When I was in 6th grade, one of my best friend’s brothers pinned me to the seat of the bus we took to our private Catholic school and dry humped me in front of the entire bus. A year later, two of my classmates held my arms and legs down while a third climbed on top and pretended to screw me under our art room table while the entire class watched. Almost a week ago, in the middle of one of the nicest hotels in San Francisco, a complete stranger (I thought) shoved his hand so far between my legs that had I had a prostate, he could have checked it for me. But unlike my childhood experiences, I didn’t keep my mouth shut. Not even close. And what transpired that night has very rapidly spiraled into increasing PTSD-triggered anxiety for me and lightening-fast unemployment for him.
Hands down, my company controls the largest piece of the niche industry in which I work, and everyone who works in it knows who we are, especially the lawyers. That’s because we control how much work their firms get (and get to keep) and how much ultimately they get paid for that work. Rest assured, this isn’t a post about my job. It’s merely an effort to set the backdrop for just how much power my company, and by extension I, have in this industry.
It was the last night of the biggest annual conference in my industry. It had been a fantastic trip, with productive business meetings, great food and wine, and even better time with people I have come to call friends. I was at the bar where we all invariably end up convening every night at the end of our respective events. I was surrounded by people I know and trust, enjoying some Basil Hayden, and recounting stories from the last 5 days in one of my favorite cities when quite literally out of nowhere, I felt something slide forcefully between my legs from behind. Trust me, it wasn’t as sexual as that sounds, even for a sexual degenerate like me, so please leave your pervy comments at the door.
In mere seconds, my mind was racing with scenarios. This wasn’t some dive bar – I was standing maybe 100 feet from the room where Tony Bennett first sang his famous song about San Francisco. There was no way someone of the caliber lewd enough to shove his hand in my ass (without my consent, that is) was drinking in this bar.
I whipped my head around just in time to see a tall, decent looking guy in a suit re-positioning himself in his seat at the bar. While I didn’t know him, I had seen him around the conference with some of the very people I was drinking with at that moment. That meant he had presumably seen me too. (OK, let’s be honest for a second. I’m a little hard to miss even if I try).
I was dumbfounded. He was sitting with both his elbows stiffly resting on the bar staring straight ahead at its mirrored back-splash like he was hiding, or more likely, protecting himself from the shitstorm he knew was coming his way. Either way, his demeanor at that moment screamed guilty. I swiftly approached his right shoulder.
K: What the FUCK, dude?!?! You just grabbed my ass.
Tiny-dicked Cockbiter: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
K: Excuse me? You don’t know what I’m talking about? I fucking SAW you do it.
TD-C: It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything. Whatever.
Gobsmacked…Not only had he basically committed what amounted to sexual assault in pretty much all 50 states, he was denying it. Belligerently.
K: Are you SERIOUS? It was fucking you. What the fuck is wrong with you?
By now, he was standing and my colleagues had gathered around, having heard and (later confirmed) seen the whole thing unfold. This douche bag had pushed my last button. The gloves were fucking off.
K: Do you know whose fucking ass you just grabbed, you asshole? I’m Kat Deevers with ABC Company.
TD-C: So. I don’t fucking care.
There was no way he didn’t know my company’s name. His firm made multiple millions of dollars annually just on accounts I handled, not to mention a large number of my co-workers’ accounts. And that was just from my company. There was also no way he was so drunk he didn’t realize what he was doing, yet had the balance to lean off his bar stool far enough to give me a rectal exam without falling. I was absolutely incredulous. As I glanced to my right, I noticed a friend who essentially runs a company just like mine standing slack-jawed at the insanity in front of her. I remember thinking to myself that this can’t be happening. This guy cannot be this fucking stupid.
K: (pointing to my friend) Do you know who this woman is? She fucking RUNS XYZ Company.
TD-C: Whatever. I don’t fucking care.
K: You don’t care? YOU.DON’T.CARE?! You should fucking care because between the two of us, you’ll NEVER get work again.
