- If you have come to Just L Poetry to read my usual poems on love and loss, you will find that today I have taken a detour from my regular romantic musings to address current issues.
In The Wake of #MeToo
Reading women’s accounts of sexual harassment and assault, it has brought up experiences I have buried. It is not that I don’t recall them it is that I don’t tend to give them any special level of attention. While I joined in the #MeToo movement on social media to help give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem, I did not share my own experiences with sexual harassment and/or assault.
I am not a particularly private person; however, I was not keen to outline details of my experiences, and/or name names as some of the guilty parties are still in my social sphere though they no longer hold power over me.
Following the women who came forward about Harvey Weinstein, sexual misconduct and/or assault allegations have been levied against a number of high profile men (in no particular order): Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Steven Seagal, Ed Westwick, Jeremy Piven, Robert Knepper, Matthew Weiner, James Toback, Dustin Hoffman, Charlie Sheen, Ben Affleck, Roy Price, Oliver Stone, John Besh, Leon Wieseltier, Terry Richardson, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, Brett Ratner, Andrew Kreisberg, Jeffrey Tambor, and, as of this writing, Richard Dreyfuss and George Takei. Note that some of these men have admitted fault, while others adamantly deny allegations.
We have witnessed an unprecedented swift fall from grace of at least two Hollywood stars – Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. I wondered where their PR pros were before they published those half-hearted, self-involved apologies?!
One male friend posted my exact thoughts on Facebook: “It’s almost as if Hugh Hefner was projecting a force-field that protected creepy famous men, and with his death they were suddenly exposed.”
With the onslaught of accusations, I encouraged another male friend to start a #NotOne campaign, as I suspect that the number of men who have never sexually harassed or assaulted a woman is a rather small club.
Most of the stories in the media are centered around men in Hollywood who have allegedly abused or harassed people in lower positions of power. The Weinstein scandal seemed to open the floodgates. But we all know this is not just about Hollywood.
And with that, I have been compelled to write this short piece.
Who Me? Yes You
I lived in a “Pleasantville” bubble most of my upbringing, but outside of the safety of my family circle, I encountered unwanted assaults on a regular basis. I am fortunate to have never been abused, neglected or molested as a child, and I am in no way comparing my experiences with the horrific crimes perpetrated against children under the cover of darkness or in broad daylight. Reflecting on my personal experiences now at age 54, I realize how often I labeled these assaults as “pathetic” or “sad” believing they were simply part of the reality of life: Something every woman encounters.
I have spent most of my adulthood thinking that many of my experiences are universal. As a reader you may be shocked to read that I believe this. I am just as shocked that your experience is otherwise.
There was the owner of the corner market (where from fourth grade on I often walked to pick up a few grocery items at the request of my mother) who regularly put my hands under his apron to feel his genitals. Sometimes they were in his khakis and sometimes not. When I was about 12-years-old (1975) I began accompanying the younger girls on my street to the market to, well, “cock block” I guess. And he knew it. Many years later after I moved out of my parents’ home, the market’s namesake was convicted and sent to prison. I never told anyone until my mother shared the news with me. At the time this was happening to me, I did not know that reporting him to the authorities was an option. He was just “gross” and someone to avoid.
From the time I was 12 through high school, I regularly encountered men pulling their cars next to me to ask for directions, and when I turned toward them, I saw that they were masturbating. I would turn my head, and pick up my stride. I never felt afraid, and I didn’t feel particularly disgusted. If anything, I felt sorry for them. I do not recall ever telling an adult about this. My attitude was nonchalant like “Oh, so that happens.” My other girlfriends who walked home from school with me regularly encountered the same thing. Later one of the offenders started trolling the parking lot of the elementary school and Jr. High in my neighborhood, and was caught.
Since then I have encountered strange men of every age and social standing masturbating in alley ways, parking lots, offices, parties, parks, and theatres.
