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How to Live in a Female Body

There’s a moment in every woman’s life when she discovers her body isn’t her own.

At the first uninvited touch, the first catcall, the first time the word “no” is said but not heard, she realizes it was never hers. Or not entirely — not like she thought it was, elbows and knees and thighs moving under her power, the whole many-celled complex of flesh subject solely to her will. To some it will always be property, to be moved and manipulated, admired or denigrated, for their own fleeting pleasure or gain. To move in a female body is to carry yourself through the world as a flicker of will in a machine others consider a tool for public use.

I was fourteen the first time I let something happen to my body. I hovered just inside myself, in the space where I knew what was happening to me had little to do with what I wanted, or what would give me pleasure. I lay back feeling the minutes pass with unsultry slowness, letting the whole thing commence with little involvement. All I wanted was to keep the peace and keep what I thought, back then, was love. The assignations continued for months. He was older; technically, it was illegal; practically, I channeled the dual forces of self-loathing and love, so potent in me then, into the process of making myself disappear for twenty minutes at a time, and letting my body remain on the bed.

I was too young even to be angry at him.

I displaced my anger at him, transferred it to anger at the strict religion I grew up within that quite literally prohibited women’s voices from being heard and from leading prayer; that partitioned us off in holy spaces, that told us our bodies were unclean. I ate on fast days and hid in the bathroom during morning prayers at school. I turned my anger at him into anger at myself. I burned myself with matches. I learned how much pressure one must apply to cut oneself with a safety razor: Breaking the skin is easy; making a thick scar is much harder. The physical piercing of my skin made the wave of pain I felt crest and break; physically anchored somewhere in the world, it could no longer flood my mind.

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The official doctrine of Orthodox Judaism prohibits all contact between members of the opposite sex outside of the covenant of marriage, even a brush of the hand or a tap on the shoulder, because women exist in a perpetual state of menstrual impurity.

In practice, of course, animal urges dart through the thickets of desire; hands touch hands and more than hands. But throughout those early encounters I grew used to what would define so much of my contact with men in the subsequent fourteen years. My body was a vehicle for the fulfillment of male desires. The ghost of my will flickered in the machine, tapped out for whole incidents, returned. Each time there was a little less of me when I came back to my body. To those I wanted to love so much, my breasts and my thighs were more welcome than I would ever be.

I didn’t know to expect any better.

I still wanted to be touched and to be adored, wanted sexual fulfillment, even if I wouldn’t have phrased it that way back then. That thirst returned me again and again to the brackish, putrid pool of bad love.

But it’s one thing to yield to an advance in the name of peace — to go along out of appeasement or even curiosity, or the hope that what happens will give you pleasure, even if it doesn’t. It is another thing entirely to say “No,” and say it loudly, and have it ignored. It removes all plausible deniability, and exposes the bad bargain for what it is.

I don’t remember all the details of the night that first happened to me; it happened to me precisely because I was in a state not to remember all the details. All he wanted, said my classmate who was mostly a stranger, was a kiss. He pulled me onto his lap and I wriggled away, as I stumbled out of my dorm room and he followed, as I took the back stairs and he pinned me against the wall of the staircase, as I turned my head away so forcefully my neck hurt the next day, as I pursed my lips so hard they swelled. The world wheeled drunkenly around me but I knew I had felt the word “no” in my throat; my vocal cords had vibrated, my tongue made the appropriate motions, my mouth opened, the word arced toward him in the air, and it didn’t matter. It is one thing to be thrust against as you lie there so indifferently you try imagine yourself into bodilessness. It is another thing to have your voice taken from you — to have your dominion over your body challenged. I extricated myself from him like a splinter taken from an eye: painfully, painfully.

The man who raped me, years later, had been my lover for months. He was not a stranger. He had doled out pleasure in miserly fashion and I had taken what I could. But I was drunk — not catastrophically; I could walk; I felt safe enough to have gotten drunk, to be a little dazed, a little dreamy — and I realized too late that he had entered me without a condom, the condom I took from my purse and gave to him and asked him to wear; I had agreed to sex but not this sex, not unsafe sex, I had agreed to sex with a man who had made me feel safe and then had waited until I was weak enough to violate. He tried to placate me but I couldn’t be consoled, not by him, at any rate. I went to his roof and cried until the windows of Manhattan were too blurry to see on the horizon, and melded together into a wobbly blush of light. For a decade I had vacated my body when I chose to, letting men use my limbs for their pleasure; but I had allowed it, I had chosen it, I had known what I was in for. This act of theft rendered my body not my own.

Looking back over fourteen years of involvement with men feels like flipping through a catalogue of trysts and violations. A small Rolodex of assaults, each one still searing to remember — groped by strangers on a train and in a backroom and a city park; fingers appearing where they had no permission to be, or where they had been forbidden to be; kisses taken, not given; an array of wheedling and incessant demands reluctantly acceded to and later regretted. Good and bad love are each represented there, but when I am alone at night the bad love thrums up from my memory, reminding me I am less than I was.

