Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bar sign reads "RAPE $6": triggered and almost arrested

Saturday night could have ended really badly. In essence, I was given a "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" card...literally. 

Last week I received a text message from a friend of mine saying that she was thinking about making a last minute road trip to visit me over the weekend. I have been struggling a lot recently with PTSD symptoms and have a mountain of schoolwork to get caught up on, so I surprised myself when I told her to come on down. I had not seen her in over two years, and she had no clue that I had been struggling with these issues. Still, I did not get overly anxious about her arrival; instead, I was really excited to see her. I even thought to myself that it might be nice to spend some time with a close friend, pretending like these issues I have been addressing don't really exist.

Well, that little plan laughed in my face...

Don't get me wrong - it was wonderful to see my friend, and we had a great time together. We laughed A LOT, and we also talked about some really serious issues, including what I have been dealing with in addition to struggles of her own.

For whatever reason, I kept feeling like I was in a dreamlike state, frequently dissociating and questioning reality. I am beginning to think that perhaps frequent periods of dissociation are a precursor to my becoming intensely triggered (I experienced something similar prior to this trigger).

Anyway, on Saturday night a friend of my friend decided to join us for a night out on the town. By the time we made it to the bar where the incident I'm about to describe occurred, I had consumed three drinks. Over the course of 5-6 hours, this amount of alcohol isn't a lot for me, but it does relax me and slightly lower my inhibitions.

Normally, having slightly lower inhibitions isn't a problem and can actually be a good thing; however, I am learning that what's "normal" does not apply when you have PTSD and a lot of intense emotions brewing under the surface looking for outlets.

We waited in line to gain entry into this particular bar and then stood in line to get a drink. Once we got to the front of the line, I looked to the left of the bar and noticed a giant sign that read, "RAPE $6" with a vulgar phrase beneath it that mentioned something about a "mouth" and "arse." It is difficult to recall the exact wording of the phrase beneath that dreaded four-letter word, the one that I have been working so hard to say in therapy. Seeing that dreaded four-letter word there blazing from the sign (it was one of the signs with a light-up background upon which you lay black letters) caught me off guard - I had not anticipated seeing such a sign that night. It seemed out of place to me - almost surreal. But there it was lit up on a sign like it was no big deal, like it was mocking all the hard work I had been doing.

Needless to say, the sign made me feel uncomfortable; however, I wanted so badly to not make a big deal of some stupid sign. It was freezing outside, and we had been walking around trying to find a bar without a long line. We had given up and arrived at this particular bar. After waiting in the cold to get in, I did not want to suggest that we leave and continue looking for another place, all because of a stupid sign (and raise questions about my strong reaction to the sign). I thought, keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself and head to the back of the bar where the band was playing and distract yourself with dancing and good music. It's just some stupid sign made by a person completely ignorant to the prevalence and psychological/emotional implications of rape. It doesn't have to ruin everyone's night.

Once we got over to the band and started dancing, I still felt anxious and detached; the entire scene continued to feel surreal. I could barely even hear the music (although I was standing just feet from the band). I needed to step away for a little while. When I did, I noticed that a group of girls was posing under the sign, pointing at the verbiage and giggling while having their photos taken. What is so cute and funny about rape?

I spotted the bouncer by the door and calmly asked what was up with the sign but in a tone that demonstrated my disapproval. He looked at me and then over at the sign. Annoyed, he mumbled something about it not being his problem. My face felt flush - the scene no longer seemed surreal. I connected to feelings of anger and disgust.

Still, at this point, I maintained my composure. I said, "well, if you can't do anything about it, then where is someone who can?" He told me that I needed to step away. I remained persistent, and even stated, and I still can't believe I said this, "As a rape victim, I find this sign extremely offensive, and I would like to speak with the manager."

The bouncer then summoned over another man and instructed him to "go remove the sign." The other guy looked at me and then at the bouncer and asked, "Why?" The bouncer (rolling his eyes) said something like, "I know, man, just do it. We're gettin' complaints. It's making this girl here uncomfortable." The man looked right at me and said, "Are you fuckin' kiddin' me? This is fuckin' ridiculous!" He looked so angry and disgusted with me; you would have thought that I had told him that I had defecated all over the floor, and now he had to clean it up.

This interaction set me off. Something in me snapped. I became very seriously triggered and ended up yelling and throwing things (not at people, thank goodness). I was crying hysterically, and my hands were shaking. I ducked into a hallway and just sat down and buried my head on my knees and cried. I had to get away from people. The bouncer had tried to touch my arm to get me to step aside, and it freaked me out. I was so angry, but I was also really, really scared. I felt like I had been violated all over again, but instead of internalizing it like I did nine years ago, I directed all of my emotions a tornado.

When I looked up, I was surrounded by approximately 6-8 men, most of whom were uniformed police officers. By this time, I had calmed down a bit, but the "fuckin'-ridiculous" man was there, too, and he wouldn't stop making remarks that continued to set me off (e.g., "It's just a sign; in fact, three WOMEN made the sign"). He also told me that I couldn't remain there because I had caused a scene and that I wasn't allowed back in the bar (like I would ever want to go in there again...). He made a big production of telling the bouncer that if I tried to sneak back in the bar to notify the cops immediately.

One of the policemen told me that I needed to step outside (I was in a hallway which separated the bar from another bar and had limited foot traffic). I looked over to where he wanted me to go and realized I would have to walk through a huge crowd of people. I was still shaking and did not feel like I could do so without having a panic attack. When I told the police officer I feared having a panic attack, he told me that I would have to go with him due to my intoxication. This set me off again - "Drunk? You think I'm DRUNK?! I'm not acting this way because I'm drunk. I'm ANGRY!" Then, I was told that I was now being uncooperative, but no one ever mentioned arresting me again.

