Assault

Some funny things have come out of the #MeToo campaign. Okay, I use the word “funny” to describe things which have no humor about them.

The stated intent was to show victims of sexual assault they are not alone. This result may or may not have been achieved. We are certainly aware a large percentage of people, both women and men, have been comfortable enough to say “Me too.” This is enormous. Although the campaign was originally supposed to be about women, many men have come forward as well, uncovering the secret that any discussion about sex includes all sexes. Unfortunately, even with the barrier lowered from “experienced sexual assault” to “experienced sexual harassment,” the experiences have been exposed as, and this should come as no surprise, personal. One person’s assault is another person’s compliment. This has been difficult to digest for a digital world unaccustomed to nuance.

Society requires sensationalism. It is no longer satisfactory to say Susan doesn’t like Charlotte (who happens to be black), Susan is a racist.  If Andy is uncomfortable with homosexuals he must be a homophobe.  If Henry lets everyone in the room know he’s available he’s a sexual predator. If Cindy voted for a conservative she’s a NAZI.

One of the reasons a large number of victims of sexual assault did not come forward in the past is because they did not feel they would be believed. There are two parts to the reason they felt so. The first is because the primary defense to such accusations was to blame the victim, and in cases of sexual assault the psyche of the victim had already been crushed once. The second is that a fair number of accusations were false, because even the accusation is enough to destroy some lives; one false accusation can be used by countless defenders of the genuinely guilty.

I do not like to denigrate anyone’s pain. We all have different tolerances, and while in many of the experiences described as “sexual assault” no assault took place, the victim was damaged in some way. The important thing to remember is that damage does not refer to the act, only the result. If Charlie walks into the office and says “How is everyone today?” and Norma is having the very worst day of her life, Charlie did nothing wrong. Neither did Norma, until she claims Charlie harassed her by asking. Making claims of abuse when none has taken place is abusive in itself.

Some of the more abusive claims I have heard in the last few weeks have included a woman who claimed her assault took the form of a man referring to her as “honey.” One word, one time, no other context. Another woman claims to have been sexually assaulted by former President George H. W. Bush, four years ago when he was eighty nine and confined to a wheelchair. Mind you, in both these instances the word “assault” rather than “harassed” was used.

My own most frightening instance of sexual assault was only intimidation, there was no physical contact. I was twenty, driving an ice cream truck through the projects in California when I was surrounded by a gang of Chicanos. One reached through the window and removed the keys, a couple other ones started rocking the truck, tipping it enough the wheels would come off the ground, and the leader hung on the window telling me how they were going to “bone” me. As it was, I had another key and was able to escape, but I was terrified as I lived across the street from the projects and parked my truck out front, it was altogether possible they would see me at some point. I quit that job and moved across town about a month later. So I understand that no physical contact is required to create fear, but I maintain the threat of violence (in any form) is a requirement in order to designate assault.

I have been party to other conversations in which I was told that a difference of opinion threatened the person’s very existence. Fear is present, with no threat. Fear is beyond understanding, it is irrational, which is why it holds little legal standing.

This is why words are important. Assault is a crime, claiming you were assaulted implies someone committed a crime. Falsely accusing someone of a crime is a crime by itself. The lesson we should all learn from the #MeToo campaign is communication is crucial, and without words that have common meanings communication is impossible, often at the time it is needed the most.

It is fairly normal to be uncomfortable from time to time (sorry millennials). The level of that discomfort is the measure of trauma involved. I feel safe in saying everyone has at some point in their lives been uncomfortable in a sexual situation. This does not mean everyone has been sexually assaulted, what it means is that we all deal with life differently. Each and every one of us. My first “sexual assault” (different event, heterosexual) might be described as someone else’s fantasy; I was just unprepared that time and it was outside my desires. It was however an assault, I had no interest and the woman forced herself on me. I would never consider the millions of times I have been referred to with “terms of endearment” as sexual assaults, anyone who does is in need of psychological counseling as they are incapable of social interaction.

My hope is that the #MeToo campaign encourages conversations (dialogues rather than monologues), and those conversations create understandings. Some of those understandings are going to result in trust, some of them may result in discovering over sensitivity, most will result in growth. That would be a good thing, and the world needs some good things.

 

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15 comments on “Assault

  1. elwinslow says:

    You nailed it. Only clarification is that under the law the moment physical contact occurs it can range from criminal sexual contact to sexual assault. But you nailed it.

    My mom was groped volunteering at a food pantry about 20 years ago and she was devastated, bc relative to her life experience, it was horrific. That’s what I think of when I say people process the same event differently. Likewise, I look to my sheltered mother who is a real pill as a litmus test on some things, and I can’t imagine she wouldn’t have told this woman to get a grip.

    Btw did you go to the flea mkt?

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      Did not make it to the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market, I’ve been there several times over the years and we went with a group to see Professor Marston and the Wonder Women that day. I was going to write about the film, but thought I’d been a bit heavy on sexuality lately, and then today I wrote this. I think that defines “scatterbrained.”

      Like

  2. Mari Collier says:

    Thoughtful as always. I do wonder about a great many of them. The one time someone tried that, I slugged him and jumped out of the car. He had a choice. He could kill me or leave me alone. It isn’t quite as dumb as it sounds. I still retained the abillity to hit or stab at places that disable a person. If a person allows it because they expect a reward like a casting assignment, I wonder why they call it an assault.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      I can picture that, in my mind I see a 50s era car on a dusty side road.

