How It Happened – April 25, 2014

Posted: October 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

IMG_4416It was a dark and stormy night. Cliche, right? But it’s true. This year’s seemingly endless drought went on hiatus one evening in April–the 25th, to be precise. A wind picked up around 10pm, with a brief shower soaking the sidewalks. From the front window of the old West Hollywood Palm Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd, I watched the cars streak past, tires kicking up spray from rain-soaked asphalt. I was seated at the bar, counting money from that night’s serving shift. It was a Friday, nearly midnight. Down the street, West Hollywood was aglow with neon lights and dancing queens while inside, the dim restaurant had begun winding down.

“Are you coming out for a drink?” came a voice from across the bar. Our young 21-year-old dishwasher Roland was wrapping up his phone charger and reassembling the contents of his shoulder bag. He usually took the bus, and I would sometimes take him home after grabbing a drink. But tonight I didn’t have my car, having preferred to walk to and from work to avoid looking for parking. I told Roland as much and he pouted. Then his expression changed.
“Wait–you’re gonna walk? Are you gonna be ok?” His expression of concern was endearing.
“Roland,” I replied, “It’s WeHo. Is someone going to accost me for being too fabulous?” At that, he laughed, and I left the restaurant laughing too, letting the front door shut firmly behind me to make sure it locked.

Wet pavement makes a swishing sound when cars pass, and I found it soothing as I walked. There were plenty of people out and about. The gays are not thwarted by the elements. Revolver, Rage, and Mickey’s were all thriving, hot bodies packed together beneath dripping awnings, keeping cozy in overly-close cologne-soaked proximity. I quickly strode past, wanting to get home where it was warm. I was soon heading south down La Cienega towards the outskirts of Beverly Hills.

There’s a distinct energy shift when you cross the threshold from West Hollywood into Beverly Hills.  The lights suddenly dim, switching from neon and strobe to chic, sleek LCD twinkle lights wrapped artfully around palm trees. It gets quieter. And eerily menacing. Or maybe I’m just foreshadowing. That’s a technique I learned in English class.

It’s about two miles from the restaurant to my studio apartment on Tower Drive, off Wilshire near La Cienega. I understand the dangers of walking at night, but I know when I’m safe and I when I’m not. Call it intuition; following my angel guides—I don’t know. But I have always felt safe as a woman when out and about. In addition to being VERY confrontational, for Christmas of 2008 I signed up my then-boyfriend Geoffrey for a year-long membership to Krav Maga Worldwide. I actually got us both memberships, along with mouth guards, warm-ups, and fight gloves. Geoffrey went for a week or two, but then gave up trying to drive out to Sherman Oaks or West LA from downtown, where we lived at the time. I on the other hand, became obsessed with Krav, going three or four times a week. Basic Krav Maga is classified as a series of fighting and defense techniques not to be mistaken for a martial art. There is nothing artful about Krav Maga. It’s a dirty, fast defense system designed to devastate your attacker and incapacitate him (or her) so you can run the fuck away. There are no lengthy sparring sessions a la Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso (from the classic movie we all know and love.) There is no second round in Krav Maga. It’s totally ok if your attacker goes down and someone needs to “get ‘im a body bag!!”

Learning to front punch, front kick-to-the-groin, elbow-strike, palm-strike, hammer-fist, knee-to-the-groin/knee-to-the-face when the attacker is doubled over, escaping a one-handed and two-handed choke hold, along with aggression drills and training to be comfortable being struck in the face, kicked in the stomach, or attacked by multiple assailants—are all components covered in Level 1 at KMWW, where I trained for over a year before taking my Level 2 test for my yellow belt. The test lasted 6 ½ hours, deeming me proficient in all the above techniques. It was a grueling endeavor. The only thing comparable was the 2007 LA marathon, which I finished at 5 hours and 27 minutes. The Krav test took longer and hurt a hell of a lot more.

But as a result, I feel safe in pretty much any environment because I’m trained to defend myself. I’m not saying I put myself in needless danger. I don’t go walking around bad areas alone. But growing up with a Marine father who taught me how to break a guy’s jaw when I was 12 and how to handle firearms when I was 17, being a wrestling stat-taker in high school (because I love watching guys wrestle) and dabbling in jiu jitsu, were all signs I could take care of myself.

