In today's Globe, there are a bunch of articles detailing the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and a distinguished and respected Harvard professor. He had just arrived home from the airport and was having trouble getting into his house. A woman saw Gates and his driver trying to push open the door, which was stuck in its frame. By the time a policeman arrived, Gates was safely inside the house, trying to have someone come over and fix the door. He was arrested for disorderly conduct when he got angry at the officer, who, after Gates gave him his driver's license and Harvard ID, insisted that they go outside. He suspected aloud that he was being treated this way because of his skin color.
I think he was right.
Yvonne Abrahams details the incident in an article entitled: "The Gates Affair: Would you stand for this?" I think this is a beautiful, simple question. Would you?
Would you consider it reasonable, if you were in Gates' situation, to have an officer ask you step outside your home after you've shown absolutely no signs of criminal activity, and you've proven your identity and your residence?
I certainly wouldn't. And since I'm white, I doubt that the officer would have asked me to step outside in the first place. He might not have even asked for me to prove residence with my license.
But this article, its title, and its point got me thinking about my sexual assault. Not just mine, but other peoples' as well. When I tell my story, some people get uncomfortable and ask me, "Well, come on, it doesn't seem that bad." And other people, when they've courageously shared their stories, or when they're explaining why they don't feel entitled to share and be heard, have said the same sort of thing: "Well, I guess it wasn't that bad."
But when I think about it, of course it's all "that bad." When someone asks me why I'm making such a big deal out of my assault, I wonder, what reasonable person would think it was totally within normal human behavior if their so-called friend started to stick his fingers into their crotch, pointedly ignoring their repeated and firm and loud, "No, seriously, stop it?" What reasonable person would think it was totally okay for this so-called friend to insist that the only way to get the already non-consensual behavior to stop would be to let him squeeze a breast? What reasonable person would find it acceptable to take the blame for this situation simply because they didn't scream for help, attracting the attention of every single counselor and camper, and possibly getting in serious trouble?
So when people doubt me, or minimize my experience, or chalk it up to gender stereotypes or "miscommunication," I say no. I say it was assault, just like I say that what happened to Gates was racism. Yes, it is that bad. And no, I won't stand for it, no matter how many times you accuse me of "playing the ____ card," and no matter how many nasty things are said about me.
Because I am a reasonable person.