Vision perception - Memoirs
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Memoir Bytes: Escaping a Sexual Predator and the #WhyIDidntReport Movement

Vision perception - Memoirs

 

 

Last week I posted an article about the #MeToo Movement. This courageous coming out of women all over the world got me thinking about my own encounters with sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

 

As a memoir writer I’ve questioned myself many times, wondering if I would ever become brave enough to talk about my own experiences on this topic. And if you’ve read any of my books, you won’t find any of those stories I’ve shared in them because, I, like many women, chose to keep my silence and those memories far away from myself. I’ve kept those secrets buried for decades and only a few select people know about their existence.

Perhaps I’m still not ready to talk about them because some of the characters were too close to home and in one situation, out of the goodness of my heart I voluntarily allowed a male co-worker to come to my place for a cup of coffee one blizzardy winter night to wait off the storm before he could drive his long journey home, eventually offering him the couch to stay over on because of the treacherous road conditions. I was young and naïve to think that would be the end of the story. It wasn’t. But I’m still not ready to share what happened.

If I were to share what happened back then on that blizzardy night almost 30 years ago, I was sure I would have been accused of ‘getting what I deserved’ because I openly invited it in. And so, only my best friend knew.

I admire the brevity of women taking a stand now and calling out their abusers. It’s setting a new precedence, sending out a message loud and clear that we aren’t going to be silent victims anymore. We now have strength in numbers and our messages are being spread far and wide.

As the great Peter Finch once shouted playing the character of TV news anchor, Howard Beale in the infamous 1976 movie – Network – “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” has become the same meaning for the motto in the women’s movement. I applaud those women speaking out. I can’t even pretend to imagine how much bravery it takes to stand up publicly to an abuser.

Perhaps my time will come when I will summon the strength to share my own stories on the subject. But for now, I will share another incident that happened to me. I’ll share it because it doesn’t involve someone I knew, and after I narrowly escaped what I was sure could have led to rape, I did call the police. And maybe my story can help someone else avoid getting caught in this same situation.

 

~  ~  ~

 

Get your ‘junk’ out of my face, I wanted to scream out loud. But I couldn’t. I was alone with a pervert in an elevator. It was only 8 floors, 8 very long floors up and I could get off, but could I get off?

I knew in my bones I was about to be raped so either I kept my wits about me and did some pretty quick thinking or I knew I was destined to become ‘that’ victim.

 

~ ~ ~

 

In my glory days of youthful fun and freedom I was happily enjoying life on my own in my very own apartment for almost a decade. I was a popular social butterfly out and about constantly, working, socializing, partying, nightclubbing – you name it, where there was action I was sure to be in on it. I was fearless. I never thought twice about the part when I would return home late at night and have to park my car in the underground garage and walk through the basement door to the elevators. It was the mid 80’s and ‘bad stuff’ wasn’t a familiar thing in my life or something I really considered ever happening to me.

But this particular day, I wasn’t coming home from anywhere. I was at home wearing a Tshirt and sweatpants when I ran down to the basement where our laundry machines were kept to throw my wet laundry load into the dryer. After doing so I scooted back to the elevator. The door opened and there was a biker-type looking guy in his late 20’s already on it. I thought nothing of it and stepped inside.

The door hadn’t yet closed when my inner alarm system could feel the penetrating stare from the man. Usually one to make eye contact and be friendly and say hello to fellow tenants, I knew instinctively not to make eye contact with the man who desperately craved my attention. In another split second as I could see from my peripheral vision, he whipped his penis out of his pants and began grunting in ecstasy as he furiously began stroking himself. He told me I would like it and I should try it as he laughed devilishly with his words. Truthfully, I can’t remember all the other disgusting and vile things he said. What I did know was that I would not allow my eyes to turn as I remained focused, staring at the elevator door plotting my escape and not giving him the satisfaction of me looking at him. I had to keep my composure, fearing he’d stop the elevator between floors and rape me. I was caught between fearing for my life and fighting for it or freezing up and becoming a rape victim. The ride up felt like an eternity and in that eternity, I had to think fast about how I was going to get off the elevator untouched.

