Survivor Stories, Guest Post: So Much to Say (or, On Reporting My Sexual Assaults to the Dean of Students at the University of [redacted])

So Much to Say (or, On Reporting My Sexual Assaults to the Dean of Students at the University of [redacted])

By: Daniel Garcia

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1. Before

 

I see a snapshot of a young man—a boy, really—on the floor of a music practice room. He is, in fact, myself, but in this picture that I have of myself, I feel like someone else. I can’t see myself clearly; the room is so dark. My crotch is scribbled out. My mouth is a smeared X; Run, I want to tell that boy-me. Don’t let him touch you. There is a man’s chest pressed against my back, and then we are on the floor, and my traitorous thighs are holding the man and he is whispering to the me, Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you, and his hands are everywhere. The walls are lined with fuzzy gray pads to soundproof the room. The scent of wine fills the air. I die. I die. I die. I die.

 

*

 

Four months later, I met up with a stranger outside of my dorm. I asked if I could kiss him. He got skittish. He started to leave, but I reassured him that I wouldn’t push him do anything he didn’t want to. He asked if I would suck his dick. I said sure.

 

In my dorm, we fooled around on the couch, doing nothing more than oral and groping. I told him to let me know when he was close. He pulled his shirt up, the muscles on his belly crunching as I took him into my mouth. A few minutes later, he grunted, put his hand on the back of my head, and shoved down, flooding my mouth before I could pull off.

 

It wasn’t a hookup anymore.

 

*

 

I was fourteen the first time I heard that happiness was a choice. After school that day, I relayed the idea to my mother, who liked the idea, too. “Happiness is a choice,” she said slowly, trying the words out loud, letting them sink in.

 

If happiness is a choice, then I wonder if the opposite is true, if unhappiness is a choice. If that’s the case, then I must’ve chosen to be unhappy sometime after my first assault. I must’ve asked to be an unhappy person. Being sad must be irresistible.

 

Can’t say no to being sad, can’t say no to being raped.

 

*

 

I am bisexual. If I’m being honest, however, I’m probably biromantic and homosexual. For me, I find it hard to separate sex and romance from one another, often using sex as a method of acquiring emotional intimacy with another person. I don’t think love would save me, but I think it would be a source of happiness.

 

One day, I would like to fall in love with someone with a nice smile, good shoulders, and strong but gentle hands. In most of my fantasies, this someone is a man, though I keep my options open for any opportunities that come my way.

 

*

 

I can’t remember if I was fifteen, or if it was after a pep rally or the last day of my freshman year, but once, my friend Jake came up behind me, pressed his chest against my back, reached around and started playing with my nipples in a crowd of freshmen.

 

*

 

Once, I fell in love with a friend who raped me. He was handsome when he was sober, when he smiled and got enough sleep. He had good shoulders, but his hands weren’t very gentle. I used to touch myself and say his name, imagining his hard body above me, making love to me, my nails scratching down his chest, his back.

 

*

 

I was also fourteen when I learned about “goobering,” and “gobbling.” Goobering was when one made one’s hand into the silent duck position, followed by the prompt jabbing of said hand into an (usually) unsuspecting friend’s crotch. Gobbling, on the other hand, was the same thing, except the fingers are stuffed up the person’s buttcheeks, usually followed by a series of laughs from the both parties. Everyone in high school did it to one another.

 

*

 

Sometimes, I walk past the survivor advocate’s office on campus and I feel sad.

 

*

 

When I told my mother about my first assault, she asked, “Why didn’t you report?”

 

I said, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was assault.” Because it didn’t fit into what an assault was supposed to look like. Because I didn’t want to have to go through it again. Because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Because I didn’t think you would believe me.

 

I’ll probably never tell her about the other assaults. If I did, I imagine she’d probably ask me what I’m doing to make this happen to me so much.

 

*

 

One day, I would like to come without remembering what it was like to be raped.

 

*

 

Earlier this week, I brushed my teeth too hard, and the gum covering the tooth next to my right big tooth split. I spent the next five minutes dabbing at the gum with toilet paper. The blood wouldn’t stop flooding my mouth.

