A Letter To The Man Who Assaulted Me Last Night
I have some questions for you
To The Man Who Assaulted Me Last Night:
It was 3:30am. I was walking home from my best friend’s low-key bachelorette celebration. We had celebrated earlier in the evening by ordering takeout, drinking cocktails and sparkling wine, and heading to The Piston for a night of good clean fun. We arrived at the bar around 11:30pm, and danced our faces off to MGMT, David Bowie, Blur, and The Strokes. I ordered a pint of Steamwhistle at the bar and then drank water for the rest of the night.
It was hot as hell outside; perfect sundress weather. I was wearing a little light blue dress with my white canvas Keds. I felt strong and sexy and feminine.
The vibe of the bar was perfect. Dozens of happy humans danced and buzzed and sang and laughed. A few guys made flirty conversations with me throughout the evening, and each time I politely informed them that I wasn’t interested, and that I hoped that they enjoyed the rest of their evenings. They respectfully accepted this message, and went back to dancing or drinking or chatting with their friends. I felt happy, empowered, and at peace with the world. I was dancing and feeling great and not having to fend off creepy men trying to grope me. How lovely to be able to tell a man no and have him respect your wishes without any trouble. What a time to be alive! Maybe things actually were getting better!
My friends and I finally left the bar around 2:45am. We found ourselves making an impromptu visit to McDonalds. I noticed that McDonalds now lists the calories for each of their menu items. I voiced my disapproval about this to my friends while we awaited our guilty late-night pleasures.
I split a McDonald’s poutine (yes, that’s a thing) with the bride-to-be; I have known her since we were both little girls. She has become a wonderful woman who has seen me through so much. I love her dearly and can’t wait to see her marry her equally lovely fiancee this fall. Silly, drunken, sleepy banter washed over the group as we sat and enjoyed our greasy meals of victory.
We leave McDonalds and prepare to part ways. Everyone except for me is staying at the apartment of the cousin of the bride-to-be; besides her, I’m the only other Torontonian. I live nearby and am excited to sleep in my own bed. I give everyone hugs, and we make tentative plans to meet up for brunch in the morning. Someone asks me how I’m going to get home. I tell them I’m fine to walk. I walk home all the time. It’s about a 30 minute walk, and I love walking in the summer; especially warm summer nights like this one. I’ve walked home alone dozens of times before. I barely give it a second thought. Someone tells me to text them when I get home. I agree. Off I go, west along Bloor Street.
I realize that it’s so late that my boyfriend is probably awake and starting his day by now. He is temporarily living in Europe and there’s a 6 hour time difference. I text him. He responds. We chat back and forth excitedly; he’ll be returning to Toronto in less than two weeks after being away for work for the past two and a half months. I tell him about how much fun the night out had been and how the only thing missing was him. He tells me that he loves my silly drunken texts.
I turn left off of Bloor Street and start walking south on Brock Street. I briefly think to myself that a residential street will be safer than a main street because there won’t be any aggressive drunken idiots making their way home from the bars. I continue to text my boyfriend. I hear a car door open behind me. I don’t think much of it. I keep walking and hear someone walking behind me. I briefly feel a bit worried, but figure it’s just someone walking home who happens to live nearby.
You appear in my peripheral vision. You are now walking right beside me. You say hello and ask me what my name is. I look at you. You’re probably a few years younger than me, and an inch or two shorter than me. You look extremely normal. You could be a coworker or classmate or teammate of mine. I feel alarmed but I’ve dealt with this sort of thing before. I stop, turn towards you, and tell you that I don’t want to tell you my name. I tell you that I want you to leave me alone. I tell you that you’re making me feel uncomfortable. I ask you to please go away.
You persist. You point to my forearm and tell me that you like my tattoo. Little do you know, but my tattoo is a personal reminder to be grateful to myself for how hard I’ve had to work to heal from people who treat me the way you are about to. You ask me if you can just have a hug. I tell you that you can’t have a hug, and that you need to leave me alone. I tell you that you are making me scared because I am alone and it’s late at night. You seem frantic and nervous and excited. You don’t leave me alone. I am now feeling panicked and very frightened. I tell you that if you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to call the cops. You tell me it’s okay, not to worry. You tell me you can drive me home if I want. I tell you I don’t want you to drive me home. You ask me if I can just shake your hand. I give in and tell you that I will shake your hand but you have to leave me alone. I shake your hand. You grab my wrist and try to make me touch your genitals. I break away from your grasp and you force a hug on me and grab my left ass cheek. I push you off and tell you to get away from me or else I will scream, but I’m too scared to scream because I don’t want to escalate the situation. I have no idea if you have a weapon or how strong you are. I don’t even know if there’s anyone close enough to hear my scream.
