Author (and fan): Michele Howley
“On Saturday night my mom, Grandma & I went to see Chris Stapleton. After the encore, we filed into the stream of people leaving the event. It was crowded, but not packed.I felt something hit me from behind, specifically hitting the right side of my butt. I turned around, a group of guys were walking behind me. They snickered. I thought, “It was probably an accident. People bump into each other all the time at concerts.” I thought I heard someone say, “Do it again.” But I dismissed it, thinking I probably misheard.Less than a minute later, I felt someone slowly run their fingers over my right butt cheek from the bottom & squeeze. I was wearing a long, velvet skirt – I could feel it all – and the heat of his hand.
I whipped around, I pushed him backward and I screamed “Don’t you ever f***ing touch a women like that. That man just grabbed my ass!” He gave me a dopey face and put his hands up in the air, as if pleading innocence. Two security personal who happened to be standing by grabbed him and motioned for me to follow. I was hot with anger.As we walked toward security, his friend ran up to match my pace. He said:Come on, it’s a compliment. How can you blame him? It’s not his fault you have a nice ass.
When I wasn’t having that, he said:It’s not a big deal, this stuff happens all the timeYou’re overreacting.We walked together into the security office and immediately the conversation switched to:My friend would never to do that. He/I didn’t touch her. And a familiar chorus of “she’s a liar.”
The police came and wrote my account of what happened. They asked me if I’d like to press charges. I never even considered I could. Stunned, I said I didn’t know. They told me that I’d have to stay for a lot longer while they did the paper work, that I’d have to show at not one, but probably multiple court dates. They said it would be hard to prove.My anger faltered and a small voice emerged in my head, “Is it really that big of a deal? He just grabbed my butt. Stuff like this does happen all the time. I don’t want to hold these people up. I don’t want to have to make my mom and Grandma wait.”I told them I would think about it, they went to sit down at the man’s table across the room & interview him and his friend. It was their word against mine.I sat down at the table that my Mom, Grandma & Kevin, the head of security, were sitting at. He looked at me and said immediately, “you need to press charges, he shouldn’t get away with it. I have a daughter.” My mom and Grandma obviously agreed and that small voice faded as livid anger took the drivers seat once again.Why WASN’T it a big deal that man felt entitled to not only touch my butt once, but confidently and invasively grab it for a second time?Why was I expected to take it as a compliment?Why was I worried about burdening the police officers with paper work? Why was I worried about being believed?Why was my first reaction anger, quickly followed by self doubt?Why was it “just an ass grab”?
On the way to the concert, my Grandma, Mom & I had reflected on our new Supreme Court Justice. It was hard for all of us – all having had experiences with men that made the process emotional to watch unfold. We spoke passionately of a day where men didn’t feel entitled to take advantage. We spoke passionately about change.As we waited, I thought to myself that maybe it had to start with not dismissing the small things. To stop saying, “it’s just an ass grab.” To stop dismissing what we’ve been taught as women to withstand and tolerate.
The police came back after awhile and asked if I’d decided to press charges. In Cook County, there has to be penetration or contact with genitalia to be considered sexual assault, so it would be for battery. I gave my answer with the same confidence that he grabbed my ass with.
A minute later, the man was handcuffed and led outside where the police car waited. He would have to post bail, hire an attorney and see me in court.I didn’t care if I couldn’t prove that it happened in front of a judge. I’d take it as far as it could go. In part for myself, yes, but really for all women (and men) who know this same experience far too well, and who experience far, far worse.I’m choosing to silence the small voice that dismisses experiences like this one – that makes us feel like an inconvenience for speaking up.I’m saying goodbye to the temptation to believe “it’s just an ass grab.”You grabbed the wrong, right butt cheek, homie. I’ll see you in court.”
A note:Many are concerned about legal fees, but I will be represented by the state. My first court date is on November 27th. Many women have reached out to me directly or shared their stories on the post. I want you to know that although I did report it this time, there were countless times before that I did not. Those who haven’t reported their assaults immediately or at all are still incredibly brave for simply surviving beyond their experiences. I hope this small story will inspire next actions rather than shame women (or men) who never took action in the past. Without the women who who’ve already been brave enough to step out and demand justice for themselves, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do so for myself. Published with authorization, original Facebook post can be found here.