I was hospitalized two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2012. I hadn’t tried to harm anyone or even myself but after the local police in Irvine, California, spoke to James Lasdun in Shady, New York, they all decided that I should be locked up. Why? Because I’d sent my former professor one too many emails and made one too many calls (four in total).
It’s true: I was calling Lasdun screaming nonsensical insults because he’d wronged me. I never threatened him and he didn’t block my emails, even when I told him he should. Trolling is not illegal.
The backstory: I started believing that I was being gassed to death in 2005, the year that I was raped by a colleague at Rolling Stone magazine in New York. For whatever reason, the assault triggered this delusion, especially whenever I sat down to write. I feared that my rapist had tampered with my stove in order to kill me.
I was drugged unconscious before I was raped, so I didn’t know exactly what was done to me, only that I woke up in pain the next day and my mind began splintering into pieces. But, I had a hard time believing that the guy I’d trusted at work would do such a thing. I’d consented to sex. Why would he drug me then hurt me instead?
Even though I knew women of color were drugged with GBH at Open City’s literary parties, I couldn’t believe the same thing had happened to me, so I spent most of my time gaslighting myself. I even attributed the pain and bleeding between my legs with a mysterious illness that I’d contracted overnight.
While I tried to bury the truth, incessant panic attacks washed over me and my delusions turned to full-fledged hallucinations. I felt naked, even in layers of clothing. I believed that all my male colleagues were watching me, even when I was home alone. I was convinced there were cameras all over my apartment so I showered with the lights off and slept in my clothes waiting to be attacked again. When I tried to write, my mind would go blank and I couldn’t hold a single thought long enough to churn out a decent sentence. And then I smelled gas.
Mostly, I felt guarded and unsafe, especially at work, where I suspected that all the men had been complicit in the rape or had at the very least seen me getting ravaged on film. I eventually stopped keeping food and beverages in my fridge, worried that the guys may break into my apartment and lace it with GBH and rape me again.
After I was fired from Rolling Stone and found a new job, I contacted James Lasdun, whom I had not seen since receiving my MFA two years earlier. I vaguely asked him for help, but he only bled me for his mediocre writing and mocked what I’d been through. He then cut me off, even though I explained that I couldn’t turn to my family for help. He stopped responding to my emails.
My parents eventually sent for me in 2007 because I weighed less than a hundred pounds and was gravely ill. In California, I stumbled through the next seven years on low doses of anti-depressants, still unable to put my life back together.
In 2012, I started believing I was being gassed to death again. This time, the trigger was the anniversary of my rape and the reminder that no one had helped me seek justice for what was done to me. It ate me up to know that so many men had exploited me, including James Lasdun, whom I’d trusted. So I began trolling him again.
All the doctors and psychiatrics I consulted told me that I suffered from depression, anxiety and PTSD because of the sexual assault, but as soon as one doctor prescribed me the highest doses of anti-depressants, I stopped sleeping altogether. I was unable to close my eyes for more than a few minutes at a time without being interrupted by the belief that I was in imminent danger. I was sure that I was going to be killed, raped or taken away against my will to some horrible place.
Mainly, it was fury unraveling me. I couldn’t forget about my unfinished novel that James Lasdun thought was less important than his misogynist and racist smut. This man who claims to have spent time with battered women to write a sleazy novel condoning violence against women hadn’t even cared enough about me as a human being to have one single conversation with me after I told him I’d been raped and that my rapist was stalking me.
In a way I’m grateful that James flexed his privilege and had me institutionalized because now I’m on a perfect cocktail of medication that has allowed me to write the story of what happened to me and continues happening to women of color in the publishing industry.
My medication emboldens me to confront all the misogynist book reviewers who believed Lasdun’s character assassination of me without considering that there was a human being involved. None of them seem to understand why James Lasdun is repugnant for calling what I did “stalking.” They don’t care that women who are raped and assaulted are usually stalked. These misogynist women prefer self-loathing discussions on Lasdun’s very important fiction about peeping on black women. They want to shower him with accolades as a “writer’s writer” for using rotting salmon as symbolism for a dead Asian woman’s vagina. Oh, and don’t forget his description of lady bits as smelling “pungent” (Maybe yours, ladies, but not mine.).
Mr. Misogyny (James Lasdun) silenced me after I was brutally raped and he has succeeded in silencing me within the industry, where I’m so obviously blacklisted as a "deranged" villain (a compliment, maybe, considering the company they keep.). My hunch is that this man will try to stop the publication of my self-published memoir, too, but I have a lawyer ready this time.
The sick part of all of this is the important story I’m trying to share is barely about James Lasdun’s irrelevant existence. But this is what abusive men do: they control your life and they silence up so they won’t be revealed. And the self-hating women who dominate as the gatekeepers of the crumbling (and all-too-white) publishing world protect and coddle them. Folks, this is how you turn an industry into a rape den.