“The Way Out Is Through: a survival story”
By Charles Metcalf Jr
There is no denying that we are living in changing times. While organized activism has been paving the way for progress on everything from the climate crisis to voting rights to economic inequality, the #MeToo Movement, the Kavanaugh hearings, the Epstein and Weinstein cases, and the Surviving R Kelly documentary have all helped recently to shine a light on the mostly overlooked Rape Culture that permeates our society. While it has been inspiring seeing women stand up to share their stories of sexual assault, the silence from men who have been victimized has been deafening. A few people, such as actor Terry Crews, have spoken up about their personal experiences. While we know the statistics, that 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men, experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime (CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010-2012 state report), the instances of men actually speaking out is so rare, it is generally believed that such assaults are also quite rare. But we are all starting to learn that this simply isn’t the case.
It is important for both women AND men to share their stories, when they feel comfortable doing so, and for the rest of us to listen and empathize. A disturbing trend I have noticed lately is a large number of people reacting to such stories with disinterest, if not actual vitriol.
Conservatives called foul during the hearings of supreme court appointee Brett Kavanaugh, attempting to cast doubt on the claims of sexual assault victim Dr Christine Blasey Ford. Fans and associates of musical artist R. Kelly came out in force, denying the allegations of his victims. And more recently, liberals have been downplaying the accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden. It has been disturbing to watch how large segments of society react negatively towards alleged victims of sexual harassment and assault, which further reinforces the culture of not coming forward out of fear of unwarranted backlash.
It was this fear that has kept me silent for twenty years. I was not comfortable sharing my own story before. But I am so disappointed in how these stories continue to be downplayed, I feel emboldened to finally speak up.
Content warning: sexual harassment, sexual assault.
Twenty years ago, I was pulled into a situation which I had no idea would escalate as quickly or as far as it did. I want to share my story, for the first time. Names are excluded. Events have not been embellished. It has taken me years to come to grips with the fact that I am a victim of sexual assault, and accepting what effects that has had on me. This is not easy for me. It’s never easy for anyone.
In 1999, at the age of 20, I was just starting my first real job, delivering auto parts around Natchez, Mississippi, a small Antebellum city that had long given up trying to stay relevant in a contemporary world. Natchez, a city on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, is made up of a combination of meticulously preserved but seemingly ancient mansions, deeply impoverished neighborhoods, fast food restaurants, and golf courses. It is a haven for wealthy retired white men, and a poverty trap for so many other people. It is part of the Mississippi Delta region, where a history of slavery and systemic racism helped give birth to the Blues. It is a place where once sacred indigenous lands with countless “Indian burial mounds” are now tourist attractions. A great place to start a journey on the infamous Hot Tamale Trail, but not so great for forward thinking socioeconomic progress.
I was just this awkward kid. I was 20, but still so incredibly naive. I had a girlfriend. I played guitar in a rock band. I spent a lot of free time writing stories and recording songs. I had a future of endless possibilities unrolling before me. I had been considered fairly weird for a number of years, and while I got along with people well enough, it was still pretty obvious I was out of touch with my surroundings at most given moments.
It was my first year attempting to figure out who I really was. Who I was going to be. And it was the year that a certain police officer took a disturbing interest in me.
The Officer was a woman of color, a decade older than me, probably a handful of years more. She was in an apparently strained relationship with a coworker of mine, another woman of color around the same age as The Officer. The Officer was at my workplace regularly, and at first her behavior towards me seemed mostly harmless. Comments about how cute I was, or asking if I had ever dated a black girl, became common. She would usually laugh it off, and I would too, but after a few months it wasn’t particularly funny anymore. It was just annoying.
When she began playing with my hair or pinching and cupping my butt when no one was looking, I became more and more uncomfortable. Other people noticed, and would joke about it. In front of me. In front of her. She would laugh. I would laugh. But I didn’t want to. It had been going on so long, several months, and it seemed harmless to most people, it was just one of those things people joked about to make the work day go by a little faster.
This continued for about a year, until one day something else happened. The Officer and my coworker were going through a bit of a rough time. The Officer hadn’t been around my workplace for weeks. But she saw me while I was making a delivery. She followed me to a fast food restaurant, where I had stopped for a drink and fries. She approached me, in full uniform, while I was sitting in my work vehicle. She knocked on the window, and I rolled it down. It started with small talk, but the way she was looking at me, with very intense eyes, and that disturbing half grin, it immediately put me on edge. She reached in to tussle my hair, asking did I miss her coming around. Asking what time I was getting off. Asking about the coworker she was currently separated from. Then she reached down and grabbed my crotch. She said “You have no idea what I could do to a pretty boy like you.”
