How A Man Came To Understand Sexual Assault
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I had an unsettling encounter in one of Chicago’s Boystown bathrooms recently, and trust, this isn’t the kind that’s going to make the bathroom walls. My friends and I were on the dance floor getting it to some Beyoncé when an associate of ours joined us. About five beats into the song, he attempted to make out with me. No biggie, since this wasn’t a case of stranger danger. I politely declined and told him I had a boyfriend, which wasn’t exactly news to him because he knew already. I left the dance floor to go to the bathroom. “Smooches” decides to follow me into the bathroom, placing his body directly behind mine. He begins to grind on me while attempting to pull down my shorts. I could feel his hand clasp my thighs and inch towards my penis. He stopped only after I told him twice and shoved him off. He then eloquently followed up with a, “F&%* your dumba$$ boyfriend.” I replied, “Oh don’t worry, I plan to.” I washed my hands and left immediately.
Afterwards, I was confused and uncomfortable for a few reasons. I was confused because I went to the bathroom well…to use the bathroom, not to be humped like a fire hydrant. I never gave him a look or signal for him to follow me in there and make like one of Pavlov’s dogs on my back. He didn’t stop until my second “no” and even then I had to push him off. Secondly, his response after I rejected him was marinated in anger as if somehow I did something wrong. I’ve known this guy for quite some time and he never acted in such an aggressive way. In fact, he was quite shy, quiet, friendly, and sweet even. I was completely taken aback by his behavior and anger. I didn’t feel threatened because I knew that at any moment, I could physically defend myself if need be. For the first time ever, this encounter forced me to really think about my personal male privilege in regards to unwanted sexual advances.
What I experienced is just a small fraction of what women and transgender people face regularly. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ (NCAVP) 2014 report, transgender women are 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence. The report specifically notes that lesbians and transgender people of color are 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence. Overall, the CDC has confirmed that the sexual assault rate for LGBT people is comparatively higher than the rate for heterosexual individuals. The numbers for heterosexual women are just as alarming.
In 2012, the CDC revealed that approximately 1 in 5 women reported being raped in their lifetime. One in twenty women and men experienced sexual violence other then rape such as unwanted sexual contact. In regards to the perpetrators, female rape survivors reported the perpetrator as an intimate partner (51.1%) a family member (12.5%), an acquaintance (40.8%), and/or a stranger (13.8%). Male rape victims’ perpetrators were reported to be acquaintances (52.4%) and strangers (15.1%). Sexual assault is happening from people we know. It’s also happening to marginalized communities at higher rates. I was privileged to know that I could physically take advantage of the situation. However, that’s not the case with everyone. Certainly not with women and transgender individuals and not all the time with heterosexual and gay men.
Physical privilege isn’t always fluid and surely it doesn’t denote strengths or weaknesses. No one knows what they will do until it happens to them. Interestingly enough, my friends had very different reactions when I told them, largely based on their gender. While my male friends shrugged it off to the guy being drunk and stupid, all my female friends were outraged and even disturbed. Bottom line. People tend to be more engaged and aware of issues that directly affect them or their community. I’ve been guilty of this, and that’s why I find the value in this experience.
I don’t consider myself a sexual assault victim mainly because I don’t have any physical, emotional, or psychological scars from what happened. Others can’t say the same. One too many women, transgender individuals, and other survivors have been victimized by sexual assault – an ugly violation with long-term effects such as depression on its victims. My encounter gifted me with empathy and a deeper awareness of sexual assault matters, especially for those who experience it at higher rates.
Now, more than ever before, I want to take action both to prevent and help.
Terrence Chappell surfaced on Chicago’s media scene as UR Chicago Magazine Online’s fashion editor. Since then, he has worked and contributed to various media outlets such as Michigan Ave. Magazine, CS Magazine, and The Men’s Book. Currently, Terrence serves as the editor-at-large for ChicagoPride.com, the city’s largest LGBT entertainment and news website where he writes “Chappell Confidential,” a nightlife and society column. Terrence also heads “Chappell on Community,” the site’s newest editorial monthly series that profiles the LGBT community’s most innovative leaders.