Saturday, December 14, 2019

This is What Assault Looks Like to Me

So, I was sexually assaulted/harassed on October 15th, and it might as well have been yesterday. I wasn't raped, thank god, because I would probably be in a hospital right now. The fear that I have in my mind, body and soul has been overwhelming. It's one of those feelings that you can't explain to anyone other than someone else who has been assaulted, and they usually don't want to share war stories. I maybe need to find a support group, but leaving my condo isn't on my
list of activities that I have been willing to do yet. If I have an appointment during the week, I manage to accomplish everything I need to do for the week in one day, come back to my condo and lock myself in. If Don is home for a few days it is better, but it doesn't change the feeling of just wanting to stay in my bed with the covers over my head and disappear. I have no energy, no desire to do anything. I realize that these are all classic symptoms of depression, but I'm already being treated for depression. This is down right fear. Because the person who assaulted me lives and works in my building, and still fucking does. I am beyond even knowing how to handle this situation. A couple days ago Ashley suggested that it is probably time to get a lawyer involved, and I fear that she is correct, but I don't even know if I have the energy for that. You'll understand why when I explain how hard it was for me to go to the police. So here is my story, and take it as a cautionary tale.

On October 15th I had gone downstairs to take my mail to the mailroom. An employee informed me that I had some really heavy packages in the mailroom and he wanted to bring them up to my condo for me. I said no, I had other things to do before I would be going back upstairs. He was very insistent, and after going back and forth three times I caved. He would meet me upstairs in five minutes. I made sure I was up there before him so I could have the door open, and he could just set the packages inside of my door and leave, but no. He wheeled the mail cart right in, trapping me in an odd corner of our entry hall, between the closet and the cart.

He squeezed between the cart and me, grazing my breasts from behind. He said something, but I have no idea what. It could have been whoops for all I know. What I do know is that it sent the hair on the back of my neck standing up and put fear in my gut. I now need to go in to some back story for you to understand why I should never have let him near my front door.

Starting about two years ago, this person would walk by me and make comments about how good I smelled. It was the strangest thing to say. For those of you that know me, I am allergic to anything scented, so it isn't like he was smelling some delicious shampoo, but mmm, mmm did I ever smell good. I would tell Don about everything that this person would say, and he would just shake his head and chalk it up to this person being a big goofball. I didn't like it. His next escalation was telling me how good I looked. Every time I saw him he would comment on how I looked. This was way beyond appropriate and I asked Don if I should put in a complaint with the management company. Again, no, he was just being a big goofball. He's a good guy, just not the sharpest tool in the shed. That escalated to him telling me that he would date me to he was GOING to date me. I kept telling him NO, and that he was NOT going to date me. I was happily married and he was being extremely inappropriate. I might as well have been telling him the sky was blue. But again, we didn't report him. My hesitation with reporting him was that he is a single dad, and I didn't want to get him in trouble so that it would affect his relationship with his daughter. I have since learned that that was not my responsibility, but his own to think about.

From the dating claim, he escalated to running into me in my garage and telling me that he would marry me. I was beside myself, and also alone in my garage. I was pissed. And scared. But again, we didn't report him. I hope everyone is saying a big "what the hell" at this point, because I was so incredibly stupid and trusting  to think that this couldn't possibly get any worse. and that brings us to my front door, with me being stuck by my closet, with a 350 lb. mass of muscle making my skin crawl.

He started unloading my packages, which were full of dog food and cat food, telling me that he would take them in to my condo and put them away for me. I said absolutely not. I would empty the boxes at my own pace, and most of them went in the coat closet anyway. He fussed about that for a few minutes until I finally got a loud enough NO out of my mouth to make him understand, but then he started doing this thing where he was pointing his finger up in the air, rocking back and forth on his feet and saying "Sheri, I could do you right now, you know that don't you?" I assured him that I did, but that he WASN'T going to do that. He kept saying it, and was getting more and more animated. I was getting more and more scared. I didn't know what to do. He had squeezed between me and the cart at that point and was leaning his groin against me, grinding against me, repeating that he could do me, close to my face. I had to think fast. I was sure that I was going to be raped and I was shaking so hard that I was having trouble thinking. The one thing that seemed to pacify him in the past was kindness, so I tried being nice. "Yes, I know that you could do me right now, but you don't want to do that, we're friends, remember?" "Don's your friend, remember?" I kept talking for what felt like many minutes, but it was probably only a couple. As he was pushing against me, I pushed back to get the cart behind him to back up enough so I could squeeze out from the tight space I was in. As soon as I could I bowed out from under his arm and got to the door. He was coming toward me again, and put his whole body against my door. Damn it!! Now what am I going to do. He pulled me against his body again, so I said, "Oh good, a nice goodbye hug". I gave him a strong bear hug and let loose, kind of startling him, grabbed the door handle and maneuvered around the door. The minute he was out I shut the door and locked the only lock I had. A lock that he had the master key to.

