Shira Garfinkel

Event Production, Artist Relations

September 14, 2017


Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against you?

Should I just tell you the story?

If you’re ready.

One of my best friends since I was 18 is a famous New Orleans musician. I was living in Santa Cruz for a bit and my friend knew a New Orleans band that was coming into town and playing at the bar I worked at so he asked me look out for the guitarist in the band and make sure he had a good time. I thought, “Cool. A friend of yours is a friend of mine.” They played their show and I made sure the guitarist and the rest of the band were taken care of but at the end of the night he said to me, “We’re staying at someone’s house and I have to sleep on the floor. Is there any way I can crash on your couch instead?”  I didn’t see an issue with it because we were friendly by that point and I trusted that my friend trusted this guy. I took him back to my house, made him a full couch bed with sheets and pillows and everything. We were up hanging out for a little bit and he tried to kiss me and I told him I wasn’t interested. I told him how much I cared about our mutual friend and wanted to respect him. We kept talking and then he tried it again and then one more time after that so I got up, left him on the couch, and went to bed. A few minutes later, he burst into my room, said “Fuck this shit,” jumped on top of me and within seconds pulled my pants off and was able to get half way in before I could push him off. I got my feet on the ground and got away from him before he made a weird noise, came in his hand, and passed out in my bed. I was in shock because it happened so fast and he only got like half way in but it still happened. I was in shock at what had happened and seeing him passed out in my bed. Was I just raped? What the fuck just happened? I spent the night on the couch and was up most of the night in shock, in denial, trying to figure out what I did wrong and what I should do next. Do I call the cops? But he’s my best friend's friend and I didn’t want to make a scene so I internalized it. The next morning I drove him back to meet the band and came to find out that they were actually staying in a hotel and that he lied to me. He just acted like everything was fine. When I got back to New Orleans a few months later, I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want to tell anyone, I hadn’t called the cops. I just tried to pretend it never happened. Sometime down the line, my best friend and I decided to start dating and we stayed together for about three years. About a year into the relationship, I heard that the guitarist from that night was talking shit about me and I got really mad. My boyfriend and I got in a fight over it and almost broke up because he was defending him. And that’s when I just blurted it out. “You know what? This guy that you’re defending that we’re about to break up over? He raped me when I lived in Santa Cruz.” He didn’t believe me. It seemed to him that I was just trying to win the argument. He also told a mutual friend of ours that he didn’t think it could have happened because his friend is so skinny that he didn’t think he could overpower me. We tried to stay in the relationship but it wasn’t the same. He treated me differently after that. The emotional abuse was endless. I told his cousin and a few other friends of ours. Nobody believed me. Nobody ever believed me. They thought I was making it up because he was talking shit about me. I lost a lot of friends. I found out that people I was close to were recording with him and playing gigs with him and I got really upset and they all said to me, “It’s just business.” It bothered my best friends that all his friends were starting to record in this guy's home studio and he wanted to be a part of it. You’re fine with doing business with someone who’s a rapist, but what if he was a racist? Would you still do business with him? No one could answer that question. I left town for almost two years because of all that. It was horrible. I didn’t want to see him out in public. I didn’t want to see our mutual friends. It made me feel awful. It made me feel like I couldn’t even walk around because I was scared to run into those people. I’m still scared. I used to love to go to shows and now I avoid them because I don’t want to see him or my ex. I don’t want to see any of the friends we had in common. They all say, “We’re not friends with him, it’s just business.” That to me is sexism in the music industry here. They don’t care what he did to me because it’s just business between them. It’s horrible.

I believe you.

Thank you. I’ve gone to rape counseling in every city I’ve moved to and I’m in therapy every week. It’s greatly affected me since it happened. I don’t trust guys. I stay single. It sucks.

Have you had to interact with him at all since you’ve been back?

If I see that he’s on a gig, I will not go. The only time I’ve run into him was because I didn’t know he was going to be there. I saw that he was on the stage and I left. It was too much. When things like that happen, I just leave. That’s the only time I’ve seen him. I’ve confronted him via email and his response to it all was that he says he knows he was fucked up and he was aggressive because he was wasted and probably wanted to get laid. He knows he woke up in my bed with no pants on so he assumes we had sex. He knows I spent the night on the couch. He remembers being on the couch beforehand and me saying no and him being persistent. He doesn’t remember what happened between me leaving him on the couch and him waking up with no pants on in my bed but he swears he didn’t rape me. But what happened between that time? He’s said, “I know I didn’t do that.”

How can he know he didn’t do that if he doesn’t remember?

He swears that could not have happened because he wouldn’t do that. It’s shitty. I asked him what he thinks happened. He said, “I don’t know but that didn’t happen, I would never do that.”

Do you think if he was able or willing to admit to or apologize for it, it would change anything?

I don’t know at this point. It’s greatly affected me for so many years. If he had in the beginning? Maybe. He offered to talk to me about it but I didn’t want to be near him at that point. He never apologized and it’s really messed up the last few years of my life.

As a victim of rape, do you think that there's a way for someone who rapes to be absolved? Does that make them who they are? That’s a difficult question to ask.

My sister is a criminal defense lawyer and her whole motto is rehabilitation is real. She works with people that have spent years in prison going to counseling and she really believes they have rehabilitated and she fights for them to get them out of prison. I know she firmly believes it so part of me thinks it’s possible. But I think you actually have to do something. I’m a big advocate of therapy, I go every week myself. You would have to acknowledge you did it, actually feel bad that you did it, and do something to make a change and work on yourself and do something significant.

Have you been able to find a group or groups of people close to you that you’ve been able to take comfort in?

Every female friend of mine has a story. Every female I’ve talked to about it has a rape story. One of my closest friends had a story about the same guy. It does help to hear those other stories and know that everyone else handled it the same way I did but it is really sad. Everyone compartmentalized it, pretended it didn’t happen, and because of our social groups still had to interact with those people. I tried to talk to one of my female friends about it back then and she told me she didn't want to hear anything that would make her not like him. Her husband is a musician and she was more concerned with being a part of "the scene." We keep it inside and deal with it on our own. No one went to the cops. It’s really sad that we have to do that just to keep the peace in our social circle. That’s what I did. I didn’t want to move back here and have to tell everyone what happened in Santa Cruz. I was so excited to move back here. I didn’t want to come back with that story. I eventually filed a police report within the statute of limitations, but because I didn't go to the hospital that night for a swab test, there was nothing they could do.

Are there any particular stereotypes of women or of men that drive you insane?

My earliest memory of it was when I was a sophomore at Tulane and first started bartending. I worked at Whiskey Blue in the W Hotel and I remember old men grabbing my ass as I walked by. I would go home from my shifts crying because I hated it. I also worked at Phillips and the owner told me, “The shorter the skirt, the better the tips.” As a woman, it’s all about your appearance. No one cares what men look like. It’s not fair.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I wanted to get my rape story out because it really hurt me. And I want other women to know they're not alone. These were all guys that I was really good friends with and everyone’s said things like, “You drank so you were probably drunk…”

But even if you were drunk…

Exactly. That’s what drives me crazy about rape. It’s about what we did to deserve it. What were you wearing? How drunk were you? I wasn't drunk that night. I was working.

It feels like they just get to continue on with their lives and we have to pick up the pieces and put it all back together and figure it out while nothing goes wrong for them.

Yes. Exactly.