Hi friends (frenemies, haters, whomever),
This was not the post that I imagined relaunching my blog with after 6-7ish years (outside of the occasional post in 2012/2013, that is how long it had been since I was last blogging regularly), but recent happenings – specifically, reading this tweet and watching this video by this wretched subhuman sociopath victim-blaming-self-proclaimed-pu$$y-grabbing MONSTER (#sorrynotsorry) and sitting on my couch drenched in tears reading hundreds of #WhyIDidntReport stories in reply – have so compelled me.
Should you wish to, you can learn more about me and my blog while I jump right into what has been on my heart, but, first, a little bit of a backstory… I am a 38-year-old South Asian woman and a domestic violence survivor; I used to say “allegedly” – and it has become such a habit of mine for 6+ years now (born out of a system that compels us to have fear over owning our own stories as true) that I may continue to do so – but I am consciously choosing not to say it for the first time today. NOT “allegedly.” It happened, and – should someone require that I prove it to them – I happily will (I still have the 3″ binder of evidence), but what I will no longer do is negate, devalue, dismiss, or delegitimize my very true and real experience that altered the trajectory of my life forever. Note: so much good has been born from so much pain, and I truly believe my life needed a trajectory change although this would not have been my preferred way for it to happen.
Please know that – while I am highlighting this as “a South Asian experience” – I know (to my complete horror) that this is largely the experience of all women; no matter what our ethnicity, race, or socio-economic background/”status,” women have always and forever been blamed for what happens to them. Accordingly, I am simply highlighting my being South Asian so that people in my (*cough* mostly BS thing called) “community,” in particular, spend some time in deep reflection about how we are all implicitly and explicitly contributing to the unfortunate experience of so many in our community (most of whom we will never hear from or know of and understandably so in a culture that aims to inspire and motivate all behavior using guilt and shame).
So here is my #WhyIDidntReport and #WhenIDidReport. Please know that I say every word as true – not only because I can prove it – but swearing on every hair on the heads of my entire family; may I struck be dead than rather tell a lie. Please also know that I do not want any kind of “justice” of any variety; there is nothing that a court (made up of humans with personal bias galore – think Brock Turner and his 6 months in jail for raping an unconscious woman or Justin Schneider who choked, threatened to kill and masturbated on a woman but saw no jail time) or any human could give me all these years later, so I do not seek or need it. I know the truth, and I am perfectly fine.
So, here we go… After I, as a 5’4″ and then 118 lb woman, was held hostage and suffocated with a body pillow by a 6′ foot (and probably close to 200 lbs) athlete, and was finally able to get out of his apartment. Note: because people seem to have a desperation to know – as if one trauma is somehow worse or “better” than another because #traumacomparingandqualifying is a real thing – I was not sexually assaulted. On that note, “Why I did not report…”
- Because I was in complete shock. So many people who hear stories of women being assaulted/attacked obnoxiously and quite disgustingly (as they lack all empathy) believe that they would have acted differently or the “correct way” by any of the following: 1) “Not letting it happen” to them in the first place (such an egregiously offensive thing to say), but – should it have happened – they would have channeled their inner Katniss or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have fended off an attack & kicked some serious a$$ * insert all the eye rolls * 2) If not able to fend off the attack (after fully giving it their level best), they would act with complete lucidity as to what steps to take in the aftermath including things (let us say, for example, for rape survivors just having experienced “completed rape”) like – instead of wanting to go to a place they feel is safe and showering off their attacker(s) – they would go straight to the police to begin the process of “justice.” THESE PEOPLE HAVE NOT LIVED THROUGH AND DON’T KNOW ISH. Quite frankly, I think they are ish too, but that is just my humble and quite possibly biased opinion.
- Yours truly could not remotely wrap my brain around what had just happened nor did I want to. I wanted to pretend it did not happen at all by compartmentalizing, reconciling, and tucking it forever away while never telling a soul. More than anything, I wanted to be gone. From where he was – not just his being in my immediate physical proximity – but I did not want to be in the same state as him, so I urgently and desperately wanted to flee to the only place I knew I could feel safe (my parents’ home).
