Dear Sexual Assault Guy:
Just for today, I want to be you. Come on, don't by shy. You know who you are -- you're the guy who violates women's bodies. Why do I want to be you today? Because I'm a woman and a therapist and there are things I need to know. And, because you're not exactly known for owning your actions, I need an answer to a seriously burning question.
Millions of women have come forward this week -- on Kelly Oxford's #NotOkay Twitter feed, on their Facebook pages, in private conversations -- to bravely reveal their experiences with sexual assault of all stripes.
Some of their perpetrators were strangers, some friends, some relatives. Many women described violations beginning in their early childhoods. Some were heinously violent, some subtly deplorable. I doubt I have to do the math for you, but if millions of women are coming forward, that means nearly just as many men are violating them.
So, here's my burning question for you:
I'm pretty sure you won't give me a satisfactory answer and that's why, just for today, I want to be you. So I can know, truly know, what makes you tick. What thoughts you have before you touch a woman who doesn't want to be touched by you. What faulty wiring prevents you from making a better decision. And what, exactly, you tell yourself after your dirty deed.
Am I overthinking this? I imagine you fight the urge to be sexually aggressive and exploitative. Am I wrong? I assume you're consumed with self-loathing and guilt. Aren't you?
What goes through your mind in the moments before you grab a stranger's breast on the street? Or while you rub your crotch against a woman in a crowded subway train? How do you rationalize "grabbing the pussy" of a pre-adolescent girl in a dark hallway, while her parents sit ten feet away in the kitchen?
I want to be you so I can explain to society who I am and why. So I can ask for help. So I can warn women to stay away from me at block parties, on buses, at corporate retreats. So I can feel what it feels like to be an ultimate piece of human garbage, while going on with my day -- and my life -- peacefully. (Only after I've robbed the peace of those I've violated, of course.)
I do so want to be you. So I can talk to other men like me and tell them what they're doing is so wrong it defies comprehension. So I can realize the damage I've done and live my life out trying to correct for it.
There are so many, many good men. Men who don't grab the privates of women who don't consent to it, who don't whisper crudities into the ears of prepubescent girls, who don't inappropriately comment on the body parts of their own daughters.
But to you, I must ask again, WTF?
The accepted definition of rape -- that it's an act of violence, not sex -- has long angered me. Stabbing someone is an act of violence. Forcing your penis into someone's vagina against her will is a depraved sexual act. When you stab someone, you're hoping to wound or kill them. When you rape someone, your goal is to demean them while getting off in the process. When you touch a woman's body without her consent, you're doing the same.
What talent or success do you use to hide your true persona -- that of a sexual deviant? Are you the music teacher, the bar manager, the real estate tycoon, who feels it's your right to grope any girl or woman who crosses your path? (And, just between you and me, do you ever privately suspect you're a monster inhabiting the form of a human being?)
Years ago, I worked as a social worker in a hospital. One day, I was showing a male family member of a patient something I had written in the patient's chart. He was standing next to me as I pointed to the note I wanted him to see. "Oh, that note there?" he asked, as he raised his hand to point at the chart, deliberately brushing my breast with the back of his hand in the process. It was so unexpected, it took me a couple of hours to realize what he'd done.
When I told my supervisor, he said, "Find me that guy so I can knock his lights out." My supervisor was a good, decent man -- an actual human being -- who couldn't bear the thought of someone getting away with that behavior. Because -- newsflash! -- good men don't tolerate that shit.
And just so there's no confusion, you're not one of the good guys. I don't want to hear about your selfless deeds, your charitable givings, your churchgoing ways. I don't care about your rescued dog, your recycling, your sobriety. Because none of those things matter when you walk this earth as a sexual predator.
On second thought, I don't want to be you -- not for a day, not for a minute. And you shouldn't want to be you, either. Because you're depraved, your behavior is criminal -- and you need help. You need a support group, or medication, or a shack in the woods far from female humans.
If you don't stop or get help, know you're ruining lives. (Say it: "I'm ruining lives.") While you're giving in to your basest instincts, you're stealing part of a woman's soul. While you're eyeing your next victim, you're potentially destroying her ability to ever trust men. While you're touching a child in the way only consenting adults should touch, you're compromising her chance of ever having healthy relationships. So, seriously, WTF?
I know you won't answer, so, instead, I'm giving you permission to make my burning question your own. Please, next time you're tempted to sexually assault, stop and ask yourself: WTF?
And then, for the love of God, do something about it.