“He’s never physically threatened me, so there’s nothing I can do.” It was comforting to speak with someone who understood that these Craigslist ads weren’t just words on a screen.
That cyber sexism isn’t just verbal abuse, threats of physical assault, and privacy violations; it’s a complete undermining of everything women have worked for.
When I tried to politely call it a night, he blocked the door with his body. That night, the man fucked me beneath two rifles hung on his wall in a giant ‘X’ above his bed. Snow outside was piled even higher and the frigid temperatures were well into the negatives, but I walked the two miles home anyway – the smell of blood trailing me the entire way. I didn’t even tell anyone it happened until eight months later, when I tried to love someone new, but cried every time he touched me.
But as I typed the address of the first apartment into my phone, a sexually-explicit text message from an unknown phone number appeared on the screen. As a woman who writes about disfigurement and medical trauma for a living, I never thought sexual harassment would be a hazard of my profession. “I have a job, car, cash, and can meet you at Starbucks then go from there.
Yet, just two weeks after I wrote about equality for individuals with disfigurements in a national paper, the abuse began. I deleted his message without responding, but the man continued. I’m available today, tomorrow, and Friday.” The next text came from a man old enough to be my father.
I enrolled in graduate school and got a job at a small world music label in a rural Vermont town. That winter, I met the man who would later assault me. Not really, anyway, but he was funny and interesting. Though I knew I should leave, I stifled my urge to run. ‘X’ like the shape his hands made when he used them to cover my mouth. I cried as I quickly slid my jeans over my bloody thighs.
Instead, I sat at his kitchen table and let him make me a drink – something with whiskey and maple syrup. The man was still naked, passed out on his bed, so I ran for the front door.
“Not to sound weird,” he said, “but your hot in a unique kinda way.” I didn’t feel “hot,” though. In addition to texts, men called incessantly and sent lewd messages to my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linked In accounts.