Content Warning(s): physical assault, abuse of staff power, mishandled reporting, threats of violence.
Submitted for Sexual Assault Awareness Month - Our Voices & Stories.
"I worked a certain convention for a really long time. The previous year I had a stress-filled drama-ridden time so I was hell-bent on not having any at all this time. It was the Sunday of the convention and I had managed so far to stay away or not attract drama. I went to the food area with the rest of the staffers and I was looking to hear a particular story from a friend. The table where they were telling the story was full and the staff in the food area particularly don't like when you overcrowd a table. I was looking for a place to stand when a fellow staffer patted their knee offering a seat so I could listen. This person was in a long-term committed relationship and so was I so I thought it was platonic and well-meaning. I sat very ladylike on their thigh to quickly feel a hand rubbing up and down my legs and butt. Without hesitation, I stood up and confronted them verbally. I informed them that it was not okay and that they and I were both in long-term monogamous relationships. Their answer? "If it makes you feel any better I thought it was your thigh." I walked away very upset holding back rage and the urge to turn around and beat the ever-living daylights out of the person. The only reason I didn't is because I knew I wouldn't be invited back to a convention I really loved working. I resolved to speak to the head of my department after con. I made a report with one of their subordinates after the convention and was rest assured that they would no longer be on staff because it would not be tolerated. A little while later, I went to a staff Gathering. My assaulter was there and I was told my message telephoned to the point where physical touch was taken out entirely. I ended up speaking to the head of the department directly and higher. I was assured later that the person left staff after allegations. However, I was also not invited back to work myself because I reported the incident and I probably will be rejected in future years. Looking back, I wish I had beaten the hell out of them. At least, I wouldn't be invited back for a real reason instead of political bullshit."
Anon, we're so sorry you went through that. Your painful experience was compounded by the abuse of power in the chain of command. Even though you reported, your report was shared inappropriately and its context removed. Knowing that person isn't on staff anymore is no condolence when you were also not invited back, as it was a direct result of your speaking up. This is a MAJOR reason why people choose not to report. Further, this situation is one we explain frequently: what would happen if an attendee were harassed elsewhere, then attempted to report to your offender, who was a member of staff? Their message would also be spread around without discretion and discredited.
We also want to take the time to address the feelings of rage and wanting to express it through physical violence. We understand that this is a common emotion survivors might experience. Not only that, but those who hear the stories of survivors often feel angry that it happened, and might even offer to "beat them up." It's normal to feel that way, and important that you process those emotions.
However, we want to remind you that physically acting on those thoughts--which is physical assault of another human being--does not change what happened to you, nor is it a constructive method to help you recover. Yes, it could be justified as self-defense, and we're not saying not to defend yourself if you're being assaulted/feel comfortable using equal means of self- defense in the moment. However, the offender is not guaranteed to learn from being physically assaulted; it does not guarantee they won't offend again. In addition, the other person may decide to press charges against you, resulting in you experiencing further trauma.
Alternative methods of dealing with the rage you may experience could be punching or screaming into a pillow, physical exercise, venting to a friend or within an understanding community like CSSN, writing a letter (that you won't send) addressing the offender, or reaching out to a professional counselor who specializes in helping survivors of harassment, abuse, assault, and PTSD.