The other night I watched the acclaimed Netflix documentary “Audrie & Daisy.”
I highly recommend it, unless you don’t feel like being infuriated. It follows the stories of several young women who were sexually assaulted while incapacitated, and how social media exacerbates trauma.
When I started writing this particular installment of “From the Pen of J.A.V.,” I planned on talking with you all about kids and electronic bullying. Instead, my mind keeps leading me to write about sexual assault and sexual harassment.
In “Audrie & Daisy” – Daisy’s situation in particular –a small town becomes sharply divided over an alleged sexual assault, with varying opinions of how much evidence people believe exists -- or if the incidents were sexual assaults at all.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are real, and they can happen anywhere.
I love the York area, and consider it my adopted home. Crappy things happen around here, sure, but for the most part to me York and the surrounding area seem fairly benign. My idyllic view of my adopted home, however, was marred during a single interview.
I was sexually assaulted.
(That is the hardest sentence I’ve ever had to write; it took me several minutes to type that, and I am literally shaking right now.)
It’s a blurry situation; I questioned myself if it was worth worrying about at all. Some would say the incident leans more towards sexual harassment. Let me tell you, though: I’ve been sexually harassed before, and it feels nothing like this. For me (and this is just me) sexual harassment is rolling your eyes, walking away and thinking about – or saying -- what a you-know-what the harasser is.
This felt different. On the drive back to the office, sticky thoughts of, Did I lead him on? Was what I wore inappropriate for the situation? Did my questions get too personal?
And: I can’t tell anyone who it is.
I honestly feel like I can’t -- still. You see, journalists operate in murky waters (sometimes more like a swamp). Relationships are of utmost importance, particularly in features writing. If a journalist burns a bridge, that’s a lost source. It’s hard to establish trusting relationships, and even harder to regain them, the result being we might not be able to share something the public should know about.
That said, I don’t consider myself fake – it’s hard to be, having the infamous Votipka Poker Face – but I do know which side of my bread is buttered.
In this situation, there was not only butter on one side of the proverbial bread, but jelly too. So when he stared at my chest the entire interview and grabbed me even as I pulled away – all the while his wife sitting alone in the house -- I didn’t know what to do. There’s no class covering this in college, no Associated Press handbook on interview decorum. (I know; I’ve asked.)
In the days after the story was published I received a several kind notes and phone calls to tell me how much my adopted hometown readers enjoyed the article, what a great job I did.
Maybe not a Pulitzer winner, but I wrote what I consider one of my better articles. Yes, despite this person making me feel violated and in turn blame myself for it, I tried to write the best story I could.
Because that’s my job.