Dear Yours Truly,
I went on my long-overdue honeymoon last week with my awesome husband person. We stayed at a fancy ass resort and had a great time–it was one of those super chic little places that only rich people (or people with generous parents) can afford, and we had a great time. The staff was really attentive and friendly, especially the assistant manager who was a guy from Greece. He was helpful and polite during the whole stay and respectful to both of us. However, on the last night of our trip, he hosted us at a liquor tasting and both my husband and I ended up having way more to drink than we had planned. The guy was pouring us tons of shots and doing them himself, and eventually my husband decided to go back to our room. I stayed at the bar with the assistant manager and his girlfriend, who had joined us and with whom I had started chatting. I asked to use the bathroom and the guy led me to it, and you know what happens next–he grabbed me and tried to kiss me out of view of his girlfriend. I pushed him off and locked myself in the bathroom, and afterwards went back to the room and never mentioned it. My husband and I were both incredibly hungover the next day, so between feeling like shit, 12 hours of travel, and feeling really confused about the situation I didn’t mention it to him. Yesterday I finally decided I needed to alert the hotel owner about the assistant manager’s behavior, so I called and told him what happened. I realized as I was describing it how upset I was and how freaked out by it I felt. I also talked to a lady lawyer friend, who basically told me that given the situation (foreign country, alcohol, my word against his, etc.) that there’s not much I can really do legally–and I have to admit I don’t really want to keep reliving the situation, which was a pretty awful way to end a honeymoon.
So what do I want advice about? Well, first, how do I stop feeling guilty for not wanting to pursue this further for the sake of other women who might get groped or god knows what by this d-bag? Second, am I completely overreacting about it–I mean, I didn’t get molested or raped, just kind of sickeningly lurched at and drooled on–so how do I not let the memory of it ruin what was otherwise a fantastic honeymoon? Last, and maybe this is the biggest question–do I tell my husband?? I really don’t know what this will accomplish, other than 1. make him feel as shitty as I do, 2. display the kind of brutal honesty that people seem to believe all true relationships must incorporate, and possibly 3. make him throw a shit fit and pursue the issue further with the hotel. Do I wait and tell him in a year or so? Do I just not mention it and try to get the fuck over it myself and with the help of a few close ladyfriends?
Oh no!!!!! Man, there are few things I hate more than having awesome memories ruined by contemporaneous awful memories. And while this experience would be a bummer no matter when it happened, the fact that it closed out YOUR HONEYMOON seems brutal. It seems like there are two main issues here:
1. How to come to terms with your reaction/actions in the wake of this experience
2. How to develop fond memories of your honeymoon in spite of this other memory
These are obviously very related. Lets discuss and then talk about telling your husband or not.
First of all, I don’t think you should feel guilty. Not only is this like textbook victim self-blaming and we are never supposed to do it, but also, really, what could you do? The idea of trying to prosecute this guy at this point for creepy behavior just makes me feel so exhausted I need to go lie down with an ice pack. Even if he had raped you, I imagine it would be an extreme costly disaster to try to get anything done about it, especially from afar, in a different country, now that you are home, although obviously if he had raped you this advice would be different. But for “just” force-kissing you? I feel like nobody would take that case and you would just get more and more obsessed and frustrated and feel more and more helpless and ultimately these aren’t good goals. So lets be glad he did not rape you, and try to focus on the future.