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When I hear women talk about the frustrating ways our voices seem to disappear into a void when we speak with men — when our areas of expertise are explained to us; when our work is undermined; when our contributions are dismissed in meetings, our credentials doubted, the very tones of our voices subject to criticism — I think of how much these complaints overlap with the ways our control of our own bodies is denied us. I wonder how many women have said “no” and had it deliberately go unheard, like so many other words we speak. When I talk about what I know — about the history of the Hebrew language, or Russian literature, or the strange depths of the Internet — sometimes I think of asserting control over my body and having it denied me, and wonder if I should speak at all.

The laws of this country so often dictate what happens to women’s bodies. The noose around our freedom to control our wombs is tightening, with the prospect of the nation’s highest court dictating from above that we are vessels for the growth of men’s seed, prevented by law from reversing the processes that happen just under our skins.

The notions that we are vessels for pleasure or for procreation are intertwined, and the overarching message is identical: Your body is not your body. Your body is a means to an end; the ghost inside that is your will doesn’t matter. You can say no; you can scream it; you can shatter your larynx like glass screaming no, and there will be those who out of sheer indifference or avarice for pleasure or unhearing zealotry treat it like silence.

I am twice the age I was when I first learned how to disappear inside my body. I wish I could say I have attained some combination of wisdom and clairvoyance that would allow me to foresee who may be a caring lover, and who will treat the word “no” as an inconvenience or as nothing at all. All I have gained is rage: rage that I can feel blazing in every limb, rage at a world that would rather I be a voiceless sac for fetal growth, a mindless conduit for the pleasure of others. I have taken the mourning I feel for the larger and less frightened self I could have been and forged it into a hot little dagger, one that I would like to plunge into the fat and self-satisfied flank of a world so willing to steal my voice. There are days and weeks when I feel like crumbling into ash. But I have chosen instead to fight, to raise a big and hideous and ungovernable howl for the girl I was and the girls who have yet to be. I don’t want them to ever have to pass through the ghastly syllabus of bad-love lessons etched on my skin; I want to erase it, rewrite it, dictate a will and testament that grants every woman absolute dominion over her own four limbs and every cell in between. I want to live with pen in hand, mouth open, reclaiming my voice at a volume that can shatter stone.


The Sexual Assault Epidemic That No One Is Talking About

The first time Iffat was assaulted while riding the subway, she was on the Newkirk Plaza platform in Brooklyn late one morning two years ago. Iffat was at the B/Q stop with her mother and two younger sisters, waiting for a train into Manhattan. (She asked that her last name be withheld for her safety.)

The station was quiet and mostly empty. Suddenly, a man standing nearby opened the lid of his coffee cup and threw the contents at Iffat’s back. As the hot liquid seeped into her clothes, the attacker turned and sped down the platform. Iffat’s mom wiped off her daughter’s shirt, pleading with the girls not to call after the man or say anything.

Iffat, who was twenty at the time, had only recently started wearing the hijab as a way to get closer to God. At first she thought what happened might have been an innocent mistake — maybe the man had wanted to empty some liquid out of the cup.

No, her mom replied. I saw him do it; it was intentional.

“This person, he legit felt that he could do this to me,” Iffat tells the Voice. “He does not see me as a person to do that. You feel nasty yourself when you see yourself through somebody else’s eyes and they don’t see you as a human.”

Earlier this month, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) released a report, based on surveys with more than 3,000 Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Jewish, and Sikh New Yorkers, charting the prevalence of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism in the time leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election. The report, which concludes that New Yorkers from these backgrounds face high rates of bias-based harassment, discrimination, and violence, reminds readers that our country’s growing climate of hate isn’t isolated to Southern cities or Republican strongholds.

One statistic in the report was particularly shocking: Of Muslim Arab hijab-wearing women who participated in the survey, more than one in four (27.4 percent) said they had been intentionally pushed or shoved on a subway platform.

The statistic was especially disturbing to the report’s authors. Widad Hassan, the lead adviser for Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities at the CCHR, is also a Muslim Arab woman who wears a hijab. She tells the Voice that after every terrorist attack or negative media blitz about Muslims, the same message is pushed out to hijabis by their friends, family, even social media: Be careful, be cautious, don’t walk too close to the platform edge.

The survey results “actually put a number to something most Muslim women have in their minds,” says Hassan. “One in four, seeing that number — and knowing that it was not only a fear, but an actual experience, that one in four were pushed or shoved — I would say it was both upsetting and shocking.”


The second time Iffat was attacked, in February 2017, she was on the B100 bus in Brooklyn, en route to the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan. She noticed a man staring at her and tried to ignore him, thinking that maybe he was just drunk. But the man started shouting at her, calling her a terrorist, and yelling, “Take that fucking thing off your head.” She got scared and moved her seat — and he followed her.