The summer of 1976, I had a gig babysitting two children: A boy two years younger than me, and a girl about 7-years-old. I remember the year as this family had an Atari with the home version of Pong released Christmas 1975 exclusively through Sears. One day the boy brought over two friends, dragged me to the bedroom, tied me to a chair, partially took off my clothes, and touched me. They thought it was funny. I struggled but they were too strong. I was humiliated. Not only was I supposed to be the one in authority, I had failed to ensure the younger sister’s safety (she was engrossed in a game of Pong in the living room). I realized then that it was probably not a good idea to be babysitting a boy who was much bigger than me and not that much younger. For two days, I rehearsed how to tell my parents. I didn’t have to. The young girl told hers. Her parents and my parents met with me, and assured me that they did not blame me, and that it was decided that I should not babysit for them. After that the girl was cared for by a family in their neighborhood, while the boy stayed at home as a “latchkey” kid. I saw these boys the next Little League season as they played baseball my brother. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
When I was 20 (1983), I worked as a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility right around the corner from my parent’s house. The son of one of the patients was an engineer instructor at the junior college and a well-known photographer. We talked frequently when he came to visit his mother. I was interested in his travels and we often talked about books we were reading. I agreed to be in a series of training films especially designed for men in night school. The idea was if an attractive female was showing them how to use the tools, they would stay awake and pay attention. I completed this job on schedule with no issues. I still have the pink with white polka-dot pumps I wore on the set. After this, he offered to help me with my portfolio. I had seen his photography and was thrilled. My mother dropped me off at his studio. I was ecstatic at the luxury clothes on the rack selected for me. What began as a professional shoot ended with him masturbating over me. He asked if he could, and I refused. It didn’t matter. My back turned to him, I “grayed out” as KATYKatiKate, a Seattle-based blogger called it in her entry pro tip: louis fucking ck. Shortly afterwards, my mother came to pick me up. I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell anyone.
These are not the sum total of my experiences with sex and power. In my 20’s there were what now would be called date rape; in my 30s there was one man who had tremendous power over my career trajectory who wanted to have sex with me because he had a genuine affection for me, but when I refused he got angry and made clear that he had the sole authority over my position and future promotion (I still refused); and in my 40’s there was a man in a position of power who claimed to (platonically) love me and my family until it came to a matter of taking responsibility for his actions or offering me up as a sacrificial lamb to save his reputation, standing in the community, and his high profile career… Well, you can guess who lost.
Not to mention the countless occasions of warding off unwanted slaps on the butt, grabs at my breasts, creepy come-ons, and all-around thoughtless sexual comments, or the too many men who assume there is an inverse relationship between attractiveness and intelligence.
None of this is to be confused with light, playful banter, but geez who can tell where the line is anymore?! I had an occasion where two women went to HR on my behalf. At the time, I reassured HR that I am not easily offended, and if I think a comment or behavior in the workplace is inappropriate I will directly address it myself. I have in fact done so and successfully continued a positive working relationship. In retrospect, I wish these two women would have let me know what made them uncomfortable before going to HR. I do not recall what was said that caused them to be alarmed for me. I do know that I later spoke to them in private about it, and also informed my colleague about the matter. I am also keenly aware that they may have been dancing around the same power imbalance that I have had to negotiate at times.
Noteworthy is that for a great deal of my teens and 20’s I was enamored with the “Cosmo” lifestyle sold in Cosmopolitan magazine. I fantasized about having a powerful job, drinking martinis in a penthouse in New York, wearing the latest designer fashions, and … wait for it… wielding my power and sexual prowess over available handsome men, some who would work for me and many more who wanted to work for me.
Am I sick? Perhaps. Yet, in the 1980’s with all of its over-top decadence and declared post-sexual revolution freedom, this appeared to me what women should want to aspire to!
After a period of promiscuity, I realized that so-called sexual freedom wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The truth is that I freely gave too much of myself away. While I was wafting confidence beneath my Charlie perfume, I was, in fact, whittling away at my own self-worth. I wasn’t taking my power back at all. I was playing out a role as a sex object that was as old as time. It was not modern, it was not glamorous, and it did not get me what I wanted at all. Cosmo and Glamour sold me a bill of goods. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized the full impact of my actions on my heart and soul.
Sexual Assault, Drugs and Rock n Roll
In 2000, I got married. I was 37-years old.
By this time, I felt I was wise when it came to relationships. I had studied them, read about them, and God knows I had enough of them! When I had an elective in college I would study philosophy or humanities. I read every self-help book to raise my self-awareness. I was also fortunate to come from a solid family background with very little trauma. My parents are extraordinary individuals, and still happily married to this day.
