[Content Notice: Gender-Based Violence, Stalking, Threats. Edited for clarity.]
Three years ago, I was starting to tentatively explore my same-sex attractions. Socially awkward as I was (and am, really), I tried various Internet outlets that were for women seeking women. Mindful of my safety, I posted a sexy pic that didn’t include my face or any identifiable information. In addition, I used an entirely different name and email address from my actual ones. To expedite the screening process, since men were sure to contact me despite my seeking women only, I included a phone number that wasn’t traceable to me.
I had posted the ad a few times with no responses other than cock shots sent to my inbox. Then, one day, my phone rang with a routed call. Excited, I picked up… only to find myself speaking to someone openly admitting he was a man. Annoyed, I told him to never call me again and hung up. He called me a dozen times; I declined the call as many times. Before giving up, he left me one hell of a voicemail.
Hi there, I was just curious why you’re so angry. You definitely are the epitome of militant lesbian. Anyway, I just thought I would call you. I’m not calling to ask you out or anything like that. I just wanted you to know– I thought you were an attractive woman and I don’t think that’s a crime to do so. Particularly when you’re inviting telephone calls when you’re posting your number so I just want you to be sure that I’m on to you and I know where to find you, okay? I would advise you be a little more cautious in your tone with people and you’re gonna need to start watching your back.
He was straight-up threatening me in the calmest, creepiest tone possible.
On a hunch, I googled his phone number and email address. He turned out to be some kind of Hollywood producer. Although part of me recognized that I had my bases covered in terms of identity protection and he clearly wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer for using his work email and number to threaten me, the eerie calm in his voice scared me. As I had grown up in a very safe suburban city, I was sure that the police would be sympathetic and helpful. Accordingly, I created a hard-copy record of his threat and I headed over to my then-city’s police department.
When the officer called me in, I was shaking a bit, but spoke as clearly and calmly as possible, presenting my evidence and voicing my fears. He responded with laughter.
Taken aback by his trivialization of the situation, I asked him if he could look at my evidence. I knew who the guy was, I pleaded. Couldn’t he, as an officer of the law, do something? Take the guy to task for threatening me somehow? At least take down a report so that if something happened, there was a record? He replied with an incredulous no to all my inquiries.
Out of the blue, he asked me if my picture included my face. I said no. He asked me how I expected to attract responses with a picture that didn’t include my face. Before I could respond, he answered his own question: it was a sexy picture, was it not? Feeling shamed, I was unable to speak and merely nodded.
“Don’t worry about it, then,” he chuckled. “Go home.”
What choice did I have other than to begin to gather up my things and prepare to leave? Before I could make my exit, though, he told me that he often visits women-seeking-women for the pictures, winked at me, and expressed his hope that he would see me on there sometime. Taken aback by the lechery in his tone, I half expected him to take a swat at my ass as I walked out the door.
The rest of that day, I lay in bed, frightened and confused, yet somehow feeling that I had deserved it. I had, in a few hours, lost my naive trust in the law and learned why it can be so difficult for some women in situations with aggressively sexual men to stand up for themselves. I was so ashamed that it took me years to tell anyone about what happened.
Once upon a time, I used to tell women to firmly stand up to men who pursued them despite a lack of mutual interest. I know better now — it’s more complicated than that. I know that I’m not the only woman to get violent responses from the men I ignore or otherwise rebuff, online and off. I know that far worse could have easily happened. I know that far worse does happen. Once upon a time, I told fellow women that if rejected men got aggressive, they should go to the police and thought it was silly if they hesitated to do so. As it turns out, many women have their reasons. In my experience, the men who threaten women aren’t necessarily so different from the men who are supposed to represent the law — and, at least in my case, the officer was happy to openly tell me so.
15 thoughts on “We Call Them Pigs for a Reason”
Ugh, this is sickening. There really needs to be a way to report police officers for refusing to take a report of illegal activity… Public shaming might be an option, but that would require a public that takes this type of thing seriously in the first place.
Heina, this is enraging. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Beyond trivializing, he was predatory and threatening. I suppose there is a way to file a complaint about an officer, but yeah, it probably doesn’t lead to anything.
I wonder if it would be worthwhile to start a site for people to share stories about these kinds of encounters with the police, if only to educate the public about what goes on and how often it goes on as well as to give notice to police departments that this will no longer be something people, especially women, just put up with.
The Cato Institute has been collecting cases:
More people should care.
I’m so sorry that such a shitty thing happened to you. I was really shaken up by my first personal encounter with how unjust the criminal justice system can be. But a million more times shaken up when I found out how many of my friends assumed I must have been at fault somehow if the police weren’t on my side. It was sickening. And your story is sickening.
I note that you didn’t name this Hollywood producer who threatened you. Nor the cop.
I understand completely why you did not do that, and I’m not saying that you should or think that you should.
What I do think would be worthwhile is deconstructing a bit why you feel reluctant to call out the jackdaws who made you feel unsafe, and what that says about our society and what we typically expect out of our society. I know what it says to me. It’s nothing complimentary about the United States. It says that you know (you KNOW) that our society and the people in it value the security of those who violate over that of those who are violated.