 

*

 

There’s a story in my family that my mother once passed down to me: A scorned mistress of my grandfather’s cursed his lineage with brujeria; all of the men in his line after him would always remain dissatisfied emotionally and physically. If they found love, it would end tragically or would fade quickly. Sex would never be any sort of fulfillment. Always emotionally vacant, these men. Always unhappy. Always vacant.

 

Apparently, the only way to remove the curse is to burn the effigy she made in my grandfather’s name. It is, according to my mother, buried somewhere under a tree in the country of Panama.

 

*

 

The third man who assaulted me never kissed me, which I’m ultimately glad for. Once we were in my bed, he pulled my shorts down. He said in his thick accent, “Okay, time to fuck you now,” and I said no for once, and then I said it twice, and then three times, and then four times, and he wouldn’t stop touching me, and he wouldn’t stop trying to put it in me, until I wiggled out from underneath him and took his short cock into my mouth.

 

It was the only way I knew how to fight back.

 

He didn’t come. I stared out at the light coming from the bathroom after he left, wondering if I was assaulted again. I figured it was another bad hookup.

 

It’s what I figured every assault was.

 

*

 

Two months before that, Jake messaged me on Facebook, telling me how impressed with my strength he was. He said, in reference to my openness about being assaulted, “I know you have been through a lot.” Even now, I’m hesitant to call what Jake did assault, not because he was a friend, but because, in high school, the experience of having my nipples tweaked without permission was just…normal.

 

*

 

Two years after high school ended, the man I loved came up behind me, pressed his chest against my back, made his hand into a silent duck, then gobbled me in his apartment. I wasn’t laughing.

 

I wonder if he thought that was normal.

 

*

 

what am I doing to make this happen to me so much what am I doing to make this happen to me so much what am I doing to make this happen to me so much what am I doing to make this happen to me so much what am I doing to make this happen to me so much what am I doing to make this happen to me so much what am I doing to make this happen to me so much

 

*

 

Sometimes, when I have sex, I feel very vacant, and sometimes, sex feels like a great way to pass the time. I like to think that, despite the things that have happened to my body, there are still some things that men can’t fully take from me.

 

*

 

Sometimes, faking an orgasm is the only way I know I haven’t been raped.

 

*

 

Sometimes, I imagine the convenience of a bloody mouth. A man catcalls and I flash him a red grin. A man tries to steal my body and a scarlet ocean spills onto his flesh. No amount of scrubbing would get the stains out of his skin.

 

*

 

I can’t remember what his come tasted like. I just remember being angry. Then empty. I remember getting up and walking to the sink in the dorm room, spitting into my hand, then walking back over to the couch.

 

I’ll never fully understand why I did it. The best I can come up with is that, in the face of the assault, the first rape, the second rape, the fourth assault, my brain did what it could to protect me from it: Convincing myself each time that I must have consented. See? You must’ve secretly liked it. Just look between your legs. There’s no way he could’ve forced you. You did that. Slut.

 

Fingers slick, I gripped myself and a few minutes later, I came.

 

He watched the whole time.

 

*

 

What I fully understand is that none of this would ever hold up in court. None of it.

 

*

 

August 30, 2017

 

I freeze on the way to my first class, looking at the man who has just walked out of the library, walking in my direction. For the rest of my life, I will always remember that body, that frizzy hair, that face. I will always remember his penis in my mouth.

 

After class, I go to the university’s student union. A few minutes later, the survivor advocate comes out and smiles at me. “Come on back, [redacted],” she said. In her office, we make small talk for all of thirty seconds before I say, “I want to report.”

 

*

 

I am still trying to scrub the stains out of my mouth.

 

*

 

At the end of it, she gives me a few pamphlets. She reminds me that I don’t have to do anything when the Dean emails me if I don’t want to. I can choose to have an investigation launched, or not. I have options.

 

*

 

In the emails, there is a brief message that contains a link to a secure website that contains an official notice from the Dean. At the bottom of the email, it says: If you fail to open, read, and respond to this notice in a timely fashion it may impair your ability to persist as a [university name redacted] student.

