What Actually Happened

Skylar Liberty Rose


“What actually happened was that he was urinating”.  


These were the words that were said by the male NYPD officer standing in front of me. I stared back at him for a long moment.


We were standing by the entrance of a kid’s play area. I had called the police an hour before when I’d been walking a dog and had seen a man standing in a phone booth jerking off.


I wasn’t the only person who saw him. The street was busy with pedestrians. It was late afternoon on a bright summer day in busy midtown Manhattan. As I walked past this guy it was immediately clear what he was doing. It couldn’t have been more obvious. I had no need of further clarification, but I got it anyway from the horrified expressions of the other people walking past.


He was jerking off in a phone booth.  


When I saw him, there was a moment of me thinking “I don’t want to have to deal with this”. And I really didn’t want to. I wanted to join all the others who weren’t breaking their stride and were just heading on home for dinner.


But the loudest voice in my head told me that, just as it wasn’t ok for him to do this, it also wasn’t ok for me to ignore it.


I called 911 and reported what I’d just seen. By this time the guy had left the phone booth and had now walked into the kid’s play area. He laid down on a bench.


The 911 operator had told me they’d dispatch someone and that I didn’t need to stay at the scene if I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t risk him doing the same thing he’d just done, this time in front of kids. I stood outside the play area and didn’t take my eyes off of him until the police arrived.


And then an hour later I wondered how it was that a male police officer, who hadn’t witnessed what I had seen, was able to look into my eyes and tell me what had “actually happened”.  


What actually happened was that I was 11 years old wearing a school uniform when I was flashed at in the street.


What actually happened was that, from that age onwards, I was to know what it is to be sexualized, objectified, harassed and assaulted. Time and time and time again. And I would see this happen to the other women in my life. Time and time and time again.


What actually happened was that I would very quickly learn there were a different set of rules for the beneficiaries of a patriarchal society that was intentionally built to best serve, to only serve, a very specific demographic.


They say you never forget the first time you fall in love. Well you never forget the first time you are violated, either. Words. Hands. Gestures. Invasions. Every form of every force. It all rains down on you like the storm you can’t seem to seek shelter from.


There are too many sodden stories. There are too many suffocated truths. There are too many silent screams.


What actually happened was that jerking off phone booth guy got to walk away.


I am fucking tired.


So. What actually happens now?




I am a writer who helps women find their courage through creativity. I am driven by a deep desire to see women claim and keep spaces which support and sustain their entire body and their whole being. Please visit my Patreon page to become a part of my community there.


Photo credit: Leon Cato Photography

One thought on “What Actually Happened

  1. Wow. Just, wow. Goddammit. The shocking number of truths that are denied, rights that are withheld, and pure atrocity of what we are raising our wild hearts within is staggering.
    No justice, no peace.
    Why the anxiety, the depression, the despair, the self hatred, the shame.
    That”s the benefactory of injustice and indignation turned inward. And all of the beauty, and all of the joy, and all of the pure radiant splendour washed out and wasted, and generationally handed down. Still, right now, in this time, this day, this is your story, as it is mine, as it is my daughters, as it will continue to be, until we go beyond the black and white of the page, beyond the cages of our hearts, beyond time and the veil of our ancestors and our inheritants. The answers that are found in our unfinished business and unfinanced emotions, the ones that call us to remember the world we walk in, and the one in which we have not forgotten and still, despite all, still believe. The raw, and wickedly open, and flaming fires of passion for all of our sisters and mothers and those before and those again until we finally unite the flame to burn down this motherf****ng stalemate of an existence with color and true vibrance only allowed to bleed out from the undercurrent of our ooppressed womb. What will it take? I say, right now. Right here. This moment. You and me. Me and my sister, my daughter, the lady down the street. Beyond words, and into the streets. A greater movement, of the greatest oppression overturned. Back to our roots, and planting them firm for new more vital generations of bloom to unfold. Right now, Lovely lady. Let’s have this conversation. Because I have daughters who still feel like they can’t breathe. I have joy that doubts itself on the wings of shame. I have a responsibility to every woman who has known, and keeps on knowing, something that should never be Right now, you and me

Join the conversation

%d bloggers like this: