Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Infidelity: Why I tell on cheaters.

You found out that you have been a participant in infidelity.

Do you speak up or back off?

Before I dive into this tricky situation, I want kiss the ass of my favorite podcast host, LGBT activist, and sex columnist, Dan Savage.  I'm bringing him up because, based on what I've read and listened to, this is typically the only topic we differ in opinion on. 

I'm a regular listener of the Savage Lovecast and I recommend it to anybody with sex or relationship questions. Dan and I have met a couple times: once when I was chucking my book at Aziz Ansari  and again when I cornered him after interviewing Roberta Kaplan so I could give him a copy of Just Another Number. 

All Dan knows of me is my hungry new author, my guerrilla marketing tactics and my clumsy, fangirl nervousness in meeting one of the  few role models I've had.  Dan is a wise, articulate, witty, and boldly unapologetic journalist whose work promotes equality, diversity, fair, humane, and compassionate treatment, as well as free, ethical, consensual love and sexuality. His podcast has taught me so much about organized my thoughts and emotions and handling my relationships. I have felt myself mature into a better person since discovering him a year ago. 
As the feminist offspring of the patriarchal south, Dan is the cool gay uncle I desperately wish I had growing up. He recognizes the entitlement, invasions, and sexual assault that women have been brainwashed to normalize and shrug off and encourages women to stand up for themselves. 

About two months ago, I was sexually assaulted. And about a month ago, unbeknownst to Dan, I was one of his callers. I had just found out that my assaulter had been released the day after his arrest with a slap-on-the-wrist harassment Misdemeanor. I was in this angry, helpless, frantic state. Reaching out to him was a comforting impulse.

To my surprise, I heard my voice on the next episode. Dan's advice was for me to contact the media- to bring the corruption of our justice system towards sexual predators to light. This had been my instinct, but his encouragement was my trigger. I contacted the local news and wrote an intense article about the incident, using my writing skills to personalize my story and guide readers through my journey. Despite the bit of slut shaming, victim blaming backlash, airing the truth was cathartic and empowering. I am now pressing charges and intend to file a lawsuit after trial. The publicity also connected me with other victims, many of which will be joining with me to bring attention to the frightening frequency of unpunished sexual abuse. Although I cannot speak for him, I believe his point was that there is power in publicity. This means that keeping corruption private is a detrimental enabler. 

However, when it comes to a role as the "other man" or "other woman" in cheating, Dan seems to have a different stance. I've heard several people call into his podcast that have found out that they have been the "other" in infidelity. Dan is very ethical with lying and deception. He does not condone cheating.  Like him, I support poly, open, and "monogamish" relationships. I think that monogamy is for far fewer than the people who practice it. I also think that "cheating" should not necessarily have to end a marriage. In fact, I think that one or two cheating incidents in a 20+ year marriage requires incredible restraint and commitment. What I disagree with is his usual policy of leaving a cheating situation, without letting the partner who is being cheated on know. He gives great reasons for it. Somebody's marriage isn't an outsider's business. The discrepancy could be one slip-up that's not worth destroying a family or life built together. The third party doesn't necessarily know all of the details and it is best to safely remove oneself and let people work their own union out.

I want to acknowledge that he is older than I am and has acquired a lot more wisdom and experience. He's been through a marriage and has raised a son. Especially with love, lust, and relationships,  I am open to being wrong. 

However, I have a solid snitching track record. 

I do not participate in cheating. However, I have been lied to and have later found out that I was the other woman. Every man who has involved me in cheating or has attempted to do so has been told on. I track down his significant other, approach her in a kind, empathetic manner, inform her of what's been going on, and offer to show her any evidence (photos, texts, emails) she needs. This has happened a handful of times. It never makes a difference right away. The pattern is that the woman will appear understanding with me until her boyfriend comes home to her. Then he tells her whatever lie he can muster. She stays with him. They break up about a few months to a year later, likely because I was not an isolated incident. She had suspected his infidelity long before I was in the picture. 

