I’m not sure why that’s the first question they ask after you tell them your story, but I can tell you it’s a fucking ridiculous question. It’s ridiculous if you tell them right away, and it’s ridiculous if it’s taken you years to decide to tell. They ask the victims of harassment, assault, abuse, “what is it that you want to have happen?”

However well intentioned they may be, the form of the question predicates a motive behind telling the story, as if they’ve already concluded that you’re out for revenge or publicity. What they don’t realize is that you don’t want anything — you want the absence of something — you want the thing to have never happened, and you want it to never happen again, to anyone.

I’ve thought a lot about what I want in the last 444 hours — that’s how long it’s been since he first put his hand on my thigh. Then he did it again, and again, and again. Inside my head I was screaming — I was saying no, I was doing all the things women prepare to do in self defense. But I was at dinner … in front of people … at work — and he wasn’t propositioning me. He wasn’t talking to me. He wasn’t even looking at me. He was touching me. So I pulled away once, then again, and again. I made myself smaller. I made myself quieter. I froze.

He was still touching me when I sent a message across the table: “If you have your phone, I need you … I can’t move … Can you see this message … He’s touching me under the table … And I’m trying to move away.” He was still touching me when I started pointing at my phone, when another person asked “Are you texting? What’s going on?” and I laughed it off, terrified that he would know I was trying to get help. He was touching me while I was charting my exit routes trying to figure out how I could get away from the table without him getting up to follow. He only stopped touching me when the person across the table got my messages and stood up and could see.

Now that person, the one across the table, his name is Jack. He deserves to be named. He didn’t ask me what I wanted to have happen, he asked questions that have answers. He said “do you want me to walk with you?” Then he said “do you want to sit down and talk?” Most importantly he said, “I will be here for you, whatever happens.” Jack didn’t ask me what I wanted to have happen because something happened to him too — he has his own story to tell. A person had experienced trauma right before his eyes … at dinner … in front of people … at work — and that person asked for his help. So he helped. He made that person feel heard, and seen, and safe.

So when Jack and I went together to tell our stories, the first question they asked us was the fucking ridiculous one. The one without any answers: “What is it that you want to have happen?” Not surprisingly, the answer I gave was not something they could commit to — I asked for the opportunity to know what was happening in this process at each step, and if there were decisions to be made, I wanted someone to explicitly ask me to make them. I wanted communication — control — power. I wanted the things that had been taken from me. Jack wanted those things for me too, and he wanted to make sure that his organization would respect my answer to their ridiculous question and not take even more power away from me in their process.

The process, however, has its own life, and felt very much out of my control. 276 hours after he touched me, I received word that the investigation was “now concluding.” Concluding. That word hit me like a slap in the face. I had not heard a single official word since I made my initial statement. I had not been given the opportunity to make any decisions about the investigation. I didn’t even know what type of investigation was underway, and I realized something — something I knew deep down all along. This process was never about giving me what I wanted. They ask what you want to determine how much of a threat you are.

My request was more of a threat than I realized — understanding the process is power. Articulating the process exposes vulnerability. When I asked for an articulation of the process in writing, I was offered a phone call. Now to be fair, during that phone call, I was made aware that my report had been acted upon swiftly, was in fact treated as a formal Title IX investigation, and that the person who touched me was no longer a member of their community. They heard me. They believed me. They took action. Unfortunately, not every woman receives the same support.

When Stanford asked Chanel Miller to give them the words that would memorialize the survival of her rape, she gave them this quote: You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today. After asking for a quote, asking for her words, her voice — Stanford refused to place that quote at the memorial. Stanford’s refusal to accept Chanel’s words brings them new meaning. They don’t just apply to him. They apply to every part of the process that tried to keep Chanel Miller powerless. They also helped me to realize what I want to have happen. I want people to know.

I want people to know what happened to me, to her, to all the victims — all the women who have been made to feel unsafe and powerless in so many different ways. You should know that it happened. You should know about Jack and how he heard me, and saw me, and helped. How we both wanted desperately for support from a process that would make sure it could never happen again. In my case it took 444 hours to begin to feel a sense of power, but it is only the beginning — our real power comes from our stories and the ability to tell them. Thank you for reading this story.

This post was completed on 10/18/19 — the time frames referenced within reflect that as the current date/time. It has taken me even more time to decide to publish — my deepest thanks for the love and support from my draft readers.

I lead cross-functional teams focused on building user-facing tools - Interested in agile principles and high-performance team protocols.