FAWN, FREEZE, FIGHT, FLEE - How I Escaped That Rape Threat
If the title didn’t warn you how ugly things have been around here these few weeks, I can’t get much more explicit. Yet we're about to--get explicit, that is.
JERRY-RIGGING - Building My First Set of Armor
BUILDING ARMOR - The Hard Way
THE DAMSEL - Predators, Instincts, “Nice Girls” & Neurodivergence
“YOU OWE ME” - Sexual Coercion, Expectation & Assault
Image by Kirk Lanier
"You are in the ON position. You are an animal. You are a terminator. You are seeing—de-de-de-de-de— every single detail and acting on it. And that’s probably why she knew she was going to be okay. She knew. It’s a different feeling from, 'I was feeling queasy, I was going to vomit, I was gonna throw up, I was dizzy, I couldn’t see straight.' Some people have that kind of feeling at times. But she received The Gift. And the Gift said, 'Do exactly what I tell you. Don’t argue with me and you’ll be fine.'”
~Gavin DeBecker, security specialist and author of The Gift of Fear: Survival Signs that Protect Us From Violence
22 years old
…After a few more tries to shut this down amidst a clashing, colliding war of brain static and panicked arguing in my head, I let Satyr coerce me into not making him sleep on the couch. Nice Girl Damsel that I am, I also get myself trapped against the wall with him blocking the way to the only exit in the room. No surprise, he comes onto me. He doesn’t take no for an answer. I throw out every deflection tactic I can think of.
That’s when he drops the bomb: “I could just take it anyway," he snarls.
Back of neck: ice-prickles.
Ambient sound: nonexistent.
Are you fucking listening to me now?
Yes. Yes, Master Tigress, I am absolutely at your command.
About time. Move over. Let the Big Cats clean up your mess.
Yes, please, and thank you.
For fuck’s sake.
In the silence left by my inability to breathe, Satyr punctuates his statement, making things one hundred percent clear: I have not misheard him. Neither have I misunderstood him. To slam the point into my brain, he says it aloud.
“I could just rape you.”
The words echo off the canyon walls of the rocky ravine my mind has just been dumped into.
Do you understand what you cannot do right now?
Ummmm...no. Please, ma’am, do tell me.
You can’t smell that?
The ozone in the air. If you flee, he will have to chase you. If you fight, he will have to win. He is bigger, stronger, and you know nothing about fighting. He does. If you so much as move, there’s a huge chance you’re going to experience something deep, dark and evil, or you’d better pray that you can find a way of doing deep, dark, evil things to him—potentially permanent things—if you want to escape that fate.
Oh, that ozone. Oh my. Yes, I see.
Don’t. Fucking. Move.
Bodily molecules: static.
Icicle mode: engaged.
This internal conversation takes place even faster than the first one when I panic-froze upon finding this foul man in my bed, then fidgeted in the doorway, arguing with my most vicious mental detractors. But this is the Tigress. We hammer out our confab in about .138 seconds, in between Satyr saying “could just rape” and “you.”
When she slips into the driver’s seat, she is completely calm. Scarily so. She casually shrugs up one of my shoulders. Tosses out into the dark, “True.”
For a second, Satyr doesn’t move. Then a rustle sounds against the pillow as his head turns toward me in the dark.
My head makes the same noise. A faint glow from the street lamps shines through the window above our heads. It allows us to see each other’s expressions. It allows our eyes to lock. Although I am frozen again, the Tigress is not. Her motionless pause is intentional. Focused. Coiled.
She draws in one breath. It is the ocean receding before my very eyes, and it leaves behind only the flat-sand calm of a rapidly emptied basin. She speaks. A part of me is shocked to realize that's my voice. I have never heard that voice before. Low and resonant, it comes up out of my guts, rumbling with the promised tsunami that is cresting up behind my gaze as I state my terms: “But I know you would never do that to me. We’re friends.”
Satyr considers that for a good, long moment.
It shouldn’t take him this long to mull it over. But it does.