Here are the reasons I tell on cheaters: 

1. We should treat others the way we would want to be treated. 
If it were me, I would want to know. Would you? 

2. The worst case scenario far outweighs the best. 
If the relationship is open, then the information of infidelity won't destroy it. If the cheating is not worth destroying the union, then it will most likely survive a bit of infidelity with some counseling. In fact, it may bring them closer together. But relationships, especially marriage, require a great deal of sacrifice and compromise. A faithful partner who wants monogamy may be devoting the best years of his or her life, sacrificing time, money, travel, or career decisions for a person who is not upholding their trust. The cheater is being cruel and selfish. In no way is it fair to indulge in infidelity while their partner is robbed of the opportunity to be with somebody who shares their value for monogamy. 

3. Health risks.
There have been many circumstances in which a person assumes they are in a monogamous sexual relationship and then catches an STI because of a partner's infidelity. Although there is an outrageously  negative stigma towards them, STIs like Herpes and HIV are permanent. 

4. I would behave the same way in any other situation. 
If I saw a guy drug his date's drink at a bar, I would tell her and prevent her from leaving with him. If I saw somebody vandalize property, steal a purse, or kick a dog, I would confront them, capture footage, call the police, or do whatever it took to stop horrible things from happening. Sitting back and allowing somebody to be fooled into a false life with somebody is no different to me. If I see somebody wronging another person, I am proactive in defending the victim.

5. The end of a marriage is no longer the end of a life. 
The biggest worry I hear expressed about telling on a cheater is that it will ruin lives. If a life depended on a marriage, I doubt infidelity would end a marriage. Marriage was once essential.  Men married to reproduce and women married for economic survival. In modern western society, people can go there entire lives unmarried and still live happily. Today's greatest motivation for marriage is emotional support and gratification. If partners are not getting that, maybe notification of infidelity is the push that they need. 

6. We need to stop victim blaming. 
I am really fed up with people blaming the ending on a marriage on somebody for presenting the truth. The cheater is the only one to blame for his or her actions. The "other" did not sabotage the marriage. The person in the marriage did. 

7. The silence of corruption enables it. 
I think we all subconsciously know the real reason we don't want to get involved. Confrontation is scary and unpleasant. We want people to like us. We don't want to be a punching bag. I get it. But that's an incredibly selfish mentality to have. A unified silence protects corruption and allows the perpetrator to continue with destructive behavior because they don't see repercussions. Even if you leave the cheating situation, the perpetrator will likely continue the same behavior long after you. Why not present the victim the opportunity to rescue himself or herself? 

8. The truth always reveals itself. 
Although there are always exceptions, most likely a cheater will not get discovered through a one-time slip up. Most likely, the behavior is a pattern and getting caught is inevitable. Perhaps cheating is a much needed relationship self-sabatoge or the catalyst for some much needed couple's therapy. The sooner everything is out in the open, the sooner the necessary healing can begin. I feel like it's better to get everything out in the open than to let stressful suspicions drag.

9. It is your business. 
Another common argument I've heard about this subject is that somebody else's relationship is not the "other woman's" or "other man's" business. If you are inside of me, your marital status is my business. It's expected for one to disclose whether or not they are committed to somebody, just as it is expected to disclose whatever STI they may have. That is why one can file a lawsuit against a sexual partner for transmitting an STI if they knowingly withheld that information. 

10. Privacy is just an illusion. 
People talk. Stories unravel. The majority of rumors originate from truth. If you are doing something you are ashamed of, you probably shouldn't be doing it in the fist place.
Take some personal responsibility and stop being a shitty person.

Monday, January 4, 2016

I was Sexually Assaulted by my Rideshare Passenger

Disclaimer: All events described are based upon my accounts of the events that occurred on the evening of November 27th, 2015. 


Note: The perpetrator's identity will be revealed after his plea deal is complete. 

            My passengers are always surprised to see me.
            I’m almost always the first female driver they’ve had.
            We are a rarity, at only about 19% at Lyft, 15% at Sidecar, and 8% at Uber.

            As a new author and freelance writer, the gig works for me. There’s no schedule, boss, or politics. I can turn on my app anytime I want to make money. I can take off for a writing assignment, a workshop, a festival, or an overseas backpacking trip. For the first time in my life, I’m able to fully pursue my dreams, maintain a social life, and have financial stability.

