Saturday, 18 February 2012

Things that shouldn't happen

It was some time during January 2010. I was going to see a Depeche Mode concert with some of my friends. It was a cold winter day and we had to wait in line outside, jumping and rubbing our hands togheter to keep warm. We all looked and felt fantastic, apart from the cold. We had party clothes on, mine being a black silk blouse and a below-the-knee high waisted white pencil skirt. I had put my hair into a complicated 20's-inspired updo with a single curl on one side and I wore my favourite hat at the time. We all had red lipstick shining like bright wounds on our faces, but not much other makeup. We were happy and going to see a band we really liked. It had all the prerequisites to be a fantastic evening.

It wasn't. It became one of the worst evenings of my life.

When we reached the entrance after a very cold hour of waiting they looked through our bags. I remembered I had my defense-spray with me(a legal spray that irritates badly and colours skin red for a week or so, you're meant to spray it on someone if they physically assults you). I asked the people at the entrance if I could bring it. They said I couldn't, and I would either have to drop it of at the lockers in another building and wait in line again or throw it. I threw it away, of course.

This is all very ironic. If I had kept on forgetting about having it(entirely possible, as my bag is always full of stuff) and they hadn't looked through our bags, the evening might have had a quite different turn.

We got inside. The place was crowded. I'm not sure exactlly what happened, but suddenly my two friends had tickets to the standing spot instead of the seats. If thibk they traded with two people who's legs hurt(possibly from standing in line in the cold for hours) so they had to sit or something. There was no "seat numbering" at the standing spot. If my friends pushed enough, they could get right in front of the stage. We were all placed far away from eachothers anyhow, and would not be able to socialise no matter what.
"Is is okay that we go?" they asked.
How could I say no?

So I took a seat by my self, my friends standing about 300 meters away from me in the crowed. They had pushed enough, and managed to get really close to the stage. I was happy for them. Next to me sat an older man and his 20-something son. They kept to themselves. That was fine by me. I'm a very introverted person. A group of drunk men in their 30's walked past. They were yelling and lauging and going "party!!" and one of them tried to high five me and the men next to me. I held up my hand for the high five so the men would stop bothering us and we all smiled patiently at them. They sat down in front of us.

After a while one of the men turned around and smiled drunkenly at me. Trying to touch my leg he said: "Why wont you talk to your friends?"
I moved my leg and pretended not to hear nor understand him. He tried to poke the men next to me. "Talk to her, talk to your friend."
They looked visibly annoyed. He left me alone for a while, and Depeche went on stage. They played and it was great. Dave Gahan danced funnily. I tried to have fun and I took some pictures of the band and the stage decorations. The music drowned my ears. Then, after 40 minutes or so, I felt a hand on my inner thigh. It belonged to the man in front of me.

"Don't touch me", I said. For some reason, I said it in english. I often think in english, especially about music since most music I listen to is english, and if I'm stressed I have trouble switching back to swedish. The man stared blankly at me.
"I mean... Rör mig inte. Sluta." (Don't touch me. Stop.)
He smiled at me in a really creepy way, the turned around. He left me alone for ten minutes or so. Then he touch my inner thigh again, more firmly this time.
He stopped temporarily and looked at me. His friends had started noticing what he was doing. I thought they would tell him to knock it off, but instead they smiled at me, just as creepy and just as drunk as the man. The man now put his hand on my again, caressed my thigh repeatedly. I tried to get away, but he grabbed a hold of my thigh with all of his hand. I felt truly frightend then. I almost never had before. My body froze and I couldn't move.
"Sluta." I told him to stop several times, with a broken voice. He didn't until Depeche started playing "Personal Jesus" and everybody stood up. Execept for me, because my body was frozen. I felt more powerless than I had ever felt before in my life.

When the song ended the men turned back at me. He started to repeatedly poke my knee as if to provocate me. His friends laughed. I looked at the man and his son next to me. They looked at me with blank faces and said nothing. The men turned back to the stage when some other song started playing. I think it was "People are people", but my memory from that point on isn't entirely clear. I just remeber that ever ten minutes the man turned around to grab another part of my body. My calf, my arm, the area just below my breast(I guess he missed my breast by being too drunk?). When I wasn't looking I tried to signal to the sceurity guard to come over. he looked at me as if he couldn't make out what I could want from him for the sake of his life.