I never gave a second thought to how I would feel if faced with an attacker in my own home. Home invasions had thus far been outside my wheel-house, though my parents were constantly paranoid. They would leave the television on in hotel rooms to make people think someone was there when we were out. They put timers on the lights when we went on vacation. We had an alarm system and special latch locks on the windows. I was raised in a fortress.

So wouldn’t you know it—security at my little studio apartment in Beverly Hills was shitty. The security code at the front entrance was a joke because the building was totally accessible through a gate on the side of the building, which was never locked. The back door was always propped open, and the side door leading into the building looked like something out of a horror movie—dirty frosted glass panes, rotting wood, not the least bit impenetrable. Sometimes it was a relief, when your arms were full of groceries. You could swoop right in. And sometimes it’s the perfect invitation for a psychopath to break into your apartment.

By the time I approached the building, it was late and my cheeks were numb with cold. I guessed it to be about 12:45am. I’d left The Palm around 11:30, and I have a pretty good internal clock. I’d chosen to take La Cienega all the way to Wilshire, wanting to stay on a well-lit street since I had quite a bit of cash on me, so the walk took a little longer than I’d anticipated. I was grateful to finally be home—I had to be up at 7am. Trudging up to my front door, I was exhausted. My plan: charge my dead phone, change into pj’s, and fall into bed.

A split second before I unlocked my door, a strange thought flashed through my head. For me, strange thoughts are as common as park squirrels. There’s always some weird idea flitting through my crazy brain. Things like, what If I jumped in front of this train, or what If I just said to the person in front of me taking forever to pick out their deli selection “Can you PLEASE JUST HURRY THE FUCK UP??” That’s how my mind works. And since I’d just started taking anti-depressants a few weeks prior, I was adjusting to a big chemical shift. Which is why I didn’t find cause to be concerned that the thought passing through my head was “Why is there a big scratch on my front door? Has that always been there? Was someone trying to get into my place? LOL.” (Yes, I have integrated “LOL” into my thought synapses.)

But the thought was gone just as quickly as it came, and I was unlocking the door and stepping into the apartment, flicking the light switch in the hall as I simultaneously slipped off my sneakers. It was a routine I’d done many times. I shut the door behind me and turned the deadbolt. Nothing out of the ordinary. I dropped my keys in the wall niche next to the hall closet, reached around the wall, and flicked another switch, flooding the studio with yellow light. I padded over to the bed where I dumped my purse, then felt in my back pocket for my dead iphone. Coat still buttoned, I took two steps towards the bookcase (it was a very small space) to reach for the charger, which I’d left plugged into the wall. I noted the digital numbers glowing on my alarm clock. 1:21am. Wow, my internal clock was way off—I guess walking had taken a lot longer than I thought. I bent down to plug in the phone.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I realized someone was in the room with me. A white male, standing four feet from me. I had no idea where he came from—he most likely had been standing in the closet at my back the entire time. My heart skipped a beat, but the sensation was more of disorientation rather than instantaneous horror. My mind was fragmented, trying to make sense of the situation, as though there had to be a rational solution as to what was happening. There’s no way someone bad was in my house—this had to be a neighbor, or my friend Matty who lived in the same area as me. He kind of looked like Matty…didn’t he? The denial was brief though, for in the midst of straightening up, the words “Who the fuck are you?” on my lips, he jumped me. It was like blink—there’s a dude in my house—blink—there’s a dude on top of me. I have no idea what maneuver he used on me—but my glasses went flying and I was suddenly beneath a big, strong, crazy dude. I am assuming he was crazy, because he was in my house and I certainly hadn’t invited him, but he wasn’t a transient. He was just a normal-looking white dude. (And by the way, I don’t believe a lot of the anti-racist advocates out there, because many of those so-called advocates for civil rights are friends of mine, and the first question they asked me when I told them a guy tried to rape me was “Was he black?” So that right there speaks to people’s prejudices, in spite of what they post on Facebook advocating racial equality).

