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***Trigger Warning*** Sexual harassment, assault, mentions of rape, the hate-filled opinions of a sad man

So this brings me to my actual story, which I will keep quite short (jk lol).  I am renting a room in an apartment close to the city.  The guy who owns it rents out various rooms that he owns or leases and I happen to have an actual bedroom (compared to an attic or basement space converted into small bedroom) in the apartment itself.

I don’t know how to say this other than to say…he’s obsessed with rape.  From the moment I met him, without any prompting, he wanted always to talk about rape.  He self-identifies as a feminist, but so doesn’t everyone in Iceland, so I thought it was going to be the sort of good conversation about problems, solutions, struggles, structural lag, outrage, etc. that I typically have with feminists on the subject but NO.  Of course not.  I had to meet the guy who – with a straight face – told me that Hugh Hefner has done more for women than any other feminist activist.  He called Hugh Hefner a feminist activist. This is apparently not a completely new statement:

He proceeds to tell me that women who aren’t hurt or aren’t rape too violently are ruining the system for women who “truly need it” and that most of the time it’s just regretting a sexual encounter.  He harps on this constantly and claims that false reporting is very high and just women being bitches, essentially.  He also things that the holocaust death count is “overestimated” and said “Why do you think that happened in Germany? Do you think that the Jews were completely innocent and didn’t do anything to deserve it? They didn’t deserve it….the people were poor but not the Jews,” implying that the Jewish folk of Hitler’s era had forced the Nazi hand, really.

He called the removal of pork and peanuts from school menus “left wing radicalism” because the allergy is bull shit and the pork thing is for Muslims.  He hates Muslims. “They are the only real racists,” he says.  And he just SAYS these things like they are obvious facts and not completely rooted in hatred.  But he hates fossil fuels and guns…I’m so not used to those things going together.

So needless to say it’s been a struggle, and while we started out as amicable strangers, I had distanced myself greatly by the time my friend Tiffani came to visit in mid-September.   It’s awkward because he is always in the house and I was doing a lot of in-home stuff at the time, but I just shut my door and pretend to be dead so I don’t have to talk to him.

He only once before this period of time acted….more inappropriately?  He suggested that I massage him and I thought he was joking so replied with “yeah, ok, I’ll get right on that” in my most sarcastic voice ever.  The next day he asked again and I, more awkwardly, said no. He got angry and said something along the lines of “I don’t know why you would say you would do something and then not do it.”  It was awkward.

So my friend arrives and we spend a lovely week driving around the country and seeing all that we can see.  It was amazing.  We arrive back on a Saturday night and though we are tired we have plans to go into town and check out Reykjavik’s infamous nightlife.  They party until the early morning hours here meaning that you get into bed around 6 or 7am.

We made our dinner and sat at the table with my host and his guest.  He had been drinking very heavily even before we got home and while we were eating and preparing to go out he downed at least another half a bottle of vodka.   He began making a fool of himself and acting quite inappropriately toward my friend.  He sat so close to her that she was leaning away and started babbling drunk nonsense.

I went to my room to get dressed and when I came out she told me he had licked her earlobe without permission.  He then began asking each of us if we wanted to “French kiss” and when we hollered a resounding “NO” he would then stumble forward and try to catch us off guard.  The man is 42.  I had to intercept his face mere inches from my own and push him away at least ten times.  The friend – the only sober person – was having talks with him, hopefully about his behavior (they were in Icelandic) but he kept doing it.  It was disgusting.

His friend then offers to drive us all into town and we agree – it was our original plan and it would save us a 15 minute walk.  We figured my host would tire easily and go home or get separated from us or whatever.  We approached the first bar and were rejected because he was just. that. sloppy.  So we opted for the queer bar – Kiki bar – and began making our walk.  He continued acting like a child.  Sadly, none of this was particularly new to me, so things were going smoothly until he gave me a weird look and then ran up and grabbed my friend’s ass.  I shoved him by the shoulders into a nearby car just as a gut reaction.  He was startled but played it off and laughed.  We told him to fuck off with that bullshit and kept on our way.

The Kiki bar is at the top of a set of stairs, so given his behavior we tried to force him up first.  He refused until we were forced to go up before him so my friend ascended while I turned to face him. I looked him dead in the eyes and I said “if you touch my ass I will punch you in the face.” He giggled and said okay so I turned to walk up and no sooner had I done so than I feel a pinch on the ass – so I turned back around and punched him in the fucking nose. He held his face a screamed “you bitch!” as I ran as fast as I could up the stairs.

I found my friend and told her but he was right behind me.  He seemed to sense that I was on the edge because he offered to buy us a drink to apologize.  We requested beers, trying to make the best of a bad situation, and he brought us two shots of a sort of licorice liquor they have here that he knew we hated.  He mumbled something about “let’s get drunk and get laid” and then asked again if we wanted to “French kiss.”  We screamed a big ole NO at him and he finally went away.  We saw him once more sulking against a wall somewhere and then he was gone.

We made it back to the house around 8:30am only to realize I had forgotten my key.  It took five or so minutes of laying on the buzzer to get him to open the door, but we got in.  He disappeared before we made it up the stairs.  We stayed in my room almost the entire day counting down the hours until we left for a week in Amsterdam.  We saw him once or twice and while he looked ashamed he never mentioned anything about what happened.

