Friday, September 19, 2008


Just as a heads-up, this isn't going to be a cheery post. I'm really angry and that's going to come through. If you're looking for an upper, read a few entries back.

I was assaulted last night. I should probably define what I mean. I'm in agreement with Essin' Em that assault - sexual, specifically - is any kind of contact you don't want. The moment you say no and someone doesn't respect that choice, it becomes assault. And that's not fucking OK. I don't think this definition is too liberal, although I'm sure some people would say that it is. And, of course, it goes without saying that victims (and offenders) can be any age, orientation, identity, etc etc etc.

With those logistics out of the way now, on to what happened.

I was out with my roommate in the city last night. We had a few drinks, but I was by no means stumbling or drunk. I was in jeans and a tank top, with wedge sandals. No little black dress, no copious amounts of skin showing. I looked pretty, but not especially provocative. Just for the record.

After we left our friend's restaurant at about 3am (in this city, that's still early to call it a night), and were wandering around looking for an open bar. I needed to use the restroom, so we stepped into a discotheque, which was disgustingly smokey, so my roommate told me she'd wait for me outside. When I came back out, she was sitting on a bench, talking to a pair of Spanish men. Fine. We do this relatively regularly, since we both speak Spanish, and thus far, everyone we've met has been pleasant - some have even become friends who we've seen again. I sat down next to her and joined in the conversation (in Spanish, of course).

Suddenly, there were 15 men around us. I still don't know where they came from. They were fellow 20-somethings, and were obviously drunk. They all started talking to me at once, asking where I was from, what my name was. Before I had time to answer, two of them took my hands in theirs, ostensibly complimenting my nails. Then each one took my hand and tried to stick it down their pants. I pulled away and pushed them off, telling them no, I wasn't interested. In Spanish and then in English. (Granted, "no" is the same in both languages.) At the same time, some other guy had put his hand on my chin, trying to get me to look up at him or stand up. I shook my head to try to get him off me. He persisted. The hand-holders took my hands again, and held them fast. And then there were arms reaching through the group, touching my chest, then progressing to grabbing my tits. And pulling, and pinching. Hard. There were men behind me with their hands in my hair, starting to pull. I kept repeating no, don't touch me. I don't want you to touch me DON'T FUCKING TOUCH ME (in Spanish). I stood up trying to get away, and was met with even more hands grabbing and smacking my ass. I brought a knee up to try to break through the wall of men that had entirely surrounded me and effectively separated me from my roommate. (Who was still engaged in conversation with her Spaniards, none of whom were touching her.)

The hands followed me, focusing on my tits and ass. I broke through enough to reach out and grab my roommate's hand. She stood up, and told me she had just told the guys we'd go to a party with them. I told her they were touching me. She didn't get it. I told her they were fucking all over me and we needed to leave, immediately. Then she got it. And screamed at them in Spanish not to touch me, trying to push them off me as well. I held on to her hand and we took off running. They didn't follow us with anything except their whistles and catcalls.

We ran for a few blocks, and ducked into a doorway. She asked me if I was OK, told me how sorry she was for not realizing sooner. I told her it wasn't her fault and sure, I was OK. I kept my hands crossed over my chest, hands clasped on my shoulders. I asked for the bottle of wine we had in our purse, and she opened it for us. I drank it straight from the bottle. I didn't really know what else to do. I didn't want to go home, strangely enough. I just wanted to sit. And drink.

She wanted to talk about it. So we did. She asked why they didn't go after her, and I said I didn't know. We weren't doing anything we weren't supposed to. We weren't alone, we weren't shitfaced, we weren't being loud obnoxious Americans, we weren't dressed slutty... We talked some more about why they went after me, when we were clearly together. "I bet it was your accent," she said. I asked what she meant, and mentioned that I'd been speaking Spanish just like she was. "Yeah, but I'm dark-skinned, and Latina. I don't look like I'm American. You, with your light skin and brown hair and green eyes, well, you do look American."

And I suppose she had a point. There's only so much I can do to integrate myself into this community, this culture. I don't have olive skin. I'm Scandanavian, for fuck's sake. I dye my hair much darker than its natural dirty blonde, but I still don't look Latina or anything close. It's frustrating, though, because I make a concerted effort NOT to be the stupid stereotypical American. I speak Spanish. I follow regional social customs. I never expect people to speak English to me, and if I don't know a word, I'll explain it IN SPANISH until the person I'm speaking with understands what word I'm looking for. I don't get stupid-drunk and wander the streets. I was doing everything right, and I know that life's not fair and whatthefuckever, but this, this was really shitty.

I still have bruises on my tits.


Merlin said...

I don't need to tell you this, but this is just wrong. Consent is an essential prerequisite to sex. And consent can be revoked. You never gave your consent, and they had no right to touch you.

This is one reason we have such oppressive laws governing sexual conduct: you can't count on everyone to behave properly. If only people would treat others the way they want to be treated.

I'm very sorry this happened to you.

Wilhelmina Wang said...

I hope you're alright. I hate how being a foreigner - a white foreigner especially - somehow means that it's somehow 'okay' to be treated like that; and the stereotype that white women are 'faster.' =|

Roland Hulme said...

What a horrible experience. I'm so sorry for you.

I think your friend might be right about you being targeted because you looked less Latin. I know in the Costa del Sol and parts of Greece (big British holiday spots) a lot of local guys have this impression of English girls (who you might resemble, with your paler skin) as drunk and easy and treat them in a more aggressive way than they'd ever treat a darker skinned (local) girl.

Not least of which because English girls are likely to be leaving at the end of the week, not likely to stick around to file charges or whatever.

I always hate cliches and generalizations about 'foreigners,' but I know people from my mother to teenage girls I used to chaperone in Paris found that they were the target of pinched bottoms, inappropriate touching and lewd comments when they were in the city.

I honestly think it's just some perception that this kind of behavior is 'acceptable' when it's targeted towards foreign women.

It might have been really scary because there were just so MANY men (you said, like 15.)

Not nice.

I really hope it doesn't put your off your Spanish adventure. I'd like to think most Europeans have more respect than that.

Essin' said...

*hugs*. That's what I've got. I <3 you. Let me know if you need anything.

Amalthea said...

Sasha!!! Oh my... there are no words to make this experience go away. To put a balm on the fear and the pain. I heart you and I am so sorry this happened to you!! Funny enough I've posted a little about this sort of thing once before (the one about Christopher Moore's novel You Suck).... I'll tell you these things, just because it's all I can do. It was assault, and don't let anyone or anything make you think otherwise. In time, you won't be as upset or afraid or intimidated in any circumstances... but you may have reactions you don't expect to random men and situations for a while. I hope not, but you might. It can help to carry something like mace in your purse and keep it in your hand while you're on the streets. It's better to laugh it off with a cute sweet guy when he notices you have mace in your hand or something than to not have a method of defense against the not so cute and sweet ones. I've been cornered by a group before, and while a friend walked up and saved me before it got bad... I will remember it until I die. I was terrified. I wish I had something with me then, even a whistle or something to make a loud noise. I didn't even have my cell phone yet then. Take care of yourself out there, you did the best thing you could in that situation and it wasn't your fault!!

Also, I was coming here to tell you thank you so much for your comments to me lately, it's been really nice to get the support. I really hope I get to meet you one day. :)

Fat Controller said...

I'm so sorry you've been ut through this awful experience. I am absolutely disgusted at this behaviour and the assumptions that fuelled it. As to what you were wearing: Would it have been any more justifiable if you were wearing the LBD and showing lots of flesh? No, of course not.

Yes, of course this was an assault. I hope it does not spoil your enjoyment of your stay too much.