On women being handled

Oct 26, 2016 at 10:38 am
On women being handled

It didn’t take me long to realize that if I struck him, I would likely be hurt in ways worse than him twisting my arm and trying to pull me from the bench in the middle of a crowded bar. He was a young Marine, and I was a woman on the verge of my 30s.

My friend Mary and I often visited Phoenix Hill Tavern. We went to meet friends. We went to see cover bands and dance.

Mary didn’t drink. I probably had a couple of Long Island iced teas. I remember it was in the fall, because the young men who found a spot next to us were wearing shirts with sleeves. I was wearing a jacket, but had taken it off. The chatty one struck up a conversation with Mary, and the other stood silent. He seemed a little awkward and, for some reason, I felt obligated to make him feel comfortable and started talking to him. I asked about the military (we knew they were soldiers by the haircuts), why they chose Phoenix Hill and where they were from. He answered, and things were fine for a while.

Alcohol was consumed and, as the story often goes, things changed.

The young man speaking to Mary was amiable and never inappropriate. His friend got more animated, and not in a pleasant way. As it was, I’m a small woman so, to see the stage, I was standing on a bench.

The details of the night aren’t very clear anymore. I don’t remember the fellow’s name or, really, what he looked like. I know he was a white guy, medium brown hair and not particularly tall. I remember he was very strong, and I remember being afraid for my life.

I’m not sure what triggered him, but the Marine who I’d been stuck with became aggressive. He kept tapping me to lean down to him, and I don’t remember him having much to say the few times that I did respond. Eventually, I ignored his tap: I was listening to the band. Then, he grabbed my arm. 

At first, he pulled as if to get my attention, and then he pulled to knock me over, or get me off the bench. I pulled back.

He pulled harder and then began twisting. Fearing a broken arm, I yelled at his friend. He didn’t hear me over the music. I tried to get Mary’s attention. She didn’t hear me. I yelled for anyone and nothing. In a crowded room, it was me against this guy — this man who was trained by our government to kill.

I knew that I couldn’t fight him, because I didn’t want him to become angrier and more aggressive than he was. I was pulling in a tug of war and at the point where heels are dug in, and you take one last breath before the pull of your life. This was the pull of my life.

Just as I pulled my hardest, his friend looked over. He grabbed the guy and took him away. I remember him apologizing, but little else.

I don’t remember if we left after that. I don’t think we were there much longer. 

The bottom line: Telling this story raises my heart rate. I’m scared all over again. I can feel the panic all over again. I got away with only a bruised wrist. 

When I heard that Donald Trump spoke about grabbing a woman in her “pussy,” I was not surprised; but immediately, the panic and anger that I felt when I was grabbed without my permission returned. Women have been dealing with — and are accustomed to — being handled for so long, that this furor will likely not die anytime soon — even when Trump loses.

Every semester, I have to tell my students to watch out for each other because one in five of my female students will be assaulted. One in 16 of my male students, and one in four of my transgender students will be assaulted. The reality of sexual assault is that it is real, and it is abundant. These numbers represent only the ones that are reported.

I’m ready for the shame of having been grabbed to disappear, and I’m glad the sun is shining so brightly on it right now.