I was so triggered that I didn't care at the time if I was arrested. I just feared being touched, and I feared being around people. One of the police officers started talking to me in a calm voice and identified himself as a rape detective who normally does not work that shift. Although I didn't trust him either (I was so wound up and had experienced an emotional overload), it was nice to have someone talk to me like I wasn't an idiot or a criminal. Not to mention, he got me away from that man who continued to spout off rude remarks that were very triggering. I wasn't allowed to leave by myself so they ended up stopping the band to page my friend and let her know that she was wanted outside by the police department. Yeah, very weird night...

Looking back, I am extremely embarrassed, and I still can't believe it happened. Despite my embarrassment, part of me is glad this happened.

I was never able to stand up for myself against my rapist, and I have never been able to stand up to anyone who has made insensitive rape remarks or dismissed my experience as my fault. It wasn't the most responsible way of handling some jerk's remarks, but I think I needed that experience of standing up for myself and this cause. I have been having trouble finding words for my feelings, but I found them with ease that night...and I let them be heard - LOUDLY.

I also have identified long periods of dissociation as a precursor for becoming severely triggered; this bit of knowledge will be helpful going forward. I guess you could say that I found an outlet for all of the anxious energy and anger I've been experiencing lately...but I will speak with my therapist about healthier ways to cope and reduce the mounting stress before it explodes uncontrollably.

I realize that I was lucky - VERY lucky - because this was my "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" card. While I know that this experience cannot be repeated and that I have to find a healthier way to cope with my PTSD symptoms, I must admit that a lot of positive came out of this embarrassing experience. I feel more empowered and grounded - and for the time being, I have found my voice. 


  1. Finding a voice is so important. I am truly happy you weren't arrest, but I even happier you spoke your mind. R*** is never going to be funny.

    1. Thanks so much, Iris. I have been fighting off feelings of embarrassment (I have never done anything like that before, and it is not representative of my all!), and I still can't believe it happened so I really, really appreciate the positive feedback. Thank you so much for the encouragement and support. xx

  2. M, you found a good way to cope and express your emotions, you might just need a better place to express it. lol I bet it did sort of feel good to be so verbal and physically explosive didn't it. I so totally understand the buildup of negative energy and then something very simple can be like a match lighting a fuse. I have exploded like this more times than you know. I don't write about these times where I do the same thing because it makes me feel crazy to think about. I know you aren't crazy and I am reasonably sure that I'm not crazy, but this kind of release is a mixed blessing. It can empower us while simultaneously making us feel like we out of control.

    I am glad that one LEO knew how to talk to you. It is important that we are handled the correct way when we have these type of reactions.

    That one guy using the excuse that females are the ones that came up with that sign, and that makes it okay, is absurd. It makes no difference who was the brain child of that sign, ignorance is ignorance and it comes in all shapes, races, colors, and sexes.

    M, I am sorry that you were triggered. I think I would have been as well. Probably like you, not so much for the sign, but because of the lack of humanity being displayed by the bar and its workers. Rape is a horrible thing that should never be used as a punch line in a joke. I am glad you feel empowered and grounded. Guess what, you always had your voice, you just MADE others listen this time even though they didn't want to. Regardless of how messed up that night felt to you, I am proud of the fact that you let everyone know just how wrong that sign is.

    BTW, yppah yadhtrib.

    1. Thanks so much, Jaime! xx

      "Guess what, you always had your voice, you just MADE others listen this time even though they didn't want to." - I like that, it has a nice ring to it :)

      And, I appreciate the yppah yadhtrib - haha! dlo gnitteg ma l.

    2. O.P.S. is an inevitable thing. BTW, you still have 364 days, and a few hours before you are at the top of the hill.

    3. Let me guess, Old People Syndrome? ;-)

    4. Close, Old Person Syndrome. LOL You know I'm just kidding. You are only 12 years, 4 1/2 months older than me. That's only 1.2 decades.

    5. Please refrain from using the word "decades" in relation to my age, yikes. LOL

  3. I am sorry this happened to you. People just do not get it. This society has been so desensitized it is not funny. Safe hugs to you dear one.

  4. Thank you for leaving the comment on my blog. So I decided to look at yours and this was the entry that poped out at me. I don't understand how anyone in their right mind could even see how selling a drink called rape is even appropriate at all. The fact that three women made it doesn't excuse the sign it makes it even more offensive and arrogant. I've been in you're situation before where you don't want to say anything because it might offend someone else. I've let that go,I refuse to be uncomfortable because of someone elses ignorance.

    Me and my husband were doing laundry one day and this couple walks in and the man opens up our washer and started pointing at our clothes. I told him I'm using that and can you back away from me please thank you. He was right beside me and it was only the two of us in there with 15 washers. My husband was like why did you even say anything to him, I would have delt with him if he would have did anything. I told him I understand that but you can't speak up for me when I feel uncomfortable or when something is bothering me.

    I aslo stood up for myself, even though I could have done it in a different way I wouldn't have changed a thing about what I said. I know how that feeling is, especia;;y when you have people around you who don't understand, who don't get what its like, people who don't understand the intensity or the intricate process of rape or PTSD.

    Its hars but I support you. Don't let other people stop your healing process, you've already come this far:)

    1. Golden Rays, thank you so much for visiting my site and providing positive feedback. Having the support of individuals going through similar experiences is so helpful, and I really appreciate it. I like your mindset about speaking up for yourself. I am getting better about it, but it is definitely an area in which I need to improve. Thanks again for your support. xx