Anyway, back to the exciting part. I’m suddenly doubled over on my knees with my face smashed into the carpet. It was a classic take-down situation; I’ve seen it in wrestling a hundred times. It’s the crucial first-step in pinning your opponent—you must first take him down. So if this had been a wrestling match, Mr. Crazy-Pants would have been awarded the first 2 points. And as the recipient of the take-down, my immediate motivation becomes DO NOT LET MY OPPONENT PIN ME. He may get those first two points, but I now have an opportunity to either escape (1 point) or throw a reversal (2 points.) Wrestlers are always matched up by weight. This guy definitely outweighed me, so a reversal was not possible, and an escape was highly unlikely since he had my right arm twisted behind me and was trying to flip me onto my back. And that would have been a very, very bad situation.

This situation was bad enough, however, and in the midst of the struggle, I was still cognizant of the thoughts running through my head. While my body frantically resisted, muscles tensed up to keep from being flipped, I was thinking, “Oh man, I wish he’d let up a little so I can tell him I have a huge wad of cash in my back pocket.” I was assuming this was a mugging. My next thought was, “How ridiculous is it to walk all the way home in the fucking rain, only to be mugged in my own goddamn living room.” And the rest of the thoughts were mainly, “OWW!”

The entire fight lasted about 9 or 10 seconds. And suddenly the guy realized he wasn’t going to be able to easily pin me, so he instead chose to pull some bullshit that still makes me angry. He jammed his hand into in my crotch–a misogynistic vag-attack that probably made him feel better, considering he was being mightily resisted by a chick. It’s as though he was saying, “Well I can’t RAPE this bitch but I can jam my HAND in her PUSSY so she knows I still WIN.” And that. Pissed. Me. Off.

And that was the most important part—the part that saved my life: the Rage that suddenly coursed through me when I felt his pernicious claw thrust unceremoniously into my honey pot. It was violent and mean. And it wasn’t the first time something like that had happened to me.

December 12, 2012 something similar happened with my boss at the restaurant I worked at in Pasadena, but that incident happened in front of an entire room of drunk co-workers where I was enjoying a holiday party, a few tequila shots in. This time, I was in my own fucking house, being attacked not by a drunk and sloppy boss, but by a stranger, whose only intention was to hurt me.

I had no weapon. I had no super-hero powers. But I had rage. And as evidenced by the behavior of abused animals, rage leads to aggression. Thankfully, Krav Maga is a fighting system that teaches you to harness your aggression, and use it to keep fighting no matter the number of attackers or how strong they are. See, everybody has a breaking point. In Jiu Jitsu, it’s called “Tapping out, “ which is when you realize the fight is lost and you have to submit or be damaged beyond repair. There is nothing wrong with such submission in a sport. Knowing your limit and when to tap out is the difference between walking away from a fight or being carried away on a stretcher. But the training I received in Krav Maga, which is NOT a sport—the drills in which I was forced to participate, where they would hold a stop watch and time us while we punched and kicked at multiple tombstone pads coming from all sides until we were on our knees wanting to quit (but with 15 seconds left on the clock, you had to get back up and keep fighting—keep pushing and demanding to win, until the buzzer sounded and you staggered over to the water fountain wanting to vomit)—is what allowed me to refuse submitting to this asshole.

So I didn’t. I started struggling as soon as we hit the ground, and I remember my friend Eddie once telling me that I had to learn how to ground-fight if I was going to take self-defense, because 99% of the time if I was jumped by a rapist I would be taken to the ground. He was right. So I kept my wits about me, and eventually was able to wrestle onto my side, my right arm painfully twisted beneath me—almost dislocating—and lash out with my left arm in a series of petulant closed-fisted hammer strikes, doing my best to hit any vital area while simultaneously kicking out with my legs. I knew this alone wasn’t going to save me—I was a rabid butterfly beating at a gorilla. No, it wasn’t my novice fighting skills that saved me—it was my voice.