Then the concert ended. The men got up. They stood next to me. The man and now another man tried toughing my thigh again. This time the man who started it all touched me almost all the way up to my cunt. The man and his son next to me saw exactly what happened. The group of friends smiled and giggled and hooted. Then they left. Then the men next to me left. Everybody left, exept for me. I was still frozen. After 10 minutes I regained my full self. I walked out. I met my friends when getting my coat.
"Where were you?" they asked. "Were there a lot of people, was it hard to get out? It was so much fun anyhow. Haven't been to a concert this good in years. And, OMG, we were so close to the stage!"
I smiled at them.
"Is something wrong?" one of them asked.
I told her about the men. I played it down. I just said that a man touched me several times even though I told him to stop.
"What a fucking asshole!" my friend yelled. "Ruining people's concert experiences like that. He's a grown man, he should know better."
Yes. He should indeed know better.

I didn't start crying until I told my family what happened. And then I couldn't stop. I cried all night, with only small pauses.

My friends say it was one of the best concerts they've been to during their teens to this day still. It could have been one of my best too. But it isn't. It is a memory that fills me with disgust. It makes me feel vunerable and sad. I remeber feeling tainted for days afterwards. I remeber crying in the shower and trying to wash away his touch and my memories until my skin went red.

My parents asked me why I didn't simply get up and walk away. I couldn't be that hard? I told them I was to scared to. Then said I shouldn't have responded in english, because maybe he didn't understand. I told them I reponded in swedish afterwards, and that I can't really control these things. They wondered if perhaps it wasn't that serious. But it was.

It wasn't rape. But I still felt violated. Things like this had happened to me before, as to most women who leave their house, ever. But this felt especially horrible because I've never felt so out of control before. Because I felt like i was something that existed for the amusement of others and not as a real individual.

I don't like it when people touch me in most situations, even people I care about. I dislike the feeling of skin against skin, unless it's the skin of someone I'm attracted to. I hate losing control over my body.

I don't know how many times I've been sexually harrased. I stopped counting at eight.

Having this happen to me has not changed me, not really. It hasen't made me scared of men or changed my views on sex or made me go out less. Other things make me go out less these days, but I refuse to be scared. I hate being scared. I dont let it dissuade me and I do what I want to. Sometimes my mother get scared when I ride the train alone at 21.00 to get to my sweetheart, who lives a few stations away. I'm twenty. She says she'll pay for my taxi so I won't take the train. I'm more afraid of taxis that early on in the evening. At 24.00 it's about the same and after that the taxi feels like the better option.

I do what I feel like because it just seems like if you're alive at all there's a huge chance you'll get raped. I go places I want to go wearing my normal clothes at whatever time the clock happens to be. But other people fear for me. And it shouldn't have to be like that.

Last year some relatives made fun of my mom for wanting me to take the taxi home. They said I was so spoiled and that it was ridicoulous. She said that if I take the train I might get harassed, assulted or raped. They said that things like that pretty much never happen and that if you walk with confidence no one will mess with you.

I told them that wasn't true. I told them a little about that night and other nights. They tried to joke about it, saying that only weird people and drunk tourists are the one who do shit like that. Saying that I should learn karate. Saying "perhaps they don't really mean to touch you?".

I don't like it when people joke about horrible things that have happend to me.

I haven't been harrassed in a year or so now. People have been creepy towards me, grabbed me in non-sexual ways and hit on me in stalkey/weird ways, sure. But no sexually meant touch, at least. But then again, I've stopped going to most nightclubs, and being a university student I spent most of my time at home writing essays so I don't hang around town that often. When I don't go out, nothing happens. People say shit like this happens if you're out late at night or dress weird/sexily or you're drunk. Bullshit. It can happen at a nightclub, at a concert at 20.00, at the train 9.00 or when walking around town at 14.00. I'm never drunk. And the less "weird" or "sexily" I dress, the more it happens. It's not my fucking fault. It's the fault of people who do it. The only way to prevent it entirely is to be so buried in work or school that you have no socal life. So stop being ridicoulous.

Things like this shouldn't happen. They just shouldn't. But they do.


  1. Things like that really shouldn't happen.

    People seem to believe that stuff like that /only/ happens if you're out late at night or if you've been drinking or are dressed provocatively... Well, it does happen more at night where people can use the cover of darkness, but that's only a "more" and it's drunkenness on the part of the perpetrator that's a much bigger factor than drunkenness on the part of the victim (that's not to say that predators won't target very drunken women as the women will find escaping or struggling harder if intoxicated and may not remember the event the next day) but those are only aggravating factors, and such attacks do happen at any time of the day, as they are opportunistic. Clothes don't really have anything to do with it beyond the practicality of their removal or encumbrance (for example it being harder to run in heels) to the victim in cases of rape. Such things can happen anywhere. Even a shut-in could be attacked in their own home by an intruder.

