Report from the Field: “THESE THINGS HAPPENED”

When I first told my then-boyfriend that I had been raped more than once, he told me that many bad things can’t happen to one person: I must be lying.

When I’d call him in tears about getting catcalled or getting groped on the bus, he told me that these things just don’t happen to people.

It was too improbable. *These things just don’t happen.*

When I start tallying up the times I’ve been sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by my colleagues? There was no way I’d be believed. Especially if my superior knew I’d been raped before. I’d be the hysterical feminist crying rape the second a man looked at me the wrong way. How could anyone trust my viability in the workplace? How could anyone trust me to collaborate with (gasp) male writers?

*These things just don’t happen.*

Fuck that. These things happen. These things *happened,* and they happened to me.

There was the editor who put his hands up my skirt at a reading. The writer who kissed me on the mouth later that night.

At an internship, a female senior editor stared me square in the tits as she told us about appropriate workplace attire. Sorry, big tits are big tits, no matter what you wear. I apologize for not having the figure of my skinny white co-workers.

These things fucking happen.

The first time I was raped was back in college, when I was working on our university’s literary magazine. We often met with writers casually, at a coffee shop or a bar. A guy showed up at my apartment with a new draft he wanted me to see. I’d met with him before. He Seemed Like A Nice Guy.

He pulled some beers out of his messenger bag. It wouldn’t be the first time I had gone over a manuscript over a drink. It was college. This was all normal enough. Later, I woke up with him on top of me, raping me. A girl can’t leave her drink unattended, even in her own home.

But it was the professor who was teaching a class on publishing who really set the tone for what I’d come to accept. When I told her about the rape, about my diagnosis of PTSD, and how the paralyzing fear made it difficult to make it to class or make it to class on time, she told me I had two options: drop out or suck it up.

She told me that if I had flashbacks during class, that I should go ahead and cry, in front of everyone. If I felt I was about to dissociate, to stay in my seat. But that if I left the room, my grade would be affected. If I was having a panic attack on my way to class, that I should walk into the classroom sobbing rather than be late.

That it would be unfair to the other students to allow me to do otherwise.

So when I got a hand up my skirt, hands on my tits, sexually-explicit messages from authors and artists. Well. These things happen.


[Editor’s Note: It is VIDA’s policy within this column to remove any identifiers unless we are running a reprint of an email, screenshot, or the like, or if the piece is about the actions made in writing by an editor or author.]

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