I was shaking so bad, all I could do was slide down to the floor and cry. Then I realized I had to protect myself. The only other lock I had was a tiny chain on the door that a ten year old could break, so I managed to get a dining room chair under the door handle, grab my mace and crawl under my covers. I heard my phone beep. He had sent me two text messages. 1:wow  2: Just got caught overwhelmed. I was so grossed out, I was beside myself, but I couldn't even call anyone. I had my therapy appointment with Amanda, my therapist for the last five years, the following morning, and I practically fell into her arms.

Amanda told me that I absolutely had to report this, first to the management company, and second to the police. This was a sexual assault, and she knew that he had been escalating in behavior for the last couple years because I share everything with her. Her blood ran cold when she realized how lucky I was that I wasn't raped. I didn't even know how to tell Don what had happened. We had spent two years jointly letting this guy get away with everything. Would Don have guilt for not encouraging me to report his behavior sooner? Would he be mad at ME? Would he try to kill this person? I had no idea what he would feel or do. I called him after my appointment while I felt somewhat brave, and he was my champion. He acknowledged immediately that I was sexually assaulted and said he would be right home. The next step was turning this person in to their employer.

You would think if an employee does something like this, they would be walked right out the door, but no. The person who assaulted me is still living in the building, still working here. There was an investigation done by the HR department of his employer, as well as the board of our building. Apparently this was a he said, she said matter, since there were no witnesses and I hadn't reported any other behaviors leading up to this. Thankfully, the person who assaulted me asked to be transferred to another building immediately. Sounds like the old criminal Catholic priests, doesn't it? Yuck. But that would be easier said than done. Apparently it's very hard to just up and transfer someone to another building where they live and work. I was told it could take four to six weeks. Holy shit Helga. I was going to have to go into self protection mode. The first thing you do when that happens is recruit your girlfriends.

Actually, the very first thing that happened was Don installed a heavy duty lock that would prevent my door from being opened even if the lock was unlocked. Kind of a metal flap lock. It helped a lot, but I will admit that when Don isn't here, my dining room chair and my door are friends. My neighbors are also my friends. Since I am scared to death to leave my condo for fear of coming face to face with this person, I have my friends go with me to get my mail. My friend Judy has been so fantastic. When I'm spinning out of control, she reels me back in. She is a very strong person, and I feel like she's trying to help me get some of my personal strength back. If I do have to leave my condo alone, I have my cell phone on record in one hand, and mace in the other. I am afraid that someone is going to surprise me from behind and they are going to be maced worse than anyone has ever been maced. That would be the fear of having a gun, if you are skittish. Shoot before you look. I asked Don about getting a taser, but he just shook his head.

One month came and went and I hadn't heard a word from anyone about when this person was going to be moving out. We contacted the board, who said they would contact the person's HR and have a conversation. I received a message back that it could be at least another two months, just because of the difficulty in finding a job for this person. I was beside myself, and I'm pretty sure I freaked out so bad that Don was about ready to call an ambulance. I was sexually assaulted as a child, so if it seems like I am overreacting, I wouldn't be anyway, but that fact has certainly added to my fear. Now I was not only fearful, but I was beyond pissed. It was time to go to the police station and file a report and get a restraining order. Judy was going to take me, but I felt in my heart that I needed Don with me to do something like this. I have never even had a speeding ticket, so this was a big, scary thing to do.