- Furthermore, logically speaking, there is nothing in our human biology that is programmed for “call the police” or “take the correct action steps (in order to get justice)” during or post-TRAUMA. THAT. IS. NOT. A. THING. The human body is hardwired to PROTECT itself – Run. Flee. Escape. Hide. Disappear. THAT is what our biologies are programmed for instinctively, so why then are people so SHOCKED that women do not rush to call the police when they anticipate doing so as just more trauma?
- Because I did not want to. Bear with me. This really was not a conscious decision of any kind. That day that I “got out” of his apartment (but was still in his company, #verylongstory), I threatened to call the police at one point only as a tool to motivate him to bring down the belongings he made me leave upstairs (my ID, apartment keys, etc. which I needed to be able to fly home). However, I honestly had no wish or intention to call the police, because, uh-freaking-gain, I had no desire for anyone to know ever. You know the fear that any woman would feel re: the impact of reporting on her life? Well, take that times one thousand as a South Asian woman. Here are the things I considered (although, again, hardly on any kind of conscious or logical level) as millions of thoughts crossed my HAD-JUST-BEEN-HELD-HOSTAGE-AND-SUFFOCATED-WITH-A-BODY-PILLOW mind, and here is some of what crossed it:
- My family – Knowing what I endured would cause them great suffering, and I cannot explain to you what I would do (even now) to go back in time and do ANYTHING in exchange for them never having to know. My parents lost years off of their lives because of what I endured, and my dad died a million deaths every day as he watched his beloved daughter – his whole LIFE – slip away before his eyes for 4+ years in the aftermath. This was a message he sent me six years after what transpired as he watched me share a recent live video:
- My community – Per my “total BS community” statement above, I very naively believed I had a “place” in my South Asian community (saying this now feels so absurd), and – back then – I cared deeply about what they thought (the entire manner in which I was raised was based on “log kya sochenge/kahenge?” which translates to “what will people think/say?”). Therefore, I did not want anyone to think or say anything (because that would mean shame to me and my family), and I wanted my experience in that (BS) community to remain unchanged because my entire experience of life was so sadly based around it.
- My ability to have any semblance of a normal life ever again – In a moment, one may imagine calling the police (I did), but that seemed more horrific than the incident itself. The questions, court, the newspapers (I remember a visual flash of an image of my face and his on the front page of a paper) and all of the aforementioned above knowing did not seem worth the police knowing or any pursuit of this absurd thing called, “justice.” Interestingly, I was totally naive to the injustices perpetrated against women who do come forward by the system itself as I would soon quite painfully learn and – if I could go back in time and never have had to report (something his actions compelled me to do and not of my own choosing) – I would.
- His revenge and retaliation. My attorney ex (I will not give any additional descriptors at this juncture) was, let’s just say, not a nobody. He was very wealthy, influential, and – even though I hate this word – “powerful” in his connections. Not only that, when he held me hostage, he took photos of me on the toilet as I peed because I had my cell phone shoved in my winter jacket’s pocket and he, otherwise, would not let me pee without the door open (for just one moment, please pause and consider why any woman – any HUMAN – would ever want to utter those words out loud and, least of all, have my family know them??). I remember sitting on the toilet wearing my winter jacket and crying as he stood in the doorway taking photos of me and saying, “I will use these against you one day,” which he later did.
#WhenIDidReport – The backstory to this is that – after a very long slew of events that included him booking a flight to accompany me to the gate of my flight home (with the intent for me never to be left alone to be so inspired to call the police) – when I arrived to my parents’ home, he somehow understood us to be “good” again and that began 10 days of negotiating the “terms” of our relationship. Why would I keep talking to him? Because I knew he had taken those photos of me and this thought terrified me (I have all of these text messages- including the one where he talked about the scar on my face – printed and backed up on my phone; several phones actually). However, when I hung up on him 10 days later at 12:08 pm, he called my mom at 12:09 pm and began a course of action that was fully intended to destroy my life by directly impacting my family which included first blackmailing me and then my father with the photos of me on the toilet.