    What happened to you is terrible. In the UK all that grabbing, creepiness and being hit on in weird and stalk-y ways is sexual harassment, and what happened to you at that club is termed sexual assault. I can thankfully say that I've never been molested by a stranger like that, and that while I've had people being creepy towards me, and a few people in clubs that did things like paw at me or not leave me alone, it is not something I have experienced as a constant problem. I do have friends who report repeated harassments and even assaults, but for reasons unknown to me, I have not had to many incidents of trouble like that.

    The worst thing that happened to me done by a stranger was when I was dressed fairly normally, black jeans and a t-shirt, far more casual than I ever dress now, and a teenager. Some middle-aged man with a big black beard and a generally unkempt appearance followed me across the town - I'd got off the bus near the supermarket by the river, and there was quite a lot of town to cross where I had no good places to loose him and where I didn't want to duck into a side-road (as I figured that at least the passing traffic of the busy road would count as a deterrent because of witnesses) and it wasn't until I'd got to the retail park and found a shop suitably busy to hide in that I lost him tailing me. I'd realised that he wasn't just a person going the same way when he'd crossed the road a couple of times to keep following me. That was in broad day light, mid-afternoon on a weekday. I do think I get less creepiness now I look more visibly goth, but I do get an awful lot more aggression and violence that target me for my clothes.

    I do think all women should learn self-defence, and I don't mean that in an insulting or joking way. I personally have taken up martial arts because I've been attacked a few times in my life (in a purely violent way) and I want to be able to defend myself should such a situation arise again. A good self defence class should also include training in dealing with high-stress situations so that you're being rational rather than emotional, learning to trust the instinct that knows trouble before it's arrived, how to defuse and avoid trouble, etc. because stuff like that is far more useful than simply knowing how to fight competently.

  2. @TheHouseCat
    That's all very true. People in general have some weird views on the factors that "makes rape happen". Especially considering that most people are raped by people they already know.
    Oh, I just remembered people can actually break into my home too. Now all my false sense of safety is gone. No, but seriously, I tend to forget that because I live in the middle of nowhere on a mountain and breaking in seems like such a hassle. If I lived in the city I would probably have home intruders on top of my mind too.

    Coming to think of it, what happened at the concert might be classified as assault by swedish laws too, I'm not really sure. However I'm not sure people continuing to hit on me after I say I'm not interested/have a partner and stand just a little bit too close to me would be considered sexual harassment anywhere. Just... very creepy. Also, grabbing ahold of someone’s arm is probably more like plain harassment in that case? i don't really know...

    Sorry to hear about the stranger following you. Things like that are incredibly disturbing.

    I've had something similar that happen to me twice... The first time I was just thirteen, so I had no idea how to handle it and so I just hid in a public bathroom. The second time I was 19, remained calm, calmed my panicking friend and we went to get the security guards. Which is why my behavior in the concert situation puzzles me. I'm usually very rational in high-stress situations.

    I wholeheartedly agree that self-defense is an excellent skill to know, and also believe that probably everyone should learn some of it. However, the way my relatives said it was to belittle me since I didn’t “fight back”.

    1. I used to live in the kind of place where a few years back I could leave the doors unlocked while I walked a few hills to the little grocers and back again, until it expanded dramatically, and even then, I heard of a few cars being broken into, but not house breaking. Once some people from a nearby city took a digger to our little village bank, though. There was not much in the way of crime - poaching and livestock rustling, theft of farm equipment was the stuff I heard about most. I have since moved to Scotland and now live somewhere closer to a town, and I definitely have the feeling of being more urban. The place where I live doesn't seem too bad, but I do still get cautious when I'm in the apartment alone and hear a noise that sounds like it's come from in my apartment and I don't know what's caused it. I don't freak out, but I did used to when I first got here because I've never lived in somewhere that's my own place before, I've either been at my Dad's house or with other people in a dormitory/halls sort of situation.

