A is for Assault

“I’ve never felt unsafe in New York” is a phrase I’ve said countless times. It was true, I hadn’t. I’ve been frequenting the city solo since I was a teen and never once did I feel like I had much to fear. Of course I was always on guard. I’d once been the closest person to someone who had been attacked. I understood.

It’s funny because things have been so great. I always make sure to remind myself how lucky I am, to be where I am. I try to never lose sight of that stuff. It’s so important. And yet, when you least expect it you find yourself counting blessings that you don’t even believe in.

I’d been hanging out in the backyard of this bar in Williamsburg and was with a close friend and some of his friends. It was such a good night. Like really though. It was one of those nights that you look back on and you’re like “damn, that was so great”. It’s one of those nights that you probably won’t forget about for a long time. Solid conversation, great drinks. Of course as most nights do, this one came to an end and everyone said good-bye and hugged and waved and went home.

I wasn’t far from home and I’d walked the route dozens of times over. Whenever I felt like I needed a break I’d take a midday walk, familiarize myself with the area. I was making a mental map in my head. I’d memorized where all my favorite places were mostly because impressing visitors is always fun. There were tons of people still out, as per usual. It was Saturday night so it was to be expected. I walked to my street and remember thinking that it was funny that people were just arriving to the bar close to my house. A group of girls just laughing. Good times, obviously. I took my keys out of my bag as I always do when I get to the beginning of my block and zipped my bag back up.

Then I was assaulted.

A man, who could not have been following me for long, if at all, had grabbed me. He wrapped his arms around me and was grabbing at me. I screamed. I kicked his shins as hard as I could. He threw me against the building and I remember seeing stairs leading down and I remember thinking “fuck is he going to throw me down these stairs?”. So I tried to push away and then he grabbed me again and I screamed. He put his forearm over my mouth and I bit him as hard as I possibly could. He ran off. I could hear shouting and see people across the street but they mostly just stood there. I screamed. I realized I was literally two doors from my building and ran inside.

I called the people closest to me. I called the police.

The police arrived and took down my statement and said I might get a call later from some detectives. I did. SVU came and we drove the route I took home and they wrote down my statement. They asked questions. They took my dress. I mentioned that I remembered he was shorter, thin. When he ran off he went past the liquor store on the corner. There were cameras and I was hopeful.

I had no idea what happened would get any attention. Then a friend of mine sent me a link and was like “this wasn’t you, was it?”.

I debated for a bit whether I should share what happened and when it all came down to it, I couldn’t not. I know so many people in Brooklyn and New York and all I wanted to do was to tell them to be safe. The police were able to pull footage from the cameras, and now we had a semi-identifiable video. We could try to find the asshole or at least keep an eye out. So I shared it.

The overwhelming amount of positive feedback, love, and support I received was unreal.

I’d only done the only thing I could do in that moment when it happened and yet everyone made me feel like a total badass. I think maybe it’s the shock. Maybe I’m not yet able to fully comprehend the seriousness of what happened in some ways. Maybe it’s because it still doesn’t feel real.

And yet this is something that happens everyday. Around the world. In every major city. To so many people. When the police had come they told me that I had done amazing. That they were glad I called because most people don’t. Most people don’t call the police after a sexual assault? For a second I understood because I had been apprehensive about calling. I wasn’t sure if what happened warranted the police. It did and now I get that.

I’m going to be honest: for a fleeting moment I had thought “well I was wearing a dress and I was wearing heels” and then I stopped myself. Nothing I did lead to what happened. It wasn’t at all my fault.

Nobody asks for this. It doesn’t matter what I was wearing. It doesn’t matter that it was early in the morning and that I was alone. Yet people still made me feel bad for those things. Here’s the thing: I shouldn’t have to feel bad. I shouldn’t have to feel afraid. How about instead of saying “maybe you shouldn’t be walking alone at night” we say “hey, maybe people shouldn’t be attacking other people at night”. Don’t ever try to place blame on the victim. Nobody who goes through this should have to feel like it’s their fault, and yet they do, for so many reasons. Don’t be one of them.

Maybe it’s brave that I’m talking about this but it’s all I can do, honestly. I have had an overwhelming amount of people tell me they understand what I’m going through. Everyone should feel like they can talk about it, and yet that’s not a thing. It should be. I wish everyone would realize how important it is — and how many others might have gone through what you went through.

And still, the sheer amount of good vibes I’ve gotten from people is stunning. Maybe I was skeptical at first but speaking out was worth it. Now not only do I feel like I have an incredible amount of people behind me, but by reporting the crime others in the neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) can also make sure to be a bit more safe. You are not alone. This is not something you have to go through alone. Be brave. I’m not saying you have to do what I’m doing here now but tell someone. Report the crime. Find strength in those around you. If you have it in you to tell more than a few people, do it.

Mostly, I’m just feeling very thankful. Today moreso than yesterday. Tomorrow moreso than today.

P.S. Shout out to The Gothamist, NY Post, CBS (and all the local news channels) for posting about this. Let’s find this asshole, yeah?