I see it in his face when he accepts. His shoulder shrugs up, too. Oh-so-casual. The predator draws back from his teeth and returns to its spot, curled up behind his eyes. He flashes his familiar grin, but it’s become transparent to show what still lurks back there as he tosses out, “Exactly.”
We stare at each other for a few moments longer.
Finally, as though none of this has ever happened, his head shifts back to center. After a time, he rolls onto his side--blessedly away from me. I remain motionless. Eventually, the tempo and weight of his breathing change to that distinctive sound of someone falling asleep. The Tigress does not trust it. Neither do I. Every time my overtaxed body starts dozing off, she bites me on the face. I thank her and promise her numerous juicy steaks if she’ll get me through this night without further incident. Curled into an even tighter ball, I am very tiny behind her. I had no idea she was so enormous.
Although we put on an admirable rendition of a conked-out shield-maiden, we do not truly sleep until well after Satyr has left the building the next morning and we can throw the deadbolt at his ass. At last, my Tigress pads down the stairs and curls up in the crappy little dungeon cell I have kept her in all my life.
I bring her velvet cushions and a queen's crown of roses with the thorns still on because that's what she prefers today. In return, she tosses me architectural plans for the appropriately magnificent dwelling to house such a creature. It's a daunting project but I want to build it. I need to.
I then heat up her promised juicy steaks. She likes her snacks warm but still bloody. Just past wriggling. Still shaky from a night without breathing, I serve them on my knees with my brow devotedly bowed to the floor. Her huge paw whumphs down on the back of my head and gives three affectionate (long-suffering) pats. She then sets to work purring and feasting. The sounds are a little gruesome.
They're scary, but I kind of like them.
Leaving her in peace, I come back upstairs and lie down alone. I can’t get my muscles to relax enough to let exhaustion override the Code Red. My mind is a pinball machine, spastically lit up, obnoxiously loud. Thoughts ping and pong through the pop-bumpers of my mind but never land home.
I fucking despise the scent of my bed so I bolt up, then rip all the sheets, pillowcases, and blankets off it. I wad each one up into a hateful ball and hurl it at the laundry basket. I also drag the boxspring and mattress away from that fucking corner. I shove it against the fucking wall opposite the fucking window, then flip the fucking mattress over. Finally, I unroll my sleeping bag and curl up under it. It still smells like woods and smoke from the campfires and tiki torches at Castle Fever. That scent is remarkably comforting.
It is equally gutting.
I spend a good part of my Sunday morning wadded up into a ball myself. I do not cry. I do not shake. I also don't uncoil. I just hover there, boring holes into the wall with my unblinking eyes. That whole tsunami is still roiled up the back of my spine and I can’t get it to crash.
Eventually, my body does--crash out. Only to bolt upright from the nightmare of my door being blasted in by a steel-toed boot.
And that confirms it: I absolutely need to become a fighter. I need to learn how to protect myself far earlier than when I’m backed against the wall with vicious teeth leering in my face.
So I do.
Even so, it will take many, many years to undo the damage caused by those eleven little words. It will take even longer for me to stop disbelieving that I’m a fighter no matter how many weapons I own, how many hours I train with them, or how many times I rebuild my armor.
Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher failure is. ~Yoda, The Last Jedi.
In all the years I knew him, Satyr never blatantly came onto me again, and I maintained my distance. I did not ramp up into Warrior Bitch Mode and unload on him. Neither did I cool the temperature into Ice Queen Mode and slice off all contact with him. Part of that was due to the terms I had offered and he had accepted.
Mostly it was because I could never be sure that, if I pissed him off, I wouldn’t find myself in a similar situation some night between the porto-privies and the campfire or behind a tent some morning with everybody already at the battlefield. After all, it’s not like passing my fighter’s authorization in July miraculously transformed me into some sort of She-Hulk Wonder Woman. So I kept fawning, avoiding, fleeing, biding time until I could feel confident enough to not live in fear of him.
I didn’t confide in my friends about what Satyr had done to me either. That weighs on me, and it weighed on me every time I saw him, because I wondered who else he’d abused after me.