      Most of the trouble I've had is the sort of violence that does not have a sexual motive, usually drunk people who are trying to show off to their friends by attacking strangers or they're simply crazy/on drugs/not acting at all sensibly. I recently had some crazy man on a bicycle try and run my partner and I down and then stop some distance from us, shout abuse and try and start a fight. Back in England I quickly learnt that there were some places where I just kept right out of, because there were gangs of youths there that would attack people simply for being outsiders, stealing their stuff being secondary to territorial behaviour. I know certain parts of Scotland (Glasgow) are famous for gang behaviour, but I don't seem to be in a place that gets a lot of that. My nearest city does have its problems, but they're geographically on the opposite side of the city to me, and I'm not even IN a city.

      As to sexual harassment - I'm not sure about the legal stuff for it happening in pubs and clubs, but if it happens in the work place, it's definitely an offence in the UK. I'm not a lawyer, nor really au fait with the laws here, let a lone in Sweden.If you're interested, ask someone though, maybe at a women's resources sort of place because they're the people most likely to have someone who knows that kind of law inside out.

      Being belittled by your relatives was very cruel and unsupportive of them. It's a shame that there's a lot of victim-blaming still. Yes, it's important to know which parts of a situation you could influence, but it's also important to know that each situation is different and that it is ALWAYS the perpetrators fault. It is really hard to stay rational when severely outnumbered, especially if outnumbered by drunk people.

  3. Hi, I don't comment on blogs often but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing.
    It is disgusting how common this kind of horrible thing is, nobody likes to talk about it or try and stop it. No-one deserves to be afraid or taken advantage of.
    Thanks again for sharing your experience, I'm personally very grateful to read it.

  4. Sorry to hear about what has happened to you. The people who joke about such things are either stupid and ignorant, or simply shit-minded, or both. There is absolutely no excuse for such behaviour. One thing though I'd like to say about confidence. In your place, I would not be scared. I guess I would simply kick the man's ass and got away from there. Just talking to a drunk bastard isn't going to get him off you, unfortunately. I would need no gas. Just punch him in between the eyes or elsewhere*, and go fetch the security guard if he can't understand waving hands from a distance... If security doesn't come to you, then you go to the security. Simple as that. I know it was probably cold as hell there, but in that kind of situation I wouldn't even care for cold. I fully understand how you must have felt because I simply cannot imagine that happening to myself. It doesn't happen to me because I don't go out, especially at night. I have no social life, but not because of work or studies. I am unemployed and no longer a student. In my case, it is rather three things: 1) I have no friends to socialise with, 2) there is nothing of my interest happening locally, 3) I have no money to afford social life - which is quite logic, anyway... ;/- However, if I was going out in the evenings, alone or accompanied, I would not let myself be paralysed by fear. It is vital to think quickly and take action immediately when you're in any sort of danger. Only that way you can efficiently protect yourself, even if you know nothing of self-defence techniques - which, by the way, you can pick up watching action and adventure movies or series where a hero fights criminals... ;-) There is always something useful for real life in that kind of programmes. I simply like to absorb knowledge from everywhere, from any source available, that including things I watch online (I do not watch TV, just Youtube)... ;-)
    I see you've intelligently and wisely chosen train over taxi when travelling outside the city - I would do the same. It is more logical to fear taxi rather than train in those circumstances because while in a taxi, you're safe from people who might harass you on train, on the other hand, how can you know if you can trust the taxi driver himself in that matter...? Remember that if he drives you out of the city, out of sight, especially after dark but not necessarily as it can happen in daytime as well - then, there is only you and him and no one else to defend you from him if he has evil intentions... While on train, there are always other people to whom you may turn to if you need help or who may react when they see you're in trouble - although they seldom do react because they just can't be bothered or because they fear for themselves, or because they are so shit-minded that they will rather make videos with their cell phones to put on Youtube for fun because they see other people being abused as an entertainment - oh yes, there are such people - not people; animals, indeed...! ;/- And yet, there is still a chance, at least, that you can avoid a tragedy and in some cases, save your life, while among other passengers on a train rather than being alone with a taxi driver miles away from civilisation, on a lonely countryside road, where you can't escape your fate, unless you can fight and you're actually better prepared than your agressor, so that you can knock him down and get away quickly before he can seize you - but few women can really defend themselves effectively.
    I also agree with you about blaming harassment on the victim. This is certainly not fair. People are idiots. Unfortunately, not everyone has enough humanity, sensibility and honour to show some level of understanding and solidarity. Not everyone would risk himself to interfere when there is any trouble, to save a stranger's life and/or integrity. But there still are few good people in this world, I believe. They are just not so easy to find. :-)

    Greetings from England!

    A.B. :-)