*Fair warning: this post contains privilege. I reached out to the Denver PD because I knew they would take me, and my complaint, seriously. I have been taught that the police help, which is so very different from the experience of many (ok, seriously, most) people of color.
The vast majority of violence in the U.S. is perpetrated by people we know.
It’s the reason why we’re always so quick to point the finger at the husband or the boyfriend whenever a woman goes missing. That was the assumption that the entire premise of Gone Girl hinged upon.
To begin with, two thirds of rape victims are victimized by someone they know. Nearly the same percentage of women experience stalking by someone they know. There are cases of strangers lying in wait for random victims, but a lot less than is commonly thought.
These are all facts I have routinely spouted off to skeptics, to those who aren’t convinced of consent education, and to anyone who is dead set on the patriarchy – boys being boys, she deserved it, she was asking for it, and whatnot. It is what makes reporting these crimes hard; you will most likely be discussing someone you know with police.
Which brings me to my story.
I was sitting in my car a few days ago, on the phone with Bestie, discussing why I hadn’t gotten in touch with my contact at DPD yet. My reluctance stemmed from the fact that Really, dude, it’s just not that serious. All it is are texts, and Facebook messages, and phone calls. Her response is the reason I eventually reached out: “Yeah. That’s what every other woman says, too.” Don’t underestimate the courage it takes to tell an officer, “I know this doesn’t seem serious, but I am afraid.”
At first the texts were innocuous enough, even though I had no earthly clue how the guy got my phone number. He claims I gave it to him. I don’t believe it, mainly because there are people I want to hang out with, and frequently do, who don’t have my phone number; I’ve just never been.. social enough? forward thinking enough? open enough?.. to give it out freely. So whatever, I will answer his fairly inane questions.
And then he asks me out. This kid whom I barely know says that he’s wicked into me and we should go out. What? But I try to let the guy down gently. He says he’s cool with just being friends, but immediately goes on Facebook to vent his outrage at being friend-zoned (post forthcoming on my rage about this term). We are Facebook friends. I see this immediately. Contact is ceased.
A couple months go by with nothing. And then he sends me a text asking to go for drinks. Again. Here’s the problem with this scenario: I said I didn’t want to, we should just be friends. Ostensibly, in his mind, this means “Give her a bit to think on it and try again.” Which is NOT the appropriate tact. So I, perhaps foolishly, respond with a diatribe on his lack of feminist knowledge. I said we should just be friends and you take to Facebook to rant about it, which is completely unacceptable and shows me that you are definitely someone with whom I do not want to associate myself because you ignore my agency in this situation and how dare you come back expecting me to just give in and hang out with you.
To which he responds, “Ok, I understand. So does Friday work for you?” (Eventually this hostile conversation on my part ends with him saying, “Honestly, that text was kind of long and I just didn’t read it.”)
Do not contact me again.
That is how I left that conversation. Do. Not. Contact. Me. So for the next few months, I am not contacted. Then, suddenly, it resumes. For almost the last year, like clockwork, I have received text messages, Facebook messages, and recently voice messages, at least once a month requesting to hang out. Almost all of these requests are attached to some sort of compliment, and it’s asinine. They all go unanswered, which makes the continuance of this particularly exasperating.
None of this would, in my mind, warrant an email to my contact at DPD, except that this guy knows where I live. He has been in my house, because he was partners on a college project with a former roommate of mine. This knowledge, combined with what I know of most crime, is what instills fear in me. It’s what overcomes the embarrassment or shame that accompanies having to reach out to an officer. Homefry has left me a Facebook comment, a Facebook message and a voicemail in the last two weeks. Which of these messages that I ignore will be the one that triggers him showing up on my doorstep?
The lieutenant to whom I reached out took my issue seriously. He is putting me in touch with victim services to formulate a game plan – which I hate that they call it “victim’s” services. Technically accurate, but I don’t see myself as a victim of anything. I see myself, and every single other woman that reaches out to the police, as consummate survivors in the face of a legal system that inherently does not favor them.
It sucks, looking down at my phone, or looking out my front window, wondering if I’m going to see his name (ok, in all honesty, it’s not his name… it’s a few expletive words I’ve put in lieu of so that autocorrect no longer corrects certain things to “duck” or “ship”) or his face peering up/in at me. Perhaps that intimidation was never his intent, but given what I know about the statistics, it’s not worth the chance that perhaps it is.
Are you in a similar situation? You can call: 866-689-HELP (4357). This is the crime victims hotline, and can get you in touch with local resources.