Parts of the book are funny and romantic, writing that's easy; the parts about sexual violence were difficult to write. I had to envision the darkness, conduct in-depth research, interview psychotherapists, recall some victim confessions from over a decade ago, and feel the sense of betrayal and shame that a sexual assault survivor might actually feel. I wanted to write with sensitivity without patronizing anyone.Read More
I’m still so afraid of all the monsters that I never want anyone to know or even know about, that no one should ever have to know at all.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I’m not trying to write a researched post or a think piece. I’m just writing to you, as a person. As an appeal.
I want to talk about the "witch hunt" against men by women and non binary folks. And about the way we talk about assault.
Many of us keep hearing people say that NOT ALL MEN (oh for the love of god, not again) have done "equally bad" things. Like, taking your dick out isn't the same as rape or wielding power or money over someone so they fuck you isn't the same as touching someone. There are lots of KINDS of assault, of course. We all know this. Although there are vastly different levels of short- and long-term trauma involved, what makes something that's nonviolent and space-invading okay if the other person didn't ask for it? There is a consent issue even if the body is not involved directly. Can we update this thinking, please?
Yes. There is difference between raping someone and staring at someone, both legally and ethically, but the fact of the matter is that ALL of these behaviors have gone un-checked for a long time and both require consequences. Different consequences, but consequences nonetheless.
The baseline consequence is that these assailants must look into the abyss and have it look back. They must know that they are predatory; they must live with it; they must die knowing it. Other consequences are legal, social, familial, professional, etc.
For society to be healthy, we need to tell our kids and men and boys (and everyone) that abuse of power is not okay in any way.
I’ve have heard a LOT of people saying that many of these stories coming out against Spacey, Weinstein, Louis, etc., are "bandwagon" stories. That they're tiring, not constructive, repetitive...and, the worst, "done for attention." (Because sexual assault attention is SO fun and validating, right?).
I have briefly considered these wayward opinions, which I have seen proliferated both by men as well as by smart, compassionate, and trusted feminists, women, and non binary folks.
But I disagree with these ideas.
If it feels like a "bandwagon" or a "witch hunt" it's because it is. For so long, women/non binary people have been told—either out loud, or quietly, through small, uncomfortable gaslighting moments and fucked up interactions—that our stories don't matter. Fuck yes, we have a hunt going. Do we sit inside while others ravage through the night for change? Or do we (those of us that can or want to) finally join, as we maybe have wanted to for so long? Remember: some of us stay silent for safety purposes. So we have to fight for everyone, even if they can’t for themselves.
I have two stories I’d like to share. About molestation and harassment. Both deal with sexual assault in different ways.
I’m saying it because I’ve been feeling safer—safe enough to do so. (I’ve already got all the attention I would need, thanks, so it’s not for that. #EyeRoll).
This is about being touched: At a young age—right before adolescence, I slept over a friend's house. The stepfather touched me as I slept. He touched my friend too. She was in the space as I was. I woke up. I told the friend in the morning what her stepfather had done. I told my mother. We went to the police. The youngest daughters said he'd raped them. The oldest, 16, said it wasn't true. Their mother called me a liar. The court case against him was lost. The two girls said they had lied. There was so much disbelief and so much attack against me (they'd said I was projecting my own lack of a father figure onto him) that the girls had just given in and tried to keep the peace and said it wasn't true. With all my heart, this shit was fucking true. He had me sit on his lap in the dark multiple times. But it was the 90s, a small town, and no one fought for me and my experience. I don't speak about this much, but do not for one second think it doesn't bother me that people like this get away with this fuckery. EVERY. DAY.
This is about being harassed: A few years ago I was in a management role at a startup. Another manager hit on me, tried to touch me, made advances at me. I told my young, "hip" boss what happened and he told me "that guy does that to everyone." He asked me not to speak up. They were selling the company. They didn't want to fuck shit up. I told the HR director who was leaving. This wasn't a silent situation. What happened? NOTHING.
Both are real and bad. And worth discussing in their own way. Both are systemic. Both are caused by society feeding ideas of (mostly) male power and dominance.
So if we are bandwagoning—whether in Hollywood OR in our lives in small towns and big cities away from the silver screen—it's because we're taking a chance we feel we are not alone in taking. Who wants to stand up and shout what happens all alone? It's bad enough most of us repress it just to be able to deal.
So, have some patience. Know that people are trying to find their way around in the dark. Know that this is the way to change. It's not perfect. If there were a manual for "how to finally make it known that male toxicity is a disease and is fucking everyone up since forever" maybe we'd know how to handle it. So, if you must critique a movement, consider the reasons it may be flawed first. Emotion is not perfect.