I already had two children, ages 10 and 18, when I got married. He had two daughters. With four children with four different sets of parents, I believed that we would be the Brady Bunch on steroids —It would be beautiful, chaotic, and forever. For a while it was all of those things, and more.
March 4, 2001, Lynch Mob, on their Smoke This tour, was scheduled to play at a small, local venue. Armored Saint opened. My husband, a guitar player, was heavily influenced by Jimmy Hendrix and George Lynch (of Dokken). He was so excited to see them, and hoped that he would be able to meet his idol, Lynch. We went to dinner and I drove us to the show in my Jeep Cherokee Country. I had one Long Island Iced Tea at the beginning of the set (The first and only Long Island of my life), and drank lemon water the rest of the night. After the show, my husband asked me to try to get us backstage. I succeeded in having Lynch invite us backstage. We were shoulder to shoulder between people sitting in a few rundown couches and people smoking in the doorway to the alley. After a while I noticed that my husband had not come back inside for some time. I walked outside to look for him, and decided to cross the street to see if he was in the parking lot near the Jeep. As I crossed the street, I stumbled and fell in the street. I don’t know if it was my stiletto knee-high boots or the wet ground, but I crashed hard onto my knees. Just then a van rolled up with Lynch, several Lynch Mob band members, and a few fans aboard. Lynch reached out his hand to pull me into the van saying, “We are going to the hotel to an after party.” I insisted that I needed to find my husband and go home. As he pulled me into the van, Lynch told me that my husband had got on another bus and I would see him at the party. I doubted him but I also knew my husband would follow Lynch anywhere. Once we arrived at the hotel, I was having trouble walking and Lynch held onto me as we entered the elevator. As we spilled out there must have been 50 people walking toward a large room at the end at the end of the hallway. I was diverted into a hotel room along the way, followed by eight men. They sat me on the bed, and lined up against the wall. Lynch was near the door. It was mostly band members, and I quickly learned that I was to be a gift for their manager. Did I scream, run, pound on the walls? No. I had eight full grown men blocking the exit. I took none of the actions I imagined I would in this situation. I was alert, but paralyzed. (Later I suspected that I had been roofied.) What I do recall is wondering why I had been singled out when there were plenty of women who would have gladly gone to a hotel room with any one of them (irrational, I know), and being bent over, having my left hand on the bedside table, thinking over and over again, “Please don’t take my wedding ring.” Seven of the eight sexually assaulted me in different ways. When they urged Lynch to participate, he replied, “I am married,” but he never moved from the door.
Do no harm… do the least amount of harm possible is the best we can do and that would be the most exemplary way to live life and if your life’s work is dedicated to that proposition then you are probably doing the right thing. – George Lynch’s answer to “What is the meaning of life?” (Interview by Mark Rockpit, September 1, 2017)
Someone knocked on the door and said the bus was leaving. Everyone scurried, someone grabbed me, and we entered an empty hallway. Exiting the hotel, the band veered right and got on the tour bus. I stood frozen in the middle of about 30 people milling around the parking lot waiting to get autographs or to catch a last glimpse of the band. A girlfriend saw me and asked if I needed a ride. I got into her car and told her what happened to me. She told me that she had hung out with one of the band members and he was very nice. She took me to her house, which was nearby, for the night. The next morning she drove me to my Jeep. It looked like it had been beaten with a baseball bat or golf club. It was bashed in on every side, including the hood and roof, and the passenger window was broken. I was able to open the driver’s door and told my friend it was okay to leave. I got in and sobbed for an hour before starting the Jeep and driving home.
When I arrived home, my husband was not there. Our children were gone for the weekend. I called my husband to see where he was. It was evident that he thought that I had purposely left him to party with the band and he believed that I had cheated on him. He was angry. He told me he had looked for me everywhere and because he did not have keys to the Jeep, he caught a ride with a friend. He was still at this friend’s house. I told him what happened to me but he did not believe me. I asked him if he had vandalized my Jeep. He denied doing so saying it was in perfect condition when he last saw it. (Two years later he admitted vandalizing it.) He told me he did not want to see me. I was bewildered and alone.
I drove over to the house where my husband was staying. I knew the location as it was his band’s practice pad and studio. I knocked on the door and asked to see him. He and two bandmates came out to the lawn. I asked him to please come home. He refused. I fell to the ground crying, and pleaded that I needed him. He not only refused, but had a few choice names for me. I returned to my Jeep deeply humiliated, confused, and defeated.