“That’s when he pulled my scarf from the back” and tried to pour water from a plastic bottle onto her, Iffat recalls. She says she yelled, “Stop, let me go!” and jumped up from her seat, running to the front of the bus and pleading with the driver to let her off. After he relented and opened the door, Iffat got off the bus and, terrified that the attacker would follow her, ran all the way back home.

Across Europe and other parts of the Global North, research has consistently shown that women are the primary victims of Islamophobic discrimination as well as violent attacks. For her dissertation at the University of Toronto, Sidrah Maysoon Ahmad interviewed 21 Muslim women survivors of Islamophobic violence. “A lot of people would be onboard with seeing Islamophobic violence as racist violence,” Ahmad tells the Voice. “We aren’t there yet to really understand it as gender-based violence.”

Ahmad compares pulling off a woman’s hijab to tearing off her shirt in public – something most people would agree constituted sexual assault: “When it comes to a hijab or niqab [face veil], people don’t have that same visceral reaction” in recognizing the act as a form of nonconsensual undressing or public humiliation. “But we have to remember that the feelings we have about our bodies, and what parts we want to cover or not cover, are completely subjective and socialized.”

After the incident on the bus, Iffat tells the Voice, she felt exactly as she had several years ago — before she had started wearing the hijab — when a man on the street touched her and exposed himself to her. “Those two moments, I didn’t feel a difference in the way that I felt about my body. I felt disgusted in myself,” she says.

Mariam is another New York City resident who’s experienced violence on public transit. Through a translator, the 45-year-old explains how after the 2016 election, as she was waiting to board a train at the 125th Street subway station, a male passenger getting off the train spotted her and then intentionally pushed her. “There was space; there was no need for him to do what he did,” she says. She “could have potentially hurt herself but [I] caught [my] balance.” (Mariam asked for a pseudonym to be used out of concerns for her safety.)

In both Mariam and Iffat’s cases, they said that no bystanders had moved to intervene on their behalf, or even asked if they were all right. Ahmad says this is typical of the women she’s interviewed, something she says often “hurts more than the incident itself.”

Of the New Yorkers surveyed by the CCHR who reported experiencing a bias-based physical assault, most did not report the incident; neither Iffat nor Mariam did so. Hassan blames “a normalization of discrimination – this idea that it wasn’t serious enough to report.” She and other advocates interviewed by the Voice also mentioned language barriers and fears about potential immigration consequences as reasons people are reluctant to go to the police.

Roksana Mun, director of strategy and training at the Jackson Heights-based South Asian community group Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), sees a kind of myopia in most conversations about street-based Islamophobic violence, which tend to focus on the perpetrator of the act and not the climate that drives the behavior.

“For us at DRUM, we look at it from the larger institutional perspective of Islamophobia, not just what people experience interpersonally,” Mun says. For decades, she says, local and national counterterrorism policies — the compulsory registration of non-citizen Muslim men post–9/11, the widespread surveillance of New York City Muslims revealed in 2011 by the Associated Press, to the counter-extremism programs put in place by President Obama — have worked to dehumanize Muslims and cast them as dangerous outsiders.

Mun adds that agencies like the NYPD, the FBI, and Department of Homeland Security have exploitedthe fear of racist violence in Muslim communities to build community partnerships with religious institutions and local leaders, and then used these partnerships to plant informants and gather information.

“When people commit these kinds of individual hate violence,” she says, “it’s really a reflection of the broader behavior that’s been enshrined in policies by law enforcement agencies.”


Ever since she was shoved, Mariam makes sure to be alert and on guard when she travels. She won’t wear shalwar kameez — traditional South Asian dress — when she rides the subway, and she doesn’t enter empty train cars. After being verbally harassed on another city bus in the spring of 2017, Iffat decided to stop wearing her hijab in public, though she admits, “it did kind of strain my relationship with God.” Taking off the hijab hasn’t made Iffat feel safe riding the train, though, and in the past year she’s struggled just to leave the house.

“This entire year I could count on my fingers how many times I’ve been outside or hung out with my friends, because of what happened with me on the public transportation,” says Iffat. “Even coming to [this interview], honestly it took so much mental preparation to do this. But I wanted to do it, and I feel it also has to do with trying to get some sort of control.”

The #MeToo movement has brought new attention to street harassment of women, but Ahmad says she doesn’t think it’s done enough to address the experiences of Muslim women. “I don’t think they’re doing anything” to address gendered Islamophobia, she says. “As a survivor of that specific kind of [Islamophobic] violence, I don’t see myself in that movement. It doesn’t seem connected to the realities of Muslim women.”