We see all these stories and all these admissions and we think it’s strictly a women’s issue or an issue done TO people (all people I might add: people of color, cis-het people, non binary folks, and people in the LGBTQIA community, every body, shape and size, everyone) instead of BY people.
But it’s more than that. This is a MEN's issue, mostly. It’s an assailant’s issue. The survivors can’t figure your shit out for you.
What this means: if you ARE in the demographic that hasn't abused your power or treated us like objects or raped us or even made us feel super uncomfortable or told us our allegations weren't real, then speak out. Speak out to other men and spread the fucking word. What kind of human are you if you don't?
And if you are those men: stand up, take responsibility and do the work to stare yourself in the eye and come to terms with how your wound wounded others. Fix this.
We cannot all heal unless we do it together.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief and creative director of Luna Luna Magazine. She is also the moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, entropy, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, greatist, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). her book, nympholepsy, was a finalist in the 2017 tarpaulin sky book awards.
Her work can be found in PANK, the Tin House blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, The Atlas Review, and tarpaulin sky, among others. She has taught or spoken at Brooklyn Brainery, Columbia University, New York University and Emerson College. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. @lisamariebasile
"We were in love," I tell the state patrolman who is sent to take my name and phone number. "No, wait, I was in love," I correct. I clarify. "But that was months ago now."
"Are you sure you aren’t just angry?" he says, taking my hand in his hand, watching my eyes like we’re in the final scene of the kind of movies my grandma watches when she drinks lots of wine.
"I am angry," I will learn not to say.
The lady cop will walk circles into the floor of my kitchen. She will memorize the ceiling tiles.
"Take off your shoes," I won’t say to her. "You are tracking mud across the floor of my home."
"This is not your home," she won’t say back. "I’ve stood here a million times before you arrived. I’ll stand here for a million more girls after you’re gone."
I will go see a therapist who will try to hypnotize the memories out of me.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
Rape culture: when your friend is raped by her cab driver and the police question whether or not you were asking for it.
In a major metropolitan city, there's plenty of things to fear. Among them? Cab drivers. Many of us have encountered the driver who tells us we’re pretty, asks if we’re single, wants to know if we live with someone or asks for our phone numbers. It’s uncomfortable, it’s frightening, and it needs to stop. Simply put, this behavior should be illegal rather than commonplace.
A friend told me the below story:
*Mary took a cab home--pulled over by her friends--because she was inebriated. She woke in the cab driver's bed without any recollection of what happened, with her body oddly positioned on top of a towel. As an object. When she managed to get out of his apartment, go to the hospital and ask for a rape kit, she was told to wait because there wasn't enough proof it "wasn’t consensual." Mary tells me that this cab driver (who she calls Sandy), who was employed by the city of New York, wasn't convicted because the District Attorney took a rapist’s word over hers.
When Mary and I talk on the phone, she tells me it is crucial to tell her story in order for change to ensue, in order for the government and for everyday people to understand that a woman’s word means something, that silencing others is a sin on par with rape itself.
There was more than enough evidence to lead anyone to believe the cab driver was a rapist. When Mary was put into a Brooklyn cab by two friends, they explicitly asked the driver to take Mary home. Mary was inebriated, as many are when they take a cab home late at night, and so her friends made her repeat her address to the driver several times. There was no indication that Mary knew the driver or desired anything but to get home safely.
What Mary vaguely remembers is someone buying beer, and according to her police report, "pouring liquor or some substance down my throat," as she was "in and out of consciousness." What she next remembers is waking up "extremely confused" with "no idea why or how I had gotten to this location or who this person in the bed next to me was." Mary was distressed, still not sober, and panicking.
Over the phone, she told me her body was "still in pain." This is a jarring sentence to hear. Because what happened to her was real; the physical pain will eventually end, but the experience of being manipulated against your will can never be undone.
When Mary went to the Emergency Room at Mt. Sinai in Queens at 3pm, she sat alone for the most part, without the offer of any food or water. Two officers finally arrived at 6pm as per the Hospital’s request, and they were aggressive, according to Mary, suggesting without her memory of the incident in question there could be no prosecution.
Mary told me, "I was stunned with how poorly these men treated me in my hospital room. They pressured me to drop the case and tried to tell me it wasn’t a rape case, and that if I was drunk, that maybe I had 'gotten friendly with the cab driver' while I was in the car."