But I wasn’t confident enough in my new friendships to trust that they would believe me. I was terrified that, instead of finding support and help, I would instead be accused of having “asked for it” since I’d put myself into the situation. I feared that I would be seen as, at best, an idiot who deserved what she’d gotten, or at worst, the slut I'd been called for too long, who had turned bitter for…whatever convenient excuse Satyr might concoct to cover his ass if someone confronted him.
They do that.
And yes, some people do have sex with someone willingly and then sling false accusations in the aftermath because it didn’t go the way they wanted it to. The percentage is really low, on par with false reporting for other crimes. Yet legit victims are commonly accused of hurling false accusations for nefarious reasons. They’re also too often blamed for what happened, and I knew that from experience. (1)
Besides, even if I had been believed by my friends, I certainly wasn’t confident enough in my ability to fend Satyr off if I angered him. If I’d been believed and rocked the boat, outing the incident… if I’d brought down some sort of hammer of doom on his head, what then? He hadn’t done anything that would lock him away where he could never get at me again, and he knew where I lived. He hadn’t uttered the words, “I WILL rape you.” He’d said, “I COULD rape you,” which from a legal standpoint makes all the difference. (4) He hadn’t put so much as an inappropriate fingertip on my body, so what would be the use of telling anyone?
To protect others, of course.
But I wasn’t a protector yet. I had no idea how to defend myself from physical or even energetic attacks, much less how to protect anybody else. That was the biggest reason I’d jumped into learning how to fight. After all, the Satyr Incident wasn’t the first time that week that I’d been threatened with rape and worse. At least my armor-meister hadn’t threatened my life.
I wanted to keep it that way, so I put on a grand show as only a theater-trained actress and desperate neurodivergent masker can. I don’t know how many people bought it. That mask was quite brittle, but Satyr never once repeated those threats to me, which was all that mattered to me. I kept wishing I could go back in time to Castle Fever. I kept wishing that Satyr was not Satyr and that we could have had the chance to be what I had once fantasized that we'd started out as: friends.
No way that could happen, so I felt like the most egregious, two-faced liar.
Which I was.
I “happily” accepted his challenges to pickup fights and “comfortably” strolled with him through the marketplace, chatting about nothing or everything until I could find a convenient excuse to flee. I chatted on the sidelines of the battlefield with him or chatted in line at the porto-privies or stood beside him in the crowd watching court.
The Tigress, however, kept one narrowed, suspicious eye on him whenever he was in close enough proximity to put his hands on me. She made sure I only engaged with him in highly public places.
Eventually, I learned that I wasn’t the only woman who’d had these types of interactions with him, but by then he and I had moved to different kingdoms and I never saw him again. So I crammed the entire incident into a musty box and shoved it into the back of my memory's closet.
I hate admitting that. I hate how thoroughly I had been conditioned into silence. Cooperation.
I could never figure out the balance between compassion, cowardice, kindness, self-preservation, and making sure that people’s abuses of me went recognized and outed so my perpetrators would have fewer opportunities to commit those offenses on other people.
I would imagine that’s because, too many times when I’ve tried to tell anyone about the ways people have assaulted and damaged me, I wound up being—at best—pooh-poohed and written off as melodramatic and paranoid. Too often I’ve been not believed. I’ve also been threatened and dragged through the mud for it.
So I just started shutting up about it and tried to forget. I can be really good at compartmentalization. (Well, I was before Dain Bramage spilled my box of tangled spools all over my kitchen floor.) Heck, I can be so efficient at it that I temporarily wipe the incidents from my memory when they’re hefty enough.
They work, those scare and smear tactics.
Don’t tell anybody or I’ll kill you.
Keep your mouth shut or I’ll kill your mommy and daddy.
Get back here, you little bitch! When I catch you, you're gonna regret that! You fuckin' tease! Yeah, keep runnin'! And you better pray to God Almighty I don't ever see you again!
If you tell anybody, I’ll say you wanted it.
I’ll tell everybody that you’re fucking crazy.
I’ll say you were the one who came onto me.
Such a fine piece of meat.
Yeah, man, I'm gonna tap that. She wants it. Look at the way she shakes that ass. Those hips don't lie.