Which leads me to a thought that might be controversial…he did not rape you. I’m not saying what he did was even vaguely acceptable. He’s obviously a creeper. He did assault you–grabbing and forcing your face onto someone else’s face counts as assault in my book–but I must point out that actually you DID do an awesome correct thing, which was you prevented anything worse from happening. You pushed him off of you and got into a safe space. At which point he left you alone. He creeped on you, you said “no,” the situation ended. This is pretty good, when it comes to sexual assault! You did a good job! You did everything you are supposed to do in that situation, and he reacted in best-case-scenario fashion, which was that he left you alone rather than stalking you or breaking down the door or something horrible. Also, while totally creepy, I don’t think this guy is NECESSARILY a psychotic serial rapist. He could be, but also he could just be a creeper, which is bad enough, and of which god knows there are millions in this shitty world. But my point is you don’t necessarily have to take upon yourself the burden of saving all the women of the world from rape nightmares at this man’s hands. That’s just not an ethical burden I feel it is justified for you to carry. We’ve all been creeped on at various times, and it’s not really reasonable to expect that every time it happens we should all embark on nightmare legal battles. This kind of guilt is just a new twist on the old “I asked for it” guilt. Now we know we didn’t ask for it, but we still make ourselves sick feeling like we didn’t do enough to hold the guy accountable. Isn’t that kind of the same thing? “It’s my fault if this guy is creeping on people.” But like, you just can’t hold everyone accountable for everything. You have to live your life. Remember that guy who stuck his hand in my crotch on the bus, and I didn’t do ANYTHING, and felt shitty about it for weeks? Also in high school on a camping trip I woke up and the random dude sleeping next to me had worked his hand down under my shirt and was feeling around in there, and I didn’t do anything but pretend to wake up. Yeah, sure, you SHOULD punch a guy in the nuts, but I just don’t feel like that’s a reasonable expectation to have of all women everywhere. If somebody was actually holding me down to rape or hurt me, yeah, I would punch him in the nuts, but barring that I’ll probably just be like “EWWW STOP” and run away and feel dirty, which sucks but that’s just my reality. I’m glad there are women in the world who would immediately go for the nuts, I love those women, but we can’t all be those women all the time. TOO BIG A BURDEN TO PUT ON YOURSELF. Also just by calling and telling the resort what happened you have “done something,” and a pretty major something that a lot of people wouldn’t have even done.
So. No guilt, no shame. You reacted exactly appropriately, you took care of yourself, you registered a complaint. Short of, like, shooting this guy with a gun, which would legitimately be overreacting, what else could you possibly do? STOP FEELING BAD. You didn’t do anything wrong; you did everything right.
“Coming to terms” is a really difficult life skill to cultivate. How do people do it? Think of all the things people have come to terms with throughout history. Seeing your entire family raped and murdered. Getting your face burned off in a fire. Running somebody over with your car. The Holocaust. Somehow people seem to have come to terms with all these things, in one way or another.
I kind of think the only way to come to terms with something (of this nature–I have no idea how you come to terms with murdering someone or your family dying on the Titanic or whatever) is to talk about it. You have to talk about it. Talk about it to all kinds of people. Tell all your friends. Be like “I feel so creeped out and bummed and dirty and mad and my honeymoon was RUINED.” Then your friends can be all “oh my god!” and “that sucks!” and “what an asshole!” which will make you feel validated and supported. But also as you talk about a thing like this, you are slowly diminishing its power over you. I really believe this. Holding things inside is like, you think you’re doing it because you want the thing to go away and you think letting it out into the open will make it more awfully present, but the opposite is true! Holding it inside allows you to develop obsessions and fantasies and crazy shame spirals about it. Letting it out into the light allows you to see it and name it and be realistic about it. It’s like popping a zit–you have to get that stuff out from inside you (note: doctors say you actually shouldn’t but we all know they are wrong) or it will just keep throbbing and getting more and more painful and obsessing you more and more until you don’t even want to leave the house.
HUSBAND. Well, what kind of a dude is your husband? I am struggling with this part of your question because I feel like a major way to break this experience’s dark power over you would be to discuss it with your husband, who was there, who shared in some way in the experience, and who also remembers how wonderful the rest of the honeymoon was and can help you remember this too. Like anything, I think the longer you wait to tell him the weirder/more emo it will be when you do tell him. If you plan on never telling him, that is one thing, but I don’t think waiting a year is a good idea. He’ll be like, “so for this entire year whenever I bring up our honeymoon and how great it was you’ve been thinking about being sexually assaulted while I was happily asleep in our room????” It will bum him out, as it should, and it will make him sad that for so long you have been holding something like this inside. He is your lawful husband and you must tell him everything! Just kidding, but seriously I can’t imagine not telling my husband about this. I certainly don’t ascribe to the “brutal honesty at all times” model of marriage but this does seem like something I’d want to talk to him about. NOT just for the sake of brutal honesty, though, is my point, but because talking to him about it actually seems like it would be helpful to you. Marriage isn’t about shielding the dude from your blobby feelings because they might make him feel shitty. It’s about facing shitty feelings together.