Some New Yorkers are taking steps to make their city safer for everyone. The Arab American Association of New York has run bystander intervention trainings to teach people how to address Islamophobic violence when they see it, in tandem with an accompaniment program for Muslim residents fearful of traveling or commuting on their own. The initiative was started in the run-up to the 2016 election, when Islamophobic attacks and harassment began to increase. “We’re trying to get our allies to put their bodies on the line for the people who are directly impacted” by Islamophobic violence, explains AAANY community organizer Reem Ramadan.

Besides calling the police, there are other steps available to people who are victims of discrimination or harassment, including reporting it to CCHR online. People who want to file an official complaint of discrimination can do so in court or through the CCHR’s Law Enforcement Bureau, which is responsible for enforcing New York City’s Human Rights Law. “Nobody should have to live with these daily indignities and consider it as part of their everyday life, and New York City is working hard to change that,” says Hassan.

In March, Ahmad and others launched Rivers of Hope, an online toolkit for women who’ve survived Islamophobic violence, which incorporates a lot of her research documenting women’s experiences with Islamophobic attacks. The kit also includes poetry, information on how to get support, and tips for feeling better in the aftermath of an attack. “Don’t let anyone judge you with how you cope with what happened,” she says. “The incident happened to you. It didn’t happen to anyone else.” To survivors of gendered Islamophobia, she adds: “It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone.”


Dear Men, It’s Time for #YouToo to Take a Stand

You already knew what was happening,  didn’t you? You — the men — you knew. There are too many stories, too many women, too many facts for you to possibly believe that this is all made up. Every year, you are the ones that require us — the victims — to resurface all these deeply buried stories and lay them out in the sunshine so that you can dismiss them, or find fault in them, or, worst of all, pretend not to see them at all. You didn’t need 500,000 tweets or 12 million Facebook posts shouting “me too” because you already knew.

It might not be every single woman, maybe not your girlfriend, or mother, or daughter. I believe the women who say they have never been assaulted, never had a pair of unwanted hands grasping at their bodies without their permission. I am not lucky enough to be one of them. But it was easy enough for me to look at the deluge of posts on my Facebook feed Monday morning, type five letters into the status bar, and click update. Me too.

Ever since actress Alyssa Milano used those words in an Instagram post on Sunday, the ranks of the Me Too Army have only grown. Originally launched almost a decade ago by the activist Tarana Burke in support of women of color who had suffered sexual abuse, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. Women not only posted “#MeToo,” they told stories about exactly when and where their bodily autonomy had been ignored, how they were made to feel about it, and what this movement meant to them. The day after Milano’s post, Molly Ringwald — another former child actress — wrote an article for the New Yorker detailing (among other things) how she was forced to wear a dog collar during an audition. Gymnast McKayla Maroney, who won an Olympic gold medal as a member of team America in 2012, joined a campaign against a USA Gymnastics team doctor alleging that he had molested her for years. Dozens of other celebrities added their voices to the chorus, including Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera, Jennifer Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, and more and more and more.

I did OK for a few days. I read these stories. There are many Harveys, they all said. And boy, is that true. I wrote a story of my own. But women around me were collapsing. These stories are important and powerful and necessary, but they are also traumatizing.

Every time this happens, I remember something: a memory, dredged up to the surface. Reading TV critic Mo Ryan’s recounting of a TV executive who sexually assaulted her, I remembered it: a music publicist at a South by Southwest event, older than me, weighing my breasts in his hands like meat at a butcher counter, trying to force his hands between my legs. I was 21 years old, a college journalist. A crowd of men were there. No one said a word. The music industry, like Hollywood (and every other industry for that matter), has no shortage of these men. Even Taylor Swift, one of the most powerful women in music, had to deal with this. Over the past week, several of these assaulters have even been named publicly. For years, I thought this guy was just an asshole. So ingrained were my perceptions of sexual assault as rape and rape only that this didn’t even register as assault.

But as I sit, writing this, I am shaking. Someone is assaulted every 98 seconds  in the United States. Fewer than half of all rape cases are ever reported. I am so angry that these things happen to women, and that so little happens to their assaulters. We have said “me too” so many times that it is hard to believe our voices mean anything anymore. “We are going to be vocal until this stops,” Milano said on Good Morning America. “What that enables us to do is say, ‘No more, no more. We’re not going to put up with this anymore.’ ”

But the thing is, we’ve done this before.

Two years ago, it was Bill Cosby. Then came Roger Ailes and his rotten core of Fox News cohorts. And then last year, almost a year ago to the day, America heard Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking about a woman who could not hear him:

I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

“Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Do you remember this? I do, because it reminded me of the boy in my middle school who did this to all the girls as a game. I do, because it dredged up memories of men at bars who never asked permission. I do, because so many women on my feed posted their stories in the aftermath. Me too, they said then. Me too. When the tape came out, the stories had a direction, a purpose: to keep him from getting elected. They didn’t work. So what on earth do we do now?

