from a long time escort, with a strong analysis…
This a long time in coming. I’m going to tell you all a story. It’s a true story and very triggering. I know because I was triggered. We talk about rape culture at clinic a lot. Most of that is because it’s the same culture of shame, entitlement and victim blaming. It’s startling to remember rape culture can manifest in a very literal manner as well.
At an escort potluck L— said a new protester had sexually assaulted her while she was walking a client down the sidewalk to the clinic. This hasn’t been the first time we have talked about our boundaries being breached but it was the first time I’ve heard one of our own use those words ‘sexually assaulted’ when referring to a protester. We were all immediately focused and concerned. She continued. A new Immanuel Baptist church member had managed to straddle her hip in an apparent attempt to get closer to a client. She demonstrated (with consent) on another escort: one foot on either side of her leg with his genitals pressed to her hip. It was pretty damning but she couldn’t call him out for it until after she had finished walking the client inside. She did give him a good shout when the client was in the door. Back at the potluck, she was visibly shaken up about the experience. K— and I told her we would bring this up to some of the Immanuel folks with whom we had an open dialog.
The next Saturday rolled around and near the end K– and I pulled aside two Immanuel folks. We told the two people what had happened and things were going okay, not great, but okay. They politely listened but didn’t talk about any sort of accountability. It was about what I expected. Next, S— who had been pointed out as the perpetrator came over saying he knew what we were talking about and it was bullshit. He was loud, he interrupted all of us and his stance was very aggressive. He immediately began to call L—‘s character into question. He was generally defensive. The implication was L— was a bad person, he didn’t do it and if it did happen to her then she deserved it. I was so angry I saw red. It was classic rape denial technique. I was speechless, but K— recovered more quickly than I and asked ‘why would L— lie about that?’ It was a pretty good question. Statistically, there are very few cases of someone lying about an assault and the lashback and stigma directed at the survivor often outweighs the accountability or justice administered. S— countered ‘that is what escorts do.’ Escorts lie. It was a simple statement that completely discredited all of us. He would never seriously consider any of our experiences or insights. I think it’s a telling remark that says a lot about how he views us and the clients.
The other two protesters from Immanuel seemed a little taken aback by how things had escalated so quickly. They started in with things along the lines of ‘I wasn’t there, so I don’t know.’ Effectively distancing themselves from the situation and from any responsibility. That upset me more than anything because we can never hope to unravel rape culture until we take it seriously as a community problem and respond as a community. The response a community has to an action can be more defining to itself than any one action.
Now, it was about this time I lost it. S— was continuing to belittle L—‘s claim and dismiss the escorts as a whole. I couldn’t hear any more of it. I started shouting, really shouting. I was shouting at S–, the two other protesters and their whole other group of Immanuel folks that were standing nearby. I told them I was disappointed in them. I told them when someone makes a claim like that you believe them. I also told them I didn’t think I could ever speak to them again if that is really how they treated people. It may not sound like very much but it came from my heart. Whenever my parents told me they were disappointed, I listened. S— began in again saying he didn’t need to apologize for anything because he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t hear me, or he didn’t care. The other protesters were standing mute.
I was closer to coming to physical blows than I have ever been. Some part of me realized how disruptive it would be to start a brawl outside the clinic. I tapped K— on the shoulder and told him I needed to leave.
I don’t say I was close to blows as a statement of commitment or militancy about my feminism. I say it because I’m being honest about how furious I was. He thoroughly disempowered me in that moment. Denied my truth and L—‘s truth. Denied us all our truth and I wanted to hit back. But I didn’t.
I walked away with K—‘s arm around my shoulder helping me keep it together. I was shaking and crying and damn near sobbing. I felt like I failed. I don’t know what I thought would happen. Of course the protesters protected their own, even from taking responsibility for their actions. It really is the same mindset of entitlement to space, shame and victim blaming. I even had another protester walk up and film me while I was crying. I don’t know how that was going to stop someone from having an abortion.
It was only later I realized I was really okay with how things went. I could have done it a little more eloquently, maybe not so aggressively, but I spoke my piece. Even though he didn’t hear me, I know at least one of the Immanuel folks heard me. And if or when he sexually assaults someone in his church, maybe they will believe her. I don’t think we can hope for accountability between escorts and protesters at the clinic in the near future, it’s too easy to get antagonistic. I can only hope they will be a little more prepared for the next time this comes up. That’s something to think about. I spoke truth when called him out and that’s powerful.