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Friday, 19 February 2016

But I Didn't Know Her

A normal end to a night in a cabaret bar. Close to 3:30am when the lights come on. A beautiful girl caught my eye...

I was alone at a table but I knew enough people there who know my name, that I didn’t feel alone at all. The music was loud and there were some diverse faces I’d never seen, seemingly seeking company for their stay, in a hotel up the road.
There was a convention or conference in town, that was mentioned to me by a sweet lady who gave me her business card earlier. It seemed a multicultural event and she had mentioned her public speaking and poetry she shared. After finishing up conversation with her before she left and inviting her to open mic the next night, I sat observing the crowd.

Watching people flirt and interpreting body language between strangers has always been a fascinating experience for me. There was a ton of it going on, in high volume and velocity. The sweet high pitched giggles of drunk females and charming yet foolish looking, puffed out chested males flaunting every attractive feature they knew that they had.

Then I heard one girl, (seemingly angry) call out to her friend or what seemed to be her friend. The two started a conversation, 3 feet away but the music drowned their words along with all the excited chatter around the bar. It was a short exchange but from what I could tell, the first girl was mad and was acting in a very dramatic way. It seemed that she was being unreasonable. Her friend calmly listened to what she said and brushed it off before the angry girl stormed away.

I watched the calm girl walk toward the bar, in her heels and dress. She had impressed me. Not just by looking like a full fledged fashion model with great hair, emanating the aura of sparkles and flowers but how she handled the confrontation. Totally composed however, I could tell she was very under the influence of alcohol.
I have gotten pretty good at figuring out when people should say no to their next shot from serving alcohol and being around it a lot. Watching her walk toward the bar with so many men on the prowl, felt like watching a cat, walk a tightrope, over a pit of snarling wolves.

But I didn’t know her.   

So I continued to focus from afar. I watched a friend of mine buy her a shot. A good person. I felt somewhat relieved that he had gotten to her first. He seemed to know her already and swooped her into friendly conversation.

But I didn’t stop checking.

She was smiling when she went outside. The lights were on in the bar so everyone had funnelled out. Outside, my friend had stopped a cab to bring her back to his place. She was in a state of mind that seemed beyond drunk and likely in the black out phase.
She was repeating herself about not wanting to go home with anyone, arguing that she did not want to get in the cab.
My friend who is a reasonable, good fellow, explained she could stay on the couch and that he didn’t live far, so it was the best option but she repeatedly refused. He lost patience, he got in the cab and went home.

Now no one she knew was left, not that I could tell. She was by herself, drunk, having trouble standing. I waited a minute for her to catch her balance and watched her wobble on the sidewalk.
An older gentleman walked over and asked if she needed a place to stay. She ignored him. I wasn’t sure if she heard what he said or was just pretending he wasn’t there. I walked over and introduced myself immediately.
I asked her if she had a way home. She was mumbling. I told her I have a safe place she can go and explained that we should leave that area at least, because I’d seen some creeps around. She agreed. As I walked with her toward my place, which was only a few blocks, I realized my husband may be sleeping and had to work the next day. So I took the time to try and reason with her, about going to the friends place that she had turned down.

Once I’d told her that I would be there and stay as long as she wanted, that there were couches and assured her she could get some safe rest before heading home, she agreed.

It was then that the last shot hit her. Coming down a small but steep hill, she no longer could walk. So I carried her to my best ability. We got to my friends place and put her on the couch. There were several people there who seemed to know her and were happy I’d gone out of my way to help her, including my friend who seemed to genuinely care about her well being.
I was relieved to say the least. I stayed there and waited while she slept. I knew she was in no danger but I felt compelled to honour the agreement I had made with her, even if she didn’t remember making it.
In the end all was well. She had a great nap, in a safe place, among caring friends and I went on my way.

But it could have been different.

We have all seen this sort of situation at one point or another. Someone under the influence who gets confused and left behind by their friends.

People tend to look out for those they know but when it comes to strangers we tend to brush them off. It doesn’t cost you to be kind when it comes to checking in, to see if someone has a safe way home.

This is not the first time nor the last that I have done this and I really think it is important especially for women to look out for one another. It is not primarily a problem for just females but it is statistically more dangerous for them.
On that night she refused the offer from my male friend and many girls tend to do that to males, who are genuinely trying to help. Women sometimes are skeptical of a man's intentions and it is very right to be cautious in these situations, especially with copious amounts of alcohol involved.

I was more than happy to help this lovely lady that night. I hope my story inspires others to reach out and be kind to others and reminds women that we all need to be there to help one another. You never know, someday you could be in a similar situation and need that from someone else.
There are also male predators and we have all heard stories of women being drugged by strange men and taken advantage of. That is something that should be considered when you see a woman acting wobbly, in or around a bar at night.