Oh, yeah? What are you gonna do about it? (grabbing my tits or ass)
Come on, baby-honey-sweetie, you know you want it.
She always wants it.
I'm gonna add that to my collection.
I could have hit you so much harder.
You better hope I never see you again or I’ll fucking kill you.
I'll just rape you.
I hope somebody rapes you until you're shitting blood.
Shut your mouth or I will fuckin' shut it for you.
Shut your mouth or I'll throat-fuck you so hard you'll never talk again.
Yeah, my friends are pretty protective of me. They don’t have the same moral code that I do. The things they would do to someone they considered a threat to themselves or their people…whew. I just don’t even wanna imagine it. Pointed look. Dot-dot-dot…
He said that he would kill me if I left him, and that you’d be next, followed by your whole family.
Lovely, isn’t it?
And make no mistake. Those aren’t fantastical examples concocted in my vivid fiction writer’s imagination. Those aren’t things I’ve copied from my TV screen or an action-packed book.
Those are half a century of threats seared into my memory. Some of them have been repeated more times and by more unrelated people and in more variations--some more inventive than others--than I can count. (4)
I will not generalize. Not even about "most men." Especially considering the fact that it's not only males who do this shit. But I will remind you (from way back in Episode 1 of this adventure) that for me, while name-calling is pretty universal, 100% of those menaces and threats came from males--the majority of whom I knew personally. Many of whom I had once trusted. Even loved. And I didn't have to grow up under the shadow of beatings and inebriated rages or live in inner-city war zones to create those statistics. Much of my life I've lived in "quiet, safe, pleasant" rural towns or gorgeous, picturesque, woodland communities.
Don't underestimate those.
I have predominantly dated "nice guys" and "normal guys". Some of the most violent have been the ones who swore their lives and dedicated their souls to "protecting and serving."
Don't underestimate them either. There are bad apples in those barrels, and some of them have really sweet smiles.
All my worst encounters of this nature took place so long ago and fall under “he said, she said” because they waited until they got me alone or with their cronies, so all I can do is tell you my tales. Not in the hopes that you’ll avoid or confront my abusers. I don’t even know where most of them are these days and that suits me fine.
Rather, I tell you these things in the hopes that, when you hear those hissed warnings in your ear from that icky feeling in your guts, when your spidey-senses tingle and the warning lights flash inside your eyes and the alarms prickle the back of your neck, you will listen and act on your instincts in the way I didn’t listen to mine.
Or heck, maybe you’ll do something similar to what I did and also squeak out less scathed than you could have been.
I can never recommend “what you should do in Situation A or B or X or T.” Every situation, every victim, and every predator is different. Even listening to our gut instincts and acting on them doesn’t guarantee jack squat. Neither does being trained in self-defense at any level of proficiency. Nothing delivers a guarantee of safety. But seeking out that knowledge can help.
So can passing on your own knowledge about this subject, because the amount of people out there who are clueless about how widespread this pandemic is...well, the ignorance and denial is staggering. Still. We don't have to exaggerate our experiences to paint atrocities. All we have to do is tell a few shreds of the truth. And you certainly don't have to be as perilously megaphone-ish as I am to make a deep impact. Even opening up to one person can result in ripples that make tsunamis.
If you already listen to your instincts and they always serve you well, I hope this helps you understand what it might be like for your daughter or your protege or your nephew or your sister who seems an awful lot like me. If they’ve ever come to you and told you awful things, maybe now you’ll understand what pooh-poohing or shaming/blaming might be doing inside them. They might be taking it and using it as a weapon against themselves. They might be wrapping it around their throat and using it as a choke-chain to stay silent and dismissive of their instincts from now on.
I doubt I'd be so far down the disability hole if I’d heeded my instincts instead of smashing them into silence.
For sure, I wouldn’t have half as many traumas to heal.
Gee…what would I blog about then? What would I dance about? What would I write about? I have no idea. I do know that, without the life I’ve lived, I wouldn’t be capable of experiencing beauty and joy the way I do now.