The first logical thing I thought of was not to get off on my own floor. I didn’t want my potential rapist to know which floor I lived on. But I knew as the elevator passed each consequent floor and his breath grew heavier as he got closer to reaching orgasm, my window of escape was narrowing.

I mustered up every ounce of courage I could despite my legs feeling like rubber from fear and hit the next upcoming floor’s button. The door opened, and the pervert jumped in front of the door, taking a stand with hands and feet outstretched, blocking the opened door in order to block me from getting out. All I knew at that point that the open door was my one and only chance to escape and I was going to use it.

With the added strength from the power of rushing adrenalin, I plowed right into him with a body tackle, all the while screaming at the top of my lungs for tenants to hear me through the corridor. I ran down the hall and banged on a few doors in my petrified almost manic state of fear until the first door opened and let me in.

I explained to my fellow tenant what had transpired and asked him if he’d accompany me back to my apartment so I could call the police. He did. The pervert was nowhere in sight.

I called the police and they came right over and took down my description of the pervert and they spent a good while searching the building basement and stairways but never found him.

That day was a frightening awakening to me learning that bad things can happen anywhere, even in my own building which was in a safe neighborhood. But it became a huge wake-up call for me to become a lot more diligent in paying more attention to my surroundings.

 

What Did I Do Right?

 

– I was lucky I had the instinct to remain composed and didn’t antagonize or indulge the pervert while contained alone in the elevator with him. Most of the time perverts like that are desperately seeking attention. They enjoy the voyeurism of being watched while performing disgusting acts. I truly believe had I made eye contact with him that may have made him more excitable, provoking him to close in on me physically.

-I pushed a different button on the elevator to get off as soon as possible.

– Once out of the elevator I screamed and started banging on doors to stir up noise and alarm.

– I called the police when I became safe to report it to try and prevent someone else from getting in the same situation.

What Did I Learn?

 

– I learned to become aware of my surroundings, especially when alone in inconspicuous places like – elevators, parking lots and anywhere in public when not in a high traffic area.

– I learned to never enter an elevator alone in my building or anywhere else when there is an unsavory character in it. I wait for the next one. The same rule applies if I’m standing alone with one suspicious character waiting for the elevator with me. I just go back to my car and pretend I forgot something as soon as the elevator door opens.

– I always check the elevator before entering to assess who is on it.

– I’m not often alone at night walking to my car but when I am, I always keep my keys in my hand and have my mobile phone within easy access.

 

I was lucky that time to escape being physically violated but so many others are not that lucky. Besides being violated by strangers, so many women are violated right in their own homes by their partners or spouses.

I am also a survivor of date-rape and a survivor of domestic violence from a past relationship. I may decide to share those stories in future because I too have joined the ranks of women who tweet the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport . And this movement isn’t about a newfangled cause that women have invented. This movement is about women speaking out about sexual abuse with a new sense of comfort of knowing we are not alone and it’s okay now to speak our truth. Sadly, we are hearing about so many who have kept their secrets and shame for years, in fears of being blamed, ridiculed and persecuted by those who make victims feel responsible for what has happened to them. There is strength in numbers and support. And there are plenty of avenues available now where women can report, and shelters they can go to if they need to escape to a safe environment. We’ve come a long way through the decades. and finally, we’re being heard.

 

Note: This Thursday October 4th from 5pm EST to 10PM, some author friends and myself will be hosting a Facebook EventAuthors Against Domestic Violence where each author gets half an hour to post and chat with visitors about issues that arise in shared conversation. Some come to read and listen, some come to connect. This is the second year I’ve been invited to participate, and I know last year I met a few women who sent me messages and emails thanking me for helping them in some small way. I’m happy I could do that because if I can help just one person I know I am making a difference.

 

I’d love to see some of you drop by if you get the chance. And all posts and conversations will be available to see and read throughout the event in case you couldn’t make a specific time.