She continued, "I was so distraught, I couldn’t believe the officers were insinuating it was my fault…[they] didn’t believe anything I told them, and were being so dismissive and aggressive. I even told them I had two witnesses who put me into the cab alone with the driver...they still insisted I didn’t need the rape kit. I insisted I hadn’t gone [with the driver] by choice, that I had been taken advantage of while I was blacked out, and that it was a taxi driver who had done this…[in his] house in Queens."
Because Mary was drunk, her case wasn’t taken seriously--and this outcome isn’t news. Women have long been taken advantage of when inebriated or drugged. Despite the many victim-blaming mentalities out there, transitive theory does not suggest if one drinks, one consents to the possibility of rape.
"They said since I had been drunk I had no idea where he had taken me or what borough I’d been in," Mary said. "My doctor at Mt. Sinai was extremely upset with how they were treating me, and they called Mount Sinai’s Sexual Assault And Violence Intervention Program (SAVI) to have an advocate sent to help me and make sure I was being treated ok."
SAVI’s mission is "dedicated to validating, healing and empowering survivors and their supporters to lead safe, healthy lives through advocacy, free and confidential counseling, and public education."
Despite SAVI’s efforts in supporting Mary, the police (the only presiding power) didn’t believe Mary until she semi-remembered signage she thought she saw that night. Only then did they confirm with the location services map on her iPhone, which indicated when she’d been picked up and for how long she was in that location (his home).
The next day, the cops found the location services information to be enough "proof," so they had Mary call her rapist from the Queens Precinct. The detective asked Mary to "act like I knew we had sex, and just ask if he used protection and see if he would say anything about me being passed out to try to get him to incriminate himself over the phone, which would be recorded over the police system."
When she called Sandy, she asked if they’d "slept together," to which he answered yes. Mary told me it was painful to hear that Sandy’s admission, though suspected, was devastating. Mary had actually been raped.
"I then asked him why I wasn’t able to recall anything and he said I was passing out…the detective was writing me prompts of what to ask him so I asked if I had passed out totally, and he claimed I passed out 'during sex' and he kept saying 'don’t worry about it,'" Mary said.
If a person takes you against your will and has non-consensual sex with you when you’re incapacitated, that it is rape shouldn’t be up for debate.
Judging by the FBI’s revised definition of rape, "Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim," there should be no room for misinterpretation, and yet there is--along with shoddy police work, held up by the foundation of rape culture.
By New York state law, what Mary’s cab driver did was certainly first or second degree rape, given the mental incapacity to provide consent, along with the kidnapping. How much more real does this get?
In the end, the detective told Mary the District Attorney had dropped the case on account of there being no real proof (as her rapist simply had to say something to the effect of 'she wanted it') and that was it.
The reality is, many rape allegations aren’t taken seriously.
Recently, a woman was raped at the popular Happy Ending Lounge, a bar even I frequented for years as a literary host. With its dimly lit bathrooms and somewhat hidden downstairs areas, it scares me to think of the all-too-real possibility of the situation--a situation any of us could be put into. The cops, instead of taking the victim seriously, claimed she was a party girl. And, even if she were drinking and "partying," does that mean she deserves to be raped?
In 2015, there were 851 reported rape cases in NYC (an increase from last year), with rape in car services on the upward trend. In February this year, a Brooklyn woman was raped in the back of a cab. This came at a time when Uber and Lyft drivers assaulted dozens and dozens of passengers. Mary’s case is one of many.
What happens when walking home is too unsafe? When the subway is unsafe? When taking a bus is unsafe? And when the person paid to drive you home changes your life forever?
Why are victims still being silenced? Is it because we teach people to wear protective, anti date-rape nail polish rather than teaching them not to rape? Rather than enforcing very real punishment for rapists? Does the problem stem from the idea that rape is only rape when it’s violent? Is it not widely accepted that rape takes various forms? On television, and in books, is it too-often reduced to compulsive desire or fantastical dominance? Or, is it much more likely we blame the victims in our smug, sexist righteousness to prosecute the whore? Are we too busy making jokes about it on TV?
Mary explained how even after going to the hospital, she felt there was no real advocacy. She felt like there aren’t enough emotional resources available quickly, and more importantly, how any support she was given paled in comparison to the poor treatment by the police. She felt she was not heard.