Of course, too often, when we talk about what “we” should do next, we are talking about the women who are the most affected. That “we” has to include you guys, the men. Or this is never, ever going to get any better.

I get it. For you to truly accept that women have been assaulted at the rate that they have means that you have to turn the camera on yourself. It is an awful and terrible thing to be forced to confront your past self. Can you honestly say that every single sexual experience you’ve had was consensual? Fully?

Maybe you can. But that discomfort — that feeling that maybe the system that needs to be dismantled is the one you built your masculinity upon — needs to be reckoned with. Sit with the uncomfortable fact that, in all statistical likelihood, at least one of your friends has sexually assaulted a woman at some point in his life. It’s horrifying. Now sit with the reality that you, a good guy who has never raped or assaulted anyone, have sat idly by while the men around you crossed lines in conversations. “Locker room talk,” our president called it. While they said awful things about women, you were silent. The thing that will always haunt me about the Access Hollywood tape is Billy Bush’s laugh. That he listened to Trump’s boasting of sexual assault and said absolutely nothing.

There are hundreds of actions you can take to support women. There is a whole hashtag campaign of men promising they will change. But there is the one thing that you have to do, because no one else can: You have to speak up, to stop being a coward when men say offensive things about women in all-male environments. In light of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, Quentin Tarantino spoke up yesterday. He was two decades too late, but at least he admitted it, telling the New York Times, “I knew enough to do more than I did.

“Hey man, that’s not cool,” is three words longer than “me too,” but a hell of a lot easier to say. You have to start calling out the men in your lives when they cross those lines. We don’t hear them, but you do. You have to start shutting down those conversations even though it is uncomfortable and difficult and will make you feel like an outsider.

You have to start doing something because we, frankly, are doing enough.


‘Almost Every Single Woman I Know Has Been the Victim of Sexual Assault’

Listen to me for a second, just one or two. Can you? Can you hold off on your immediate rebuttal, your furious response, your self-defense for just long enough to hear me say this?

Almost every single woman I know has been the victim of sexual assault.  

I wish I were exaggerating. But since I turned fifteen and sixteen and seventeen, I have been holding these stories. I was thirteen years old when the first friend stretched out her hands and offered me her story — a boy from summer camp a few years older, a car, a hand over her mouth — and asked me to hold it for just one second. It was heavy, shaping my palms into a circle, a mirror of my mouth asking her, Are you sure? I’m sure, she said, and I knew it was true because I could taste it like a copper penny lodged at the top of the back of my mouth, leaking hard metal into my bloodstream until all of it felt too heavy to carry.

After her there was another, and another. In high school, our sleepovers were still juvenile, cuddled together in a bed too small, making lists of hopes and dreams, eating donuts picked up by our fathers in the mornings. But we were already women. In my bed, five girls confessed their suffering like it was a sin they’d buried so deep they had to dig to find it themselves, hauling it up and exhausted by the time it was out. I’m so sorry, I’ve said so many times. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

There’s no right way to report a sexual assault because every way is wrong. Tell no one, and your assaulter continues his life scot-free. Tell the police, and face an invasive physical exam followed by even more invasive questions, and still maybe no one believes you. Tell your professor, and you’ll get a mediation session. Tell HR, and maybe your abuser gets a rebuke and stares at you across the boardroom table for longer. Tell a reporter, and you might receive some support but eventually the tide will turn, and by the time you’re strong enough to weather it, the statute of limitations might be up. This is why the whispers exist. To hopefully, if your abuser abuses enough, give you an army.

Have you ever watched videos of dams breaking? It starts with a leak, some space in the wall that hasn’t been patched well enough or made thick enough to hold a trickle of water. One woman is the trickle, and in her path more can follow until the wall falls down, crumbles under the pressure of all that water, and nothing can be held back any longer. I’ve watched this happen in diners, in classrooms, in small booths at dirty bars like some kind of twisted icebreaker. One person shares, then another, and then the dam breaks. This is what it means to grow up. This is what it means to become a woman. 

We call it a whisper network, this information that gets passed from woman to woman like a bong of misery. The network carries the worst nights of people’s lives and the morning after, but it also carries warnings. Sirens that sing names or locations or groups. These places, these people, are dangerous. Too many women have said the same name aloud as they cried or shook until it became a prediction.

Everyone knew, people say, when a man with too much money and too much power is revealed as the terror that he is. Everyone knew because of the gossip blogs. Everyone knew because of the hush money and the NDAs. Everyone knew because so many women whispered until their voices were hoarse and their heads were throbbing. Everyone knew but no one could do anything. These whispers are not admissible as evidence in a court of law, and the jury of public opinion does not actually bring justice.

