I’m sitting in the detective’s office with sweat pooling between nervous fingers and stinging the hangnails I’ve been biting for the past half hour. My body parts already photographed and categorized and sent away for collection, backlogged behind the arms and legs and breasts and thighs of women I will never meet yet, now, know better than I know myself.
I survive the basic questions, my cheeks stained by embarrassment and my chest bruised by a tattered, lingering pride. My eyes rest on shaking knees as I nod appropriately, describing in detail what should only be shared between two lovers or best friends on a wine-soaked evening. I was beginning to feel robotic, as if my humanity has been stolen between forced legs and restrained hands. Then the detective asks, “Well, with the sexually-charged conversation the group had earlier that evening, is there a chance you could have given him the impression you wanted it?”
I look up. I search for reason in a shrinking room. I look for understanding in the wrinkles of an exhausted twenty year career. I peer into the eyes of the victim’s advocate for my voice.
I find emptiness.
How does this happen? How can we hold men accountable for the societal expectations of providing for their family or publicly parading their masculinity or holding down a successful 9-5, yet allow them to pass go and collect 200 non-consensual belt-notches? Why are a man’s sexual urges a woman’s responsibility?
We have been told for decades that men are more capable. They are stronger and smarter and more reasonable. They are not plagued with unbridled emotions and bleeding hearts and those ridiculous annoyances called feelings. We’ve been stapled to the pillars of sexual inequality yet do not hold men to the very foundation those pillars stand on. As a result, women are not only held responsible for their actions and words and wardrobes, but for every erection they may or may not provoke.
It is as if god made Eve from the now missing bone in Adam’s penis instead of the rib held so closely to his heart.
I’ve searched for answers since that day in that suffocating police station. I find solace in dear friends and relentless advocates and men who understand the difference. The difference between a child and an adult, respect and degradation, sex and violence, love and hate. Who are as disgusted with the lack of accountability as the women who have suffered under its unwarranted weight. Who simply cannot understand the inability of some to control urges as basic as pissing or shitting or speaking.
But I still don’t know where the blame has gone. I’ve seen its shadow in the wrinkles of an exhausted twenty year career and in the eyes of a victim’s advocate and in the walls of a shrinking room.
And then I realize. The wrinkles and eyes and walls were all staring at me.
And that is where the blame rests.