 

*

 

September 1, 2017

 

[full name redacted]

Sent electronically to [email redacted]

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

 

[redacted],

 

As referenced in my last six emails correspondence to you, I work in the Dean of Students Office and I am contacting you because my office received information alleging that you may have been but probably weren’t subjected to a violation of the [university name redacted] Code of Student Conduct relating to sexual assault.

 

I would appreciate the opportunity to interrogate meet with you to provide you more proof of your victimhood information about our process of disenfranchising survivors and make sure that you are aware that no one will believe you of your lies options, including the resources unavailable to men you. Please contact me at [phone number redacted] or [email redacted]. If you continue to waste my time I do not hear from you by September 5, 2017 I may have to take limited action on this false report and I would prefer to have you be a good victim and go through everything that happened to you again provide the dirty details further input into the process before an investigation is launched that happens.

 

Sincerely,

 

[redacted]

Senior Associate Dean of Students

 

*

 

In 2015, a student reports being sexually assaulted by a man employed by the university. The man’s attorney says: “It is becoming popular right now for people to sue universities claiming that they have been victims of sexual assault and blame the university. Many times there are real victims in these kinds of cases. This case, in my opinion, is not a case with an actual victim.”

 

*

 

September 8, 2017, 2:09pm

 

I will meet with the Dean of Students in less than an hour. I will put on the new jeans, the new hoodie, and the new sneakers my mother bought for me on Labor Day. I will wear the anchor necklace with the rose charm superglued on it. I will wear this because it reminds me that I’m a survivor.

 

*

 

Victim’s Demographics:

Name: [redacted] / Sex: Male / Current Age: 22 / Hair: Brown / Eyes: Brown / Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic-Latino / Height: 5’6 / Weight: [redacted]

 

*

 

I survived.

 

*

 

Perpetrators’ Demographics:

Name: Brent Tyson / Sex: Male / Age at time of assault: 22 / Hair: Brown / Eyes: Brown / Race or Ethnicity: White / Height: 5’9 – 5’10 / Weight: unsure, perhaps 140lbs – 160lbs, lean build, very toned / Crime: Non-Penetrative Sexual Assault (1 count of) / Educational Status: Student

 

*

 

I will walk across campus to the student union. I will walk the stairs to the fourth floor, and I will walk past the survivor advocate’s office.

 

*

 

I survived.

 

*

 

Name: Andy Trapis / Sex: Male / Age at time of assault: unsure, perhaps 20 / Hair: Black / Eyes: Brown / Race or Ethnicity: Half-black, half-white / Height: 5’7 – 5’8 / Weight: unsure, perhaps 150lbs, lean build / Crime: Rape (1 count of) / Educational Status: Student

 

*

 

I will not walk into her office this time. I will walk into the room next to hers and tell the student receptionist that I have a meeting with Dean [redacted] at 3:00pm.

 

*

 

I survived.

 

*

 

Name: Brendan Tyson / Sex: Male / Age at time of assault: 23, perhaps 24 / Hair: Brown / Eyes: Brown / Race or Ethnicity: White / Height: 5’9 – 5’10 / Weight: unsure, perhaps 140lbs – 160lbs, lean build, very toned / Crime: Rape (1 count of) / Educational Status: Student

 

*

 

The Dean will come out and invite me back to his office. I will hesitate for a second, standing in the doorway. I do not know what will happen after this.

 

*

 

Name: Ali Al-Hashim, gave name of Alex to victim / Sex: Male / Age at time of assault: between 24 and 27 / Hair: Black / Eyes: Brown / Race or Ethnicity: unsure, most likely Arab or Middle Eastern / Height 5’8 – 5’11 / Weight: unsure, perhaps 180lbs, muscular build, somewhat toned / Crime: Sexual Assault, possibly Rape (1 count of) / Educational Status: Student

 

*

 

I survived.

 

*

 

Timeline of Events:

Autumn, September 2014; victim age 19, assaulted in music annex on campus by B. Tyson / Winter, January 2015; victim age 19, raped in victim’s dorm room by A. Trapis / Summer, July 2015; victim age 20, raped in B. Tyson’s apartment / Spring, May 2016; victim age 21, assaulted, possibly raped, in victim’s apartment by A. Al-Hashim, same apartment complex as July 2015 rape

 

*

 

Of course, these aren’t their actual names.