This made me angrier than anything.   I have avoided him almost entirely since then and was lucky enough to make a friend and confidant out of another of his guests.  I felt safe when my friend was here and would venture into the living room and kitchen occasionally, but he left and now I am alone again.  I don’t feel safe.  I left for one last trip, which was a huge relief, but I still have 12 days left here.

I looked into coming home early and moving out of this place but the finances don’t work out. I’ve already paid him can’t afford another place (if I can find one cheaper) without a refund.  That would probably require reporting him to the agency that does the renting.

He tried to talk to me occasionally when my new friend was still here but I’ve resorted to one word answers and not looking him in the eye.  I feel so uncomfortable.  I look out the window before I leave my room to see if he might be gone.  When his van isn’t parked outside I am overcome with a sense of relief – even if I don’t want to leave the room.  When I’m in the common area and I hear his van pull up I quickly finish everything I was doing to run into the room and shut my door.  I read, I write, I do yoga, and I go into town and visit my one good Icelandic friend.  But I do not feel safe here.

He’s afraid that I will write a bad review.  He came up to me and the new friend one day – out of the blue – and said “My daughter asked if I thought you would write a review on the rental page and I told her of course you would. She can’t wait to read it.”  USING HIS DAUGHTER – who is amazing and cool btw, to guilt me into not telling anyone what he did!!

And the saddest part of all is that I only just now decided that I would report him to the agency.  As with all of the similar situations I’ve been in it is easier to walk away and pretend it never happened.  It’s so hard to tell anyone the truth because you see what happens when you.  You see people torn apart in public and driven to the edge of their sanity.  No one believes you and everyone questions all the things *you* did wrong or should have done differently.  Everyone wonders why you waited – if you were really so scared why didn’t you do it sooner?  Money shouldn’t matter, they’ll say.  If it was so important you should have said something right away.

But they forget that this is just another in a long series of assaults, rapes, pieces of violence done onto me, my sisters, and the great faceless womyn of “us.”  We’re not even shocked by it anymore.  We’re not surprised and we even expect it.  And we know to keep quiet – or else.  Sometimes you get so tired of fighting. I’m exhausted. 

And that is what has brought me to the point of writing about this. This certainly isn’t the most violent thing that’s ever happened to me.  This isn’t the most impacting. It’s not the scariest and it’s not the bloodiest.  But it is the first in a long time. It is the first thing to shatter the illusion I’ve spent the last four years painstakingly rebuilding.  I had convinced myself that I was safe in this world and that I had some control again. Now. Now that I knew more, saw more, something.  I’d fooled myself into thinking it could never happen again and that I was back to being bulletproof and 20. 19. 13. 8.

Somehow it’s all back now.

Ha. So.  We’ve been sort of out of commission (this blog) for the last month or so.  Our bad. There was some stuff, and a lot of things…NEVERMIND. We’re back now! We’re back and we’re ready to take some action.What you missed:

  • FSU got together with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center to host a training for the Stewards of Children program.  It’s a fabulous thang. You can learn more about this child sexual abuse prevention training here: Stewards for Children
  • 3 of our fabulous FSU and SURJ activists received funding courtesy of IPAS to attend the FMF #NYFLC2013 – the 9th annual young feminist leadership conference.  We had a ball, went in with a critical eye, learned a lot, met some fantastic feminists from New Hampshire (and the rest of the states,of course) and found ourselves amongst the largest gathering of self-identified feminists ever.  There will be more information on that as we each find a few moments to write reflections.  Please do not hesitate, however, to contact us, because as Kaori said earlier today, “I’d be doing my community wrong, though, if I didn’t try my hardest to act as a resource for other young feminists who are interested in events such as these. If you have any sort of interest in getting involved with feminist events like this, please pleeeeez don’t hesitate to message [us]”
  • TOMORROW we are hosting a t-shirt making PARTAY to support the UNC group SWAG as they bring The Clothesline Project to our campus. We have T-shirts, we have supplies, we have a room!! Check out our FB event page

That’s really not even close to all of it. I think perhaps this merits….5-100 of its own posts, but suffice it to say that our campus is the throws of a federal investigation and the UNC administration has been attempting to silence those who have spoken out against their sordid practice of abusing and intimidating survivors of sexual violence. One of those survivors was recently charged by the honor court for “creating an intimidating environment” for the man who raped her, but remains undaunted by their threats.  She’s filing intimidation charges.

Her lawyer – “The retaliatory charges against my client are inappropriate, unconstitutional and utterly without merit,” and “Ms. Gambill’s public criticism of UNC – as an institution that ignores, silences and discredits sexual violence survivors as PR strategy – can no longer be met with attempts to ignore, silence and discredit her,” he wrote in the letter to Thorp. “Instead, it is time for the university to take responsibility for the broken system it has created, starting by dismissing this case.”

Can I get a FUCK YEAH?!

SO, PEOPLE, keep vigilant, keep vocal, and never stop fighting.  That’s it for now, but I swear we are back in action and will be bringing you more awesome, informative, feminist posts relevant to UNC, NC, The US, and the WORLD.  This I promise you.

Feminist Students United (FSU) is a progressive feminist organization which affirms that no form of oppression can be overcome until all aspects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are dismantled. We acknowledge intersecting identities and strive to be mindful of these intersections in all our work. We endeavor to create an environment which is non-hierarchical and supportive in nature, and we work to bring about change in our community through education, outreach, direct action and community organizing.

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