Trigger warning: Sexual assault, Trump
I’ve built up a wall of delusions to protect myself. Turns out, I’m better off seeing the truth.
There are a couple rapists in Winnipeg who I know of who have never been charged, but who women warn others about. I narrowly escaped one of these men when someone told me he’d brought a friend of ours to his home when she was 16, given her several glasses of wine and then raped her.
He’s somewhat known for inviting young women over with their friends to draw their portraits, then saying he doesn’t have time to finish right then but that the woman should come back for dinner and then he’d complete it. That’s when he’d pour them glasses of wine and make his move.
In 2008, he’d started my picture but there were so many red flags in the conversation that I asked around about him before returning for the second session. The biggest was his complaints about having been banned from The Forks for allegedly hitting on under-age women, which he claimed to have not done.
I didn’t show up to the dinner at his place and he flipped, sending me angry emails about how ungrateful I was for not showing up to eat the food he’d made me. I told him what I knew, without stating any details about my friend, and the way he responded I knew there had been other girls. He didn’t say her name or details of the night. He was vague about the timeframe. The only specifics he went into were that it was a misunderstanding and he did nothing wrong.
A few years ago, I was volunteering at the children’s area at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival when I saw him again. He had set up his art supplies and was drawing portraits of young women wandering through Old Market Square. I felt so fucking sick. I wanted to cry and leave the area, but I knew others weren’t safe with him around so I flagged down a cop.
I didn’t tell him to arrest him. I didn’t go into details. I just basically said I’d heard that guy has a sketchy history of raping underage women and suggested he keep an eye on him.
The cop started questioning me. How did I know this? Where did I hear it from? Did my friend point him out to me herself? Did she go to the police? Had anyone reported it?
A fellow running the children’s Fringe came by to see what was going on. He was upset by my accusation, said the guy was a close family friend (he had two daughters) and whatever I’d heard was not true. I was almost crying, but the two men started joking with one another.
I wasn’t trying to get the cop to do anything other than keep an eye on the guy, but for years I justified that the cop couldn’t do anything without proof so it was okay that he questioned me and he was in the right and I was being silly. However, I kept a close eye on the guy until he left. That’s something the cop could have done. And he could have taken what I was saying more seriously.
When Trump said he grabs women by the pussy, I started re-examining my rape-y interactions with men. In so many circumstances, such as this, I justified their mistrust of my accusations. I even tried to view all the times I’ve been sexually assaulted as something that was my fault. I shouldn’t have taken a drink from a stranger. I should have done more than just cry. I should have fought harder. I shouldn’t have believed the threats. From this viewpoint, I had control and power. I simply hadn’t used it correctly. A few poor choices on my part led to some really terrible times.
But Trump has shown me that men really do have so much power to be awful that I can’t really do much. I’ve tried as best I could to protect other women and myself from so many men, but that wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t have the power to stop that man from hurting anyone else. I didn’t have the power to stop men from hurting me. I probably won’t have the power many, many more times in the future, as this tweet so horrifically reminded me:
Something about having no control is comforting, though. It means it wasn’t my fault and in the future it won’t be my fault. It also means if women can fight to gain some of the power and control men have, we’re not going to have to worry about them grabbing our pussies without consequence.