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This week the dam broke. The truth became public. I should say alleged truth because no one has been tried in a court of law. But it’s hard to say alleged sexual assault when 29 women are telling the same story. Twenty-nine women saying that a single man, Harvey Weinstein, forced them to have sex, or threatened them. Twenty-nine women who have sat with their terror for years, some for decades, and who still aren’t fully believed.

But every time a dam breaks, every time a name like Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby or Woody Allen or R. Kelly or Bill O’Reilly or Donald Trump leaks through that wall and into the public, there is a moment of hope that maybe something will be done. That there won’t be a hung jury, or a settlement, or a mistrial, or a new album, or the oath of office as president of the United States of America. That hope hangs in the air, dangling for a second in front of all of us who already knew. We’ve already felt the disgust, processed our shock, moved from the innocence of believing people to be good long ago. We see that shining hope and wait, because someone will pull it back eventually and swing it until it hits us in the face.

There it was this morning, the slap. Rose McGowan was deemed by the men in power to be a little too loud. In 1997, Weinstein reached a settlement with the then-23-year-old actress for $100,000. The settlement was “not to be construed as an admission” but to “avoid litigation and buy peace,” according to reporting by the New York Times. But peace for whom? Certainly not McGowan. “Now am I allowed to say rapist,” she tweeted Tuesday. “Ben Affleck fuck off,” she wrote, after the actor posted a tweet supporting Weinstein’s victims despite failing to acknowledge his own past, much less his brother’s. “Bob Weinstein is a POS. They allllll knew,” she tweeted yesterday with a screenshot of an email she sent refusing a role because of her past.

One of these tweets got her suspended. Or maybe it was another, quieter tweet. Maybe it was just that she thought she could say what she wanted, and needed to be put in her place by the powers that be. According to her Instagram, posted at midnight early this morning, her account “violated the Twitter Rules” and the company barred her from tweeting for twelve hours. (Twitter has since unlocked McGowan’s account, stating a tweet that had included a private phone number, a violation of Twitter’s terms of service, had since been removed.)

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Here is a brief list of things men have tweeted at me that, when I reported them, I was told were not in violation of Twitter rules: “you’re a dumb cunt,” “I am going to find you,” “I have your home address,” “This article is a terrible. I hope you get raped.” None of these were violations. The only tweet I have ever reported with success was one very detailed thread about how a man/troll/account planned to kill and dispose of my body. I still had to read them, and report them all individually.

In its explanation for why it had suspended Rose McGowan’s account and not, say, the president’s personal account for tweeting potential threats at a dictatorship, Twitter said that “among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a tweet is of public interest.” The implication, of course, is that a woman at the height of a headline-generating, newsworthy event does not count. That the men she is accusing have feelings that matter more than her ability to speak honestly about what happened to her, and what happened to women she knows.

Why didn’t you say something if everyone knew? Why didn’t anyone report him? Why haven’t these women filed a police report? This, this morning, is why. Because the people who need to hear this — men in powerful positions, men who stand silent when they overhear sexist comments, men who do not report abuse they know is happening, women who brush off these warnings — aren’t listening. You cannot return all of this knowledge to where it was before, stuck in the whispers and the warnings of women. But watch carefully as Twitter suspends Rose McGowan, and questions begin to float, and blame is shifted from the serial abuser to female celebrities. Watch them rebuild the dam, so that we have to break it again.


Women’s Groups Demand NYPD Reopen Greenpoint Date Rape Cases

In response to an NYPD commander’s assertion that he wasn’t “worried about” ten instances of rape because they weren’t “true stranger rapes,” a group of women protested in front of his precinct in Greenpoint yesterday afternoon, demanding that the ten unsolved “acquaintance rape” cases be reopened.

Reported instances of rape rose 62 percent in Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct between 2015 and 2016. In ten of them, the victims knew their attackers, but the cases were deemed unsolved after police said victims grew uncooperative.

Captain Peter Rose told an audience at a community council meeting last week that the sharp uptick was made up of date rape, where victims knew their attacker. “Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of theme were actually coworkers. It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [sex attacks], only two were true stranger rapes,” he said.

Rose added: “If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards.” Just 14 percent of rape cases nationwide involve attackers who are strangers to the victims, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two of the sexual assault complaints reported last year were classified as stranger rapes, including one additional case involving a minor who became pregnant, according to DNAInfo.

“Captain Rose’s comments are outrageous, but they are symptoms of a larger problem,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which organized the rally. “The atrocious idea that acquaintance rapes are less serious is a widespread belief in our criminal justice system. It is a prejudice that stands between countless sexual assault victims and justice.”

Rose’s comments drew heat from women’s groups, and city and state officials, including the Mayor’s Office. An online petition started by national group UltraViolent got over 45,000 signatures calling for Rose to be fired.

