I had a friend tell me once that I’d definitely be the first to die in a horror film. Friends, classmates, co-workers, and even boyfriends often saw me as “naïve” or referred to me as the bubbly clueless girl. I know that I’ve been perceived this way for most of my life.
Despite these outward appearances, I’ve had some terrible things happen to me. Though I have shared those details with my closest friends—the number of which don’t even surpass the fingers on one hand—I have kept quiet about them with others. I would say this is mostly because of shame, although I didn’t always know to call it that.
It was about 10 years ago when I reported a rape to University police. They asked me if I wanted to press charges. I responded with, “What does that mean?” and they nodded their heads and changed the subject. I didn’t know yet that merely reaching out meant nothing if you didn’t have the courage to make sure you were heard.
I had an amazing support group in that aftermath, but I confided in those few close friends that even sharing the story at all made me feel like a fraud. I mean, I couldn’t call myself an ACTUAL rape survivor. ACTUAL rape survivors remembered every detail of what happened to them. ACTUAL rape survivors cried out in pain and screamed “NO!” to a horrible, violent attack against them. ACTUAL rape survivors suffered so much worse than I thought I ever did.
If you, the reader, take only one thing from this post, I want it to be to NEVER EVER think your pain isn’t “good enough.”
I didn’t find that perspective and courage until the most recent #metoo campaign. This isn’t the first “speak up for yourself” campaign and it sadly probably won’t be the last. I had watched friends and mentors speak out during prior campaigns, post statuses on facebook, share their stories in detail and I admired all of them … but I knew they were ACTUAL survivors. I never felt I’d have the same validity as any of them if I spoke up.
There was something different, though, about the most recent #metoo campaign for me, and it started with this wonderful woman’s post (let’s call her Ace):
A post I greatly respect:
For me, every wall, every fear came crashing down. For the first time ever, I made a public statement about the pain I’ve experienced in my life. And it was all because of that friend. Strength like that is contagious and she taught me a great lesson there: Survivors give each other strength when they speak out, no matter what they’re talking about. No matter what happened.
I had been victimized. End of story. It didn’t need to define any other part of me. Worrying that I was a fraud in identifying amongst rape survivors meant the past was still controlling and hurting me. I wasn’t going to let it control me anymore.
NONE of it is okay. Whether I share what happened to me in detail or not, whether the viewer/reader finds that I’ve adequately met the requirements to be called a survivor or not—none of that matters. Because one voice lifts up another voice. Maybe many other voices and that’s what matters. It’s not supposed to ever actually be about me.
In general, 2017 was the year of finding my voice. In addition to the first public sharing of my history, I also studied with intuitive mentors like Matt Beisner and Alex Billings. In the media, women like Rose McGowan and Alyssa Milano provided a net of support to people everywhere.
Thanks to them and the growth I’ve been experiencing, I grew into a new girl. A woman. I may have stayed quiet about what happened to me before, but now I would never let an aggressor get away with wronging me again. I would never take a hit without making it very clear, far and wide, how badly I had just been hit. I would never sit down and take the victimization ever again. No violator would ever hurt me without consequences. Gone were the days that I would seem bubbly and clueless, merely because I remained silent against evil.
Then I went to Vegas. Drais Nightclub. T.I. performing. October 21, 2017.
I don’t know if I’ll ever know WHY the bouncers came up to me and my friend. When they did, they were very annoyed once I told them a fellow patron had tried to put his hand up my skirt. They asked me why I didn’t say something sooner (even though it had literally just happened) and when they grew tired of talking to me, they forcibly removed me from the club.
The law may let a business like Drais ask you to leave without a reason, but it does not let a bouncer ever lay a hand on you. They can call the police in to take you out, but they cannot lay a hand on you.
Yet this bouncer forcibly gripped my arms, twisted them, and dug them into my back. He only increased the pressure when I cried out in pain against him. I have fragmented memories of this moment from the concussion that I suffered at their hands, but I know that a second bouncer was on me at some point as well. I had bruises up my arms and legs. And I remember crying out to every bystander I passed. One woman came up to me with the bouncers and said, “At least pull her skirt down.” They didn’t and she had to fix my skirt for me. Dear Anonymous Woman, I did not show my appreciation in the moment—I was preoccupied—but I sincerely appreciate your actions. Thank you. The whole time, the bouncers yelled things like, “You did this to yourself,” “It’s your fault.”
None of that was within their right.
If there are any judgmental readers, I will gladly share here that I was not drunk at all. I had ordered one drink with my friends and stopped there. I had antibiotics on me and in my system. I was still recovering from a sickness, so I had no intentions of lessening their effectiveness with alcohol and I didn’t that night. Also, the hotel (and every Vegas hotel) records literally everything. I’m sure if I were wrong, The Cromwell would quickly provide the recording that proves so. I’ve asked for the recording myself and they have refused to provide it.
