On the 26th of July last year, the buzzer for my apartment sounded. Not expecting anyone at the time, I went to the front door to investigate, and two RCMP officers in plain clothes (although very nice plain clothes) introduced themselves to me before asking me if I had some time to talk to them. I asked them point-blank if it was about the gay-bashing incident that had just transpired a few days before, and they informed me that it was about my blog. I knew instantly that they were referring to this post, which had received 500 hits from a hidden RCMP webpage the day after it went live. What I stated over the course of that two-and-a-half-hour audio-recorded statement, about my former friendship of three years’ duration with Cpl. Jim Brown (whose face was illuminated in a national news story repeating over several consecutive days) became several parts of a much larger code of conduct investigation. A couple of days ago, I started receiving phone calls about it again. And today, a single well-dressed RCMP officer arrived at my door to ask me even more probing questions about what I had said in my statement as well as what I had written in that first blog post, which was quoted by a Sergeant Wilcott in an internal memo to members of Brown’s detachment and one or two others. How ironic that this image macro should show up in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday:
Today is also, coincidentally, the 140th anniversary of the formation of the RCMP, which at least one radically inclined friend of mine is not too pleased about. At least he can take comfort in the fact that I spent a full 90 minutes explaining a sort of psychoanalysis of microaggression to the Coquitlam officer who came to my door today.
I’ve written a lot about microaggression over the past couple of years (e.g., this entry on microaggression and rape culture). In short form, it is the behaviour of exploiting one’s rapport with another person in order to push or aggress upon their completely reasonable personal boundaries in ways that only seem subtle because of the established rapport between the two. Jim conveyed himself almost exclusively through microaggression towards me, during a time in my life when I had so absent a capacity to tell anyone “no”, that I would sooner have a complete breakdown than type out those two characters in an email reply—regardless of how important it was for me to say it. Even the way we met was a form of microaggression. After telling me that he’s an RCMP officer in an online chat room for perverts (which I had logged into from my workplace at a porn store on a weekday evening, because I was bored to tears), he was introducing himself face-to-face with me about ten minutes later. Perhaps most reasonable people would excuse themselves and phone 9-1-1 from the employee washroom, but not I. All I thought was “Well, that’s weird!”
Certainly, anyone with the kinds of experiences I have had with police, who has grown up not being able to trust any of them and who has actually experienced several traumatic interactions which were entirely the fault of the responding officers, would normally not even shake the man’s hand. Certainly, they wouldn’t have picked up the phone when he called a couple of weeks later to violate the privacy of a man who had just wanted to get a free porn magazine with a counterfeit $10 bill. And they wouldn’t have had an uproarious laughter about what they were being told about this bizarre stranger’s life story through the eyes and words of the local RCMP detachment. And perhaps most significantly, anyone else in the world would avoid voluntarily stepping into this corrupt RCMP officer’s personal vehicle after he had just finished violating their own privacy in that same conversation. But not I. No, because I couldn’t feel what was going on, and I had no instinctive reflex making all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up while my inner voice screams at me to just run for it. I was emotionally dissociated. I couldn’t feel a thing if I had even known at the time that I couldn’t and suddenly ached to.
And why was I so emotionally dissociated? The answer is simple but perhaps not obvious. I was being preyed upon like this already, by several predators at once, and have been throughout my life. It didn’t feel unusual because it wasn’t safe to feel anything at all. It also didn’t strike me as different in any way from my day-to-day existence. I might be able to say I looked like a victim or that these predatory types could smell it on me somehow, but I’d be lying to you. The reality is that they perpetrate microaggression as a matter of habit, and when they meet people in a state like I was in, they don’t spare any time getting to work.
When Jim told me he’s a cop on that chatroom, he was trying to tell me he’s already earned my trust. When he showed up at my workplace ten minutes later, he was telling me he had the power to invite himself anywhere I went. When he told me all about the contents of RCMP files on me and the man with the counterfeit bill, what he was really telling me is that I do not have privacy from him and am not entitled to it either. And when he started telling me about all the lies he hides so well from his wife and kids, he was telling me he could deceive me any time he wanted and I wouldn’t even know it was happening. He was telling me, in various ways, that he is essentially omnipotent and omniscient—and that by contrast, I am powerless and won’t ever know the full depths of his deceit; for I am neither entitled to know it, nor to even begin to fathom the scope of what I do not know he’s been lying to me about. He worked to establish all of this within the first two weeks of my acquaintanceship with him.
Once he became confident of the depth to which I felt powerless to assert any boundary with him, he began the work of finding out where I had boundaries. For even if I could not state them, and even if they were buried deep beneath a lifetime of trauma, they were always still there. They were what little I had of a compass with which to navigate my relationships. They were what kept me alive while I endured incest and the years of suicidal ideation that followed. They were what made me run away from my first lover, who began raping me once he successfully convinced me to quietly defy my parents in subtle and relatively harmless ways. Those unstated boundaries, buried beneath a lifetime of trauma, were what kept me alive when I was running from the wife-beating sociopath who had been beating and secretly molesting me for weeks before finally exposing me to a film that I was convinced was snuff—and then threatening to give me over as a sexual slave to complete strangers with whom I wouldn’t have the right to say no (i.e., I came that close to being swallowed up by sex trafficking, and it all started with a coffee date). Those unstated boundaries are what kept me alive while I endured life in a condemned house full of meth addicts. Those unstated boundaries have kept me alive through several dozen attempts on my life at the hands of men who were more than capable of making me disappear without a trace.
Those are the boundaries people like Jim are interested in finding, pushing, and breaking. Those are the boundaries I have learned to protect only by emotionally dissociating, and when necessary, completely dissociating. My alternate personalities, now relatively integrated, were (and very likely will always be) my survival mechanism of last resort. I may never know exactly why any one person such as Jim perpetrates microaggression — by which I mean specifically to what end, for only he knows the answer to that question — but I know damn well enough when it’s happened to me and that it was merely a means to an end. I use that knowledge to recognize when it’s happening to me now, and I make sure my perpetrator regrets even trying it. My life may depend on it.
I told the RCMP officer who came to take my statement again today that I’ve learned how and why microaggression worked before. I told her that these predatory types sense there’s something different about me. Something lax. That they can push me harder and further than anyone else before I begin to resist. That they can ease off just enough to stop me from resisting, but linger there in that space until my defences are down, so they can push again and cross right over that boundary to whatever it is they want. That I won’t say no because I can’t speak that word or even type it out in an email. That I won’t be able to tell anyone before they’ve already told me it’s my fault. That I’ll just keep picking up that phone when they call or answering the door when they show up face-to-face. It’s just a game to them and playing it is what gets them off.
Well, you weren’t the only one playing. I just needed help to see it. And now that I can, I know everything you’ve done—better than you do.