 

But you knew that already.

 

*

 

Still, I will walk inside his office, ready.

 

*

 

2. After

 

September 12, 2017

 

 This notice serves to inform you that I am closing this complaint without further investigation because at this time I do not have a sufficient amount of information to conduct an investigation, specifically, no respondent has been named.

 

*

 

I sit in a man’s lap, and my thighs straddle either side of his waist. I do not know his name, he is a stranger in my bed, his mouth is on mine, our tongues greet one another, and I press my hands to the muscles on his chest, leaning into him. He reaches around and grabs a handful of my ass. I do not tell him that I am sad.

 

Author’s Bio: Daniel Garcia is a poet and writer based out in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He is currently pursuing his degree in creative writing and goes to church frequently–and by church he means poetry slams. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Write About Now Poetry, SlamFind, SUGAR Magazine, Rathalla Review, Apology Not Accepted, Hawaii Pacific Review, and more. When he isn’t writing or slamming, Daniel can be found giving as many hugs as possible, living by the words “You are all that you have,” and falling off the edge of the Earth. He is the 2017 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) Head to Head Haiku Slam Champion.

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On Endings

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Now available for pre-order. Seriously. For real.

My students often ask me about personal essays, “How do you know where to finish?”

Life is ongoing, you see? So how do we know when to finish?

I always tell them that I don’t have an answer, that I usually know how I want to finish an essay when I start it, that the final line is often the impetus for the entire piece.


I am someone who sees endings before I see beginnings.


My book is finished. It is off to the galley printers.

On campus, people keep asking the standard question, “How are you?”

And I keep answering, “Good. I’m really good.”

My friend Brad once said that we are all existing in a competition of “tired.” We ask one another, “How are you?” And we respond, always, with “Tired. I’m tired.”

But you know what? Right now, I’m good. I’m really good. The writing of my book has come to an end, and for that, I am grateful.


I write about being in the gym a lot. That is not because I spend so much time in the gym, but because, lately, I haven’t been doing that much to write about.

Tonight, I ran on the treadmill. I had my final physical therapy appointment yesterday, and my physical therapist gave me permission to exercise fully, so I went for it today. I pushed myself, and pushing myself physically did something to me emotionally.

I wanted to cry; I wanted to rage.

In the window, I could see the reflection of the man who I met in the gym. I could see him looking at me, seeking my approval.

I ignored him. I ran faster.

I could see the reflection of the man on the machine behind me. That man had seen me out on one of the rare nights when I was  out drinking with friends. At the time, that man had laughed and said “hello” guiltily (as had I). Then, I texted the other man from the gym, and he showed up and escorted me home.

I was home by 10:30 pm.

Nothing happened with either man.

Still, they now both give me that look.

You know that look.

We all know that look.


I am so tired of endings.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot write the ending to my own story.


I had sent my book a while ago to a writer I admire, and she wrote back today with many kind words, but what struck me the most was this, “… I will forever go back to it to try and figure out how you made this gorgeous, difficult, complicated, hopeful piece of art.”

How did I make it?

I don’t even know because I was in a trance.


Thank goodness that I didn’t have Reed for the summer because the entire summer was stuporific.

How did I even function?

I didn’t.

I didn’t even have my body because of my back injury. My body, too, was angry at me. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t walk up the stairs. I couldn’t even clean my house.


I did all of that stuff anyway because, when a single mother is ill, who takes care of her?

No one.


Every night, when I close my eyelids, and every morning, when I open them, I am only ever alone.

This is a lesson I have learned.


I have so many endings that I want to talk about. So many endings that have hurt me.

Pete / my first love / the alcoholic / No one will ever again break my heart like he did / Clayton / the only emotionally stable man I’ve ever dated / I wasn’t good enough for him / Caleb/ the love of my life/ I married that motherfucker / River Guide / I could have loved him / He didn’t love me.

There are so many others.

So many heartbreaks.


The guy from the gym yelled at me in front of all of the other gym members who were there.

He yelled, “You just can’t get over yourself, can you?”

He later said that he missed me. He said that our fall-out had been keeping him awake at night. He said, “As, I’m sure, it has you too.”

I said honestly, “I haven’t really thought of this at all.”

He looked hurt, and I overcompensated by talking about how busy I am.


What I wanted to say was, “If you knew me better, then you would know that I have had my heart broken in the worst way possible, and an aggressive guy yelling at me in the gym does not have the capacity to hurt me.


What my therapist said was something along the lines of, I hate this guy because he’s driven you back into therapy, though you don’t care about him at all.


There was a time when I was skiing with a friend. She was braver than me and took off from the normal run to the trees, so I followed. But I crashed.

I landed in a tree well, which is a very dangerous trap of loose snow around a tree. The snow in a tree well is basically like quicksand, but maybe worse

As I dug to get a foothold, I felt myself sinking into that depth. I hadn’t yet heard tips on how to get out of tree wells, but I intuited them. Lean into the solid. Get yourself out on your elbows.

I could feel the ground under my feet caving below me, but I knew that meant I was supposed to depend upon my arms. I used my elbows to edge my way out.

And in the end, I survived.

I’ve always survived.

The end to this story is a woman who went through hell but still loves herself,


But really, the end to this story is the tunnel left in the wake of that darkness.

What could have happened in that tree well?

Why do we all need to face our own tunnels?

To learn to use our elbows to edge our way out?

 

Me Too: On The Spectacle of An Issue (Guest Post)

By: Anonymous

When the Harvey Weinstein scandal hit the news, the first thing I told my friend was: “It’s a good thing I filed my sexual harassment complaint when I did so nobody could accuse me of jumping on a bandwagon.” I paused and added, “That’s the next dark cloud on the horizon.”

I filed my complaint last winter, and it is ongoing, so I can’t join everyone saying, “Me too,” on social media to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault. Most of these posts add, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”

Even if I could copy/paste “Me too,” I wouldn’t. I’m afraid that this move plays into the dangerous logic that sexual violence is serious because it’s everywhere. In fact, it’s serious because it’s anywhere. We’re showing work places that we’ll make a big deal when sexual harassment and assault impact large numbers of employees. We’re prompting the minimization but not necessarily the eradication of sexual violence. And yes, we’re inviting people to see future victims as if they’re on a bandwagon. That is not fair.

As it is, I can’t copy/paste “Me too” online because I said it on the record. I filed a formal complaint. I had a lawyer until I couldn’t afford one. I halted my career progress to research law and policy so I could prepare my own documentation and evidence. I lost interest in my life as I saw it through the gaze of an investigation and the rumors it brought. I heard through the grapevine that all my colleagues know I filed a complaint. Only two of them reached out unprompted to say they were sorry about what happened. After writing this statement, one more colleague wrote to me, acknowledging that the “Me too” posts must feel isolating. During a time when few people will look me in the eye and when someone who spread the word about my complaint recently pretended not to know me at a meeting, that message made me feel human again.

I remind myself that I’m not objective about the way people are treating me. Others explain that everyone at work has been mandated not to talk to me about my complaint. That seems fair, but a speech act of disclosure is different than a speech act of hospitality. We live in a culture that is more curious about disclosure than invested in hospitality though. People will ask each other what happened. With few exceptions, they will not reach out to say they’re allies.

Ultimately, I’m afraid that everyone who copies/pastes “Me too” is responding to the spectacle of an issue that has finally become legible in scale and volume. This is okay if they’re also responding to the instances of actual violence that are legible right in front of them. What I’m saying is that my social media feeds are full of “Me to’s,” but my life is not full of allies.

Saying “Me too” in a formal complaint silenced me. Finding the news wires circulate everything I cannot say is deadening. I inhabit the isolation of dysphonia, but a lot of victims currently embroiled in sexual harassment and assault cases do so too. To them, I say: thank you for trying to prevent others from becoming victims where you work, live, study, dream, and hope to thrive. To them, I say: we will get our voices back, and until then, we must believe that we expended them when it mattered most.