She wrote in her police statement, "I want help in having someone actually investigate this crime…the suspect was not apprehended and is still driving a cab around the city with no repercussions. This is dangerous for me as he knows where I live and I am very scared for my safety, and for other women’s safety. If he got away with this once with me with NO repercussions he will probably do this again and that is not acceptable. I do not understand how this does not qualify as kidnapping and rape, and I also do not understand why the case was dropped due to what the suspect told police."
Whether you are telling the story to a counselor, the news or your friend, your voice matters. Whether you are sharing this story or another one, your part in the conversation matters. As Pepper Elliott, who was assaulted at Happy Ending, said, "I really do believe social media is a powerful platform that can be a catalyst to these types of changes in perception, which eventually result in changes in behavior. I think that potentially the result of me being this vocal about my experience will at least elicit minor changes in the way those who are close to me might think or act and those changes might permeate the minds of others."
Please reach out to the following resources if you or someone you know needs support:
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673)
The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault: http://www.svfreenyc.org/survivors_emergency.html
NYS Department of Health: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/sexual_violence/what_to_do.htm
The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault: http://nyscasa.org/get-help/crisis-centers-by-county/
BY MEGAN DUFFY
Last New Year’s Eve, I went on a 2nd date with a guy I’d met through a close friend. He’d asked that mutual friend for permission to romantically pursue me, and after I asked "are you sure he’s not a psycho?" my friend assured me he was a "great guy."
Our first date was to Disneyland and seemed to go well. We kissed but I didn’t spend the night. On NYE I was loaded into a big limo with his closest friends and shuffled from party to party. He was my kiss at midnight but didn’t really talk to me much until the party was dying down and the sun was coming up.
Him, his best friend, and his best friend’s girlfriend and I, as well as the evening’s leftovers, landed back at his house around 9 in the morning. He made bacon for me/us and insisted I have a cocktail while he then did a bunch more cocaine. Having been up all night, and now drunk, I was tired and said I needed a nap. As I started to pass out he carried me off to his bedroom. I told him I wanted to just sleep but he was already aggressively pulling my clothes off and grabbing at me. My protests were admittedly weak, and since it was clear there was no stopping him, I tried insisting he put on a condom, to which he laughed and said something like "that’s cute" and then just shoved it in. It hurt a lot. He didn’t seem to notice the water coming out of my eyes.
I convinced myself that even though this wasn’t how I wanted our first time to be, I probably would’ve ended up having sex with him eventually anyway. And I’d been nude in a hot tub at some point in the evening so surely to him it seemed like I was asking for it. Some people don’t understand the difference between nudity and promiscuity. He was supposed to be a great guy--after all, my friend who introduced us said so. He’d even asked permission to ask me out. That meant he liked me, right? Maybe he was really excited, and this was probably just a misunderstanding. Also he was on drugs so I was he didn’t realize he was hurting me. I didn’t want to cause a scene, especially not with his friends in the next room. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be tough. I was stronger than this.
So I took it like an adult.
But it went on for hours. I would pass out and wake up to him shoving it in again. Each time hurt worse but I kept my composure. I attempted a few times to get up and leave, using the excuse that I needed to go home to feed my cat, but he’d pull me back down saying he wasn’t done with me yet. I considered that maybe I was inside of a bad dream. After about four hours when he wasn’t coked up anymore it finally stopped. I felt humiliated having to face his best friend who knocked on the door to suggest the group of us spend the afternoon ordering pizza and watching movies. I wondered if he had any idea of what I’d been experiencing, or if this was something normal in their world.
He let me leave to go home to feed my cat as long as I promised to come back.
When I got home I cried in the shower while cleaning my wounds. I shouldn’t have gone back, but I did. I desperately wanted to be comforted, like I was a girl he’d actually liked and hadn’t meant to hurt. We spent the afternoon and evening cuddling on the couch with his friends and his friend’s dog and he was nice to me. I felt soothed.
I continued dating him for half a year, partly because I was in denial that I’d gotten into a bad situation and wanted to feel like I had some kind of control over what’d happened and partly because the injuries he caused me led to so many infections (over $300 worth of medical bills AFTER insurance) that I couldn’t sleep with anyone else even if I wanted to. Also, every time he would be rough with me he’d justify it as passion and/or excitement, saying things like, "I’d been waiting for hours to do that." This was always followed by some gesture of kindness. Like one night when, while under the influence of a mixture of adderall, cocaine, and MDMA, he bit my arm so hard I started to cry. The next day he took me to meet his mom for the first time. It calmed the terror I felt and replaced it with a feeling of being cared about. I put on a sweater with long sleeves.
