When I tried to politely call it a night, he blocked the door with his body. That night, the man fucked me beneath two rifles hung on his wall in a giant ‘X’ above his bed. Snow outside was piled even higher and the frigid temperatures were well into the negatives, but I walked the two miles home anyway – the smell of blood trailing me the entire way. I didn’t even tell anyone it happened until eight months later, when I tried to love someone new, but cried every time he touched me.
“‘X’ marks the spot,” he whispered as he spread my legs. When I mentioned the assault, he asked why I never reported it. n the United States, cyber harassment laws vary state-by-state.
I prayed I wouldn’t be assaulted every time I left my house. On the day of the gathering, a storm overtook the city – nothing but fresh white powder for miles. “Oh, they couldn’t make it,” he shrugged, as we walked through the door.
* * * n 2014, I was raped in a house on Loomis Street in Burlington, Vermont. Even though most of my friends moved away months earlier, I stayed. When he invited me to his place for a movie night with his friends, I hesitated. I tried to cancel our plans, to say the roads weren’t safe, but he insisted, offering to leave his friends to pick me up. When we got back to his house, the lights were off. Inside, black sheets hung over the walls and windows. My blood decorated his sheets, but he smiled and laughed, whispering “I’m almost there.” When he finished, he pointed to the bathroom, and told me to go clean myself up.
Though there are 34 states with laws in place, policies have simply failed to keep up with technological capabilities.
This became evident in early January, when I finally contacted my local police department.
The officer I spoke with was sympathetic, but since I didn’t have the name of the person posting the ads and nobody threatened me, nothing could be done.
I couldn’t just do nothing though, so I took to the internet for research.
A large part of this stems from the fact that the internet, which Laws calls “bigger than life,” prioritizes free speech over the safety and protection of women.
With no idea how the man had my picture, I started asking everyone who texted me to send links to the ads they were responding to. The first man apologized profusely and immediately agreed to send the link.
The other expressed concern, telling me how awful my situation must feel and encouraged me to contact authorities – before asking me to send him a naked photo as a thank you.
n November 22, 2016, the two-year anniversary of the day I met my boyfriend, we celebrated by spending the afternoon apartment hunting – searching for a place that would accommodate the life we were beginning to build together. Three more aggressively sexual messages appeared on the screen. “Just delete it.” I took his advice, quickly deleting the messages and blocking the unknown number. Instead, they continued coming from different numbers from different cities all over the country.
With a small list of properties to view, we stood on the front porch of my parents’ house, ready to set out into the late-November day. In the following weeks, I received assault threats, pictures of genitalia, and countless degrading messages, all responding to Craigslist sex ads I never posted.