I hope to see you drop by. Here is the link to join the event. In order to come by the event, you must have signed up to join the group ahead of time so please join up. Thanks! 😊

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

50 Comments

  • Jodi

    You never cease to amaze me. I am so inspired, moved, saddened and touched by your story. You are very brave cousin. Let’s get together very soon ❤

  • Stevie Turner

    You were lucky to get away relatively unharmed. I also had a lucky escape when I was 20, and have never forgotten it. I remember running to my car, driving away and leaving the guy I’d gone out with twice stranded in the middle of nowhere. He never bothered me again.

  • sally cronin

    I am very sorry that you had that experience Debby along with the others that you mention. Even all these years later it is clear that the memory is still very vivid and has changed the way that you view certain everyday activities such as using a lift and also how you interact with strangers. I do hope that the man involved found himself caught between the lift doors at some point. Love and hugs xx♥

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Sal. Yes, there is no doubt that no matter in the manner a woman is assaulted it’s engraved in our psyche. I consider myself lucky in so many ways. I got away narrowly that time. Another time I wasn’t quite so lucky. But I took my pain and learned to rise above, something that sadly, so many women haven’t been able to do. Awareness is essential! <3 xxxxx

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Thanks for sharing, Debby. It pains me to see how prevalent sexual violence is even though I always knew the statistics. I’m glad that women are “mad as hell” and hope the oppression and silencing of victims is coming to an end. “Perhaps my time will come when I will summon the strength to share my own stories on the subject.”

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Diana. Time is definitely up for these predators. We all deal with our emotions differently. You may feel empowered one day and you may not but that is totally up to you when and if you’re ready. Just know that we are a sisterhood of women calling out this shit right now and hopefully we will save others with our messages and support. #StrengthInNumbers. <3

  • Adele Marie Park

    Thank you, Debby, for sharing this horrific incident. Why do some men think they can do this? It’s disgusting, perverted and psychopathic behaviour. Why oh why? I can’t share my own experiences yet, still in therapy for them but I applaud the women who are. This behaviour and worse needs to stop, it has to. I can’t write any more as my stomach is churning so bad I need a drink of water. Thank you, sis, for being so brave. <3

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Sis, it’s astounding how many women harbor their own experiences. Everyone deals with it differently. Some step up after so much time has passed, and others still have a difficult time, like you. You go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. At least you have a therapist to help you deal with your feelings. That’s important. Hugs. <3 xx

  • Hilary

    Hi Debby – yes I can imagine the horror … because in those days people didn’t always help us or listen as much as they should. At school when I was taking homework a chap did his thing outside the window … I, of course, in my protected wisdom … told everyone not to turn round – silly really! He disappeared … not really sure what happened after that. I did have someone follow me from the tube up the streets towards my flat in central London – I had to go into a hotel and ask for the manager to take me home via the back door – he did I’m pleased to say and made sure I was safely inside. Thankfully I have no worse tales to tell … but quite see why people keep these things to themselves. I just hope we can get to a fairer society … with thoughts – Hilary

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for sharing your story Hilary. You were smart to take that action. I have a knack for weirdos following me at subway stations and dodged a few myself, that’s why I hate taking the tube alone. Let us hope our messages get spread for awareness and for those creepy guys to realize we’re taking back our power. 🙂 x

  • Marjorie Mallon

    So sorry to hear about this Debby. I think it is very brave if you to share your experiences and I’m sure your experience in the elevator might help someone else to know what to do to protect themselves in a similar circumstance.

  • Hugh Roberts

    You’re such a brave person to share what had happened to you, Debby. It makes me so angry when I watch people like Trump mock those who have shared their story.
    I can’t help but also remind your readers that men can also be the subject of sexual harassment. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it, but I do know a close male friend who had a terrible experience. He hasn’t, as yet, reported it or talked about it very much to anyone else. However, he confided in me many years ago and has never wanted to talk about it since.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Hugh. The state of the US is appalling in more ways than one for sure because of it’s lying, misogynist narcissistic, corrupt leader. And absolutely, I do know that men are also abused. The only reason I focused on the women is because of the women’s movement which is predominant right now to empower women and speak out in hopes to inform voters against voting for corrupt men. Women are at the forefront now but I’m quite aware that there are many men who are also part of the movement and they are also speaking out. Not everyone has recovered from their trauma and not everyone will speak. But everyone who has been a victim, no matter how long ago and how much they’ve overcome, never forget. <3

