Trigger warnings for assault, sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, etc.
This has been really hard to talk about. I’ve started to tell this story several times and stopped, feeling unready.
A couple weeks ago, I was at Kitkat Club in Berlin. This is sort of a clothing-optional dance club where it’s totally fine to have sex or be completely naked. Very relaxed and fun environment. Great music from world class DJs.
So I was standing on a large balcony that ran the length of the club, overlooking the main dance floor. A few dozen other people stood on either side of me. Right next to me was a very handsome younger guy who was just in his underwear. We had chatted briefly and it was his first time at a place like this. That isn’t something we had in common, I live and breathe places like this. Hearing that someone is new to this scene always makes me feel a certain anxious paternalism for the risks and dangers they don’t yet know to worry about.
My new friend and I stood for a while and watched the dance floor below. I saw someone walking up the stairs to the balcony who made me feel nervous.
My hands are shaking as I type this, which is very unusual for me.
It’s a little hard to explain, but there is a major problem today where certain people feel entitled to sexually touch others without first obtaining consent. It’s a constant problem in these kinds of places in America, so I imagined it would be similar in Germany. The man walking up the stairs looked like that kind of person. It was something in his face and the way he looked at others. He looked like someone who would rather vandalise a wall than have an intimate adventure with an enthusiastic partner. It was made worse by the fact that he was probably half a foot taller than me, thirty years older than me, and a much larger person than my slim athletic body type. Something in his gait told me he was on something other than alcohol. This wasn’t someone I wanted to meet.
I was very careful not to make eye contact with him as he walked by me. Not to give any indication that I was interested. And It worked. He walked behind and past me and down to the end of the balcony, without a trace of casual sexual assault! I breathed a sigh of relief and returned my attention to the dance floor. I think I said to my new friend that we should go get another drink at the bar.
“Nein!” I heard my new friend shout, and turned to see the man with his hands all over my new friend. My friend was trying to push him away, but this guy had a solid foot on him. He was no physical match. The man shoved him hard and he fell into me. I was standing against a bench, so I fell over the back of the bench. I felt the adrenaline hit my veins and I got to my feet. On my way back up, I saw the look of rage on the entitled man. I recognized the way his eyes looked up close; he was definitely on meth. As I thought this, I saw him spit in my friend’s face and slap him with an open hand. He called him the German words for faggot and trash.
I felt a duty to stop this man but I knew I was no physical match for him, especially if he was on meth. I stepped forward to the balcony’s edge and quickly looked for a security guard. No luck. I felt a stab of anger at this venue for its lack of security.
Quickly, I grabbed at three guys around me who were gaping at the entitled man and quickly told them to come with me. We closed the gap in a second, but the man saw us coming and turned away. If a look could kill, mine would have as my eyes followed him into the darkness.
My friend was crouched over, eyes towards the floor, and breathing quickly. I recognized the signs of shock and asked him if he was ok. I didn’t know how to explain in German that I had tried to find a security guard. I didn’t know how to apologize for not doing more. I felt a duty to protect this person who was standing innocently next to me and I felt that I had failed. His bright eyes met mine and he smiled. He failed to hide the edge of fear behind his expression, but he wasn’t going to let this entitled man ruin his night.
My friend took my hand and pulled me with him into a dark corner where no one could see us. I assumed he needed a break from the emotion of the moment. I was surprised he wanted to touch my hand after just being assaulted. Everything I’ve read says people react to assault by withdrawing and avoiding physical contact. But he wasn’t done. He pulled down his underwear and turned away from me, bending over. He wanted me to fuck him. And only seconds after being viciously assaulted. I could still see the man’s spit corruscating on his face; reflecting the dance lights from the stage as it dripped to the floor.
It was my turn for shock. I backed away, feeling sick to my stomach. For the first time in the last week in Europe, everyone around me looked completely foreign. It was like I didn’t understand them at all. Like I didn’t understand my new friend any more than I understood the entitled man.
What should I do? My instinct was to turn and run. But should I leave this person like this? Could I possibly help anyway?
My friend stood up and turned towards me with something like disappointment in his eyes. “I’m going for a drink,” I said.
I never saw him again.