Getting my breasts groped through 5 millimeters of rubber 50 feet under the ocean was not exactly what I had expected when I signed up for a 2-tank Manta Ray Dive in Hawaii. The divemaster’s actions made me feel as if I were a cow being milked. It took me a while to realize that there was actually sexual manhandling going on. I wasn’t a great scuba diver. Unused to the 5 mm wetsuit and different equipment, my buoyancy control was poor. The divemaster already had to drag down both me and my male friend after we rose up almost to the surface. Thus I made a point of staying close to the divemaster. He held my hand uncomfortably tightly, but at least it gave me a front row view when he poked an octopus out of a hole so that we could see the creature scuttling away. Every so often the divemaster would press the buttons on my BCD (buoyancy control device) to add or subtract air. My dive buddy was an air hog and ran out of air while I still had plenty left. Normally I would have joined him on the rope from the boat to do the 3 minute safety stop before climbing back on the boat together, but the divemaster held on to me. The good thing: That was when I saw three manta rays. The bad thing: Once my male buddy was out of the way the groping began.
What kind of satisfaction would a man get trying to touch up a woman through a 5 mm wetsuit? Did he have a rubber fetish? So many parts of the body are inaccessible. There is no way you can get raped with all that gear on. Your face is covered by the mask and regulator. You can’t even talk to each other. It was almost as if I were in an off-color Benny Hill comedy skit: groping, innuendo and no dialogue. Should I have angrily pushed him away? It didn’t seem a good idea to get into an adversarial situation 50 feet under the sea when he was the expert and I was pretty much the novice. I wasn’t going to shove him backwards or knock the regulator out of his mouth. He could have done far worse to me if he had a mind to do it. I remembered a story I had read on the Daily Mail website about newlywed Gabe Watson being accused of killing his wife by turning off her air when they were diving off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
Although I felt insulted by the groping divemaster’s inappropriate actions, there was an absurdity to the situation. Did he realize that I was old enough to be his mom? The groper paid scant attention to the other four divers under his charge. We were the last to ascend, after 75 minutes underwater, the longest dive I had ever done. Instead of leading me to the rope attached to the boat for a safety stop, he held me in his arms and circled me around in waltzing motions as if we were dancing together. Once back on the boat, I was tired out and in no mood to make a fuss. After a hot drink, all six of us diving tourists were back below with the divemaster, sitting at the bottom in a circle, all of us armed with lights in the hope of attracting manta rays. The groper gave my dive buddy a boulder to hold to keep him on the sea bottom. I got a leg-over, literally. The divemaster slung his leg across mine. The mantas, unimpressed with our light show, refused to show up. At the end of it all, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was get off the boat and go to sleep as soon as possible. I could barely keep my eyes open to drive back to my hotel. I just did not have the energy to complain about the groper and create a scene.
Over the next few days I wrestled with whether I should report the man or not. I knew he would deny any wrongdoing. How could he not if otherwise he might lose his job? I could hear all his excuses:
“She got all sexual with me, claiming she couldn’t get her wetsuit on.” Yes, he had to get quite physical with me to get the damn thing on.
“I kept on adjusting the air in her BCD as she was terrible at controlling her buoyancy.” True, but he also kept on adjusting other parts of my body.
“I had to keep hold of her to stop her going up to the surface in an uncontrolled ascent.” Sadly, I did display plenty of diving ineptitude.
I was unwilling to make a bad situation worse by going through the stress and hassle of making an official complaint. I did not want to have to testify at any kind of legal proceedings. In the end I passed a report of what happened to someone who was very good friends with the owner of the dive outfit. My hope was that the groping divemaster would either be fired or be hauled over the coals enough to make him avoid a repeat performance with someone else. A more inexperienced and vulnerable person than I might have been traumatized by his behavior, perhaps never wanting to do scuba again.
So what actually happened to that divemaster? I regret to tell you that I haven’t a clue. I had no desire whatsoever to get back in touch with the organization he worked for. The incident made me viscerally understand why molested women keep silent.
Former BBC journalist C. J. Grace is the author of “Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not,” available on Amazon.com. She is currently writing her second book, “Hotel Chemo: Overcoming Breast Cancer and Infidelity.” To find out more about C. J., visit www.adultererswife.com.