  • Carol Balawyder

    Your story is very moving and courageous. I was struck by what you said in the what you learned section of your post: I’m not often alone at night walking to my car but when I am, I always keep my keys in my hand and have my mobile phone within easy access.
    I too hold my keys in my hand when I’m walking somewhere alone. It’s kind of sad to have this feeling of insecurity.
    It’s great that you’re writing about this, Debby.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Carol. Yes, I agree, it is sad that we have to live that way, but this is the world we live in and to keep safe we must practice caution and always be aware of our surroundings. This should become second nature to us. <3

  • Ali Isaac

    It’s incredible how hard it is to share such stories, even many years later. I have a story too, but never told. I wrote a fictionalised vetsion of it, just to ‘get it out’ but never even published it. You are very brave to be able to do this, and I support every woman who does. The rise and collusion of the patriarchy that we are seeing in many places but particularly in the US right now is ugly and truly alarming.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you so much Ali for dropping by and sharing your words. It takes a lot of humility for us to ‘come out’ with our stories, and I’m glad that I could do that as I know for so many (like you) it’s very difficult to do so as the pain is still raw no matter how much time passes. I have overcome many shitty things in my life. I am one of the luckier ones who can leave the pain where it belongs and use my voice to help others. And you are so right, the US is in a frightening place right now. This new dawn of the age of aquarius is the purging of the patriarchy, thus the women are rising up and taking back our power. It will get better because we have all been awakened and united. <3

  • John Maberry

    So glad you had the quick thinking skills to avoid physical harm. It is so terribly common for women around the world to suffer such assaults. Two out of three wives of mine did. The first fended off an attacker as she was leaving work by mentioning her then husband (me). The second, while living in a college dorm, invited ONE football player classmate to her room. He opened the door for another to the party. She was expelled for being assaulted in a dorm room (the guys weren’t supposed to be invited in) while nothing happened to the them. Thankfully, no such attacks have happened before or since my third wife and I married.

    • dgkaye

      The amount of stories from so many are harrowing. Interesting though that your first wife only had to mention your name and he backed off. Are you scary? Lol, just making light here. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in John. <3

  • Balroop Singh

    Oh Deb! That is so brave of you to relate this story! I had never thought that predators exist everywhere and men are alike all over the world. I was raised in a very protected atmosphere and was always warned against men taking advantage of girls, even cousins were not trusted. I could never understand why my mom always said that she couldn’t go out anywhere even for a single day as she had a grown up daughter at home. Now I do understand! I feel women have come a long way, as they are allowed to share their ordeals now. I have heard of many incidents of rape within families that were hushed up by the older women and young girls or daughter-in laws had to seal their mouths! That must have encouraged the perpetrators.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Balroop. The time has finally come for women to speak their hidden truths. So many stayed silent and still do because of feared repercussions, not being believed and shame. There is no shame in being raped except for the rapist! <3

  • Sue Dreamwalker

    Dear Debby this was so courageous of you in sharing what happened to you in that lift in your apartment building. And thank goodness you kept your whits about you and escaped.. You followed your instincts that straight away alerted you to this predator.

    And yes I think women are realising this sort of attack is not a stain on ‘Their’ personalities, and are at last seeing they need to expose the truth of events..
    I can think of nothing more horrendous than being attacked this way, and violated.
    And I hope more come forward to report events straight after they happened like you did. And not sit within their own dark thoughts that fester and in inhibit their confidence..
    Many thanks Debby for sharing publicly this ordeal.. It takes courage to speak out and say ME Too.

