© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

My mom's sister. 

An aunt who used to pick me up from kindergarten and babysitting. 

I didn't know really what was happening. 

She would tell me to do things to her or do things to me. 

 

*

 

I was a latch-key kid. 

There was a woman who had a daycare next door. 

So when I was younger, I would go hang out at the day care. 

There were some teenagers who lived upstairs, a brother and sister.

Sometimes I would go up there and play with them. 

The sister was a very sexual 13-year-old. 

The two of them would be like, "Would your parents get mad if you play nasty?" 

I didn't know what that meant. 

So they would tell me to do things, do things to me.  

And I was the kid that never wanted to be in trouble.

I wasn't going to do anything that was going to cause a ruckus. 

 

*

 

But then, when I was 15, I came to spend the summer in New York. 

I had just started acting, had just got representation in the city. 

So I stayed with an aunt and uncle.

And that uncle was an absolute nightmare to live with. 

 

He didn't actually do anything. 

I threatened him, and I think he believed me. 

But it was like waking up every morning with his face this close to mine. 

Every hug was just a little too long.  

My aunt's looking at me weird. 

Just horrible. 

 

I told another cousin that was going to visit them, "Hey, kind of be on the look-out, just in case." 

And finally my sister was like, "This is crazy." 

And I came home and she had told my mom, who in turn had told everybody. 

And the answering machine messages from everybody, being like "Why didn't you say anything?"

My freshman year of college was the last time, and that was a date rape situation. 

I was a freshman at NYU coming from a very strict household where I wasn't allowed to do anything.  So I went from that to The Village in the 90s. 

 

Me and one of my friends from high school would meet up every Friday and go to this club where women were free before a certain time.  We'd go early and have to wait for forever for the cool New Yorkers to show up after midnight. 

 

I met a guy there, ended up going on a date with him, ended up going to an apartment.

 

I always made sure to be very clear with men, "I'm not going to sleep with you.  So if kissing me is going to be a problem that you can't...just don't even do that." 

 

He apparently didn't care.    

 

I remember trying to fight.

And I remember realizing that he was so much stronger than me.

 

*

 

And then I didn't know how to get home. 

So I had to act cordial enough with him that he would take me home on the subway. 

I remember us being on the subway platform, and him being like, "So what?  Was that rape?"  And I was just like, “Just don't let it happen again.”

 

He stalked me for a while. 

I don't remember how long. 

I've never been so happy about security guards in a dorm room.

Told me that he gave me AIDS; he didn't.  

 

I saw him one last time, because 18/19-year-old me thought it was really important that I get the radio back that I let him hold that my father had bought me.

He spit in my face.

And to this day I probably would rather someone punch me than spit in my face.

 

*

 

There is a casting office nearby where the guy at the club used to work at a flower shop.

I still have to pass by this place.

That happened when I was 18, I'm 43 in April. 

I was down there today, and I didn't even think about it. 

But often when I go past there I think about it.

 

At this point in life, being angry at someone is doing more harm to me than to them. 

And I do believe in karma. 

And somehow the universe always finds its way to show me what has happened with the people who have done me wrong. 

I eventually told my mom at some point in grad school. 

And she actually told me some things that happened to her growing up.

It was probably one of the first steps toward being like, "I don't have anything to hide.  I didn't do anything wrong. 

 

I realized the getting a therapist part sucks. 

This is why people don't do it. 

Trying to find someone you have a mix with is rough. 

But once you find one then it's beautiful. 

I had one therapist from my twenties until deep into my thirties. 

 

One of the most horrible things to me is like if you have a really intense session and then you have to go out into the streets of New York City. 

 

And then I started taking anti-depressants.

So I had to go to the psychiatrist which is a heap of holy hot hell. 

 

*

 

Living in New York in the summer time as a woman…Jesus Christ…is a lot.

I have a very sarcastic mouth.

It's like a hobby of mine to be able to tell somebody about themselves and never raise my voice and never use a curse word. 

But I can't always get that little win on the streets, because I don't always know what the reaction is going to be. 

 

And the reaction can go from 0 to 100 in a few seconds. 

I can choose to say thank you. 

I can choose to ignore it. 

I can choose to hope that if I say something the reaction won't be violence.

 

*

 

I take Krav Maga, because I feel like this administration might take us into the apocalypse. 

I don't want discipline.

You said what?  Do damage? 

Do damage and get away.

Sign me up for this one. 

At the end of the day, the burden of proof is always on the victim and I'd rather be defending myself having taken somebody out than defending myself having been victimized again.

I know that in burlesque, anybody that even thinks about being any kind of sexual predator should be careful, because the burlesque community will literally make you go away.  Let people know who's doing what so that people are aware and it's not.

 

When I do burlesque? 

There is no one making me do this. 

I am choosing to do this and I have such a good time. 

 

I feel like any time a woman decides to do something that society says is wrong or the world says she shouldn't do is a win.  Any time I choose to be sexual is empowering, because as a woman I “shouldn't do that.” 

We're holistic beings. 

That can't work.

 

*

 

I think that #metoo is great, because I did see people having lights turned on for them, just seeing the vast amount of ladies who they know having been through these experiences. 

 

The internet is a horrible place if you're a sexual abuse survivor.

It is horrifying reading what a lot of men and some women have to say about victims of sexual abuse.

"I would have fought back.  We’ve got to learn to defend ourselves and to leave..." 

And I'm like, clearly you've never gone through this, because you don't know the dialogue that happens in your head when it's happening.

 

One of the things that made me leave LA- it's Harvey Weinstein down to the guy making home movies on his video camera that are all trying to stick their penises in you with promises of help.  And everybody ain’t Weinstein and can actually put you in a blockbuster.  

 

Missing stairs. 

I had never heard that term before, but basically they say the missing stair in the community is someone who's doing these things but no one says anything about. 

You could trip into some trouble, because you just don't know it's missing.

 

I'm glad Hollywood is burning.

 

-Essence