From deep inside me—from the very pit of my pussy, where I housed all my rage, shame, and revulsion—I screamed. I gathered up all the air in my body, all the vocal training I did at UCLA’s theatre department, all the belting training and voice lessons I’d had for over a decade, all the way down into the very bowels of my feminine soul—and…I…HOWLED. I released a sound that I imagined echoed from the walls of the highest heavens. A primitive, agonized, exorcise-this-demon-from-my-body-now-SHRIEK. I went back and timed it when I was reliving the incident for police report reasons. I screamed for 12 seconds. 12 fucking seconds. I have no idea how my body was able to release that sound while twisted beneath a psychopath. Maybe God was there in the room with me. Maybe my vengeful warrior archangels were anchoring me as I struggled, and I was channeling them–I don’t know. But I do know the sound that erupted from me that night was not only for me—it was on behalf of all women who find themselves on the ground, in the dirt, expected to submit to a force that has not been invited and never will be.

It will never be acceptable nor justifiable for a man to use his physical strength to dominate a woman uninvited. It is a man’s responsibility to use his strength to protect, not violate us. God gave men superior physiques that no woman, try as she might to build muscle, will ever be able to compete with. Yes, there are some exceptions—women who alter their physiques dramatically with intensive training and hormone adjustment—but as a whole, men are genetically engineered to inflict more force than women. I was saved from a more severe assault was because I was strong enough to resist and scream, which scared the asshole, who ran like a Boston marathoner evading shrapnel. But initially he had easily overpowered me, and this is the case for most women when facing an aggressive male attacker.

As soon as he was gone, I jumped up, fumbled for my glasses, and ran after him. I was so angry I wanted to chase the motherfucker down and execute a Chun-Li flying kick to his middle back and then bash his head into the concrete, thus avenging my attack and indulging a long-time Street Fighter fantasy. In reality, I was in my socks, my face was throbbing, and I tasted a rusty tinge of blood coming from my gums, so I abandoned my manhunt and went back into the apartment to look in the mirror, expecting to see black eyes or a bloody nose. My face was roughed up where he’d ground it into the rug, but aside from my bleeding gums and some red scratches across the bridge of my nose and cheeks I was ok.

At that point I went back into the hall to see if anyone heard my scream. The hallway was deserted. I couldn’t believe my Medea-like wail hadn’t raised the dead, but it hadn’t. It was nearly 2am, and I felt shameful as I knocked on my neighbor Justin’s door. He opened it a few seconds later, his eyes bloodshot, expression swimming in a cannabis haze, barely comprehending the frazzled ragamuffin standing before him. “What’s up?” he mumbled.

I was hyperventilating, laughing and crying at the same time, trying to catch my breath to form a coherent sentence. “There was a guy—in my apartment—and he attacked me—but I fought him—and he ran away.”

The information didn’t register at first and I had to repeat myself. Justin’s expression went from foggy to horrified. He jumped into the hall, assuming a woozy fight-stance that wouldn’t threaten a kitten, and stumbled to my door, poking his head in. “Oh SHIT…izze still there?”

“Is everything ok?” came a voice from up above. I looked up to where Matt. another neighbor had come out of his upstairs apartment and was peering down at us from the stair rail. He had a phone in his hand.
No, everything was most definitely not okay. I shook my head and repeated the same story I said to my stoned neighbor Justin.

Matt was distinctly more coherent. He didn’t even look sleep-groggy, and I found out later he had just gone to bed when he heard me scream and had assumed I was seeing a rat or something equally girlie-disgusting. But then he heard a big thud, which might have been the rapist falling back in fear when I unleashed the death-shriek on him. Either way, the moment he heard that thud he knew something was wrong, and that’s why he was ready with an iphone in hand, poised to dial 911. He got the Beverly Hills PD on the phone and traded information back and forth between them and me. I was still a numb and gasping platypus, desperately trying to get back into a normally functioning human body and failing miserably, preferring to stay in platypus mode to cope. But I was able to describe the attacker as “A white mail, about 5’11, maybe 40 years old, lines on his face and salt-pepper temples, not a homeless person, normal clothes, wearing a hat of some kind. And he had very, very mean eyes..” Then I turned my attention back to stoned Justin and asked for a cigarette. He jumped to comply, and I stood outside on the back steps smoking with a trembling hand as I heard sirens approach. A few seconds later came the whirring blades of a helicopter high above. Damn, Beverly Hills doesn’t fuck around.