            Shuffling strangers around town has been an incredible education on human character. I see subtle, but rude behavior when people make me wait several minutes for them to be ready for the ride, open food and drinks without permission, and leave garbage in my car. Rideshares have a strict rating system that ranges from 1 to 5 stars. It’s imperative that drivers get mostly 5 star ratings because at 4.6, we are at risk for deactivation. We can’t show a glimpse of frustration.

            Driving has taught me more about men than any father figure or boyfriend ever could. When they request a ride, they expect their driver to be their typical cabbie demographic. They make comments about their pleasant surprise from the expectation of being chauffeured by a middle aged Nigerian male, as if my millennial, Caucasian blondness is an extra treat. We are alone in my car. Our brief interaction is private and intimate. Though most men are polite, many carry on a sense of entitlement. They make themselves at home, tapping my shoulder, grazing my arm, or knee when they feel like it. They help themselves to my vehicle’s temperature settings and reach for my iPhone charger without permission. They divulge details about their wife whose libido died after having their baby and proceed to compliment my legs. They ask me about my romantic status and request descriptions of my sexual fantasies. Every time I reject a man who asks me out or evade threats of one-star ratings if I do not go home with him, I am reminded of the impossibility for an attractive woman to have a perfect review.  

            During our ride, I am their hostage.

            My intuition has sharpened to a level I never thought possible. I can feel people when they get in my car. I immediately sense when they want to chat or play on their phone in solidarity. There have been moments where a stranger has gotten in my car and I was immediately uncomfortable.
            But I never felt truly in danger until picking up (Name will be revealed when his case is finished). 

            It was around 6:45 pm on a Friday. I had made a personal rule to quit driving after midnight to avoid intoxicated passengers. Apple Cup, a yearly football game between the University of Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars had kicked off at noon, spawning packs of inebriated fans stumbling through the streets like Purple and Red zombies.

            When I approached the bar my Rideshare app had summoned me to, I drove past two guys standing on the sidewalk. They waved me down to indicate that they were my passengers. I needed to turn around to get to their side of the road, so I drove onto the next street. I pulled into a neighboring driveway, stopped and paused. I considered canceling the ride and speeding off. I have no idea why. I decided not to. It looked bad in the Rideshare system to cancel a lot of rides. I had driven all the way there, found my passengers, and had no reason to refuse them. So, I ignored my gut and pulled around the bar. Suddenly, a couple more guys appeared, carrying a burly thirty-something with strawberry blonde hair, groomed beard, dressed in Huskies gear. Everything about his appearance emulated the vulnerability of intoxicated handicap except for his eyes. He stared at me with blood-chilling intensity. I looked at his friend and started to tell him to take him back in. He was too drunk for me to drive. But they tossed in my back seat, slammed my door, and scurried back inside the bar.

            We had a 13-mile ride ahead of us.

            I was hoping he’d sleep through it, but he sat upright. He didn’t buckle his seatbelt. When I made turns, his entire body, from torso up, rolled from one side to another in my backseat like a punching dummy.

            I’d seen it before. Just a month prior, Uber driver, Edward Caban had been attacked by Taco Bell executive, Ben Golden. Golden had been as drunk as my passenger and when Caban told him to get out, Golden reached from the back seat and began beating Caban, yanking him by the hair before getting sprayed with mace. 

            I did not have mace or a camera.

            Slurring,  (Perpetrator) began making comments about how attractive I was. He asked me personal questions like my name and what I did for a living. I gave vague, brief responses, praying he didn’t vomit inside my car. As I pulled on Interstate, I grew relieved by his sudden silence.
            About 5 minutes through the I-5 north, we hit a bit of traffic and I slowed to about 50 mph. Suddenly, he lunged from the back seat, grabbed my breast, and began kissing my neck and cheek. 
            Imagine the bewildering, fearful jolt that shakes you when a figure jumps at you in the dark. Now, imagine that happening while driving a vehicle on the Interstate. I nearly swerved into the median before I could register that I was being sexually assaulted.

            “Stop!” I demanded.

