snooty?”
“Adam said you cursed. Did you curse?”
“Colleen, I have a feeling you were being snooty. You can be that way.”
This is something I know all too well as a woman – being judged off of illogical and irrational opinion. And recently I read something that put this into words beautifully.
“I see a pattern emerging in rape culture that suggest women have a past, while men have a potential.”
Now, this was not a rape, but this was still an assault. And even though I didn’t receive any real lasting damage, I will never forget how I felt – the most scared I’ve ever felt in my life.
This man was real. He wasn’t imaginary or something I thought up whenever I was alone in the dark, whether it was in my bed or out with friends – natural thoughts for a female in the dark. But this man attacked me in daylight, a time I had mistakenly thought would always be okay. Never the nighttime – I had always had the day.
This moment was enough to release a certain kind of fear I had never experienced before. And now the very people who were supposed to protect me at work were attempting to sweep my experience under the rug. My feelings were dirt no one wanted to look at.
This is all coming up because of this Brock Turner case. After reading the victim’s letter yesterday and then reading Turner’s father’s response, I felt heavy. A large part of my soul was grieving. So much so, I went home and took a three-hour nap. I couldn’t handle the emotions – the anger, the exhaustion, the disappointment, but mostly the sadness.
I was and am so terribly sad for the victim, for her sister, for her family and boyfriend – for anyone who has ever experienced any kind of assault, especially sexual assault. For anyone brave who ever had a story to tell to release their pain and was instead directed to answer questions designed to steal away feelings and power. I’m sorry. I’m sorry people like Brock, his father, the probation officer, and Judge Persky exist. I’m sorry it’s 2016 and a letter written by the victim herself, and not a judge, had to dissect every single piece of a case to explain that being raped by a young, white athlete simply means being raped – period. I just hope it’s the last time, but a large part of me knows we have more work to do. And that makes me sad too.
Both managers involved in the attack at my work were on the same side – I deserved to be grabbed because I was being snooty. I’d bet everything that if this happened to either of their daughters, sisters, or mothers their feelings would have been different. Ironic how that works; it only becomes important if it’s related to them – not the sole fact that someone was attacked. And I bet if I hadn’t grown up around strong women and hadn’t just learned all about feminism in a class one semester before, my “dirt”, my feelings, my story would have been swept away. But they weren’t.
I told the managers I could have been the biggest bitch in the world and that still didn’t grant Adam permission to touch me. I told them it was sexist to assume I was being a certain type of way. I told them it was insane to base a decision off the “feeling” that I was being snooty. I laughed. I told them to fuck off. I told them I’d be talking to corporate, and I left.
The only thing that provides a glimmer of hope and happiness about this rape case are the words the victim wrote in her letter. Her story. The one that she pulled out from underneath the rug and is now being read by millions of people who know what should have happened and what should happen for anyone who rapes.
To sign the petition to have Judge Persky recalled, please visit: http://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/stanford_judgeperskyrecall/