I told her I needed to get back to work, and she held firm for a minute, then let go. “I will be seeing you around,” she said, with a huge smile. She returned to her patrol car. I was mortified. I had no one I felt comfortable to speak to about this. I figured no one would believe it. She was a police officer. And as far as most people were concerned, she was a lesbian. Why would she want to mess with some nerdy hippie guy? I knew no one would take it serious. So I avoided making unnecessary stops anywhere for several days. If I noticed her cruiser parked at my job, I would continue driving for another fifteen minutes or so, until she was gone. I would frequently get verbal reprimands for taking longer than necessary on my deliveries. I was determined to avoid The Officer at all costs, but she caught up to me again about a while later.
I had heard through my coworker, that she and The Officer had been fighting a lot over the phone. The Officer met me outside of a business after I had made a delivery, and she asked me to follow her someplace. She said she wanted to talk about the coworker, and wanted me to give her something. She seemed very emotional, and I took pity on her, and agreed to follow.
She drove her patrol car a few miles and parked on the side of an abandoned building, like an old workshop. I parked beside her, and she got out of her patrol car and got into the passenger seat of my work vehicle. It was obvious she had been crying, and I asked her if she was okay. She said yes, and took my hand. She pulled me towards her and put my hand on her thigh.
“I would fuck your whole world up, you know that?” She asked me.
I sat quietly, as she gave me that unsettling grin.
“I am sure you could” I said.
She laughed and moved my hand to her crotch, pressing my palm hard against her. With her other hand she grabbed my crotch. I wanted to ask her to stop, like so many other times. I wondered if I had stopped her a year ago, if it may not have escalated. But I was scared to death of this woman. I was scared of her badge, her gun, and her forcefulness. I was scared of her authority.
She urged me to pull my pants down, and she fondled me. She performed oral sex on me. After a few minutes, she sat up and said “I want to watch you.”
She wanted to watch me pleasure myself, as she put her hand down the front of her pants. When we both finished, we just sat there for a while, sweating and breathing heavy. She pulled up her pants. I pulled up my own, and said nothing.
The Officer got out of the vehicle, tucked her shirt in, and composed herself. “That was fun” she said, smiling at me. She got back into her patrol car and left.
I returned to work, and was berated by my boss for taking so long to get back. I told him I stopped for food. He instructed me to start eating while I drive. If I had told him the truth, who knows what the outcome would have been.
A few weeks later, The Officer and my coworker moved back in together. The first few days The Officer dropped by my workplace, she didn’t say anything to me. Didn’t mess with me at all. I thought perhaps she had gotten whatever it was out of her system, and was concentrating on her relationship with my coworker.
I was wrong.
After work sometime later, after dark, we ran into each other at a convenient store. She was off duty, in regular clothes. She grinned at me, waiting in line, but didn’t say anything. She made her purchase, and went outside. She was waiting when I came out. “Come see” she said, walking to her vehicle.
“You gotta be somewhere?” She asked.
“I was just going home,” I said. “I just got off.”
“Come hang out with me,” she said.
“I really can’t,” I said. “Not tonight.”
She looked at me, unamused. Opened her passenger door and said “Get in, I just want to talk. Five minutes.”
I got in, and watched as she walked around and got into the driver seat. “Why are you so shy?” She asked.
I responded, “I don’t know.”
She started the car, and drove back to my workplace. The store was closed, everyone was gone. She parked around back, beside the garbage dumpster. She told me to get in the back seat. She joined me there, and took off her shirt and bra, put my hands on her breasts. She told me to kiss them, and I did. She told me to bite her nipples, and I did. She unbuttoned my pants, and once again performed oral sex on me. This time she didn’t stop until I finished.
“I love fucking with you” she said, smiling.
She took off her pants. She asked me if I wanted her. I replied that I should really be getting home. I pulled away from her, and we both got dressed. She drove me back to my car. I went home, and cried myself to sleep. I had no idea what I should do.
Sometime later, I went to my boss’ house after work, to watch the premiere of the new season of South Park. For the first time ever, I told someone some of what had happened. I didn’t tell him everything. Just that The Officer had started groping me, telling me she wanted to do things to me. My boss said I shouldn’t worry about it. He said The Officer had been dealing with some shit with my coworker. That she probably doesn’t mean anything by it. That she is probably just blowing off steam. Knowing that I had recently become single, my boss said “Just enjoy the attention. Live a little.”