I didn't know it. but I'm about to be assaulted all over again. We go to the Minneapolis police station, I walk up to a plexiglass window where there are two police officers sitting, and I tell them that I  need to file a report. The man who decides to help me asks what for. I tell him that I have been assaulted. He asks what kind of assault. I tell him that I was sexually assaulted. I told him I was not raped. He tells me to hang on, while he grabs a sticky note to take down my information. I thought I would be taken to a room to talk about this, but nope, I have to explain everything that happened to me right there, with people waiting behind me. A few times he would look up and say, "so, your clothes were on". Yes, fucker, they were. Twice he asked me to step aside so he could quickly help other people because he could see that they had forms in their hands that he recognized. I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt like I was being assaulted again, but this time with an audience. It was so horrible. Once he's done getting his information, probably after about thirty minutes, I tell him that I want a restraining order too. He looks up and tells us that we need to go to downtown Minneapolis to the government center for that, and says "I'm sure you've been there many times and know where it is". What the hell does that mean? Oh my god, I am about to crawl through that plexiglass and strangle this asshat! Don and I both said "no", so he writes down the address, and off we go on a crazy drive to the Hennepin County Government Center to get a restraining order. Another lovely experience. I now have NO DOUBT why women are very hesitant to report their assaults. They are doubted and treated like shit from beginning to end.

When we get there, and finally figure out how in the hell to park, we get in the building. We have absolutely no idea where to go. But for the kindness of strangers, we probably wouldn't have found the office before it closed. Again, I think that I am going to be able to talk to some nice people like they have on television shows, but nope. I am waiting in a line of ONE to be called up to a desk where a snotty young man is visiting with a coworker about a party he went to. After five minutes of standing there, he finally calls me up. He asks for my license, I start to tell him what I am there for and he waves at me to stop talking. He says that so and so will get me set up on a computer, or I can fill my forms out by hand and mail them in. This cannot be real. I took the computer route. Finally, a very nice young girl showed me to a computer and said that the program will talk me through how to file for a restraining order. Within a week a judge will look at my request, and all of my notifications will be made by email. My restraining order will be delivered in the mail if it is approved, and the man's will be delivered by a sheriff. It took me an hour to fill out the forms on the computer, again, through tears. It was awful. I walked out of there wishing that I had never reported the assault in the first place, never filed a restraining order, never reported it. I just wanted to crawl into my bed and die. I felt so abused after that day. We were gone for hours.

My restraining order came in a week, so this is six weeks after the assault. Now am I not only afraid of being assaulted again, but I am afraid of the anger that this person must have that I filed a police report and a restraining order. I did those two things so I could feel safer, but I sure didn't.

As I type this today, it has been almost two months since my assault. Nothing has changed. I know that the board is trying hard to get his move pushed through, but they haven't. Apparently they are afraid of legal charges, since I didn't have any complaints against him, and there was not a witness. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE. PLEASE! If your gut is telling you to report something, do it. Don't ask for anyone else's opinion, it is your gut talking to you. This has been an experience that I will never live through again. I leave my apartment once a week, and that isn't because I don't have anything to do and want to leave, it's because I am frozen and can't leave. Amanda is doing everything she can to help me, but I am only currently seeing her once a week. It is hard to treat recovery when you are living just an elevator ride away from the person who assaulted you. A person in this group of people that are trying to help me suggested that if I drop the restraining order, it might be easier for him to get a job. It probably would!! Could he have thought about that before he assaulted me? I doubt that I am his first. I am maybe the first to report his "flirtatious" behavior.

I am a ridiculously friendly person when I am out and about, and that has already changed.  Judy and I went down to get the mail last night, and she was riding down with a young man. I got in and said a friendly "hello" to him. When we got off the elevator I scolded myself and said  "I have to stop that. There is no reason for me to talk to him at all". Usually she would agree with me, but she had been talking to him, and said he was very nice. I hate to change who I am. It doesn't feel organic, but this situation has done it. At least for now. If I don't call, don't answer text messages, don't seem as happy. If my hands shake, it's because the fear is in my bones. I keep telling my hands to stop shaking, but  they don't listen.

All I ask is that you please learn from my mistakes. Please carry mace. If someone touches you and you don't want to be touched, tell them to get their hands off of you. If they don't. mace them. It's your body. I should have had my mace on me that night, but I didn't. My gut was telling me that he shouldn't bring my mail up. Technically, according to his contract he isn't allowed to bring my mail up.I was in the comfort of my own home. No one will ever touch me without permission again. They will have to kill me.