    Love and Gratitude.. <3

    • dgkaye

      Thank you my friend. I hoped that joining in the thousands of women who share their truth and stories that I can let others know they aren’t alone and there is strength in numbers. We always hope we can help someone else with our stories. I’m happy to share now with this movement, hoping to encourage others to step back into the light. <3 Hugssssss xxxxx

  • Mabel Kwong

    So brave of you to share, Debby. Horrible what happened to you. Maybe one day you will share the other incident. If not, it is okay. The elevator incident was very creepy and good that that burst of adrenaline made you react quickly when the door opened and you overpowered him. Good thinking of not pressing your floor number. You really do not want to lead these people to your doorstep. If they can watch you, they can come back and watch you again. I’ve had my fair share of creepy encounters with the opposite sex. Maybe one day I will share. Lots of love and hugs across the miles <3

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Mabel. It can be difficult to keep our wits about us when we’re panicked, it was a miracle I could actually remain composed enough to do whatever it took to escape, it’s not easy to do in that situation but essential. And I’m sorry you’ve had your own share of creeps, sadly this isn’t news for many women. I’m happy I can join my voice with so many other women to unite. It’s not easy to do for many so when or if you’re ready to share, remember, you aren’t alone.
      Sending love and hugs back to you my friend. <3

  • Norah Colvin

    You are very brave to post your story, Debby. I agree with you about things you did right and the things you learned are powerful teachings for all women. Many of us have stories locked up inside that are just too painful to bring out into the light. Whether they will ever be aired remains to be seen, but while we keep them locked up, they keep us in a type of prison too – a prison of silence that fails to recognise the hurt and scars.
    I see now why I couldn’t find the event when I popped over to Facebook. It was last week.

    • dgkaye

      You are spot on Norah. The painful memories remained locked up for so many. The brave ones are now stepping up and using their voices for those who cannot. This is the era of the matriarch taking back our power. And sorry you missed the event. <3

  • Liesbet

    What a hair-raising, horrifying experience, Debby. But, unfortunately, this might not have been so uncommon, based on other women’s reports. Very brave of you to share this story on your blog. From the bottom of my heart, I hope men can’t get away with this behavior anymore, but it’ll just depend on where this happens.

    My whole life, I’ve been aware of my surroundings, but that mostly has to do with traveling to third world countries (on my own). Often, I imagine situations happening and how I could get out of them. So far, nothing unsavory has happened to me, in a Western country.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Liesbet. And I’m happy to hear you are aware of your surroundings and you haven’t been harmed. Yes, it’s very sad how many people have been abused. #TimesUp 🙂

  • Vashti Q

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that horrible experience and the others you mentioned. I was a lot like you. When I was very young I was carefree and naturally coquettish but I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just being me. I was also very naive and a bit innocent and didn’t think of the consequences of my actions. You did everything right. While I was reading I kept thinking, ‘Don’t get off on your floor, he’ll follow you home!’ and of course you didn’t. You’re very brave to have stayed living there. I would have been so paranoid that I would run into the guy again. What if he lived in the building or a building nearby? Ugh! Thank you for sharing. I’m sure there are many women that will benefit from your story. <3 xx

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation Vashti. Honestly, I don’t know how I stayed composed other than the rush of adrenalin. I usually freeze up when faced with danger, like the time I saw a fire in my house when I was 8. My legs froze I couldn’t run and my brother carried me outside. So I was happy my brain didn’t freeze up while I was terrified, and did all the right things. I can tell you that it was over 30 years ago, and the horror never dissipates when I think back to that day. <3xx

  • lisa thomson

    Deb, I’m sorry I missed this post when it was published. You’re incredibly brave to begin talking and writing about your assault. You did so much right. Your only downfall was your innocence which is what that man took from you.

    I was always paranoid as a woman in my 20’s in the 80’s. Parkades were an innate fear of mine. I was hyper aware of who was lingering, while I was alone from car to elevator. I had a man follow me around a mall when I was 18 and it was my first taste of stalking and intent to harm. There were more.

    I have utmost respect for Dr. Ford, coming forward to powerful men who want to silence her. This whole patriarchy is how the men have gotten away with intimidating us. When we’re alon, they prey on our innocence, politeness and our not wanting to anger someone. No more.

