I spent a few minutes drunkenly crying in a bar bathroom stall in Indiana this weekend. The stall had a lot of bathroom graffiti. It labeled a group as rape apologists. Next to it, someone else wrote “Cowards? You only express yourself on bathroom walls.” Then someone else wrote next to it “Nah, I named my rapist and myself. I own my shit, own yours.” It made me think about my public damnation of DIY venues and punk culture in Pittsburgh, one that is supposed to be about inclusivity and respect, but is often the exact opposite. Is that what I am? Am I cowardly for expressing myself through drunken angry Facebook posts that my rapist still plays shows? Am I a coward for dedicating an entire website to sexual assault but not coming after the two men I could press charges against? What about the men that I can’t press charges against? The ones that shoved their hands inside my skirt on dates, the ones who had sex with me when I was half asleep and drunk?
I am not a coward.
I clocked a glass at a male comedian that told a rape joke. I chased someone that harassed me in the street and hurled an umbrella at his car. I slashed a rapist’s tires. I made one phone call and that lead to a serial abuser losing his job. Does this aggressive behavior make me less cowardly and more brave? Not necessarily.
I define my courage as openly talking about sexual assault on a platform most people use to spew drunken ramblings and thirst traps (not that I don’t do both of those things, because I am a woman of many moods). I define my courage as referring to my rapists openly and fervently.
I define my courage as speaking about my sexual assault sometimes as casually as people reference the weather. A lot of people don’t want me to open my mouth. I’ve been chastised for referring to my rapist as “my rapist.” I’ve been chastised for speaking about them, but never naming them. I’ve been chastised for remaining quiet. I’ve been chastised for condemning rapists or abusers other than my own, especially if they’re well-liked and maybe play the guitar. To all those who tell me how to construct my narrative of sexual assault that have not experienced it themselves: have you ever cried alone, half-naked on a toilet states away from home because of several sentences of bathroom graffiti?
I realized at some point this weekend that I need to take a break from being in bars on busy weekend nights, full of predatory behavior and posters in taped to bathroom stalls spewing sexual assault statistics or the danger of Rohypnol. I constantly feel like I have to have my eyes glued to my drink. I said I hated going out. I think I just hate feeling fear, and that fear sits in my stomach, rotting, spreading, and telling my brain to attach myself to the first person that seems “nice.”
I am still tired.