When that female bystander took action, the bouncers lessened their grip on me and a third one came to act like my ally. He was dressed the exact same and I was not about to trust him. We were close enough to the lobby of the hotel of The Cromwell and I saw an officer ahead. I RAN towards him.
But he did not listen to my story. He did not care. He refused to file a report of assault against the bouncers (and this time, I made sure to ask). But I was still determined to be heard. So I called 911. No more silence, remember? Hollywood power-houses were going down left and right for sexual harassment and sexual assault. This meant people would listen to me, right? I thought they would. I hoped they would.
But Hollywood is the fairy tale in America. Not the reality.
And the powers-that-be responded with an even greater force against me.
Let me take a brief break from my perspective and put myself in their perspective…. As a writer, I like to do this as much as possible.
1) They are part of a rich and powerful institution (the hotel is owned by Caesar’s Entertainment) in Las Vegas. When people say “The house always wins,” they’re not just talking about gambling. They mean in every way. These bouncers and “cops” that moonlight for the hotels in their uniform are on the side of the house. ❗️Yes, in Vegas, cops are allowed to use their uniforms outside of the line of duty while doing private security for the hotels.❗️ They are used to winning. And used to having power.
2) They probably hate everyone they meet on the Strip. The Sin City reputation. They think they have every reason to assume that any and every visitor is coming to THEIR CITY to “sin,” to do terrible things, and then to go home like it never happened.
3) There is already a systematic way of getting rid of prostitutes on the Strip—they arrest them, but “go easy on them,” by foregoing a prostitution charge and opting for a smaller misdemeanor of “trespassing.” They never have to prove anything because there are so many they move through the system every day. And the casinos are “private property” so that apparently gives them license to charge anyone visiting with trespassing anytime they want, ‼️even if they never give the patron a reasonable chance to leave.‼️
4) October 21st was just three weeks out from a terrible mass-shooting tragedy. What would it mean to them to have their authority challenged? No matter the reason? I wouldn’t have thought that a girl crying on the phone with 911 would ever be considered “threatening.” But in their position, here’s this girl telling 911 that the cop in front of her (you) is refusing to take her report, talking about abuse of power and pressing charges against the very institution that gives you power—what are you going to do with that?
I think a rational person in their position would’ve probably let me FEEL listened to, let me leave, and then throw away their notes on everything I said. It would’ve been smart to take the chance on whether or not I’d actually ever follow up.
But these were not rational men in power.
And they decided to flex that muscle even more. I wanted to use my voice? I wanted to speak up for myself? Well, I would have to pay their price for it. Because who would ever believe a woman that was arrested for trespassing? Who would take her follow-up charges against them seriously then?
Except I was arrested WHILE I was on the phone with 911. The officer who read me the trespass notice STILL HAD MY ID during the unreasonably quick time I allegedly “refused to leave.” How did he expect me to leave without it? The very existence of these charges against me is evidence of their abuse of power. Their attempt to shame me for ever using my voice in the first place. To tell me I deserved it, that I asked for it.
I’m sorry, but this country was founded on the very principle that every one in it deserves a voice. We are a democracy. A country where “innocent until proven guilty” is supposed to always prevail. A home where your fundamental and constitutional rights will always be yours.
Those are the rights of every American citizen.
And those rights were my price. My punishment for finally speaking up for myself when wronged was having every one of those rights stripped away from me.
They wanted to teach me a lesson. They did. There is always a price to pay for using your voice. And only you, as an individual, can determine if that price is worth it to you.
Is it worth it to me to keep using my voice? To keep speaking out? I’m sure they will only respond with more force. More slander against my name. More people will assume that I was the criminal. I’m sure the price can only get steeper…
I have complete understanding and empathy for anyone who would back down, put their head down, and wait for them to stop. Wait for them to realize what they’ve done and drop the charges. That is, after all, what I had to do in jail… The warden and officers make every attempt to provoke you. ⁉️ One officer told me that no assault had happened, that “my perception was wrong”…even though he was nowhere near the hotel at the time. ⁉️ Apparently, the word of someone who did not witness the incident at all was more trustworthy than someone who had just lived it. Provocations and assertions of power like that were overly abundant, but what can you do? They don’t see YOU anymore. They see your label. You can’t make them see anything other than the label someone else wrongly put on you. If you want to survive and see the light of day again, your voice has to go on vacation.
Mine did. It’s been hard to get it back. To even think about going public about this. To worry that I’d underestimated how well my friends and colleagues know and trust me to know that I’d never be the type to get arrested. To know that something has to be wrong with their system if they considered me the criminal.
I don’t know what people will think of me after reading this.
But it’s time to realize it’s not about me. It never has been.
I’ve already seen firsthand how the strength of one voice can inspire another. Ace knew it wasn’t about her when she spoke up.
And she’s taught me to know that too.
Everyone deserves a voice. The price I was forced to pay for using that voice—my civil rights, my dignity, my very humanity—was already paid by many before us. And no one gets to double charge. I don’t care how rich and powerful you are. To do so is fraud.