What happened after this exchange is a blur, thanks to the bourbon and the defense mechanism my memory has developed after years of verbal abuse. What’s not a blur is the feeling of fear that started growing in my gut. He was like a rabid dog that would not back down and I vaguely remember backing away from him. Unfortunately, I knew that dog very well having been married to one very similar for almost a decade. From what I’ve pieced together after talking to various people who were at the bar, he was forcibly removed from the bar, dragged into the elevator and put into his room. A room I learned he had been escorted to by his business partner three times earlier that evening. Unsuccessfully, obviously. Someone bought me a drink or two to calm my nerves, and the rest of the evening at the bar was thankfully uneventful.
But as the booze wore off and I made my way to the airport, I became increasingly uneasy about the incident. I don’t use the term PTSD lightly. I’ve done my research, and there’s no doubt I have some residual issues as a result of my years of being married to an abuser. Ask anyone that was out celebrating a friend’s birthday a few years ago what happened when a random guy started screaming at me when I innocently, and quite naturally, turned around after hearing glass break behind me. After reading him the riot act (the glass didn’t fall, he actually threw it at his wife and it broke on the table) and telling his wife to stop enabling him (after she apologized for his behavior because he was just “really drunk”), I completely fell apart, crying uncontrollably at the table in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Or the time I had a panic attack leaving work after I saw a guy screaming in his girlfriend’s face in the middle of the sidewalk.
These reactions are visceral and involuntary. This time, the reaction was delayed, most likely due to the bourbon, but it eventually happened. Big time. The more I recounted the details of the evening to people who knew my story (some of whom were his business partners), the more anxious I became. Their anger and outrage for me at having experienced this assault validated feelings that, frankly, I hated having validated. Some 36ish-hours later, I was home balled up in my bedroom in hysterics. The very hallmark of PTSD is that it doesn’t just stop with the most recent trigger, it brings back all the memories associated with the trauma. I was alone and scared and angry. So fucking angry. Angry that anyone could make me feel that vulnerable again. Angry that anyone could by their sheer size intimidate me. Angry that someone put me in a position of weakness in a room full of the very people I never want to be perceived by as weak. I was angry at him, I was angry at the guy at the restaurant, the grade school classmates, the random guy on the street and I was angry at my ex all over again. As the anger and anxiety each took turns with me, I started wondering if I had done something to provoke it. I knew intellectually I had not, but thanks to years of gas-lighting, it somehow had to be my fault, I must have done something. And that internal rhetoric only fueled my anger more deeply. I eventually crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep.
The days since have no doubt been a struggle of varying degrees and I’ve tried not to focus on it, but between having to talk to HR about it and monitoring his employment status, it’s been difficult. A could-have-been-simple text exchange with my ex about a Rubbermaid container a few nights ago set me off all over again. (Have I mentioned he’s a HUGE jerk off?) That’s another problem with having anxiety of this nature: it takes much less to trigger one of these reactions and much more to get passed them and back to baseline.
So what now? What’s the point of posting this story other than to vent? The guy got shit-canned and I’m safe, right? He claimed he had no memory of the events that transpired that night. I call bullshit. His (male) colleagues said this was totally out of character for him. I don’t buy that for a second. Not because I think they’re lying, but because I don’t think men always pick up on the same things women do about other men. He’s apparently a creep according to some females who know him. And I’ve been around enough guys like this to know there was no way this was a first time offense for him. Maybe it’s the first time he assaulted one of his firm’s larger clients in front of other firm clients like a douche nozzle, but I know it’s not the first time he touched someone inappropriately and without her (or his) consent. And I definitely don’t think it was his first time speaking to a woman that way; it came way too naturally to him. So while I was perhaps the worst person to whom this could have happened for all of these reasons, I was also the best. Because I’m not the girl who’s mortified and runs off, never to tell anyone and he gets away with it. Or worse, does it again. I’m not the elementary school girl who was so embarrassed of those run-ins with her classmates that she never told anyone who could have done anything about it. I’m not the girl who backs down when some drunk asshole starts yelling at her because he’s an abusive prick who sliced his wife’s finger in the process of chucking that glass at her. And I’m not the woman who stays in a destructive marriage and lets her daughters grow up thinking violence is OK because daddy just had a bad day. I have a voice. A very fucking loud one. And I plan to keep using it as often and as loudly as I can. I am no shrinking violet. Guide yourselves accordingly.