& the following statement is not for dramatic effect but the truth: if my family kept a gun at our home, I would not be writing this today; the day my dad received that email, a part of me died forever (I have never been able to control my tears when recounting this part just as I am unable to today), and I willed for God/the Universe to end my life, but, alas… Thankfully, I was born to a father who assured me that “nothing anyone could share or say about you could ever change my love for you. Never. We will always stand with you.” Those words literally saved my life, but I digress… Following the blackmail emails, my brother – who is the president of a busy ER practice and whose wife was pregnant at the time – cleared his schedule to accompany me back, and we went to file a police report and were granted an emergency plenary order of protection (OOP). On that note, “When I did report…”
- The group of friends who I met him through – including one of my best friends (whose parents called me “Moon Daughter,” whose home I had spent Thanksgiving at and who I flew to LA for to watch her audition for a TV show while laid off for which none of her immediate family was in attendance) – were clearly most distraught over how awkward it was for them that I had taken this action.
- Not one person in that group experienced a visceral rage for what I explained to them (perfect strangers have had more of it than they did); they did not want their lives and comfort to be altered by what I was “doing” (having reported)
- Ultimately, I lost nearly all of my friends – including my best friend from when I was 4 years old (I was her maid of honor just 2 years prior and we had called one another “sisters” for 29 years). Literally, all of them were gone and not because they did not believe me, but because what I mentioned above and, also, as I later understood, it was very easy being happy-go-lucky-makes-everyone-laugh Smita’s friend, but it was not too fun being PTSD-anxiety-depression-panic-attacks Smita’s friend.
- I had to subpoena the first “best friend” I mentioned to testify for me. Again: I HAD TO SUBPOENA SOMEONE I CONSIDERED MY BEST FRIEND TO TESTIFY FOR ME. Let that sink in… People think that the physical incident was the greatest trauma and get so (twistedly) caught up in wanting to know all of the details of that night which feel like an *entertaining* Lifetime horror movie for them, but they are so painfully wrong. What was infinitely more traumatizing was the aftermath and the betrayal of my understanding of friends, my community, the justice system and life as I knew it.
- I was banned by a South Asian “professional networking organization” from attending an annual conference that I had pre-paid for; my ex was best friends with the then President of this North American organization that I had served and valued for years. Literally, this individual – without consulting his greater board or anything – took it upon himself to ban me from this event because my “ex was a sponsor of the event,” so, instead of banning him, they banned me following an incident in which I was forced to use my OOP. When I challenged this decision CC’ing his entire board, he replied-all with a 3 page 8-size font email annihilating my character and dismissing me entirely and they all – several women included – accepted it blindly as if God, himself, had spoken (note: these are all highly educated and mostly born in America professional South Asians). He would then later lie under oath for his best friend stating that I told him that I was “in love” and did not want the (3-month & in which no love was on the table) relationship to end when – in fact – an email was submitted into the record showing the complete opposite: that I wrote to him in complete desperation and stating that things were “call the cops bad,” and, accordingly begging him for his help in getting my ex to end the relationship.
- I spent $30,000 and 7 months (going every 4-6 weeks with a 3″ binder of evidence) in court with the same female judge in the first case. Yes, that’s correct. There was another case on record from another South Asian woman just one year prior. This case was not allowed to be submitted, because our system would not want for there to be “prejudice” against the accused. Note: there is not enough space on this blog for me to explain how completely effed our “(in)justice system” is and women know this which is a huge reason why so many understandingly – although heartbreakingly – do not even bother.
- I lost my case. It was so clear that I – as a woman “going to these lengths” (like getting a lawyer as opposed to the general population of people who crossed her path without one and were easily granted OOPs) – offended the egregiously incompetent judge who slept during testimony (new friends who came with me to court can attest to this). In her victim-blaming ruling, she said something to the effect of (I paid $1500 to have every horrifying word when it was all over) “If it were me, I would have told my best friends… If it were me, I would have picked up a lamp and knocked him upside the head.” But YOU. WEREN’T. ME.… & you did not let my medical records be submitted which documented that I had SURGERY 2 weeks prior to the incident and was not even allowed to carry a heavy handbag. You also did not let my phone record – sealed in an envelope from Verizon – be submitted because “no Verizon rep was there to verify it.” You did all of this when I, literally, watched hundreds of people walk up to you sans lawyers show you one text message and be granted 6-months to 2-year orders of protection.
