Read this first.
We’ve got all the ingredients of a sexual assault, laid out in an incredibly short time span: a perpetrator, who chooses his victim, how vector for the assault, and does so in the knowledge that he’s operating in a space where his actions most likely won’t get punished. The only difference between this story and thousands more stories just like it is the author decked the creep in this one. And this is the telling line: “I did turn around to look at him as I hit him, and his face was one of shock but not of surprise. He knew why I had hit him; he just couldn’t believe he hadn’t gotten away with it.”
This guy had reason to think he would get away with it. He probably had gotten away with it at that very platform before. He might also have gotten away with it at crowded bus stops, at large intersections with lots of people, in crowded parties, theaters, on the street, in the library. Anywhere that people gather there is a dominant narrative that tells survivors to keep it quiet, to tolerate, to grit their teeth and bear it. Groping, catcalls, touching, all the way up to rape are the expected wage of being in public and female. Violence is the response if you challenge that social cover (or if you’re gender non-conforming).
And this social cover, this non-stop, all-surrounding field of allowance is what makes guys like Ryan Fattman unafraid to say that women who are rape survivors should basically just suck it up, if they happen to be undocumented immigrants. What seems like, on its face, to be an abhorrent response to human trauma is not actually that surprising if we trace the line between his statements and the creep on the train platform. If women are supposed to grit and bear it anyway, telling undocumented women to do the same is nothing new.
I’m so tired of this. I think I’m going to coin a new phrase to document this train of thought: “Sexual Assault: it’s like your taxes!” No one wants to deal with taxes, but you’ve gotta suck it up and pay ‘em. Unless you’re privileged, rich, or in power. Sexual assault - you’ve just got to bear it, unless you’re a perpetrator. Or in the dominant class.
This is not the way things should be. We can see violence for what it is. We can pull back the cover of social pretense that hides the phenomenally common experience that sexual assault is, and become horrified by it as we should be. We can understand that the trauma, misery, broken opportunities and experiences this violence causes is no longer acceptable for us, and never was. We can decide, collectively, that survivors are not supposed to be responsible for enforcing their boundaries against the entire world, all of the time, with no support from anyone else because "it's not our business." It's always our business when someone gets hurt in public. It’s always my business when violence affects my community.