You start backing away from me. You walk about 5 meters away. Then you come back towards me and hug me again and grab my ass again. I feel like I’m the victim of some sort of dare that your buddies made you do. I don’t even feel like you’re enjoying it. You seem impulsive, confused, conflicted about what you’re doing. I think you even apologize at one point. I struggle to push you off again and try to figure out how to use my phone to call the cops but I can’t think straight. You back away again, but then you return towards me again and it feels like a nightmare that I can’t escape.
I finally start to yell at you to leave me alone. You tell me that you’re sorry and that you’re wasted. You tell me you’re just going to go piss across the street. You go piss across the street. You walk back towards me and I’m terrified of what you’re going to do next. Fortunately you decide you’ve had enough. I’ve bored you. I’m no fun. Maybe my yelling has made you scared of being caught. You run away from me back towards Bloor Street.
I collapse on the curb of the sidewalk and break into tears. I’ve done a lot of crying in my life, but never like this. I’ve been scared before, but never like this. I can’t believe what just happened. Just yesterday I had written about how for the first time in my life I was finally feeling comfortable being alone and sitting with my own thoughts. Finally. After 15 years of fleeing from facing the reality of another sexual assault. I was finally able to be alone. To enjoy solitude. To enjoy myself. To not be afraid.
And then you happened. You and your cliche of what people think sexual assault is. All of my previous violations had been committed by people I knew in places I was familiar with; you were the stereotypical stranger in a dark place. All of my previous violations took days or months or years to figure out; they weren’t black and white. I immediately knew what you were doing and that it was wrong.
And as if you weren’t enough, as I’m sitting on the curb trying to collect my thoughts, a different car pulls up beside me. An older man gets out and squats in front of me on the street and asks me if I’m okay. He looks rougher than you did. He looks like he could be homeless. Or maybe he lives out of his car. He has a Tim Hortons cup and he offers me the cup which he tells me is filled with tea. He tells me it’s his birthday today. That’s funny. My birthday was Wednesday. He asks me if I want a ride home. I tell him no and that I don’t want to talk to him because something scary just happened to me and I’m going to call a cab. He doesn’t touch me, but he doesn’t leave.
I have no idea if he’s genuinely trying to help me or if he is just waiting his turn to have a go at me. I manage to order an Uber on my phone. It’s only a minute away. Thank God. I think to myself that this new man can’t do too much to me in only a minute. He ends up offering to let me hold his driver’s license if I let him drive me home so that I know he won’t hurt me. I’m trying to call my boyfriend. The call isn’t going through. The Uber arrives. My boyfriend calls as I open the door. I break down again and the Uber driver hears me explain what happened to my boyfriend, sobbing uncontrollably. My driver tells me he’s sorry that happened. I don’t know how to talk to him and talk to my boyfriend at the same time. My boyfriend is in shock. I am in shock. Subconsciously I pray that the Uber driver just takes me home and doesn’t drive me to an alley and rape me.
I get home. I stumble into my apartment. My boyfriend is in the middle of running a tour and has to go but tells me he loves me and that we will talk as soon as he can. I call my bride-to-be friend. She doesn’t pick up. I call another close friend. She doesn’t pick up. I call my mom. She doesn’t pick up. I call 911 and file a report of what happened and the woman on the phone tells me that she’s sending cops to my address to interview me about what happened. I feel completely conflicted about having cops come to my house. I don’t trust cops. I know how they often treat victims. I don’t know what else to do though. I want to report you, because I don’t want to keep you to myself. I didn’t want to hide you. I didn’t want to internalize what you did and feel ashamed and feel like it was my fault. I could already hear my internal voice judging myself for being such a fucking idiot for thinking it was safe to walk home alone so late at night. I kept all the other assaults and violations to myself until they rotted through my insides. It has taken me years to mend from them. I fucking refuse to let you take years from me.