- I was persecuted by more than half of my community for – both while the case was happening and after – publicly speaking out about what happened. I used the banning by the South Asian networking organization as my opportunity to “out” my ex (I redacted his name but people knew who I was talking about) as I learned that he had done this to countless more women before the 2 cases filed against him within one year’s time. I was enraged that SO. MANY. F*CKING. PEOPLE knew the horrors he had caused SO. MANY. WOMEN. – especially his ex before me whom he blackmailed for 3 months finally causing her to file an OOP – and not ONE person ever thought to spare me & my family from him, so I took it upon myself to do for other women what no one thought to do for me. Note: I am saying “I” when it comes to speaking out publicly when in actuality – after my email to the South Asian board fell on deaf ears – a male friend of mine spoke out on my behalf. Let that register completely: it literally took a MAN “representing me” for me to even be heard or considered…
- Important cultural side note: Prior to us making the above public, I called my mom to give her a heads-up (knowing how trifling, petty & mean-spirited some Aunties, Uncles and their kids can be) about what was about to go down. She said, “Smita, I know your heart and why you want to do this, but can you please just wait until you’re married.” I told her, “with all due respect, absolutely not. This monster had done this to so many women and would continue to, and I could not live with myself if I stayed silent as he continued to destroy more women (& their families). &, should I ever get married, my person will be proud of me for the actions I am taking now.” Again, let that register completely: My mom (she is not culpable in how she has been insidiously programmed by her upbringing and our culture) believed that no Indian man (this was the implicit understanding of what I would be seeking at that time) would want to marry me if he knew what had happened TO ME. The funny and truly sad thing is that – even though I am not seeking an Indian man or any man at the moment – she is CORRECT; most Indian men (#notall) would not want to be with someone to whom this kind of thing happened.
- & why was I persecuted by my “community?” Well, because I was violating the implicit South Asian social contract that I had *signed* by being born a brown woman by talking about a (supposed to be) “private or personal” matter and, therefore, was also “making our community look bad” by reinforcing stereotypes that folks may already have about our culture (errm… *NEWSFLASH* most stereotypes – even if #notallpeople – are born from unfortunate TRUTHS). It did not matter that I redacted the entire first case and shared it publicly… or that I shared many of the text messages he sent threatening me… or that my poor dad spoke out publicly… or anything. NONE OF IT MATTERED as they found it more plausible that 2 South Asian women (who had NOTHING logical to gain from taking these actions and only had everything to lose) were “crazy” and made false claims about one “reputable man” in one year rather than that one “reputable man” could do these things that were being alleged by two women. & I guarantee that so many of these trifling basics are presently irate at President Trump and this entire Kavanaugh-Ford situation completely blind to their own hypocrisy and irony when this all played out in real life 6+ years ago. I can just imagine them now with their “#believewomen” and “#IStandWithFord” posts not once thinking how they did not believe ME..
Again, I had a 3″ binder of evidence (& I still do to this day) and ALL OF THE ABOVE STILL TRANSPIRED, so I cannot even imagine those women who only have their word which will 100% – with no uncertainty – always be dismissed as being false (even though testimony IS evidence, ya morons) #sorrynotsorry as I have literal rage for the nonsensery that is spewed in the wake of women coming forward about what happened to them.
I am ending by sharing the following for those who want to educate themselves about the plight of women before you go judging them for what they did and did not do. You may or may not be familiar with the Amber Wyatt story, but this passage so perfectly sums up the various reactions people have to women coming forward about what happens to them…
“To look into the eyes of a vulnerable person is to see yourself as you might be. It’s a more harrowing experience than one might readily admit. There is a version of yourself made powerless, status diminished, reliant upon the goodwill of others. One response is empathy: to shore up your reserves of charity and trust, in hopes that others will do the same. Another is denial: If you refuse to believe you could ever be in such a position — perhaps by blaming the frail for their frailty or ascribing their vulnerability to moral failure — then you never have to face such an uncomfortable episode of imagination. You come away disgusted with the weak, but content in the certainty you aren’t among them.
Or they make you feel helpless, just by dint of how little you can do to stop what’s being done to them. The temptation in that case is to look away, let it all be someone else’s problem, or deny that there’s a problem in need of resolution in the first place.”
Well, thank you to those of you who made it this far. I appreciate you and look forward to sharing more of my heart (& my less serious “favorite things” – like my fave heated shower cap – with you &, for my old school posts on South Asian dating and more, click here),