I found myself craving those kind moments like a drug. I needed them to feel good about myself, and about what had happened/was happening. I started thinking maybe something was wrong with me--that I was too sensitive, or I just bruised easily, or was a prude for not enjoying rough sex. I also thought that it wasn’t his fault my body was so delicate that I kept getting so sick, and that previous relationships had made me feel afraid to be vulnerable. Given my life experiences and age I didn’t believe there was any way I’d find myself in a relationship with a bad guy. That’s something that’s supposed to happen when you’re 23 and don’t know any better, right? Not to a smart successful feminist in her 30s.
And to be honest, it wasn’t all bad. We got along pretty well, and there was an electricity between us that sometimes felt magical. Sometimes the sex was fun and I would initiate it, (though I was never able to finish). We were spending every weekend together, often with his friends who were warm and kind to me and I liked them a lot. Some would reiterate what a great guy he was while expressing their hopes that I wouldn’t break his heart like the previous women in his life had. We would make dinner together, and had a TV show we were watching. The more I opened up to him the better he treated me. There were a lot of things I liked about him--like that he was smart and funny and talented and seemed to work hard and would bend over backwards to be there for his friends. We never had any arguments. I stopped questioning whether or not he was a good person and began to trust him.
Then one Saturday afternoon, he showed up at my house and told me that he had to end things because he didn’t have feelings for me. He told me he’d known when he met me that he was never going to love me, that he had been telling friends that since the beginning, and that this game he’d been playing with me had gone too far. He cried three times before I did, swinging back and forth between sobbing like a scared child-victim, and a vicious evil stranger. I kept telling him it didn’t make sense, asking him to tell me what was really going on. Why would he take a girl he didn’t like to meet his family, or ask her out in the first place, especially with the fanfare of asking for permission? Instead of answering he’d spin the conversation in another direction, feigning sadness, or pulling out more waterworks. In one derailment he just started to cry about how his roommate wouldn’t let him adopt a cat. This went on for an hour. I felt so confused and scared and knew there was a giant missing piece he was leaving out. It was the most emotionally violent experience of my life. The bruise, still on my arm from his bite a month before, stayed for 2 more weeks after he was gone. I had to look at it in the mirror everyday. Regardless of whether he was gaslighting me or being "honest," I finally had to admit to myself that I had been in a relationship with an abuser.
It turned out what actually happened is he’d hooked up with another girl the night before, and rather than admit to being a bad guy (and arguably a cheater), decided to attack me and negate our entire relationship. Once I found out the truth I started doing research on him (as well as ex-girlfriends of his that I knew about), It turned out his ex-girlfriend before me, a girl whom he and all his friends referred to as a "crazy bitch" (and who I’d been assured was out of the picture), hadn’t really been an ex yet when we started dating. I discovered he had a history of gaslighting, cheating, and being physically violent with women he had dated. He’d label them as "crazy" when they reacted to his mistreatment, and then manipulate them into believing it was somehow their fault. He was definitely not the good guy his friends all believed him to be.
I wasn’t going to be a victim anymore. I got the chance to stand up to him two months later, calling him out on his abuse of not just me but other women as well. I made sure it happened in a public place with people around. The scars were still going to take some time to heal, but I finally felt empowered.
So when I was offered the role of Mandy in the upcoming film "Holidays," a girl who is tortured and abused by her New Year’s Eve date, I immediately said yes. While Mandy doesn’t make it out alive, in real life I continue to heal and am living a life full of amazing people, good work, and fulfilling adventures. I’m thankful for everyone who’s been a part of it. And I donated a portion of my paycheck from the project to Planned Parenthood. They do a lot of good work saving vaginas from harm.
Nurturing a body of work that encompasses film and television, Megan Duffy has not only carved her own path in Hollywood but her career continues to evolve with exciting and challenging projects.
Megan garnered attention for her standout role as "Lucie" starring alongside Elijah Wood in the remake of 1980’s horror thriller "Maniac," which debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Her next film "Holidays," directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer and produced by Kevin Smith will be released in 2016.
A former professional dancer as well as music video producer, segueing effortlessly between the big and small screen, Megan has had guest starring roles in some of primetimes most popular shows including "Criminal Minds," "How I Met Your Mother, “Mad Men" and "Gilmore Girls," and has appeared in over 50 national commercials. She was the recipient of the "Best Guest Actress in a Comedy" award at the 2015 Indie Series Awards for her role as "Piper" in "Dating Pains," and will next appear on the show "Pretty Vacant" from Maker Studios.
A native of Enfield, Connecticut, Megan currently resides in Los Angeles.