All I remember is the feeling of hands grabbing my face and the sound of my glasses hitting the sidewalk. It's two days later but that moment, feeling of the unexpected and unwanted is the first thing I think about getting coffee, grabbing my shoes to leave for work, or making my supper.
It's not the first time a man has felt entitled to touch me without my consent and sadly it probably won't be the last, but in the wake of the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner's sentencing and the release of the statement from the woman he attacked, it felt even more disgusting. I don't often write about myself or my own experiences, but after hearing about how the woman (who became defined as "drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster" by stereotype propelling patriarchal judicial and media systems) found the power to speak, I also felt compelled to put my thoughts down.
On Wednesday night, well before midnight, I was walking home after getting the essentials for Game of Thrones binge watching. I was wearing leggings, Blundstones, a giant sweater, a jacket, a toque and a scarf. I was sober. I was listening to a podcast on the United States Supreme Court. These details shouldn't matter, but far too often they do.
Less than a block from my apartment building, my face was grabbed from the side and a man I didn't know attempted to kiss me. He grabbed me forcefully, knocking my toque and glasses to the ground, my bag instantly dropped breaking a can of ginger ale inside. He pulled my face.
I lifted my arm, and my hand connected with the side of his head.
"What the fuck are you doing," I screamed loud enough for an entire block to hear.
"I thought you were my girlfriend," he responded, backing away quickly.
"Fuck you!" is all I could muster before grabbing my glasses and running away.
I couldn't go straight home. What if he watched me? I didn't want him knowing where I lived. I was left physically violated and with nowhere to go - scratched glasses and shaken up. I walked the block and took a back alley eventually leading to my building. When I got inside the first thing I thought was "after all that I'd left the damn snacks in the street."
But as the event started to sink in so did other thoughts, which most women have after they've been assaulted on the street.
I should have been able to do that without having to find a male friend, baseball bat, flashlight, and police escort to go to the convenience store less than five blocks away.
I thought I should have taken my damn headphones out, what was I thinking? I thought I should have gone earlier when the sun was still up, what was I thinking? I thought I should have never gone, what was I thinking? I thought, I'm new to this city, what was I thinking?
What was I thinking? I was thinking I was a hungry human who wanted to sit down and watch season fucking two of my favourite TV show on my night off while drinking chocolate milk and ginger ale (a delicious combo) and eating gummy worms. And I should have been able to do that without having to find a male friend, baseball bat, flashlight, and police escort to go to the convenience store less than five blocks away.
But I still asked myself what I was thinking.
I also questioned well maybe he did think I was his girlfriend. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe I'm being silly responding with fear and anger. Maybe I should have laughed it off.
But now with two sleepless nights under my belt, I realized this stranger shouldn't grab a woman or man's face that forcefully, especially if its a romantic partner. That stranger shouldn't haven been able to take away my love of walking and listening to podcasts (which I haven't done much of since), and that stranger fucked up - I didn't.
When I got angry with him he tried to say that he didn't think I'd wake up and it wouldn't be a big issue. It was, I was violated, my security and safety were compromised. But I was young and didn't want to sound like a nag so I laughed it off - making sure we'd never be in the same room again as well - but not making a big deal out of it.
A few years later working at a coffee shop, the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift, a customer came up to me and asked how much it would cost to sleep with me. I was in my early twenties, he was in his forties. I was at my job, he was a fucking creep. But this man felt entitled to ask me while I worked how much he'd have to fork over for a lay. I told him to leave me alone, but I'd have to serve him a large medium roast coffee nearly everyday for years following.
I've worked at bars where my butt has been grabbed or slapped. I've had men grab my belt loops to try to pull me in closer while I hold an entire tray of drinks and a pitcher of beer in the other hand. I've been subjugated to the most vile of misogynistic comments ranging from the perverted joke about my appearance (which I'm supposed to take as a compliment) to the old "you'd be so pretty if you tried harder." Thanks - here's your beer.
I'd go home, shower, and tell myself that it's the bar, it's the coffee shop, it's the backpacking life, it's the party, it's because I was walking on the street by myself, it's because I was reading a book in the park. What was I thinking doing any of those things right?
Sometimes I was drinking, sometimes I was sober, sometimes I was wearing a short skirt, sometimes I was wearing a parka, sometimes I was with friends, sometimes I was alone, sometimes I was with my employer. There is no one situation where women "make themselves vulnerable" there is a situation where the entitlement (like that shown by Brock Turner's father's statement) that people have makes them think my body doesn't have value - that my body doesn't deserve respect - and that my body isn't mine.
In her statement, the woman said she spoke so all girls would absorb "a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you."
My most recent situation was in the dark and made me feel dull, but I won't give that guy or any of those others the power anymore of making me ask "what was I thinking?" Women have been asking that question forever.
It's time collectively that we point to those people who indulge in their entitlement, their power, their privilege and ask them "what the fuck are you thinking?"
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada