By Hannah Strader
Last March, I was sitting peacefully on my balcony at 7:40 A.M., enjoying unseasonably nice weather and a warm cup of coffee. As I always do, I was running through my Instagram feed and catching up with notifications. Moments later, I was triggered and had to set down my phone.
Planet Comicon was coming up, and on the guest list was DC and Marvel writer Jai Nitz. The man twice my age who forcibly kissed me, held me trapped against his body, and relentlessly asked me to kiss him or touch him or have sex with him. I met him in one of my journalism classes at Kansas University, where he was invited to speak as a guest.
At the time, I was a virgin. My father had just passed away a year or so before, and I was trying to carve out a place for myself in the world where I could feel comfortable and happy. I was attempting to write a dating blog, detailing my Tinder escapades as a way to hold myself accountable for actually meeting people, and also to work on my writing skills.
I have always been overbearingly honest on the internet. I began writing online at the age of 12 and quickly made many friends, none of whom ever proved to be a catfish. I’m a journalist and truth is imperative. Being vulnerable, to me, meant that I could maybe help others by discussing the difficult things I was going through. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and I take prescriptions to keep me functional. I always wanted to be a proponent of change and to help others who had the same issues.
So when Nitz reached out to me about meeting for drinks, I wasn’t weirded out. I’ve met up with many writing mentors, and I was interested in his creative work. I wanted to understand how different it would be to write comics, what that process was like, how he broke into it.
Instead, I was steadily supplied with drinks, asked how often I masturbated, and continuously pressured to not only kiss Nitz, but come with him to a strip club. He said point blank to me, “One day you’re going to have sex with someone, and it will be okay. And then you’ll come back to me, because I know how to do it right.”
It took me two years to make a police report, though I immediately filed a complaint with KU’s Title IX office and reported the incident to a trusted professor. I didn’t think it counted. Can you press charges against someone for being creepy? Is it assault if you’re not actually raped? Was I over-reacting? Why couldn’t I stop crying? Why did I make my best friend drive me an hour to my mom’s house so I could sleep that night? Was I the problem?
I was raised by two wonderful and loving parents who were always very clear about what boundaries were not to be crossed. This was especially relevant when at the age of seven, my uncle was accused of raping my cousin, his daughter. He had always made me feel uncomfortable, hugging me too long, holding me on his lap, pressing kisses all over my face and neck. He never assaulted me, per-se, but even at that age, I knew it was wrong.
When the first time a man is sexually attracted to you is when you’re a toddler, you kind of pick up on the sort of people who are predatory and dangerous. I somehow managed to push Nitz off of me that night, close and lock the door to my car, and drive to a close friend’s house. I don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t the strength to get the hell out of Dodge.
Actually, no, that’s a lie. I’ve spoken to over 40 victims of this man, and I can probably say for certain I would have been kidnapped and raped, possibly analy, depending on how “guilty” he felt about me being a virgin, if he felt guilty at all. He would probably force me into his passenger seat and drive me into the country, possibly brutalizing me to the point of needing inpatient treatment, like one victim I know. Maybe he’d pretend to care about what was happening long enough for him to pull onto a deserted road and park, taking what he thought he deserved from me for being so “caring and kind” that day.
Maybe he would come to town for a paid comic con event and message me on Kik with a fake name. He’d then rape me, and fly home, and I wouldn’t know the name of the man who violated me in the most traumatic and private of ways.
Maybe I was into BDSM, but didn’t like being forcibly held against my will, pushed beyond all of my boundaries and pissed on. But Lawrence Police and Kansas City police, despite having access to all of this information and more, know their conservative constituencies. We can’t find a prosecutor, despite our double digit number of witnesses, because if alcohol is involved in a rape case, conservative juries see that girl as a weak sinner, who shouldn’t have put herself in that position in the first place.
Or at least that’s what one victim of sodomy and kidnapping was told to her face by the Jackson County DA.
It has been over a year since that March morning, when I angrily Tweeted about what had happened to me. Just two weeks ago, a victim anonymously reached out to me (common, because Nitz has revenge porn on his hard drives of many of the women he’s assaulted) to ask about how our lawsuit was going. An hour later, she changed her mind and disappeared, too fearful to get involved.
This man is a monster, and he destroys women for pleasure. Victims said sex was never the point with this man, it was intense physical punishment.
But hey, in Kansas and Missouri, that’s just another Friday night for women, isn’t it? That’s just another guy trying to get laid, and what’s wrong with that?
Despite being completely brick walled by Lawrence Police, Kansas City Police, and the Jackson County DA, The Kansas City Star and KCTV5 were interested enough to speak with me and tell my story. A few months later, it would be revealed that Lawrence Police were charging women for false rape reports because they simply didn’t believe them.
Since then, LPD has released a statement saying it was going to start a team for sexual assault investigations and begin looking further into how they could better respond. To me, this reads as bullshit since Douglas County DA Charles Branson was quoted as saying he believed in the “merits” of the three felony charges they dropped, but he didn’t want to discourage other victims from coming forward. In other words, these victims aren’t the right victims, but since the media is hounding us, we’ll cover our asses in the future.
Women are repeatedly punished for simply having a body that a man covets. We’re asked what we were wearing, why we were drinking, why we’re into such a dark form of sexual pleasure.
Are you sure you didn’t just have sex and regret it later? Are you sure you don’t just like the attention you get when police ask you every aspect of that encounter and you’re re-living the moment in a bout of intense PTSD? Are you sure that isn’t just fun for you? Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure it’s not your fault?
So where does that leave us? Fucked. Fucked and forgotten, like women for generations have been. Silent sufferers of the worst kind of violence, and ignored by an institution that works only to protect its reputation. Left only to wonder, over cups of morning coffee, when the world will finally fucking listen to us.
Hannah Strader is a writer and freelance journalist living with her two cats in KCMO. She has contributed content for various college and online publications such as Her Campus, Healthista (UK) and the University Daily Kansan.
Justina Kellner is a Kansas City portrait and wedding photographer with a passion for creativity. You’ll find her hands in every possible medium of the arts including digital and film photography, painting, drawing, music, and even a touch of ballet. As a well grounded Capricorn, she also manages an online closet of upcycled trendy clothing, because everything should be recycled – change her mind.