TESTIMONIAL: Club experience changed the way I look at men


Emily Rabasto - The State Hornet

Carly Van Den Broeke

It was only last Halloween when I was 24 years old that I decided to celebrate the holiday in the most “grown up” fashion yet, going to a club downtown on Halloween night with my best friend and her boyfriend at the time.  

No longer were the days of walking in costumes through nearby neighborhoods with friends and eating candy; now we were in costumes, dancing with strangers and drinking alcohol.  

Throughout the night, the three of us explored the rooms of the club, where different genres of music played throughout, and had a few drinks to feel more comfortable in our surroundings.  

We kept to ourselves and danced together as the night went on. As we got closer and closer to closing time, a sense of loneliness came over me; I watched as couples danced, as my best friend and her boyfriend danced and how I came essentially alone.

I wanted to have innocent fun, to simply dance with a nice guy and have Halloween night end on a high note. And that is when a man approached me, a stranger dressed like it was any other night, and asked me to dance. I thought to myself that this man seemed nice enough, was moderately attractive and didn’t give off a bad vibe — so I agreed.

The two of us danced next to my best friend and her boyfriend in the crowded room. It was fun and I felt safe, until what I noticed later on to be the red flags that started coming up. I asked questions to try to get to know the man who had his arms around me, and his answers were not comforting.

I tried to ask the simple things, like, what his name was. He responded, “You can call me ‘T.’ ” I asked him how old he was, and to this he paused and gave me an unsure look. Since I know a lot of people think I look younger than I really am, I spoke up again.

“It doesn’t really matter, I just thought I’d ask, I’m 24.”

“Ah OK, I’m 27.”

I wondered why he waited to tell me until after I told him how old I was, and why he wouldn’t give me his actual name — but I shrugged it off. At one point he suggested going out the front door to talk, but I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t know for sure what he would have wanted if I left the building with him.

We continued to dance for a song or two until my best friend told me she was going outside with her boyfriend for a few minutes so he could smoke a cigarette. They asked if I’d be okay and since everything had been fine up until then and figured it would only be a few minutes without her, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

I was wrong.

Right when they walked off, the man I’ve been dancing with looked at me and said, “We’re finally alone now.” Although there were people all around us on the dance floor, I no longer felt as comfortable as I did moments before.

We were still dancing close to one another while he held on to me, staring at me, trying to have me look at him but I kept my eyes down or looking away. I knew if I made eye contact, he would try to kiss me and I didn’t want that to happen. He kissed my cheek a few times and at one point even bit the top of my shoulder; I didn’t know how to react.

He began to move his hands all over my body, sliding his hand down my back to grab my butt, spinning me around so my back was to him and he could grope me more discreetly. He kept trying to grab my chest, kiss me and move his hands down my body. With every attempt, I put my hand on top of his to stop him and said, “I just want to dance.” To that he replied, “We are.”

That was my way of telling him “No.” That was my way of telling him I am not consenting to him touching me. I repeated that to him multiple times,“I just wanted to dance, that’s all I want to do.” He would give the same answer every time.

I don’t know why I couldn’t get myself to flat out say “NO,” or get myself to push him away from me, or get the attention of someone around me. It didn’t seem like anyone suspected a thing, and I believe it was because I didn’t make a scene. I couldn’t get myself to stop him, and that was the scariest part, to feel like I didn’t have a voice to be assertive with, to feel strong enough to push him away from me.

No more than 10 minutes passed before my best friend and her boyfriend came back and I mouthed to her, “Say we have to leave.” She did, understanding immediately that I was uncomfortable and that we needed to go home. As I started to go toward my friend I was relieved the incident was over with and I felt safe again.  

I noticed the man I just was groped by over and over was looking angry and frustrated towards me. He pointed to his phone, seemingly offended that I looked as though I wasn’t planning on giving him my phone number before I left. I decided to take his phone and enter my old phone number just so he would not bother us, and we left immediately afterwards.

To assault someone, after they obviously looked uncomfortable, when they say that all they wanted to do was dance, to not make eye contact, and to avoid or not reciprocate any kiss or touch back should have all been big indicators for this man to stop what he was doing and realize that it was wrong.  

Or maybe he just didn’t care. After all, he didn’t care enough to dress up for Halloween either.

In the year since this incident, I’ve changed my behavior. I have not gone to a club since this has happened. I have had no desire to possibly put myself in that situation again, because the thought of having a good time hasn’t outweighed the possibility of this happening to me again. I know that I have to be more careful in where I go, who I am around and being aware of my surroundings and not be so trusting.

This was the second time in my life that I had been assaulted, and each experience, has made me less trusting of the men around me. There is a common feeling between women that if a man shows signs of looking like a creep or looking dangerous, or if someone is approaching you when alone or at night, that you obviously avoid that person.  

What is more worrisome are the men that don’t immediately come across this way or as obvious. The first time I was assaulted was by my male best friend while I was a senior in high school, and this time was by a stranger who appeared to want just an innocent fun time as I did. You just never know when this can happen to you, the only thing you can do is try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

I don’t think of these experiences too often, only when something sparks the conversation or reminder of these events or people. Even still, I do notice that with men I have tried to date, I do look for indicators of someone who I believe I could trust and who has good intentions with me. I refused to meet people alone or continue to talk to someone who pushed the idea of having sex too quickly even when knowing how I felt on the subject.

I had to look out for my safety and well-being, and only putting myself out there for those who could show me that they were actually good men and not someone I had to worry about being alone with.

It is a disappointing feeling to understand that you simply can’t be as trusting as you want to be with people.

Although I feel bad for men who may not understand how scary they can appear to women at times, it is just because as a woman, I do feel weaker and more helpless. I don’t feel as though I can protect myself easily and one of my biggest fears in life is to be violently assaulted.  

With this all being said, I do not look at myself as a victim, nor should any survivor of any level of assault. I am here to simply show my side of a story, and show others what to look for so this doesn’t have to happen again.

This is also a message to the men who read this to look at the ways in which they act to know if there is something they can work on to make the women in their lives or those they want to approach feel a lot more comfortable. All anyone wants is to feel safe, secure and respected.