I returned home. I slumped by the bed staring into space. After a couple of hours, I gathered myself and drove to the Emergency Room.
I relayed my story, and underwent a physical exam complete with rape kit. I handed over my semen stained shirt and skirt. A kind woman from SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services) was there to support me, and I welcomed her. She offered me a change of clothes, but as I recall a girlfriend brought me my own clothes. For the life of me, I don’t recall who that was now. A little while later, the District Attorney visited me. He indicated that this would be a very difficult case to prove. He informed me that the band had a reputation for doing this in every city they play in. Then he added, “Do you really want to go against their team of high powered attorneys and drag your name through the headlines?” Well, I thought, with that rousing support, I guess not. The matter was dropped.
In the weeks that followed, SASS was my saving grace. They were a phone call away when I needed to check my sanity. My husband did not return home right away. I went back to work the very next day (A year later I reviewed the work I had submitted in the month that followed, I had no business being in the office). My husband and I eventually reconciled and started couple’s therapy. He still didn’t believe me. Eighteen months later I learned that my husband had been doing meth every day since the day after the assault. This did not come out in therapy. It came out after I kicked him out of the house I had just purchased. He called to ask me if he was still on my health insurance, and admitted he needed treatment. I was a deer caught in headlights. He went to a 21-day inpatient program, and when he was released we started attending church. Many of my closest friends today came from that church community.
While we had glimpses of healing, in the six years that followed he relapsed often, couldn’t keep a job, and when he did have a job, he disappeared after payday — sometimes up to a month. I tried very hard to sustain some type of normalcy in our house. I worked a full-time professional job and operated a consulting business to make ends meet. Whether or not my husband was “at home” I continued to pick up his girls for their parenting time, and provided them with what they needed. Once our oldest daughters graduated from high school in 2008, I filed for separation, and then divorce.
The final straw came for me when my husband who had finally told me he believed me (a watershed moment) later told me that he never really believed me and just told me that to keep me from kicking him out again. He also tried to strangle me, so there’s that. I sought out the professional support I needed to help me to heal.
The purpose of giving so much detail of the years following this sexual assault is to highlight a sliver of the impact it had on my life. I notice most articles are passing over this with a sentence like, “She decided not to pursue that career path…” as if it was her choice.
Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault Because We Don’t Get Justice
When this assault happened in 2001 there was no social media, and HPV was the only thing going viral. When the District Attorney told me Lynch Mob assaulted women in every city they played, I looked for web forums to post on to “out” them or to warn others, but threads were not formatted in a way that allowed the public to easily access the information and share it.
Today, I can look up the band members who played on that tour, the cities they played in, and a hundred other details and statistics. I haven’t researched this, because besides Lynch and his manager, I no longer trust my memory as to who else was in the room.
For all intents and purposes, the members of Lynch Mob are celebrities much like the stars who are falling today. However, it seems that rock stars are exempt from being tried in the court of public opinion. Women raped by rock stars who band together face the added burden of a he he he said/she said battle.
Lynch Mob released a new album The Brotherhood in September of 2017, and is currently on tour.
~Just L (AKA Lori Bumgardner, November 12, 2017)
UPDATE (November 13, 2017): Individual readers have asked who were the members of Lynch Mob in 2001. According to Wikipedia, the band was not together 2000-2002; however, we know by their tour schedule that this is not the case. The line up on the night I recount was likely:
John Bush (Lead Vocals)
Phil Sandoval (Lead Guitar)
Jeff Duncan (Rhythm Guitar)
Gonzo Sandoval (Drums/Vocals)
Joey Vera (Bass/Vocals)
As I state, I could no longer tell you who was in the hotel room that night.
There are no pictures of the March 4, 2001, concert at the since closed Hollywood Taxi in Springfield, Oregon (listed as Eugene, Oregon on most tour schedules.)
Concert photos of Lynch Mob and Armored Saint playing March 2, 2001, at the Roseland Theatre, Portland, Oregon. Sean McNabb is not pictured playing this show.
Lynch Mob Live, San Juan Capistrano (April 7, 2001)
Lynch Mob Live, Atlanta GA (May 30, 2001)