Senior NYPD brass denounced the comments and said they were not representative of department procedure. Police Commissioner James O’Neill called them “insensitive” and was quick to point out that the Special Victims Unit investigates sex crimes, not cops like Rose, in an op-ed published in the New York Daily News yesterday. O’Neill went on to detail department-wide efforts to sensitively reach out all victims of sexual assault, including placing victims’ advocates in each precinct and training transit officers with the help of nonprofit Hollaback.

NOW delivered a letter to O’Neill yesterday, requesting a meeting with him and demanding, among other things, department wide reforms that would ensure every police officer understood that all rape must be treated seriously. The letter also asks that the ten unsolved cases in Greenpoint be reopened.

Jane Manning, director of advocacy at NOW, said that Rose’s comments were indicative of a pervasive rape culture that plagues not just police, but society, one in which women are expected to assume the risk of rape if they use dating sites like Tinder. The group wants data that will reveal whether the 0-for-10 statistic for arrests in acquaintance rape versus stranger rape is an anomaly citywide, or the norm.

“Either we are not being told the whole story or this is a red flag for how victims are being treated in the 94th,” said Jane Manning, director of advocacy at NOW. “If [stranger rape] is so much more challenging why were they able to make arrests in 100 percent of stranger rape cases and zero in known identity cases?”

Rose issued an apology from the precinct’s Twitter account saying that he misspoke at the meeting, and that his comments “were not meant to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault.” There have been no announcements of plans for disciplinary action.

“Discipline is irrelevant to the actual issue. He is simply the face of a general attitude that pervades our police force,” said Morgan Moreira, 28, a Williamsburg resident and member of NOW. “Reprimanding one person is not going to change what an overhaul of education for an entire force is going to do.”

The small group chanted in front of the precinct while at least a dozen community-affairs officers, clad in signature royal blue jackets, stood watch, silently, from across the street.

Their lack of engagement is “representative of their philosophy toward protests. I can only conclude that they aren’t taking this as seriously as they should,” said Andrew Adair, 30, a member of NOW from Greenpoint. Adair held a sign that said: “A rose is a rose is a rose. A rape is a rape is a rape.”

Some protesters said this issue is even more pressing on the cusp of the inauguration of a president-elect known to speak disparagingly about women, and who has been accused of multiple sexual assaults.

“With the inauguration, it’s important we take these issues seriously. Words are one thing but taking action is a completely different thing,” said Abby Szpekman, 19, a freshman student at Rutgers University who was in the city for the protest. “We want to see [Rose’s] apology put into action with legislation and how all rape is handled, and then his apology will be real.”

UPDATE/4:30P.M.: DNAInfo reports that police commissioner James O’Neill said today at a news conference in the Bronx that he is considering reopening unsolved acquaintance rape cases in Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct following broad criticism of Captain Peter Rose’s comments. O’Neill said that his office was in “ongoing discussions with the National Organization for Women,” but Jane Manning, director of advocacy at NOW, said they have yet to be contacted by the commissioner’s office.


Have You Seen This Bushwick Sexual Assault Suspect?

Because the NYPD has video this time.

Police said that the suspect sexually assaulted two women roughly two months apart. During the first attack, which took place on February 1, the suspect grabbed a 39-year-old woman walking down Woodbine Street in Bushwick, pushed her down, and grabbed her breasts and behind. The survivor was able to fight off her attacker, and he fled on foot. Video of the suspect below.

In the second incident, which took place inside a Bushwick building, cops said the suspect approached a 37-year-old woman and asked her for money. When the woman told the suspect she didn’t have any, he sexually assaulted her, cops said.

Police confirmed to the Voice that the suspect is a Hispanic male, between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10, and was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, black jeans, and a brown knit hat. He may have been wearing glasses and black sneakers as well.

Both of these crimes are currently being investigated by the Special Victims Unit. As DNAinfo highlighted earlier, anyone with tips is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or online. Folks can also text information to 274637 (CRIMES) and type in TIP577.


New York City Parks Are Hot Spots for Rapists. Bill de Blasio Credits NYPD “Blind Spots”

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio says NYPD “blind spots” are partially to blame for a recent spike in sexual assaults in city parks. To fix the problem, de Blasio says the cops need to start tallying park-crime data.

De Blasio’s suggestion comes just days after a 31-year-old woman was nearly raped by a homeless man after she fell asleep on a bench in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. She managed to get away from her attacker and call police.

“This fifth alleged sexual assault has us all questioning whether
we have the right resources and the right strategy to prevent these
crimes in our parks. Ending this latest wave of attacks begins with
getting real data on crime in our parks system–information we still
don’t have on most parks, Tompkins Square Park included,” de Blasio says. “The NYPD and
Parks Department need to fix these blind spots immediately as a first
step to preventing another attack.”

Friday’s near-rape in Tompkins Square Park is just the latest in a series of high-profile cases of park crime.

September 22, police say Jonathan Stewart beat and choked a 21-year-old
woman before dragging her into some bushes at Hudson River Park and
raping her.