I have seen an attitude of some people in bars, where they look down on people who are very drunk in comparison to them. Often they will point those people out and laugh at them or judge them. Ultimately we are all people, we are all human and when someone is having a hard time you should never look down on them.

The only time you should look down on a person is when you are helping them get up
- Jesse Jackson


What I have to add:
Whether you know them or not.
-Wendy The JukeBox Ninja   

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Jacket

While I was in a bar sitting at a table with my friends, I was sexually assaulted by a young man I didn't even know. It was uncalled for, out of line and incredibly shocking.

It seemed that it would be a regular, weekday night. Some old coworkers that I have known for years were all sitting at our regular table at karaoke. We were singing songs, cheering people on and taking group photos. I had noticed that there was a fellow at a table very close by, whose friends had just left, so I said hi to him and got a friendly smile back. I pointed out to one of my friends that the “poor guy” was there by himself and when a group photo op came up, she suggested we get him in on it. So we asked the guy if he wanted to be in a picture with us. He lit up like a christmas tree and happily brought himself over to our table to join in.

We all squeezed into the photo and this guy we had invited, put his left arm around my shoulders right away, then reached across me just after the flash went off, with his right hand grabbing my left breast violently. It happened very quickly but I made it very clear to him that it was NOT ok to put his hands on me and he said:

""What? so you will get in trouble with your boyfriend then???" To which I replied: "Actually, I have a husband. But I personally am upset because what you did was WRONG!"

He then said to me in a snarky tone "Well where's your husband now???"


I did not react. I kept a straight face, as if he had said nothing to me, calmly excused myself from him and my friends, saying that I had to go to the washroom and had the doorman return to eject him from the bar.
I know the staff in this venue, in fact I had my wedding reception there and a couple of the bands I have played in had performed there as well. Most of the people working there know me on a first name basis. So when I alerted the doorman that this guy had grabbed me inappropriately, he went straight over to bring him out of the bar. I stayed a safe distance from the table in case he decided that he was upset with me and avoided eye contact until he was gone.
After he was removed from the bar, my friends realized something had happened. I explained what he had done and immediately there was an outrage. People were saying things like “Why didn't you punch him in the face?” “Why didn’t you tell us right away?” They were all very upset on my behalf and it took a while to be able to change the subject.
I’d avoided telling them because I knew that violence would ensue or a confrontation that could put my friends or myself in harms way.
This guy was in no way apologetic. I had given him a chance to explain himself and he clearly had no regret. So I thought he should be removed from the bar so that he didn’t do this to another person and so that a fight would not break out. After things had settled and everyone was back to having fun again I really didn’t think that I would ever give this incident another thought but then…..


At the end of the night I searched for my Jacket. It had been on the back of my chair but was nowhere to be seen. So now I had reason to believe that the guy had taken it. I looked all over the bar and the only unclaimed jacket was one hanging on the back of a chair, at the table next to us.  In the pocket I found a current pay stub and a Blackberry cell phone. To be sure that the jacket had belonged to that guy, I had a friend look up the name from the pay stub on facebook. Sure enough, we found him. It was cold out, so I left the bar wearing his jacket.
It may sound strange but I actually felt bad that I was taking his jacket from the bar, with his cell phone.
I figured though that he had grabbed my jacket by mistake. I thought, if could find a way to exchange our things, perhaps I could get some closure on the issue and have a chance to bring attention to the seriousness of what he had done. I was thinking that he would be more apologetic the next day when he wakes up sober with no cell phone, that maybe this was a second chance to make an impact on him.  


When I got home I found his profile, downloaded every photo of him on it and sent him a message on Facebook clearly stating what had happened a few hours before. I told him word for word what had been said, described the many things I could have done and explained to him the weight of the issue.
I told him that I could bring this to the police, I could have him charged. I told him that I could go public and make sure everyone knew what he had done. I told him that I could have him banned from every bar in the city so that he can never go out to a bar and lay hands on a woman again.

But I also expressed in the same message that all I really wanted, (beside an apology) was my jacket back because it was actually my father's Jacket, with my dad's name on it and the excavation company he worked for.

When I had been visiting my family a year or so before, my dad had noticed I was cold. He wrapped this jacket around me and said “You can keep dat!”
He was so happy to give it to me but then he stopped as he remembered something and said “The only thing is… well, I hope you don’t mind. It’s a good jacket! it’ll keep you from the cold but the only thing is, it got my name on it.” I told him “That makes it even better” and thanked him.

It had sentimental value to me. I wore this jacket everywhere I went because it felt as though my dad was with me, keeping me from the cold, sheltering me from the weather. It reminded me of home and that no matter what, I carry the love and kindness of my family with me.