My friend calls. She tells me she loves me and she’s sorry and that she can come over if I want or I can go over to her place for the night. My other friend calls and tells me she’s coming over immediately. My mom calls and tells me she loves me and she’s so sorry this happened. The cops show up. I talk to them on the front porch of my house because I don’t want to wake my housemate. The cops interview me. I tell them about you. I appreciate that one of the cops is female. She’s the one asking me the questions. She doesn’t make me feel more victimized, which is a pleasant surprise.
A few minutes into the interview, my friend arrives in an Uber. She hugs me and sits beside me on my porch. I hold her hand as I continue talking to the lady cop. I never noticed how small my friend’s hands are but I am so grateful to have her there with me.
As the lady cop continues asking me questions, I disassociate a bit and observe myself talking to the cops about you. I’ve always wondered how this would actually feel. I’m fascinated by what’s happening. I want to take notes.
I snap back to reality. I tell her about how you tried to make me touch your cock and how you grabbed my ass like it was yours for the taking. I tell her that I’m not sure exactly what order things happened in, but I describe everything that I remember happening. She asks me to describe you. I do. She asks me if I would recognize you if I saw you again. I tell her maybe. I don’t know. She asks me if I would like to press charges if they find you. I ask her if I have to answer that right now. She says no. I say I don’t want to answer that right now. I don’t believe that our criminal justice system rehabilitates people like you; I think it makes everything worse. I don’t want you to become worse. But I also don’t want you to keep doing this to more people like me. I know they’ll never find you. But even if they did, I don’t know what I would want to happen to you.
The cop finishes up her questions. She tells me that they are going to go back to the scene and see if there are any cameras nearby that might have footage of your car or your face or your license plate. She says that someone will call me to follow up in the next 2–3 days. She gives me a phone number for Toronto Police Victim Services. I know I won’t use it. I already have a therapist for exactly this reason. I know the drill. I’ll talk about it, write about it, cry about it, punch my mattress about it, have insomnia about it, have people tell me I’m brave about it, have people not know what to say to me about it. I’ll be fine. I always am.
That’s the difference between me and you. I will be fine. You briefly stole my agency last night. You briefly treated me like an object. You briefly made me remember that at any point in time, any man could kill me if he felt like it. Despite all of this though, I will be fine. I know this isn’t about me. I know this is about you. I know that I don’t deserve this. I know that this isn’t my fault. I know that hurt people hurt others. I know that you are hurting.
I know that just like me, you were a precious newborn baby at one point. You grew from being a helpless infant into being a curious toddler. You probably enjoyed playing with trucks or legos or marbles. Or maybe you liked building forts or picking flowers or playing dress-up.
I have a few questions for you, man who assaulted me last night. I would kill to get inside your brain and understand your world.
What happened to you?
What turned you into a man who invades and violates women’s bodies?
Who did this to you?
Was it our society as a whole?
Was it pornography?
Was it movies, video games, and TV?
Was it an abusive parent or grandparent or sibling or teacher or coach?
Did you get bullied in school?
Did someone teach you that women like me owe you our bodies?
Did someone convince you that rape and violence and aggression are the only way you will be fulfilled as a man?
Have you never experienced sex that is loving, consensual, and intimate?
Do you think that forcing me to grab your cock is actually going to make you feel good?
Do you just want to brag to your friends about it?
Do you not realize that caring for and respecting a person feels so much better than dehumanizing them?
Do you truly believe that I am not a human simply because I am a woman?
Do you treat everyone this way?
Did someone treat you this way?
Have you never been cared for?
Have you never felt love?
I want to know so badly. I want so desperately to find a way to help you, and all of the other boys who turn into men like you. I want to understand what needs to change so you don’t feel like you have to do this. I can’t imagine what your life must be like. The catastrophic vastness of the sadness and the loneliness that must be hiding somewhere deep inside you. I feel that sadness. I am so fucking devastated for you.
I’m going to be fine. It might take a while, but I’m going to be fine.
I hope that you find a way to be fine.
You don’t deserve any woman’s body. But you do deserve love and safety and warmth. I truly hope that somehow, somewhere, you find those things.
The Woman You Assaulted Last Night