The cop had me convinced that I was stupid and crazy for caring, so I didn’t think to remember his name. He didn’t even offer me a card.
As for the producer, I’ve emailed him before, asking him what his deal is. He responded with a long, bizarre rant about his crazy ex and how all women are crazy liars, then threatened to pursue legal action against me for “criminal harassment.” He thought that I had read up on him online and was coming at him at random based on the stuff his ex said about him. That, and some further Google searches, led me to believe that he is unstable, litigious, and paranoid.
Well, along with actual data, there’s this compelling bit of recent NYC history http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/01/nyregion/accuser-in-nypd-rape-case-says-she-is-devastated.html?_r=0
This always sticks with me: “One’s word is not enough in these days of C.S.I. and DNA,” she wrote. “Even if people believe you, you are tested beyond what any crime victim should have to endure.”
This happens everywhere. Here’s photographic evidence of a cop grabbing the breasts of a protester in Spain just last week:
Cops are… my best friend was raped by her ex, years ago, and a female cop asked her if she was really sure she wanted to ruin that nice young man’s life like that. Even if I had grown up trusting cops (no way, grew up poor, the police have never been on my side), that would have shattered it.
When I was attacked, my roommate checked in with the police dept. to see how the case was coming. This guy had been witnessed by women we knew in the neighborhood, and was clearly dangerous. One day when I was moving my stuff out of the house, a cop came up to me and asked me to tell her to stop “harassing them.”
TL;DR: That officer was a douchebag but boo hoo hoo calling police officers “pigs” hurts my feelings.
Heina, that officer’s conduct was unacceptable and should not be tolerated by a reputable police agency. Most agencies have an internal affairs unit that investigates complaints against officers, though YMMV regarding how seriously these are taken. At the least, speaking with an officer’s sergeant or supervisor can get a serious knot jerked in his ass most of the time. Regarding not taking a report, (I don’t know which jurisdiction you were in so I cannot speak to the specific laws regarding threats) what the creepy producer sent you probably does not qualify as a threat in the legal sense. You may well have had a case for harassing communication if such a law existed in that area, and the officer was negligent for not investigating. Many times, though, threats and harassing messages are in the “grey area” between creepy and technically illegal. As badly as it sucks, an officer cannot arrest someone for being creepy until that behavior becomes criminal (specific “I am going to hurt you”-type threats, exposure, assault, etc.). Furthermore, there are all sorts of prosecution issues around proving that that specific person was at the keyboard when those messages were sent. This is a major reason why stalkers and other predators love technology so much: It can be difficult to demonstrate to a legal standard exactly who was doing the illegal behavior, especially if the perpetrator is tech savvy.
It’s disheartening to me that so many commenters have had negative interactions with the police. A lot of officers still have that “old school” mentality where they think they’re the big-bad and get to do whatever they want. Fortunately, a lot of newer generation officers are more about actually protecting and serving something besides their egos. Law enforcement is the poster child career for one bad apple spoiling the bunch, since positive interactions with police tend to be so forgettable and negative ones so memorable. Yes, there are certainly a handful (or more than a handful depending on where you’re at) of assholes who wind up in uniform. There are, thankfully, a larger percentage who are making a good-faith effort to do the right thing. Referring to all police officers “pigs” and posting offensive images doesn’t really address the issue of people being bad at their job, and just reinforces the “us versus them” mentality that the bad officers already have and use to justify their bad behavior.
There is one thing above many other things that are also incredibly important, that the police need to do for many of us to ever trust them again: Stop protecting bad cops. Because it’s still happening.
Seriously. Stop the culture of promoting problematic cops up and away from the public, which puts them in charge of other cops where their bullshit can filter down to pollute their subordinates. Stop excusing their mistreatment of women, POC and LGBTQI. Just stop. The police have a dangerous job, and I can but only imagine it would be far less dangerous if regular citizens had any reason whatsoever to trust them.
Unfortunatey, I don’t think our police get a lot of training in violence against women.. Decades ago as a 17 year old I went to my local police department inquiring what the process would be for a restraining order. I remember being terrified when the police man told me I could lose custody of my child if I filed one. Not helpful, at all.
I’m a criminal defense attorney and I’m biased against much of what police do and don’t do. Police aren’t necessarily hired for their intelligence. They also don’t really know and understand the law. I’m not sure whether your issue may be barred by any statute of limitations, but you may want to contact the district attorney’s office. Not that I’m a big fan of DAs either, but they do know the law much better than the police. Also, many DA offices are starting Internet crime divisions and investigations. If the DAs think there’s something to this, they’ll pressure the police to follow up. Personally, I think that this is a credible threat and it needs to be addressed by law enforcement. Posting what may be considered a sexy ad does not place you outside of the law’s protection. You clearly delineated the parameters of your ad. You told the stalker not to contact you and he continued to do so. This is a harassment at least and menacing at worst. The stalker’s initial contact may not have been a violation, but his continued contact and then his threats most certainly were.