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Photo by Brenda Cantu

One day while on a short road trip with three other babes, somehow the conversation landed on rape.  It just came up somehow, don’t remember how, and the first woman told her story.  We sat and listened as she recalled the night it happened.  It was a nonchalant version at this point, as she had told it before, she had lived with it for several years.  She told it almost as if it was someone else. The next one of us to speak, started to then tell her rape story.  Again, we all sat there, respectfully listening as she held the ‘mic’.  When she stopped, the third babe, the one in the back seat with me, she started telling her rape story too.  That’s when I ran the statistics in my head.  “Wow, I thought, that’s a high statistic rate.”  After the third story of rape, three out of four, the car was more silent.  It stayed that way for several seconds.  Then I said, “Well, I guess it’s my turn.” And I told them the time I was date raped on the beach at 18 years old.  Four out of four.  Damn.

This is not a story I’ve publicly told before, but I have told plenty of people about it.  And I do that thing, where it’s so nonchalant.  Why the fuck am I doing that?  It’s almost like I’m all “I have released that anger and resentment and am a better human being for it” with my chin all high and my lips pursed.  Lol! I do really think that’s why I tell the story that way, the way of no big dealness.  Let’s be honest.  It’s my way of denying victimhood and gives me power.  “I’m so good, everyone thinks I have all together all the time”. No joke, that’s the voice in my head sometimes.  I’m just keeping it real.  Anyway, I’m also telling this story to let you know, you are not alone.  You are not alone in your victimhood, you are not alone in that you keep it or have kept it quiet.  It’s just easier that way, isn’t it?  After all, it takes practice keeping it together.  I want you to know about my struggles, because I am you and you are me.  So many of us have had similar yet different experiences.  So many of us have been quiet.  I get it.  But I’m ready to be loud and share the experiences that have shaped me as a female human being.

The first time I ever smoked green, beautiful, crystallized bud, was when I was 18 and just moved to California.  The first city I ever lived in California was Camarillo.  Most people haven’t heard of it, but it’s a quiet, almost retirement community on the way to Ventura and Santa Barbara.  I had smoked weed in South Jersey like once, and it looked like brown seeds or something.  The first night I smoked real actual weed, was out of a bong while I was drunk… Okay, so, if you know anything, you have by now figured out, I got obliterated that night.  The first thing that happened was me laughing uncontrollably, there was no stopping it.  Zero control.  Then paranoia set in.  So of course, I needed fresh air…

Since I was with my work friends, people I trusted, there was not a second thought about walking a block and a half to the beach, in the dark and just the two of us.   My friend would protect me.  When we got to the beach, I was so high, that my mind had me believe that there were men coming to jump me.  I saw dark figures with flames behind them.  I said to my friend, “You brought me here to hurt me.  They’re coming for me!”  He managed to calm me down and made me look again carefully.  There were just dudes standing around a bonfire, which was super common back then on the Ventura beach.  I calmed down and realized that they weren’t coming to get me.  It wasn’t them that wanted to hurt me.

Journal Entry pictured here

Cut to, he’s on top of me.  All I remember, after that night and to this day, are flashes of him on me.  I have no memory of how he got there, no memory of how or when we walked back.  No memory of going to sleep.  The next morning, my other friend, the non raper, said to me “I heard you met the sand gods last night.”  Like a confused dog, I cocked my head to the side to think.  You see, I don’t know if I would have remembered it if he didn’t mention that.  I had to think about what he meant.  He even had to spell it out for me.  Because I did not get the “sand god” reference.  My first thought was, “how in the hell did I let that happen?”, then went to “and then he told everyone, great.”  Beyond embarrassed.  What a mistake, I can’t believe I slept with him, I’m not even remotely attracted to him. OMG, I’m such a slut.  These were all my thoughts. 

Seeing him at work was gross.  I became distant with him.  Wanted nothing to do with him.  Mostly because, at the time, I was worried that maybe deep down I liked him and that’s why I did it.  If I stayed away from him, I wouldn’t have the urge again.  Ohhhh my goodness.  You have to know, I’ve never fully realized that until now.  As I’m writing this.  Holy Shit.  I do remember that.  My journal has all of my early conquests… I would keep a list of who I did what with and when.  There is one entry that says next to it “Biggest Mistake”.  Because poor little me over here thought it was my god damn fault the whole time.  As long as I’ve been a partier, since that night, I’ve been a lot more cautious.  It wasn’t until much much later, after the dawn of the internet, that I figured out what that happened to me was date rape.   

