I had a nice day on Thursday the 14th. Work was great, my long distance boyfriend B was finally back in town, and I was feeling good. B and I had dinner plans so I went home after work and dolled myself up for once. We had a great time, eating pasta and pretending the iPads at the Apple Store were the new iPhone for our own amusement (I highly recommend walking up to an iPad, lifting it up, and going “Oooooh! The new iPhone!” just to see the looks on people’s faces). I had the next day off of work so we got a case of beer, went back to his place, and played video games, thrilled to be spending time together after he’d been away for a couple months for school. I headed back home around midnight with a smile on my face, feeling bubbly and content.
I drifted off to sleep easily, but was jolted awake by my phone ringing at 2:14am. I reached for it, startled, and saw that it was an unknown number. I declined it and turned my ringer off, but then saw I had two unread text messages from the same number. I figured someone sending me two messages between midnight and 2am and then calling me had to be someone I knew, so I opened the messages.
The first was a picture of an erect penis, pubes and random blanket near it and all, and the second was a video of whoever this person was masturbating with the aforementioned penis.
I immediately felt my stomach sink as thoughts began flying around in my head. I checked my contacts and didn’t find anyone with that area code. I Googled the number and found nothing. I messaged the number to my boyfriend and asked him if it was any of his contacts, and he said it wasn’t. But my gut told me it was someone I knew.
The area code is in Downey, south of where I live but still LA County. I don’t know anyone there, but it’s possible that someone I know has moved there.
I don’t recognize this penis.
You don’t recognize any penis but one, you nerd.
I looked at the times on the messages, partially covering my phone so I wouldn’t have to look at them directly. The penis owner had sent the picture at 2:06, the video at 2:10, and had then called me at 2:14. A new text message popped up at 2:23.
“Ok thanks good night”.
I stared at it.
What the hell is he thanking me for, I haven’t responded… oh. Gross. He’s thanking me probably because in this whole time that I’ve been stressing about this, the guy got off on sending these and finished, and now he’s saying thanks.
I felt a surge of anger in all the confusion and the voice in my head spoke clearly, cutting through everything else.
As soon as my brain thought it, it clicked. My gut feeling settled but my heart rate sped up.
This is Edward.
I tried to calm myself, trying to be rational. I had no proof that this was the man who assaulted me back in 2015. This wasn’t his phone number. Why would he have a number in Downey when I know he lives in Hollywood? I ran into him just a year ago in this area, so it’s unlikely that this is his number.
People move all the time.
I don’t think it’s him.
Have you seen his penis?
No. He didn’t get that far when he assaulted me.
Then it could be him. Maybe he’s showing it to you now as a way to mess with you. Maybe he’s read what you’ve written about him. Maybe now he’s coming after you again.
It could be someone else. Some dude I met at a bar when I was briefly single?
You gave out your number like twice, and you have those dudes saved as “bar guy yellow shirt” and “tall glasses hair.” And also, you gave them a number to that burner phone app you have, not your real number.
This is Edward.
Or it’s some random dude.
One way to find out.
I typed out a simple “who is this” but felt a rage slowly burning up inside me. I did not want to see this penis. But this guy just out of the blue sent it. He didn’t even lead up with anything. Even if it wasn’t for me, he was just going to send it to some other girl with no lead up. I don’t want to see his penis without my consent. I don’t want anything sexual to ever happen without my consent.
It’s easy to brush this off as overreacting. It’s an accidental dick pic, right? It would be easier to roll my eyes and move on. But this was, at the end of the day, a sexual event that occurred without my consent. Chances are this guy didn’t mean for that to happen. But he still sent it without a lead up. Not even an “I’m thinking about you” or whatever nonsense someone would say if they were sending footage of themselves masturbating to someone who consented to it.
“Who the hell is this?” I typed, staring intently at the keyboard and away from the images. “I don’t know why on earth you would call my number at 2am or send this content; I literally have no idea who this is”.
He immediately replied. “Sorry wrong number”.
My mind flashed to that day I ran into Edward, a year and a half after he assaulted me. How he threw panicked glances at me. How I held my head high and walked toward him since he was in front of the door to exit the store I was in, and how he fled in the opposite direction. How he was a pathetic coward.
I took a deep breath. This guy wasn’t Edward. If Edward had been doing this in an attempt to retraumatize me, he would’ve at least said my name or done some other horrifying thing in that video rather than just panting while getting off by himself at 2am. But the rage stayed. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the actual woman who was meant to get those images didn’t consent to it either.
It’s unsolicited dick pics. It’s hollering obscenities at you from cars when you’re just trying to walk home in broad daylight. It’s standing too close to you and brushing your ass or breasts in a crowded place. It’s grabbing your forearm and pinching your ass and forcing their tongue down your throat while you try to push them off with all your strength but they grab harder. It’s “be happy you weren’t raped” and “it was a compliment” and “ok thanks good night.” And suddenly your heart is pounding in your chest and your eyes are welling up with tears and you’re furious because you feel suffocated, even though no one is touching you right now, even though no one has a vice grip on your throat, but you’re suffocating.
So I replied.
“Yeah. Maybe check next time before you accost people with that disgusting thing. And never text my daughter again you fucking creep. She is 13 and came to me crying with this. You’re lucky I don’t call the cops.”
He didn’t text me back.