I also might not have ever taken martial arts, so I would never go back and change it. Yes, even though I’ve been genuinely attacked and assaulted multiple times from the very people who were supposed to be helping me learn how to defend myself. I guess the Fates determined that I was supposed to learn some of these lessons the hard way. Practical application, don’tcha know?
People who love my arts always want to know where I find my inspiration. They want to know where my depth of emotional expression comes from and how they can bring it to their own arts.
First you have to understand that it’s not like I have some magical thing inside me that other people don’t. I’m just brave (foolish-naive-stupid-wise?) enough to expose it to the world in its most raw and vulnerable form.
After that, it comes from having all these things bottled up inside me, throttled and muzzled with no other way to get it out than to dance about it or build imaginary worlds, then fill them with imaginary people doing all-too-real things, surrounded by enough bullshit lies--I mean fiction to make a tale. And I've sure never found more compelling fiction than history.
It also comes from continually seeking out and honing revolutionary practices that have given me the courage to speak, first in silent movement and fantastical words, later in explicit ones.
It comes from taking moments like the Satyr Incident and using them like rocket fuel to do something about it. To change. To transform. Ask any butterfly what it costs to perform metamorphosis. Ask how hard it was to learn how to defy gravity and fly on new, unfamiliar wings. Ask the phoenix if it hurts when she burns.
I can tell you from experience that it does.
So far, I still find the pain worth sublimating into art, as I shake the ash off my head and chirp again. But my path is never one I’d recommend that anybody choose of their own accord.
So after these last few posts, do you wonder now why I got shadow-banned from Facebook when I started sharing this blog over there? Do you wonder why I got officially banned from Instagram in December for doing the same thing?
In this ever-growing environment of censorship and misinformation that caters to the abusive, the controlling, and the greedy, I kinda take it as a compliment.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--If you want to go on right away, I'll tell you why I was having nightmares about that other guy who was threatening to rape me--and kill me. Joy-joy. As a result, I blew my fucking life apart. Literally. Badum-tss.
--OR UP NEXT: Let’s take a commercial breather, shall we? BANNED FROM INSTAGRAM: I Must Be Doing Something Right!
OK, I lied. More war happened today. IT TORQUED ME OFF.
--OR: My Phoenix & Red Dragon Dance that I choreographed as I was preparing for my first black belt test
--OR: My Phoenix Dance that tells the tales of my 3 greatest rebirthing acts
--OR: Little Tiger Burning - the sword dance I made as an itsy-bitsy orange belt
--OR: You can find five decades worth of tales about being a female learning the Arts of Self-Defense HERE.
--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS
I'm not the person to ask for advice about this subject. These people are:
—RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) - Including the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE
TODAY'S STINKY LINKY RABBIT HOLE
Sponsored by The Entitled & Violent
1) "Why Didn’t You Tell Someone?"
—Barriers to Reporting Sexual Assault for Women and Men
—5 Reasons why someone might not tell anyone
—Sexual Assault Reporting: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t —How Vanessa Guillen's Tragic Death Is Helping Transform Sexual Assault Reporting in the U.S. Military
—False Reporting - it's actually pretty low
2) Talk Hard
"You ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely fucked up? You know that feeling, that the whole country is like one inch away from saying, 'That’s it, forget it.' I mean think about it. Everything’s polluted. The environment. The government. The schools, you name it...
"Find your voice and use it. Keep this thing going. Pick a name, go on the air. It’s your life. Take charge of it. Do it. Try it. Try anything! Spill your guts out. Say ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ a million times if you want to—but you decide. Fill the air. Steal it. KEEP THE AIR ALIVE!"
~Hard Harry, Pump Up the Volume, a movie they definitely don't want us watching.
In case you missed these from the previous posts:
3) Women, Sex & Violence
— When Women Refuse - a collection of stories about violence inflicted upon women who refuse sexual advances. Even a mere scan is appalling.
—Male sex entitlement is killing women
—Sexual Violence Myths & Misconceptions
--Violence against women: Where are the solutions?
—Did you know your phone has a PANIC Emergency Button?
