My fellow Times Union blogger Heather Rusaw-Fazio posted the item below at 6 a.m. on October 17. It was not easy for her to write, obviously.
She received a note from the TU that while they’re sorry what had happened to her, her reportage was too “graphic.” Her blogs have been blocked and she’s been suspended. Per the terms of the TU bloggers, they can’t change the content, but they can block it if it is considered – and these words were circled, “pornography” or “child pornography.”
Reposted with her permission.
*Caution – strong adult language/topic*
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days but I haven’t been brave enough until tonight. Do I publish my story or do I simply write “me too” for a Facebook status? Is that enough to have a genuine impact? Do I tell you his/their name?
Do I share the names of the Massena NY Police Department officers who dismissed me because I was 15 and had two beers at a high-school party? Or do I share their names because they told the 21-year-old man who was enlisted in the Army that he’s a “good guy” and “doesn’t need the hassle” as they interviewed me IN FRONT OF HIM on the front steps of his house?
No hospital visit, no nurse, no female police officer – just me, three grown men, and a kid my age who hosted the party and protected his big brother even though he knew the truth. The only question I was asked by the police officers was “How much did you drink?”
It’s something that (obviously and rightfully) bothers me to this day because I think about it often. I think about the man “DM” often – his real initials. I even think about his little brother who protected him. I was friends with the little brother on Facebook for a while until he began spewing hate, homophobia, and racism as soon as Trump announced he was running for office. I sent him a private message to remind him his brother is at the very least a sexual predator if not a rapist. Who knows what he had done before and after me?
After this experience I quickly learned that sexual harassment is common, should just be accepted by women, we should be grateful someone is attracted to us, and if reported you will rarely be taken seriously by other men – and sometimes women. In the 80’s, it seemed that was par for the course and unfortunately these lessons stayed with me until my 30s.
The only “men” who believed me were two of my best friends who knew DM. They even went to his house to confront him but he called the police. The same two police officers told him to stay inside until his leave was over and then he could forget about the whole situation and put it behind him. My friends were threatened with arrest but were able to go home with a warning.
At 15, this wasn’t the first or close to the last time I had been sexually harassed but it was the first time I was sexually assaulted – but not the last. I had never considered myself a rape victim because there had been no insertion, but I woke up right before he could.
I woke up. Read that and understand it. I woke up.
I went to sleep in a room with a girlfriend I attended the party with and we each had our own single bed. I woke up with my sweatpants and underwear around my knees. DM seemed shocked I was fighting him “all of a sudden” and kept asking “What’s your problem?” as he kept attempting to put his penis in me.
I was able to scream loudly and properly give him an elbow in the gut. He got up, called me a bitch and a slut, and left the room. My friend was not in her bed and I wondered if DM had stopped there first. I went home immediately and was terrified to tell my Mom where I had been and what had happened. It was a different friend who encouraged me to call the police. Her intentions were good. Aside from my husband, I hadn’t told anyone this story until last weekend. Not even my friend who ended up leaving that house in the middle of the night. We never talked about it.
The second time (at 17 years old) I was sleeping and had not a drop of alcohol in me. It was the boyfriend of a girl I considered my best friend at the time and he was incredibly drunk. I woke up to find him (a 25- to 30-year-old man – can’t recall exact age) on top of me and all I could smell was alcohol. It was pitch black in the room and I didn’t even know who it was at first. One of her friends walked in while I was fighting his attempt and turned on the light. I was called a slut, a whore, a home-wrecker by both her and my friend and I was kicked out of her home. I told the truth but I wasn’t believed. He wasn’t questioned and as far as I know, she married him and had several children. I have never seen or spoken to any of those people again. (Gratefully, I may add.) I stayed silent after that and never discussed it with anyone until this very moment. I’m shaking with both anger, regret, and sadness.
My stories are not unique or special. What happened to me has happened to almost every woman you know. For years we walked around blaming ourselves for having those two beers, or being friendly, or wearing jeans that are a bit too tight and we continue to keep our mouths shut for fear of being further ridiculed and embarrassed. I made a lot of bad decisions after that, but when you know better you do better. Can I blame them all on these two assaults? Absolutely not, but when you are taught something over and over by the repeated actions of others it sticks with you. You sadly seek attention and validation when what you need is education and maturity – but when and if you remain silent no one can tell you that. No one can teach you that.
The problem is sexism and misogyny are embedded in our culture similar to racism. “It’s just the way it is.” And if you’re not standing up now (or kneeling) to fight it with everything you have, then you continue to contribute to the problem – and that goes for men and women. Unfortunately, there are women who will believe anything a man says and consider “other women” to be seductive or manipulative instead of hearing and believing what they have to say.
The best thing happening right now is that women are becoming less afraid to speak out and this is why we are seeing “me too” across social media. All it takes is one brave person to come forward and then it’s a flood.
Don’t be afraid. You are not alone. We can and will support each other.
To Mike N who loves to make excuses for everything Trump does or is accused of on my Instagram account. See what I did here? Sometimes it takes one action to give women the strength to tell their truth. Sometimes they need other women to lean on. Sometimes they need a man telling them they’re lying. Thank you and f**k you for pushing me.
Husband – thank you for your support and encouragement when I decided I wanted to write about this. I’m sorry you’re reading about the second assault along with everyone else, but I realized as I was writing I’m still carrying a large amount of embarrassment about it. I loved my best friend back then and somehow shifted the blame to myself.
Best friend – thank you for letting me tell you my story last weekend.
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn experienced a similar situation with the Times Union. The issue was supposedly resolved, but here is the post on her own blog.
Mark Evanier shares a Hollywood story of a friend.