From then on, the night was a muffled blur. Detectives, crime lab, fingerprint dusting, dozens of photographs, people in and out of my apartment while I sat in the hall, not allowed to go inside for fear I would “disturb the evidence”. And there was definitely evidence. Two screens were ripped off and leaning next to the outside walls of my 1st-floor apartment. One of the windows was unlatched, and the mirror I had propped up against it was lying flat, having been knocked down during the break-in. I hadn’t even noticed the shattered glass when I first came into the room. There were two cloth belts next to my bed, one pink and one olive-green, from two rain coats I’d had hanging in my closet. He had taken them off my coats and laid them down next to a pair of my socks he’d snagged from my laundry basket, presumably to use as a gag. I guess the belts were supposed to be ties, which brings me to a humorous point (I use humor diffuse the horror) which is the accusation, “Come on, rapist, what are you—a Newb? You don’t have a ‘rape kit’ of your own so you use MY shit? Fail. Epic fail. “

So that’s the story I vaguely alluded to on Facebook a few months ago when I talked about a “home invasion,” and it’s why I get really up in arms now about news issues that have to do with the violation or abuse of women. I feel a personal connection to such things. I was really angry about the Ray Rice situation, mostly because even though his wife was being crazy and drunk and hitting him in the elevator, I really wish Ray Rice had known better, and defended himself in a way that simultaneously protected his wife. And I was mad that people accused Jennifer Lawrence of “asking for it” when that hacker stole her private photos. And I get angry when any man speaks ill of any woman, because to me, it’s all related. Men can get as defensive as they want—I don’t care. The tinge of misogyny is often cunningly insidious, masking itself in contemporary society as ‘harmless comments’, and men try to diffuse their own subtle misogynistic tendencies by flailing around claiming they don’t have to take responsibility for their behavior when women “dress slutty”, or “act like bitches”, or go to parties alone, or aren’t better at protecting themselves, or take naked pictures of themselves with their iphones for their boyfriends, or live like free spirits who should be cherished and protected without having to fight for it. That is what it really comes down to—we should not have to demand that men cherish us. We should not have to prove we deserve to be protected by dressing down, living in fear, and suppressing our sexuality. Dressing “slutty” is fun, and a celebration of our beautiful bodies. Short skirts, pushed up boobs, and high heels are awesome. Sorry, you won’t change my opinion on that. I was wearing jeans, sneakers, and a dumpy coat when some guy tried to rape me, so fuck that argument. And I act like a bitch when I’m pissed off, but that doesn’t mean a guy can haul off and punch me in the face if I get too crazy. Men know enough to subdue us without knocking us out. Come on. And men can put aside their rabid libido’s enough to think twice before they try to fuck a woozy, sloppy 20-year old who dressed up “slutty” because that’s what many 20-year old college co-eds do—they get dolled up and head down to frat row with their girlfriends and party-hop, and some of them become targets and get coerced into fucking some alpha-male-frat-bro wearing too much cologne and reeking of double-mint gum, who left his gentleman hat in the car in favor of getting laid any way possible. And sometimes I walk alone at night, in well-lit areas of a metropolitan city, because I am trained to defend and protect myself. Men do not seem to generally take the protection role on as much any more, and it’s a bummer. But it hasn’t been a problem for me, so I’m not going to get all man-hating in this essay—I just want to raise awareness for what is still going on in our society.

I learned a lot from this experience, not merely from the incident itself, but also from the aftermath. I learned that people often shut down when they hear you’ve been through trauma, and that is one of the reasons victims keep things to themselves even though we should share them in order to heal. You will get the support if you reach out and ask for it.

There were plenty of people who supported me, and for that I am eternally grateful. The ones who avoided me or got weird with me—I chalk that up to the way people are just shitty sometimes, myself included. But having a trauma history—it doesn’t matter how shitty I can be. When someone comes to me with their trauma, my heart immediately goes out to them, and I make myself available to whatever they need, in whatever form they need it. Because sharing trauma is a way to heal both parties involved, starting with compassion. And boy, did I need compassion after April 26th, and I’m so grateful to those who gave it to me.