So I said that if he wanted his phone and jacket with no additional trouble or consequence, that he should get in contact with me asap. I told him that we would do a trade. He can have his and I will take mine.

He responded by deleting his Facebook account.


I went through the contacts on his phone and found a girl’s name who he had spoken to that day. I looked her up on facebook and recognized that she had been one of the two people at his table. So I message her and told her what had happened. She messaged me back saying “I’m not getting involved.” then blocked me on facebook.
Just when it seemed I had lost all hope in getting the jacket back I found another contact in his phone:

MOM AND DAD.


I thought to myself that if there was anyone who could teach this young man respect for women, it might just be his parents. To call his mom and dad could be the ultimate punishment. Or had his parents been the ones to make him the way he was? There was no way of knowing except to speak with them. It took a lot of gaul to call them. I knew it would have to be well thought out. So I planned my words precisely and carefully. After gathering my thoughts and sleeping on the idea, I decided to call the number. First I googled the phone number to see if I could find any connection or details about who I would be calling. It showed up as a landline in rural Nova Scotia. That detail alone painted a picture that I may be calling his folks, who live in a small town with good values or the extreme opposite. I wanted to believe that they were good people. So I imagined them like my own parents and how I would explain to them what happened, if one of my little brothers had done something like this.

The phone rang three times and a woman picked up. My heart was in my throat.

I asked if this was ________’s mother. She said it was. So I started out by saying I’d met her son the other night and I have some of his belongings that he may want back. Then I told her that I had reason to believe that he had mistakenly taken my father's jacket in place of his own and that I need to get a hold of him to exchange our things. She was upbeat and cheery, seeming very positive. So I slowly broke it to her. “There is also something else I wanted to talk to you about as well. The reason that I have his things is that he left them behind in a hurry when I had him removed from the bar.” I could hear her breathing stop as she said “Ok..” in a serious and cautious tone. “I want you to talk to him about how he treated me. Your son sexually assaulted me. And before your imagination goes wild, I will explain that what he did was, he grabbed my chest. There was no big fight, there was no scene caused by it. I went straight to the door staff and had him kicked out. But what he said to me when I told him that it was not ok kind of disturbed me.” *She was still not breathing* “So I was hoping that you could talk to him about respecting women. I mean, I could have him charged for what he did. I could have started a fight over it but I really feel he needs to learn that what he did was wrong.”
All of a sudden she started to breathe. She sounded like she was having a panic attack and began to repeat with her hand half covering the phone “She, she wants us to talk to him, she wants us to talk to him..”

Suddenly a man’s voice came on the phone in a stern tone: “Tell me everything you just said to her.”
I took a deep breath and repeated every word. He then asked additional details about where this happened and what exactly his son had said. He listened to every single word I said to him and then said:
Guys Dad: “I’m going to kill him.”
Me: “No, please don’t do that. I don’t want you to do that. If you could just talk to him. Explain that what he did was wrong and that this is very serious. That if it were any other girl he might end up with a criminal record or be badly beaten. Your son looks about 21? Something like this could ruin his life and or, another woman's life if he acts this way again. He gave me the impression that he has gotten away with it before or that he expects to anyway and that attitude can be very dangerous.”
Guy’s Dad: “I can’t believe he would do this. I mean, I believe you, I do but we did not raise him to be this way. He did NOT come from a family like that. His grandmother, his mother's mother just passed away last week.. If she knew he was like this… He is lucky that you are the one he did this to. I’m so sorry he did that. We never would have known. Thank you for not pressing charges.. He doesn’t have a criminal record, he has never been in any trouble before. Trust me, we will talk with him. His mother is here all upset. Don’t you worry he will be spoken to. I will go and tell the bar to never let him in again too!!! ”
Me: “No I have that handled. I actually had my wedding reception in that bar and bands I am in have played there. I’ll be sending photos of your son to them, so he will not be allowed to go there again. I appreciate that you will talk to him, thank you. I think that if someone who cares about him, who he respects, speaks with him, it could make all the difference.  I also want to you tell him that he can drop my dad’s jacket off at the bar, so we don’t even have to see each other and I can bring his jacket and phone there for him to get in return.”
Guy’s dad: “Smash his phone! You smash that phone and burn his jacket! Don’t you dare worry about giving it back and if he has your jacket YOU WILL get it back!!!”
   
After talking to his dad I had the impression that he had been raised with respect within his family. He thanked me sincerely for telling them.
When I got off the phone I was shaking. I felt so proud of myself and so good about the conversation. It seemed that all would be resolved.