I knew I couldn’t tell him everything. I couldn’t tell anyone.
I felt especially awful for my coworker. She seemed to love The Officer a great deal, despite how toxic their relationship obviously was at times. She admitted to catching her with other women, which led to fights, but my coworker always forgave her. She seemed depressed a lot. I wanted to tell her what had happened. But I had no idea how she might react. What she might be capable of, or what The Officer might be capable of, in retaliation.
The Officer continued to stop by my workplace a few times a week. Usually ignoring me, but occasionally grabbing my butt, or making a joke to amuse whoever was around. “Looking cute today,” she would say. Smiling wide and licking her lips. Everyone would laugh. “Better watch out” they would say. “She is sweet on you.”
If they only knew the truth.
Other than that, she never attempted to meet up with me. It was like the physical escalation had never occured, and she had returned to the creepy flirtation that started it all.
A few months later, I was in a new relationship. Not long after that, I was engaged, and moved away from Natchez, Mississippi. While the experience with The Officer wasn’t my driving factor in leaving, it certainly cemented my awareness that I did not belong there. With a lot of personal issues and creative dreams, I could not stay where I was.
Unfortunately, this respite from Natchez did not last long. After a few months, I returned there. Married, with a child on the way. I got my old job back, and fell back into familiar routines. I was frustrated by my inability to escape that life. I was disappointed by my creative projects fizzling out. The Officer still came around for a while, though her relationship with her coworker was just as chaotic as before. I saw her less and less, and her flirtations slowly came to an end. Eventually she gave little more than a smile and a “good morning.” Eventually, I changed jobs, and somehow managed to never run into her again.
Life got pretty busy for me over the next decade, and while I did not dwell much on those experiences, they certainly stayed with me.
In 2007, I released my first book, a very graphic horror novel titled “The Horns Of Evangelina,” under the pseudonym Chuck Morgue. The book features occult activity and a lot of perversion. I feel compelled to note the story features a police officer who is very morally problematic, and a female antagonist who sexually assaults the central male character. Not exactly what happened to me, but certainly echoes of that experience.
I never considered myself a victim. I bought into the type of rhetoric that insisted “men can’t be raped” and “if you are aroused then you must be enjoying it.” I just thought I was a guy who spent a few years dealing with an uncomfortable situation. As someone who was bullied relentlessly from childhood into my teens, this just seemed like more of the same. Only different.
After coming to grips with my own problematic shortcomings over the years, and reading stories from sexual assault survivors of all genders, I realize now there isn’t really a sliding scale for this sort of thing. Someone’s personal experience is not diminished by that of someone else.
At 40 years old, I finally feel comfortable with admitting what happened to me. Admitting that I am a victim. I am a survivor. And it pains me to know I never did anything about it then. But it’s also a relief, knowing it had a lot to do with how much I fear (not just distrust) police officers even now. The experience scarred me more than I ever realized.
I never explicitly said “No.” But I did not consent. I bit my tongue, out of fear of whatever repercussions could come my way. Unless I could prove I was actually raped, the statute of limitations ran out over a decade ago. Either way, I am not really interested in revenge. I am not interested in justice. But I am not interested in finding it within myself to forgive this person, either. The Officer would be in her mid to late 50s now and I don’t even remember her last name. I don’t know if she still lives there. I don’t know if she is still a cop. I don’t know if she is still involved with that coworker. There are many years, and many miles, between there and then, and here and now.
I have only stayed in touch with one coworker from that time, and he has remembers The Officer’s fixation with me, though he admits to never knowing it went beyond the joking and playful flirtation. Which means likely no one else did either. My boss apparently took what little I told him to his grave. At least I know people weren’t just sitting around gossiping about it. But I also regret how easily The Officer hid all of her actions. And I regret how easily I hid my emotions.
The point of this is not to detract at all from the experiences of anyone else who has survived sexual assault and harassment. I only wanted to share my experience, and show solidarity. I understand how hard it is to come forward when you have been so inhumanely wronged. So violated. I understand the effect it can have on the rest of your life, even if it takes years to really admit it to yourself.
I know there are people who will insist I have made this up. And I know there are people who have dealt with similar and much worse situations, who are still keeping it to themselves. I just want to join the countless others who have spoken up over time, letting everyone else know they are not alone.
Even though, on some days, memories of what happened me, remembered at the wrong moment, can make me feel more alone than I have ever been. But atleast I can talk about it now. I only hope others can also finally find the strength to do the same, when they are ready.
© 2019 Charles Metcalf Jr. All rights reserved.