            He sat back in the seat for a moment and then lunged again, grabbing my breast once more, and continuing to kiss my neck and cheek.
            “STOP!” I repeated. “You’re going to make me wreck.”
            He finally backed off and curled onto my backseat, mumbling something about how he was “going to fuck me.”
            Our destination was his home in Shoreline, the outskirts of Seattle. Most of the area is poorly lit and residential. I thought about what happened to Caban and the way his nearly unconscious passenger snapped.  flared those same red flags but with a strong sexual undertone.
            To my relief, he started snoring.  If his friends had to carry him to my car, I didn’t know how I was going to get him out of it.  If I tried, how would he react? I realized that was walking into a cliché rape scenario.
            I pulled off the first exit and drove until I found a Fred Meyer crowded with shoppers.  Rather than the lot, I parked directly in front of the store, got out, locked him inside, and called the police.
            I initially tried to downplay the fiasco the way women are brainwashed to do. He was drunk. Perhaps I had somehow led him on by driving my car, trying to avoid conversation, and staring at the road. He hadn’t hit me or held a gun to my head. In hindsight, I saw intention in his actions. Had he buckled his seatbelt, he would not have been able to lunge at me. When police pulled him out of my car, I stood merely feet away to watch his arrest. They asked him his name. He glanced at me and said it was James- not even close to (Perpetrator). He’d been through this before, making sure to hide his identity from me. As the cops were handcuffing him, (Perpetrator) looked at me, snapped his gums, and gave me a saucy wink.

            (Perpetrator) had no remorse. Why would he?

            According to the RapeCrisis Center, 1 in every 6 Americans has been victim of rape or attempted rape. Nine out of 10 are women. However, only 6% of rapists serve a day of jail time. Those are just the recorded statistics. (Perpetrator) is not the first man to sexually assault me. He is just the first one I’ve reported.
            Upon reporting him, I’m under immediate scrutiny.  I tell people about the incident. They ask me if he was drunk, as if alcohol smudges predatory intention into careless debauchery. They ask me what I was wearing. They consider a provocative ensemble entrapment.
            There is no logic in (Perpetrator)s defense. There was no reason for me to pick a stranger and falsely accuse him of sexual assault. However, in order to protect that freakishly rare chance of a woman accusing an innocent man, hundreds of thousands of rapists escape deserving reprimand every year.
            This isn’t a Rideshare problem.  This isn’t a driver or a passenger problem. This is a male problem. Not every man has harassed a woman, but every woman has been harassed by a man.
          I had my monthly appointment with my therapist a few weeks after my assault.   She wanted to focus on the trauma I was feeling from it.
But truthfully, there is no trauma.
            It seems that a man lunging up from the dark backseat of my car uninvited, unsolicited, to grab my breast and kiss my neck against my will while I’m driving on the Interstate would be emotionally detrimental, but I was well prepared for it.
            I’ve been sexually harassed and assaulted my entire life. The subtle perverted innuendo of inebriated blue-collar men was thrown my way from as early as age 12. I was raped at 16. And throughout young adulthood, have dealt with unsolicited, nonconsensual breast, ass, hair, waist groping, crotch grabbing, pinching, and caressing at bars, parties, or any other substance infused social gathering that women have learned to accept as the collateral damage of attending.  I brace myself for cat-calls when I walk down street alone because it happens every time I do.

            I knew that it was a matter of time before their words turned into action, before the verbal assault became physical.
          The police told me I did the right thing. They praised me for staying calm. But I was ready. Running into a situation where rape was a serious possibility was inevitable.

            The most traumatic aspect of my sexual assault isn’t the action, but the reaction.

            What shakes me is that (Perpetrator)  was arrested and released the following day with a misdemeanor, despite the fact that he’s been arrested twice before. What disturbs me is the disheartened tone of the clerk, receptionist, and detective when they expressed the misfortune in the legal wrist slaps our Justice System serves the masses of sexual predators. What haunts me is that  (Perpetrator)  is a bartender, has a serious girlfriend, is a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan and is a groomsman at weddings.  (Perpetrator)  is nothing more than an average member of society.  

            I am not a uniquely unfortunate woman who has run into horrible luck with men.

            I am the norm. As a rideshare driver, the gratitude on the faces of my female passengers validate that statement. They get in my car with a sigh of relief and share their own harassment stories. Every single woman has lived a life of sexual assault, so fluent and accepted that we normalize it, shake it off, and remain silent.

            But I am done being silent.

This blog was written by the sexual assault victim, Maggie Young