Column: Insight requires experience
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 13:03
Nationally, special attention has been paid this year to sexual assault and rape, particularly occurrences on college campuses. As I see more and more pleas for awareness around Loyola and on social media, I also find my eyes open to the patterns that proliferate sexual violence — victim blaming, etc. I’ve always accepted these patterns as real, but I did not realize how disconnected I was from the truth until a month ago.
I had gone with a group of my friends to some morning Mardi Gras parades. We shared a spot with some large families who seemed relatively good-natured.
Over the course of the parade, an inebriated man behind me kept falling on me and hugging me. He kept trying to kiss me to apologize. Basically, he was a creep, and I was uncomfortable. After the third or fourth time he’d done this, I told him to stop touching me.
The man didn’t take very kindly to this and began berating me for telling him what to do in his spot. He yelled, he screamed and he appealed to the crowd around us for support.
The crowd didn’t react, but they didn’t really know why he was screaming — they just knew that something was happening involving him and me, and it was disturbing their parade experiences.
My friends, who’d witnessed everything that had happened throughout the parade, told me that it was OK, and that he wasn’t a problem. They told him that he was fine. One of my friends even apologized on my behalf. I felt humiliated.
I tried to take my things and leave, but he yelled at me more, asking me why I was going to take my spot and then take his stuff. Finally, a woman in the same area (probably his sister) explained that the bag was full of my belongings and I was able to leave.
While walking home, I questioned my feelings of humiliation. I was within my rights when I asked him to stop, so why I did I feel so ashamed? My friends had seen how uncomfortable I was. Why didn’t they back me up? I was ashamed of the way I felt.
Behind all this, I felt anger. I knew that if I had been male, or if the majority of my friends had been male, this man would have given me my space.
We have to change the way we see these situations. My friends and I were not supposed to respond to that situation with accommodation and guilt. That man had never physically harmed me, but I let him shake my ideas of right and wrong. I can only imagine the humiliation and disempowerment a rape victim experiences.
Kylee McIntyre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org