      The question of “how is it sexual assault if you accepted it as payment for services” is a book, perhaps one I should tackle as I am certain no one would be happy with the results.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mari Collier says:

        You did get the era and the place correct. You are correct about the happiness with the results. It probably makes us misfits in today’s world.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. markrhunter says:

    I never gave it a thought until I read this … but by the standards of the present ultra-sensitive day, I’ve been sexually harassed at least several times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      You’re a fireman, I would guess you are harassed on a regular basis.

      Like

      • markrhunter says:

        I wouldn’t say regular, but maybe that’s because I’m a volunteer and don’t get out as much. As a 911 dispatcher I can’t say it ever happened, but it did on the ambulance when I was an EMT. Again, that depends on the definition–I never thought of them that way at the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Mike R. says:

    Cultural Marxism has fueled this age of victim identification. It seems that righteousness is now defined by being able to claim victimization of some kind. It’s become wearisome. Humans have always been predatory, as you experienced as you sweated out that moment in the ice cream truck. Of course, you could be painted as xenophobic for not understanding that you were merely insensitive to the plight of those Chicanos simply trying to point out your white privilege and have a dialogue of sorts.

    One of the most interesting voices in our times is Camille Paglia. Here’s a 90-second clip on date rape, for example– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-qkj01psVo.

    Much of this is part of the greater attack on masculinity. Not that sexual aggression is not real and should not be condemned. But this current fad of finding identity in speaking out about our victimization seems to be more reflective our the collapse of our culture. I suppose we can hope for better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      I believe that this situation, the #MeToo campaign, will reveal the vastness of sexual harassment and assault, and provide examples of what assault and harassment consist of, and what they do not. There will be heated arguments, as people define assault and harassment. While I find it depressing to consider one in three women are sexually assaulted, I don’t find it impossible. There will always be those seeking attention or acceptance by claiming to be victims, this exercise should separate some of the wheat from some of the chaff.

      Ms. Paglia’s definition of consent works for her, and no doubt frat boys everywhere, but would never hold up in a court of law. It is unlikely that there are any college students of any sex with her clarity of convictions. Her comparison of consent to sex and consent to enter a room are the reason she is a social critic and not a social worker. She expects others to be like her.

      I believe, that as a result of conversations about sexual assault and harassment, a greater understanding of each other will assist a reduction in attacks on both masculinity and femininity.

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      • Mike R. says:

        We can hope for the best. We have an interesting culture. Socially-acceptable norms of sexual expression and lifestyles are expanding well beyond God-given boundaries and it seems that we have sexualized everything, including our own identities. We delight and are excited with every new expansion of normal sexual behavior and yet are shocked when people behave more and more uncivilized.

        Sexual assaults and deviancy are real and always have been. I’m not surprised at the high frequency of involvement and in areas such as child abuse and incest. I’m not sure if it is on the increase (though I expect that it is) or if there is simply less compulsion to keep things quiet. Perhaps it is a bit of both?

        The deeper conversation that I hope occurs has to do with our worldview. Post-modernism has presented a paradigm in which morals are subjective. We seem to have lost any belief in transcendent values or truth, or the inherent rights and worth of individuals.

        For example, your experience in the barrios with the Chicanos was a violent attack, regardless of the sexual components. Did the threat to “bone” you make it violent because it was a sexual threat or because it was a threat of violence to your body? To me, it was the threat of violent assault, sexual or not. Would it have been less of a crime if they had threatened to beat you until you bled.

        Alas, when sex enters into the picture in our sex-obsessed culture, things get horribly complicated. But I do think you are right to hope that something good will come of the discussion, Blake. I’ve seen a bit of harassment in my life of supervising healthcare workers. It ranged from the merely rude and inappropriate injection of sexual references to the stalking of workers by their patients. I had a few occasions of inappropriate behavior towards myself.

        For the college situation, there is never an excuse for violence. I think Ms. Paglia’s response was not intended to suggest that rape is not rape, but to point out the confused thinking that makes up college campus policies these days as men are always cast as criminals with no regard for common sense in a sexually liberated culture. A perpetrator can never excuse him or herself, yet we should not leave our brains at home.

        Thanks for this post–it is an example of the discussion that needs to take place.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. 1nfiniteman says:

    Thank you for a very thoughtful piece. I do not disagree that there are times when “harassment” is inaccurately called “assault.” However, I don’t think that a threat of violence is required to designate assault. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. I’ve been told of women being groped on a dance floor when suddenly the man she is dancing with slides his hand from her hip to under her dress and onto her vagina. Maybe it’s semantics, but that doesn’t necessarily seem “violent” to me. Although it is sexual assault. Unless you’re willing to conclude that any non-consensual sexual contact is violent I think you’ve missed the mark on your requirement for assault.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      I would call that violent. It is invasion of personal space, going under the dress and around the panties. To then invade the body cannot possibly be accidental.

      Like

      • 1nfiniteman says:

        In my mind that is violent too. I bring it up because I feel like a lot of people, especially young men, who haven’t been sexually assaulted or who have never had serious discussions about sexual assault only view sexual assault as violent, Law and Order:SVU rape. So I think we have to be careful about where we draw this line so as to make it clear that non-consensual sexual touching, particularly when the parties involved are in vulnerable, sexual circumstances, i.e. a dance floor, is sexual assault.

        Liked by 1 person

        • kblakecash says:

          I heard it expressed the other day in a way that everyone should understand. Don’t think how you would feel if it happened to your sister; think how you would feel if it happened to you, as a prisoner, coming from your cell mate.

          Liked by 1 person

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