You may remember back in September when I wrote about being assaulted in a nightclub. I kept the account pretty brief because I wanted to focus on The Knight, but now that I’ve wrapped up the forty, it’s probably time to unpack what happened.
I was bored one Wednesday night, and my kids were with My Ex, so I decided to check out a no-frills club in the city. I couldn’t think of anyone who’d be game for a late-night midweek excursion like this, so I went solo. I parked about a block away from the club and after realizing that they didn’t offer coat check on weeknights, I walked my coat back to my car. I did all of this alone, in the mostly-empty well-lit streets.
I’d arrived early, so I chatted with a guy, let’s call him Wing Man, at the bar in one of the club’s two dance areas. He said he was a regular and we swapped numbers so he could send me a link to his band’s music. Throughout the night, we checked in with one another when we crossed paths. I felt like even though I was alone, at least Wing Man was looking out for me. I danced with a half dozen men that night, the first of which I’m going to call Sam, which happens to be his real name. He doesn’t deserve anonymity, as you’ll soon see.
Sam was a terrible dancer, and by the end of one song, I had to tell him that I needed some space. I made a break for it and found a new dance partner on the other side of the floor. I was enjoying myself, and the crowd was growing. And then there was Sam, wanting to dance again. I reluctantly agreed and quickly regretted it, as he was way too close, despite my telling him to take a step back. I felt a tap on my shoulder: another dance partner trying to cut in. Yes, please! So I told Sam that I was moving along and didn’t look back.
Eventually, I found myself dancing and talking with The Knight when I suddenly felt someone press themselves hard against my back. I glanced over my shoulder to see Sam, and I shouted over the music, “Sam, I’m dancing here. Back off!” I looked up at The Knight and mouthed, “Help!” The Knight looked confused, later told me he thought I knew Sam, and he attempted to turn us so he could get between Sam and me.
And that’s when Sam reached around me, grabbed my breast, shook it, and called me a “N—— lover.” At that moment, I did not respond — I simply reacted. Still pinned between the two men, my options were limited, so I pulled my leg forward and kicked back as hard as I could, landing a solid blow to Sam’s knee. As he staggered backward, I turned and screamed at him to get the fuck away from me. I turned to The Knight and told him I needed to get off the dance floor for a minute.
Shaking with rage and adrenaline still flooding my system, I looked around to try and spot Sam, but I couldn’t find him. I looked for security but couldn’t find them either. It was nearly closing time on a relatively low-key night — they only staffed the bar and the door, I found out. Faced with the prospect of walking to my car alone without knowing where Sam went, I opted for the seemingly safer choice and asked The Knight to go with me. He was happy to do that, but then gave me his number and asked me out before I could get back in my car. He couldn’t see how shaken I was.
Once I sat down in the driver’s seat, I texted Wing Man to give him the short story and let him know I had left. He called me, wanting to know if I was ok. I told him I was. While we were still on the phone, I saw him walking down the same street where I was parked. I rolled down the window and waved him over, and we discussed what had just happened. Then he told me, “The problem is that some of those girls in there, they want that.” I was too stunned to speak. I told him I had to go, rolled up my window and texted The Confidante, my jaw clenched, tears beginning to spill.
There’s a lot that I could dive into here: the injustice that as a woman, I have to operate on high alert in situations like this, while men don’t have to give it a second thought; the entitlement, misogyny, and racism displayed by Sam; the insensitivity shown by The Knight, who witnessed everything and should have known not to hit on me in that vulnerable moment; Wing Man’s ludicrous rationalization for some men’s shitty behavior.
It’s all bad, all challenging, and to be honest, all still a bit traumatic, even nine months after the fact. In writing it out, I experienced residual panic symptoms, stomach clenched, chest tight, hands slightly shaky. And the worst part is that it brings similar trauma racing to jump in the mental queue, the terrible slideshow of men who have crossed lines, of my frozen form, of the mental gymnastics of first blaming myself, then blaming them, without ever really letting myself off the hook. I’ve written about a few here (The Rebound and The Amateur). Others are old stories that make my skin crawl.
So why write about it if it makes me feel so awful? To make this point: for a man to go out alone at night doesn’t require empowerment. It merely requires the desire to do so. For me, I moved past negative experiences with men towards a place of empowerment that enabled me to go out alone. And then in an instant, I was back where I started. And it makes me furious because I can’t just will myself back to where I was. It’s going to take time. And the time that it takes is all because of some drunk asshole who felt entitled to grab me and behave in a threatening way. Because for Sam (and to a lesser degree The Knight and Wing Man), entitlement runs deep. It would take something drastic to pull the rug out from under him. I write this to point out the inherent inequality and delicate balance of power that exists between men and women. I don’t have a solution beyond raising my own children to understand the hidden systems in which we operate, but also to push against them whenever possible, so as not to simply become cogs in the sort of machine that produces an endless stream of stories like this.