Many of you know my story. You know that 30 years ago, I was sexually abused by a man who abused not only me, but dozens of other children. You also know that several years later, during the investigation, I was too fearful to tell my story. I shrugged my experience off, too weary to retell what I had told before; too angry and cynical to bare myself and chance not being believed again.
Tonight, I told.
Tonight, after I became the victim of sexual battery, I told. I told LOUDLY. I announced, in my big girl, outside voice, exactly what that man did to me. I proclaimed it in front of his associates. In front of all the guests at the nice business party. I nearly shouted it.
Then, I left the party. I collapsed in the hallway, and contemplated leaving the hotel. Mr. Wright followed me into the hallway, and demanded I tell him exactly what happened. He insisted I walk back into that party, and show him who the man was.
I described the assailant, but refused to re-enter the party.
Then, something incredible happened. People from inside the party started coming out to the hallway. People who had seen what he did. People who had heard what he did. People who cared what he did, and people who were not going to let him get away with it.
Someone called hotel security, and as the party wrapped up and everyone filed out, several partygoers formed a protective barrier around me, and waited. They waited for him to walk out the door, and they confronted him when he did.
He admitted to touching my hand. He denied, however, placing my hand on his clothed genitals. Then, he changed his statement to, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and he ran.
He ran down the hall. He ran around the corner. He ran for the stairwell, and started running down the stairs. We were on the 31st floor.
Security arrived, and assured me they would have his face on camera somewhere. They took my statement, and I told. Again, I told. The young blonde security woman listened, and she believed me. She told me the police had been called.
As she interviewed me, she listened in her earpiece, and updated me: He was seen running out of the hotel and into the street. What is my address? How about my phone number? Another update: Someone had caught up to him and detained him. The police were in contact with him. They’d like me to meet them outside and give a statement. Did I feel up to that?
She took me downstairs and walked me into the courtyard. There were at least four officers there, and more across the street. And, across the street, there he was, waiting to be positively identified by me, the victim. The police asked me for a statement, and I told. I told them, without tears, what he did. I told them with the confidence I wish I’d had decades ago. I told them in my big girl, outside voice.
Witnesses gave their statements, and that… that’s when I cried.
I cried because I’m not a child. I cried because the party was a group of adults at a business function, and it would have been so much easier and more comfortable for them not to tell. I cried because they cared enough to say, “That’s not okay, and we won’t stand for it.” I cried because my God, we need more people like them in the world.
I cried because these people YAWPed for me. For me!
I cried because… I’ve spent 30 years watching and learning that most people don’t do the hard thing when it comes to sexual abuse and assault. These people did.
In fact, it was one of those people who chased my assailant down and made sure police could grab him. It was another of those people who took the initiative to call security, and said he would make sure the police were called. Yet another saw it happen, and she gave a statement to the police.
Any one of these people could have turned the other way, and carried on with their night, but they didn’t.
I had to get into the back of a police cruiser. They drove me down the block, circled back, and lit up the “suspect” with a spotlight, assuring me he couldn’t see into the cruiser. They asked me to make a positive identification. Was it him? Was I sure? Was I positive?
Yes… Yes, I was, and I told.
Sexual battery is what he is being charged with, they said, which is a misdemeanor in the state of California (where I am at the moment). Normally, taking him into custody wouldn’t be required, but tonight… Tonight they took him into custody due to “proximity of the victim.”
They took him into custody to keep me safe. And they called me a “victim,” which didn’t make me feel weak. To the contrary, it made me feel strong and validated, because it meant they were listening, and they believed me.
They asked me if I will be willing to testify, should I need to? Yes. Yes, I will, and I will do so as many times as needed.
I’ve read a lot about bystander apathy, which occurs when a group of people fail to intervene, help or otherwise aid a victim. A number of things contribute to this phenomenon, including ambiguity (not clearly knowing if the victim really needs help) and diffusion of responsibility (assuming someone else will provide assistance).
What happened tonight defied the societal research. Tonight, people determined I needed help — even though my inclination was to leave the scene, and pretend like it didn’t happen after I told and got myself to physical safety — and took it upon themselves to ensure help arrived.
Don’t give up, readers… Some things in the world are just as they should be, and good people are out there, ready to listen and advocate.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one with a YAWP for the world, and I am grateful.