A week before that, David Mitchell allegedly beat and raped a 73-year-old bird-watcher in Central Park.

addition to tallying the crime data, de Blasio wants a city
crime-in-parks reporting bill — introduced recently at the City Council by Councilman
Peter Vallone — to be implemented sooner rather than later.

bill also is in response to the recent spike in park crime, and would
require the NYPD to report crimes in any park larger than one acre.

pols also are urging Mayor Mike Bloomberg to ditch his plans to cut the
NYPD’s budget. They say the money getting cut could be used to
station officers near city parks.


Here’s Proof That Sex With Sleeping Women Is More Than “Bad Manners” — Compliments Of Alleged New Jersey Perv

Over the weekend, a British member of parliament made the argument that having sex with a woman as she sleeps isn’t rape. He concedes, however, that it is “bad manners.”

Well, we’ve got some news for MP George Galloway: sex with a sleeping woman is still a sex crime — and we have proof.

A Turkish man living in New Jersey was arrested earlier this week for allegedly feeling up a female passenger on a flight from Phoenix to Newark as she slept in the seat next to him.

According to federal prosecutors, Bawar Aksal was arrested Monday after he allegedly sexually assaulted the woman.

The feds say that in the middle of the flight, as the female passenger was sleeping, Aksal reached over and stuffed his hand up her shirt. He then stuck his other hand down her shorts.

Needless to say, the woman woke up — and was none too pleased.

Following his arrest, Aksal told authorities that the woman — who was a complete stranger — forced his hand down her shorts. Because let’s be honest — who doesn’t want the hand of a complete stranger shoved down their pants in the middle of a mid-flight nap.

Unfortunately for Aksal — and contrary to Galloway’s belief that sex with a sleeping woman is just “bad sexual etiquette” — feeling up strangers on an airplane is a
crime, and he’s been charged with one count of sexual abuse.


New “Rape Cop” Arthur Roldan Just As Rape-y As Old “Rape Cop” (Allegedly)

As we reported yesterday, for the second time in less than a year, a New York City police officer is accused of committing a violent sexual attack on a woman. And if the allegations are true, the latest “Rape Cop” is just as much of a creep as the old “Rape Cop” — who currently is serving a prison sentence that will pretty much guarantee that he’ll die behind bars.

The details of the latest “Rape Cop” case are pretty depraved — the alleged victim in the case is a pregnant stripper who used to date the officer, Arthur Roldan, and whom he allegedly punched in the face before threatening her with a knife and gun, and then raping her.

Roldan, 28, and the victim dated for about two years, but recently broke up.

As the story often goes, despite the breakup, the two recently started talking again, and the victim agreed to meet Roldan at a parking lot on Father Capodanno
Boulevard on Staten Island, where she performed oral sex on the officer Tuesday night.

The blowjob apparently wasn’t enough for Roldan, though — when she refused to have sex with him, he allegedly punched her in the face, pulled out a gun, a knife, and forced her to have sex with him.

The woman went to police that night, and Roldan was arrested Wednesday. At the time of his arrest, police recovered a knife, a.32-caliber pistol, and his 9mm service weapon.

The first “Rape Cop,” Michael Pena, used his service weapon during his violent attack on a school teacher last year. It’s unclear whether the gun allegedly used in Roldan’s case was his city-issued firearm.

Pena was found guilty earlier this year of three counts of predatory sexual assault. He was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison, which means — as we mentioned — that he will likely die behind bars.

Pena’s case was pretty horrific — he drunkenly dragged his victim into a courtyard at gunpoint, where he sodomized and raped her repeatedly in broad daylight.

Roldan — a six-year veteran of the force — was booked on charges of rape, menacing, and assault.


“Rape Cop” Redux; NYPD Officer Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Staten Island Woman

As Michael “Rape Cop” Pena is spending the rest of his natural life in prison for the violent sexual assault of a school teacher last year, history has (allegedly) repeated itself.

NYPD Officer Arthur Roldan was arrested yesterday after authorities say he raped a woman in a Staten Island parking lot about 11:30 Tuesday night.

At the time of the attack, authorities say the officer was off-duty.

The alleged victim is reportedly Roldan’s girlfriend, although we were unable to independently confirm those reports.

Details of the attack are unclear, but — like Pena — Roldan allegedly attacked the woman at gunpoint. It’s unclear whether Roldan — also like Pena — used his NYPD-issued weapon during the attack.

The alleged attack happened in a parking lot on Father Capodanno Boulevard. The woman reported the incident Tuesday night, and Roldan was taken into custody about 8:30 p.m. yesterday.

Pena was found guilty earlier this year of three counts of predatory sexual assault. He was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison, which means he will likely die behind bars.

Roldan — a six-year veteran of the force — was booked on charges of rape, menacing, and assault.

Roldan is expected to be arraigned this morning in Staten Island Criminal Court.