Melissa Bruen, a senior at the University of Connecticut, was walking across campus during Spring Weekend when she was "picked up by my shoulders, pinned up against [a telephone] pole and 'dry humped' by a stranger." And it was only going to get worse:
I hung up the phone, and shoved the man off me. I am 5'5". He was around 5'11".The man started yelling at Bruen, as if she "were the would-be rapist." She yelled back at him, "You just assaulted me!" And then, "to anyone who would listen," she yelled, "He just assaulted me!"
"My, aren't we feisty tonight," he said.
I was assaulted when I was very young - I wasn't about to let it happen again. When he came toward me, I grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him down to the ground. I held onto his shoulders and climbed on top to straddle him. He started thrashing side to side, but I was able to hit him with a closed fist, full force, in the face.
A small crowd had gathered, mostly men. Now they seemed shocked. I was supposed to have been a victim, and I was breaking out of the mold. I hit him in the stomach, while clenching my legs around him to prevent another man from pushing me off. In all, it took three men to pull me off my assailant.
The men who had gathered at the scene decided not to help Bruen, but to teach her a lesson.
Another man, around 6'1", approached me and said, "You think that was assault?" and he pulled down my tube top, and grabbed my breasts. More men started to cheer. It didn't matter to the drunken mob that my breasts were being shown or fondled against my will. They were happy to see a topless girl all the same. I punched him in the face, and someone shoved me into a throng of others. I was surrounded, but I kept swinging and hitting until I was able to break free of the circle they had formed.I don't even know what to say about this incident. If you don't intuitively grok why it's totally fucked up, I sincerely doubt my ability to convince you, as I would be appealing to conscience and intellect that likely don't exist, at least in any form I can understand.
I started running barefoot toward Celeron, but ended up throwing myself on the ground, crying and screaming hysterically. I saw a friend in the crowd, and all I could do was scream his name over and over.
So I'll keep it to two brief comments:
1. This situation (unfortunately) perfectly evokes Reason #4 from my January post, Five Reasons Why "Teach Women Self-Defense" Isn't a Comprehensive Solution to Rape: "Women who deter assaults with violent means are often punished." Here, Bruen did everything that she was supposed to do, but instead of being hailed a hero for pummeling someone who sexually assaulted her, she was further assaulted for her trouble. In no way am I suggesting Bruen should have done anything differently; I'm saying that addressing the issues of the men who assaulted her, and the larger culture that facilitates that kind of behavior and the attitudes underlying it, needs to be a part of comprehensive rape prevention, too. Self-defense doesn't stop rapists from being created in the first place.
2. Note that Bruen was twice sexually assaulted (once by the man who pinned and "dry humped" her and once by the man who declothed and fondled her) and had been sexually assaulted before: I was assaulted when I was very young—I wasn't about to let it happen again. This points to an interesting, ahem, blindspot in the oft-cited statistic about 1 in 6 women being victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault sometime in their lives: Many of those women will have been victimized multiple times. I have been sexually assaulted multiple times (once by a man I knew—my then-boyfriend; twice by men I did not—a stranger on a train, and a medical assistant), and I personally know at least a dozen women (and one man) who have also been sexually assaulted multiple times. (And that's discounting the random grabbing of breasts and asses, the casual assaults that women consider "part of life.") It's something that rarely gets discussed, and the silence about repeated assaults is part of what perpetuates the idea that sexual assault is not as ubiquitous as it actually is.
[H/T to Shaker A at StudentActivism, via email and in comments.]