HOWEVER, you know him and I don’t. Is he a macho jealous type? Will he fly to the resort and try to sock this guy in the mouth? Well, that sounds kind of awesome to me, frankly, but I could see it being stressful. I don’t know. If your husband is a sensitive dude I just feel like he will hear you and be appalled, and he will help you decide how to come to terms, and then you can talk for hours about it and this will be a really great way to exorcise these demons. This is how I come to terms with everything I feel bad about–I make the old man listen and weigh-in, sometimes many many many times over the course of months or even years. Tell him everything you told me! Tell him that the memory is ruining your memory of the honeymoon and you don’t want that to happen. Tell him you need his help in transforming the memory into something manageable, like, this one bizarrely terrible thing that happened at the end of the honeymoon, can you believe that shit??? Instead of this dark looming secret obsessing you and ruining all your joy forevermore. Maybe eventually you can start making jokes about it. I know that seems dark, but really there is no better way to break something’s hold over you than to tell everybody about it and then make jokes about it. Yes I realize that now 2/3 of the advice letters I have written have included advice about making jokes about trauma. That’s just how I roll, not saying it will work for everyone!
As for whether you’re overreacting, I would maybe say both yes and no? On the one hand, you were assaulted, and creeped on, by someone who feels it is appropriate to just grab whatever random woman is near him and try to force himself physically on her, and that is wrong and horrible. But on the other hand, I mean, maybe it could make you feel better to try to get some shitty perspective, like how much worse it could have been, how well you performed under pressure, etc. It’s really giving that guy way too much power in your life, to let him ruin your honeymoon. RUIN YOUR HONEYMOON?? Fuck that guy! No way can he ruin your honeymoon, he’s just some stupid asshole you’d just as soon run over in the street as look at. You had an awesome honeymoon and you love your old man–what a blessed life! Don’t let this guy take that from you or taint it. He’s not worth it, it’s not worth it.
So to sum up:
1. Tell everybody about it
2. Don’t let this guy ruin your honeymoon, because he is a piece of shit and doesn’t deserve to play that big of a role in your life
3. Don’t forget the rest of the honeymoon! Once your husband knows about this bad part, it will probably be more rewarding to talk about the good parts with him. Keep talking about the good parts! Overlay your dark memory with good memories. Think of this experience like an allegory for life, which is a delight and a joy but which ends in suffering.
Very Specific Concluding Remarks Based on Personal Knowledge Of This Letter Writer: I was trying to find Gus’s great monologue he delivers to Lori after rescuing her from Blue Duck, because although I can’t remember any of it I assume it was very wise and helpful. Isn’t it about putting her life together and moving on, and how she’s young and strong, and she’s going to have a great life in spite of having been gang-raped for like 2 weeks straight out in the desert? And she finally cries and says “they shouldn’ta took me Gus” and he says “I know honey, but THEY DID.” Damn, that is heavy. Be your own personal Gus right now. Shit happens, you get shot in the leg with an Apache arrow, and like, what are you gonna do about it? Even if you end up dying, well, oh well.
In trying to find that monologue I found this, maybe it will cheer you up, maybe your husband could buy you that book after you tell him about all this:
In conclusion, you are smart and brave and I think you can conquer this experience’s grim hold on your life and memories. Your honeymoon sounds amazing and I’m sorry this gross thing happened at the end of it, but you don’t have to let it ruin your memory of your honeymoon if you don’t want to. You can just say “that is a thing that happened and it sucked, and I handled it, and it’s over now,” and let it be what it is, and remember that you did take action and you did do all the right things, and you are not at fault, and you are just someone a shitty thing happened to, and that’s okay and it doesn’t have to become a Life-or-Marriage-Defining Experience for you.