Only a few years after, my stripping career started, I was woman of power and money.  I thought myself to be cultured after a year of stripping.  Moving up in the ranks quickly was natural for me at my other jobs, so of course, I worked hard to be the best stripper one could be, with a set of boundaries.  My first club was the Blue Zebra in North Hollywood.  It’s where I learned to speak Spanish.  It was a working class area in an industrial part of town.  Six months later, I got promoted to dancing at the Spearmint Rhino, the Zebra’s sister club, in Van Nuys. 

Celebrities used to frequent that club.  It was a cool spot.  Not sure what it’s like now, but back then, in 2003, it was the place to be.  One celebrity in particular liked one of the babes there. She was super talented on stage, curvy and blond, like me, but taller.  He always went to VIP with her.  He would chat with me, but went to VIP with her.  I never took it personally.   He was so funny and cute, I didn’t mind. He was a famous comedian, so I was flattered that he would even talk to me.  Even when with the feeling of power, I could still give into their power if it felt bigger than mine.  And his did. 

One night he came in when his favorite babe wasn’t there.  I had put in the time, I had the same features as what he liked, so off we went to the VIP room.  We had done about 10 dances before it happened.  He unzipped his pants and pulled out his cock.  He had it out for a while and tried for about two songs long to get me to touch it.  Kept asking, begging, convincing.  My reaction, “I’m not that dancer.  I can help you find her, but that’s a boundary for me.”  I told him, no, put it away.  But I was also laughing.  Laughing because, well A. I told you he was funny, B. it was uncomfortable and I thought if I laughed while saying no, he wouldn’t get mad.  My other thoughts were how to handle it diplomatically.  I didn’t want to mess with the other babe’s money.  If he got too mad, maybe he wouldn’t come back.  Sigh…

Me as “Jersey”, my stage name at Spearmint Rhino, pictured here

Eventually, I convinced him it wasn’t going to happen.  He put it away and we stopped.  I’ve seen him live since, doing stand up around Hollywood.  I’ve seen him several times actually.  And I always laugh, because he’s fucking funny.  He’s even more famous now than before.  He is loved. Adored.  Even by me.  How fucked up is that?  I even took the opportunity to approach him one night, and told him I admire him.  That we met once and it wasn’t good, but that was the past and I admire him now.  Then I got a Lyft, called my friend and cried the whole way home. 

It wasn’t his dick that upset me, it was me.  It was my behavior.  Why didn’t I just stop him and be firm with him that night?  I didn’t have to placate him.  But I did.  And that disappointed me.  That’s the shame I live with, the one that I allow to be put on me by me.  And therein lies the ultimate struggle.  Because, it’s not my fault, I know that.  But my belief system is, was, has been telling me differently.  You’re not alone.  You see, we SHOULD stand up to them, we SHOULDN’T blame ourselves.  But gosh darn it, we just do the opposite!  At least I have.  I know how it’s supposed to be, but sometimes I still get stuck.

So, even after all of that, here’s the most recent one. 

When I was living in New York, there was some real adventure for me there.  I was newly single after a seven year relationship, willing to try anything.  Traveling up and down the east coast was a normal affair.  On one particular trip, a friend of mine gave me a book, called, “The Gift of Fear”.  That book truly was a gift.  I swallowed that book, could not get enough.  It was all about listening to your gut and your intuition.  It was a message to women, from a man, stop placating them.  If you feel uncomfortable, listen to your belly and remove yourself if possible.  There were more premises than just that, but that theme stuck with me the most. 

One night, I went to a sex party with my girlfriend.  It turned out to not be my thing.  For me my main question is, “when was the last time you washed your hands, person I don’t know?”  About an hour in, I found myself sitting on a couch, next to a very charismatic, handsome young man.  A very familiar domain for me.  We totally hit it off.  He did bring up a sort of demeaning sexual fantasy of his that I brushed off.  I was trying to be “open minded” LOL! (??‍♀️) He asked if I wanted to get out of there.  Of course, nothing would delight me more.  Immediately I said, “let’s go somewhere public, I don’t want to go to your house.”  Sure sure, he says.  So we leave and end up making out in the back of a cab on our way downtown.  I said, “I live uptown on 110th st, let’s not go too far downtown.” Okay, he says and we find a bar on 3rd street.  Ugh.  This is far.  Whatever, we go in for a drink.  He wants to make out at the bar.  Nah, that’s not my thing.  A little bit, sure, but all out?  Nope. So I pull away and he shames me for that

That annoyed me a tiny bit, but again, I let it go.  It’s 3:30 a.m., time to go anyway.  We get up to leave, and I stumbled a bit (not drunk).  And he says “OMG, you’re so wasted.  You’re so drunk.” Almost like he was happy.  Now I’m more annoyed.  “I’m not drunk” I said.  We get in another cab.  Now I’m like “I’m going up”, and he’s like “Nah, let’s get off here.” 

