By: Balbina Yang
TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault
When the Weinstein effect blazed through the internet, I was stunned.
How could people be so cruel? How could our culture have hid these predators for so long? My heart cried for the women and men who were affected. I praised them for their bravery in telling their stories. I applauded them for standing up for their voices and providing one for those who have survived but have not been able to rise yet. The one thing I couldn’t do, though, was empathize with them.
I haven’t told this story to many, mostly because I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that I didn’t do anything to prevent it. I am embarrassed that I got so weak, my knees trembled and my throat closed up. I am embarrassed that I should feel like the victim.
It happened during a shooting for my film. I was part of the campus’ film club, and I had gotten the amazing opportunity to shoot my first ever film. One of the scenes my team and I had for the film was a party scene. My co-director, let’s call her Megan, decided to host a small party at her place. It was a chill party, the one where everyone sips their vodka-mixed soda, lounge on the worn leather chairs, and just talk. It was a safe environment where we, the filmmakers, could control what happened.
During one of my breaks, I got myself a Solo cup of Cola (I don’t drink), and mingled with the crowd. I was friendly and easy-going, and I enjoyed my time immensely. However, I kept coming back to this one guy who I enjoyed talking to. Blonde hair and blue-eyed, he was totally not my type, but his personality was infectious enough. We talked and laughed, he drank and I sipped. Actually, he kept drinking, and I could smell the beer on his breath. In fact, with a lopsided grin, he urged me to drink his beer, to chug it until not one drop was left. Warning signs flared up in my brain, but for some reason, I stayed put. I kept thinking to myself, “Surely, he can’t do anything to me, right?”
I quickly found out that he was a hardweight. His breath was thick with beer, and for some inane reason that I cannot up even today, I stayed beside him. It was only when he grabbed my neck that I knew that everything was going wrong.
His hand, calloused but slightly clammy from holding the beer can, slid under my hair and around my neck. His long fingers tightened their hold. He also placed his lips near my ear, his mouth heavy with words that attempted to compliment me on my appearance.
I inched away. He tightened his grip, but as I held my breath, his hand slithered away. Ignoring my throbbing neck, I stepped away but before I could leave, before I could make myself run, he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him.
I looked around me, at the flashing neon lights from the little globe that my friend perched on the window sill, at the people dancing and laughing and totally safe. I wanted to shout, to slap this creature next to me, but I couldn’t. I just…couldn’t. All I wanted to do was cry.
He kept whispering things in my ear, saying things like “Let’s get outta here, you’re so beautiful.” I was disgusted with him, but most of all, with myself. For the first time that night with him, I declined and left. I declined politely as I could because I was afraid of what else he would do to me if I made a fit. I left as quickly but as silently as I could. I didn’t want to disturb the other guests, but really, I didn’t want to think about it as much as I was already thinking about it. I joined my teammates, and I stayed away from him for the rest of the night.
When I went back to my dorm that night, I cried. I couldn’t stop thinking about him and the event. I told myself that I was just using up all my energy while he had probably forgot everything that had happened. I told myself that I should excuse him, because he was drunk, right? I told myself that “it was fine” because there were women and men out there who are being raped, and all I’m complaining about is a neck grab and a hand hold. I told myself that I should’ve made a scene, that I should’ve stood up for myself because I’m all I’ve got.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized that none of what happened that night was my fault. Sure, I should have listened to my gut and fled, but his invading my space was all on him. I learned that although my struggle may not be as traumatic as those of others, I was still uncomfortable and traumatized from the event, and that I should never discredit my feelings and emotions.
No matter how small or big the struggle may be, it is very difficult to forget it and, consequently, overcome it. Your mind starts to get clogged with it, so much to the point that you hate yourself for thinking so hard about it. To that, I’m going to say this: know yourself. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and terrified, chances are, that someone is a bad person regardless of whether they are drunk. Acknowledge your feelings, acknowledge your emotions, and never blame yourself for the unwarranted actions of others.