    I hope you do share your other stories when you’re ready.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Lis, for visiting and chiming in here. You are absolutely right, the walls of the patriarchy have been broken through and it’s through the women’s messages to persist to ensure we break those old patterns of male dominance! And I can completely identify you on the stalking thing. I have been stalked many times, those would make some more chilling stories – one day. For now I will continue to share the messages of others so these issues stay in the light. <3

  • Meghan J

    I’m really glad you posted that! I had an experience in my teens maybe 17-18 at the time. I remembered as I was reading your story that once when I lived in the Southside I was walking around by myself up toward a McDonalds on a pretty busy street in a suburban neighborhood. This was my first time living in this section but grew up in the area and went to high school in a different county. Anyways I was walking from the McDonalds as there was a bus stop I used to get to & from work and I was near the apartment/rented house when this old man looked 70 wrinkled remember grey hair on head and that’s about it.. came up to me pulled down his pants and was flipping his penis at me and yelling. I don’t remember much anymore except being terrified and trying to get away, I ran down a different street than the one I lived on and eventually the guy disappeared. I was living with friends that were all males but my roommate was safe.. I remember telling him later but I was so scared. No police were involved and no one I don’t think ever said anything about it again. This is just one of many instance where a man has stalked, followed, yelled or called me names. It happened almost a year ago.. when I was literally at a women’s shelter on my phone calling my husband (I was there for trauma counseling and other stuff) As this Man was walking after me.. wherever I went. I was so mad my husband was late and I was walking again by myself in a downtown area by the shelter after classes were over. I went back and the guy followed me 3/4 of the way to the shelter.. then finally my husband showed up and I probably screamed his ear off telling him I could’ve been snatched up and all the times he tells me to be careful or is overprotective the one time he is late something happened! But now in my 30’s I think when will it end.. why do men think they can follow us around and scare us.. or overprotect us there is no winning it’s so frustrating. I didn’t know until my 30’s either that according to the law and specialists that I’d actually been a victim.. I thought it WAS NORMAL to be treated as someone’s doll. Objectified, used for sex, and what have you.. grew up thinking that all Male bosses tried to sleep with coworkers.. put them in bad situations, asked about colors of my undergarments or were abusive in so many ways.. parents, teachers, fellow students (5th Grade was told I was a whore to the entire bus the whole way to school) reported to teacher and still got picked on and the guy who initiated never got in trouble. I thought women had no rights and were property.. I probably still think like that even though I try to fight it and now I have 2 sons and it pains me when they see me being treated as unequal to a male. I wanted and swore I’d raise them right but I’m still under a thumb after all these years. It’s like bred into American males that they can do whatever they want to women and none of us say anything or even know it’s wrong. I hope that this cAtches On because it’s not going to stop until we can recognize it before it starts instead of After it happened.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Meghan for visiting here and adding to the conversation. You are so right, these events have become all too common and accepted through time that boys will be boys, and it’s time to call out the abusers. Our voices are ringing out loud now and being heard and making those accountable for their wrongdoings. The times are changing and slowly, the women are rising above the patriarchal society. Like everything in life, it will take time but the movement is already working and we must keep speaking out. 🙂

  • Olga Núñez Miret

    I missed this post the first time around, Debby. I had experiences with exhibitionists a couple of times in my life, one when I was quite young (11 or 12, I think) and I was by myself in my home town, and another time years later, when I was in my late twenties, in England, with a friend of mine. Thankfully, at least we were outside and nowhere near my home in either of the occasions, but it was horrible nonetheless. You are so right about the vulnerability as well. I did tell my grandmother, on the first occasion, who wasn’t very far and the individual got a few chosen words to say the least and disappeared before the police got called. On the second occassion I think our first thought was getting away as soon as possible and by the time we recovered there was no trace of him. Thanks for sharing your experience, Debby and encouraging others to come forward and sorry for what you had to go through. You were very brave and quick-witted too, but we should be safe wherever we choose to be.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for finding this and taking the time to read and comment, and share your own unpleasant experience. It’s astounding just how many women have had to and continue to endure this abuse. I can only hope with the advent of the #MeToo movement and women rising up everywhere that we can shame these people and stop the abuse. <3

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