So we stop and get out.  I’m asking,

“where are we?”  I’m asking myself,

“why did you get out?” Then I start asking out loud. 

He says “We’re in Tribeca.  Jay-Z lives in the building next to mine” as we walk hand in hand, as if that would impress me.

“I need a cab”, I said. 

His response, “You can grab a cab down here” as he starts leading me down a road.

No idea where I am, the streets are unfamiliar, it’s dark, no one is around and I don’t see cabs where he says there are…

My body is screaming at me now “RUUUUNNNN” is what it’s saying.  And then it popped it’s head out… The voice that said,

“You don’t want to hurt his feelings or make him think you’re crazy.”  But the hero of the night, the smarter more powerful voice said,

“Mother fucking fuck that, you run bitch and you run now!”

So I ripped my hand out of his, whipped around and walked really fast.  I clip clop clip clopped my way away from this dude.   I looked back as he yelled, “You won’t find a cab that way”. 

Me on one of my NYC adventures

I didn’t see cabs right away, but I did see cars and that was good enough for me.  When I looked back again, he was casually walking away and for some reason that made me move faster.  The first cab I saw, stopped.  A minute into the ride he said, “You looked like maybe someone was following you.”  And I said, “Yeah, it was something like that.”  I texted my friend that night and thanked her for saving me from a potentially dangerous situation.  That book, The Gift of Fear, the one I had just read a few weeks before that incident, saved my life.  All of the little details when I look back on that night, all of the moments I spent with him, they all were off.  Something was very off.

Why am I telling you all of this. Well, sharing means it may spark something inside one of you to come forth and share your story.  Or maybe it will help another sibling in a similar situation.  My point too is, we all are vulnerable.  No matter how strong one seems, we have weaknesses, we have deep rooted ideals that have been shoved down our throats from a young age.  Be a lady, don’t be rude, don’t be loud and obnoxious, smile, have fun, be nice. 

There have been very few that have gotten past the front lines with me since that Tribeca night.  That one was a very close call.  That terror was real.  All the flags were burning bright, bright red.  But I was placating, and placating.  Until I understood, bitch you’re in massive trouble.  And I was lucky.  I thought of the story in the book, the opening story about how this woman let a stranger push each boundary that she tried to set, until he eventually raped her again and again in her own apartment.  She managed to slip out right before he returned to her room with a knife.  I thought about her.  How I was like her with him.  He pushed all my boundaries the entire time we were together that night.  And I let it happen, right up until I didn’t. 

I hear far too many stories, about women “having sex even when they don’t feel like it” for all kinds of reasons.  Marriage, being nice, not wanting to ruin a friendship.  I hear far too many rape stories.  So many of us struggle with this.  My struggle now is to not tell these stories.  Because I want you to know, #metoo.  Even when I thought I’d learn, I still fell victim to the crimes or potential crimes of men.  I’ve left out two other stories of when I was followed in the street by lone men.  Two separate incidences.  None of us are immune to it.  These stories are for you to learn from.  If it wasn’t for the one I read about in that book, maybe my night would have turned out differently.  These are your stories now, memories for you to have to use as tools for your future.  Listen to your gut, to the signals that call to you.  Think back on a time when you had a signal and you ignored it.  Do you remember in the beginning of this writing, with the story of the young man who raped me on the beach?  I thought he brought me there to hurt me, and I told him so.  Well, I was right wasn’t I?  I was still learning how to listen.  In some instances, all the listening in the world may not matter.  But in others, it just might save you.  Whatever the case may be, it is never your fault.  Rape and coercion is the fault of the acting person.  For me, I have to continually forgive myself, for ever believing that those things were my fault.  I also have to continuously forgive all the men who have tried to hurt me, or who have hurt me. It’s a practice, just like everything else we do in life.