4) Rape Threats:
—Toxic Twitter: women's experience with rape and death threats
—Random Rape Threat Generator (RRTG) - Disarming the personalized terror invoked by the online Rape Threat by showing just how overused, common, and uninventive they actually are. Because this tactic is not a technology problem. It’s an interpersonal problem that has nothing to do with the person receiving the threat.
—What the RRTG tells us about online misogyny
—A conversation: “Is threatening to rape someone illegal?” My perpetrator did not use “I WILL” language. He used “I COULD.” This makes it extremely difficult to prosecute, especially because I had no physical evidence of the threat, no one else witnessed it, and he thankfully did not follow through with action.
5) Just Say NO
—Why Didn’t You Just Say “NO”?
—Before you ask why someone didn’t say “NO” or leave, CONSIDER THIS.
—Fawning is not consent. It's a trauma response like Fight, Flight & Freeze.
6) The Traumatized Mindset & C-PTSD
—Complex PTSD - how prolonged and repeated childhood trauma rewires the nervous system and manifests in personality, self-esteem, and behaviors
—8 Signs You Might Be Traumatized
—How Trauma & Dissociation interrupt the ability to form memories
—One of the best books I have ever read in my life: The Body Keeps the Score - Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma
—Don't want to read the book? Here's the basic premise of what trauma does to the body and why talking about it, even in therapy, so often doesn't solve the problems: Short Version. Or Long Version by the author himself
—A few of the myriad healing techniques discussed in the book: EMDR, Yoga, Mindfulness & Support Network. These are only a few the book covers.
—EMDR: The technique that has given me the most success, both for immediate single-incident trauma (my big car wreck) and for C-PTSD.
7) The “Friendzone” and Using “Nice” to Get Sex
—“Friendzone” sounds better than “liar intent on sexual manipulation zone” to me.
—One man talks about using “nice” as a tactic for sex - “Women aren’t slot machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.”
—How the term “Friendzone” perpetuates rape culture and sexism
—The Dark Side of the Friendzone
8) The positive side of the Friendzone - the differences between what many women and men are looking for from coed friendships and why it’s so confusing
9) #MeToo and More Fun Feminine TomFoolery
—It’s no wonder men objectify us when our bodies are asking for it
—Schrodinger’s Rapist - why women assume the worst about that guy who's "just trying to be nice"
—Schrodinger’s Rapist - yes, we have to talk about this again
—ALSO: Sexual violence committed upon males hits just as hard--and it's not only done by other males. They're just silenced and stigmatized, which heaps on more damage to male survivors, and it further perpetuates the cultural "boys will be boys" myth that “males are either sexually insatiable and aggressive or pussies; females are weak, pure damsels or conniving, manipulating whores.”
10) #YouToo: A Few At-Risk Populations
—Rape Statistics by State 2021
—Rape Statistics by Country 2021 - and how difficult it is to get an accurate account. Anywhere. Because not everybody calls rape "rape". Remember once upon a time that wives were considered "unrapeable?" In a bunch of places, they still are, and even in spite of US laws it's still difficult to prove even here.
—Ooooh, and remember that time the United States conveniently labeled Black females "unrapeable" so they could do what they wanted to their slaves? That crap still trickles down into attitudes today:
—The legal system has failed Black girls, women, and non-binary survivors of violence.
—American Indian and Alaska Native women are still the highest at-risk group for violence and sexual trauma--96% from non-Native perpetrators because the indigenous Nations have been stripped of their authority to prosecute them.
—Another hidden atrocity: People with disabilities are more than seven times higher to experience sexual assault than people without.
11) Boundaries, Instincts, Self-Defense
—Another one of the best books I’ve ever read - The Gift of Fear - Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin DeBecker
—Why your boundaries are not welcome in an abusive relationship - the mindset that I was drowning in after escaping a violent and head-fucky relationship the year before I got engaged. And a few thoughts on how to rectify that.
—Setting healthy boundaries after an abusive relationship
—A full episode on Oprah with Gavin DeBecker
—“NO” is a complete sentence. Full Stop.
**It should be noted that I’ve never known anyone who was nicknamed Satyr. That makes this tale a work of fiction.
Based on the episodes of my life that aren’t.