Finally, I learned that I am un-rape-able. And that’s why I titled this blog as such. A man broke into my home, stole my belts with the intent to tie me up, hid in my closet and waited for me to come home, and then jumped me in my own bedroom and attempted to force me to submit to him. But he couldn’t rape me because I refused to allow it. I chose to put the fear on hold and go right for the rage, which in the past has gotten me into trouble. But there are times when rage can save your life, and I am grateful for my past trama, which cultivated my rage, so when I needed it most, it was there. I am un-rape-able because I was totally unwilling to allow my body to be violated. I have fought long and hard to truly own this body. I was abused as a little girl and I’ve spent thirty years recovering from it. There are a lot of patterns that needed to be broken so I could fight on behalf of my body that night. Or I might have believed my body wasn’t worth fighting for, that I deserved what happened for being negligent, or weak, or unlovable. But my body is worth fighting for, and I am allowed to be in this world without feeling like I have to watch my back. I am a woman, and therefore I deserve to be protected and cared for as something valuable and fragile—even taking into account my strength. It’s non-negotiable. It is a terrible thing for a man to attempt to destroy that which brought him into this world. He passed through a feminine gateway at the start of his life, and because of this he must learn to worship and cherish the feminine, not talk down, shame, insult, or violate it. And unfortunately this is the mistake many men make.

Now this last part, this is the most important. This is to any and all women who have experienced for themselves a sexual assault of any kind. From the slightest of slights, all the way down the line to brutal rape and battery. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. I know this is one of those phrases that now seems glib when used in contemporary society. It’s a catch-phrase now, which is a shame, because victims of sexual assault are almost always wracking their brains to figure out what the fuck they DID to have this happen to them. Not to mention all the wonderful jackasses out there who question the woman’s actions—what she was wearing, why she was walking alone. Living alone. Why she was drinking. Why she didn’t take her .45 magnum with her to the party. Why didn’t she KNOW better. To all that, I respond “FUCK. OFF.” Because it’s not our fault. It will NEVER be our fault. Some men have issues. They are not comfortable with how powerful women truly are. They get confused and think they need to show us who is boss. And some of them choose to do this by exerting force and control. They do this for a number of reasons; some men don’t like the potent sexuality of the feminine being flaunted and exhibited before them when accompanied by a “look but don’t touch” contingency. But sometimes women are not purposefully cock-teasing. We just can’t help it your cock is teased 99% of the time. So that’s not our fault. Some men feel inadequate in their own lack of achievement, or their inability to control their own lives, and it makes them feel good to pretend to be strong and powerful–by being mean. They use force to crush the weak. It’s been happening for ages, throughout many civilizations—this is not a new phenomenon. But it will always be an abomination, and those men in their right mind are probably sitting here reading this thinking, “How could a man DO such terrible things?” These good men are unable to relate to a mentality that viciously and ruthlessly dominates the weak. But it’s out there, and it’s vile.

So to those who have fallen prey to these intentional predators, may I suggest that we view these atrocities as FUTILE attempts to break the Divine Feminine spirit, for She is un-breakable. A woman may be the victim of assault, rape, or any other type of injustice as an attempt to diminish or destroy us, but such behavior does NOT have to be effective. Just because a man sticks his dick in you does not mean he can own you, or break your spirit. Sexual assault is about is about breaking people. A woman’s true power lies in her sexuality, and if that is stripped from her, if she is shamed in such a fashion she never again steps back into her body, where her true strength, grace, and power lives, she may never again feel the exquisite magic that is her birthright. I refuse to accept the abomination, so I created this blog, which will become a movement to re-fashion society’s misaligned, misconceived, misappropriated views of what it means to be men and women. I’m calling it UnRAPEable, because that is what I am—not able to be raped. Taken. Broken. Shamed. I cannot be diminished. And neither are you, women of the world. They can take your voice. Your sight. Your virginity. Your safety. Your freedom. But they cannot take your Divine Birthright. They cannot rape you of your true mother, which is the Earth and all things Natural. They will try, but they will fail. And the real men—the men who defend, protect, and harbor a safe place for us to be free, sensual, alive, vulnerable, available—these are the men we draw upon for strength, wisdom, kindness, generosity, and leadership. These are the men we support, respect, and love as fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. These are the men who deserve our help, while we partner with them in solidarity and mutual reverence for this world we are so gifted to populate.

And with that, I invite you to join me on this journey. This is just the beginning; I am just getting warmed up.

Namaste,

Christina Joy Howard

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