A week passed and when I came home from a walk to the grocery store.. My dad's jacket was on our couch. My husband was not home so I could not ask him where it had come from but was absolutely grateful to have it back. I’d assumed that the guy had returned it to the bar and that my husband had gotten a call to come get it.

Only later did I get the details…
When the guy had been kicked out, the doorman had grabbed my dad’s jacket thinking that it was his. He had offered the jacket to the guy, who refused to take someone else's jacket and the doorman had placed it in the lost and found. My husband was in the bar earlier that day and asked if anyone had returned the jacket, describing what it looked like and they brought it from out back.

I feel this story had a positive outcome. I got my jacket back and the guy got a stern talking to, from his angry parents, about respecting women. But it left me stewing on the very real issue that there are young men out there who do this and get away with it completely. Perhaps this guy had even pulled it off in previous cases and that was why he so confidently brushed it off as no big deal.

Some people think that what I did was really great but some of the response I have gotten, was that I should have done more. I should have taken it a step further and had him charged. I really did consider that. I went over the details in my head about how that might go over. Given the witnesses, the facts the situation.

I actually posted this story in less detail the day after it had happened. One of my friends commented that she had been in a similar situation before and had been talked out of reporting it, by a pair of male police officers. They implied that because alcohol was involved, maybe she had forgotten that she was flirting with the guy. So essentially they blamed her and made her feel like she should just drop it.

Not long after I posted this story in 2014, another woman came up to me who had read it. She told me that my story had inspired her to use social media, to look up a man who had threatened to rape her in an elevator. She found the man's girlfriend and made contact with her to let her know the kind of person she was seeing.

Social media and technology can be an empowering tool to victims of these kinds of incidences. It is much easier to track people down than it used to be and it can be used to spread awareness and give people a voice that will be heard. Had this whole incident happened in the 70’s, no one would know about it. The 7 shares and 107 likes on Facebook never would have occurred, this guy's parents would not know a thing and neither would the other man's girlfriend.  

Without going into too much detail and getting too personal about my own past, I will mention that I have seen the inside of the courtroom as a victim of sexual assault before. The process was long and dragged out and I sat in front of the male judge, the male lawyer (who was trying to break me, by smirking, laughing and picking apart my statement) and the male who had attacked me. The person was found guilty and did get jail time but going through that process was like being dragged through hell. Reliving traumatizing events, while someone tries to make you not look credible, while you cry your heart out, doesn’t seem to be a fair way to be treated, as a victim.

Reading the details of the Jian Ghomeshi case as it unfolds makes me sick. It reminds me and every other woman that has gone through this sort of anguish, why more women do not come forward and do not speak up.    

I feel sorry for women out there who have ever gone through this and have felt helpless or scared to do something about it. No one should ever go through that or be violated in such a way.

This guy picked the wrong person to try and take advantage of that night. Fortunately the universe was on my side and I was given the opportunity to teach him a real lesson.

If the doorman had not made the simple mistake of thinking the jacket belonged to that guy, if I had not had such a strong bond with this jacket my dad had given me. If I had not turned to social media to seek closure, the whole story would have been different.
Sometimes the perfect details line up, so that we can all learn a lesson. But not ALL stories like mine turn out to be positive.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Obedience


The sky woke me tonight, so sleep or rest was likened to extirpation of inadvertently composed dentistry by chainsaw.

Suddenly it was impossible, in fact unbearable to sleep. I took a moment to compose a summary for myself of how I felt at that moment and why I lay awake, but it was an unattainable thought I would never capture.

Faintly I heard the clock, ticking in perfect seconds and rhythms almost in time with my heart although not quite. The blood in my veins pulsed at a beat of excitement, not racing like the river but rather steady just the same.
I always overthink things, I always analyze and carefully anatomize each thought I have and link it directly to thoughts and actions which give it purpose.
But not tonight.

Tonight I had no reason. Just the beating…. just the time. The first clear thought, the first drop of rain from a cloudless sky.

I moved, with no effort, my motion only how it was supposed to follow, like the particles in the air were connecting the dots between me and my guitar.
I never touched the strings, not one, I swear. The song just revealed itself giving me no credit. And my lungs took breath for me to keep the time…. To hold the rhythm, at no exertion.
And at the end of it I knew it had to be done, the song had to be played.

Have you ever heard a song that you truly believe and feel with your very soul, had to exist? In this night I had no choice, I have no other way to fathom. Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach were all possessed by music.
In a more beautiful revelation than any claimed by religion to be from the gods.
It is real, by what force it is governed will never be explained or ever written tangibly.
But in our hearts, our souls our very composure it lives.
I can take no credit for my song.
The music owns me, uses me, forms my words and gives me breathe at a depth ,only the blessed husks are fortunate to expel.

And all I can do is obey.