Today was a perfect day at the beach in Phuket, Thailand, if you’ll take out one little incident. My husband and his brother were happily drinking and my baby was sleeping. There was a coral island off the shore, one that only showed at low tide, that I had wanted to go see. I figured our dog Blackie would follow me and I was fine with that.
With Oh’s blessing I headed out to sea. Blackie followed, as I had expected him to do, and we made it to the coral island. Some months before I had tried to swim there at low tide, but I had cut my foot on the corals halfway there. Fearing sand sharks smelling the blood, I had turned around that time.
Once me and Blackie were on the coral island we had no choice but to swim back. On the way back to the beach Blackie, probably tired from swimming, found two men who were hanging on to a log out at sea. The dog swam to them for a rest and I swam towards them. “My dog is tired.” I said briefly to the men. Blackie hung on to the log for perhaps 10 seconds. They were both Thai and young, one with longer hair and a longer face, one with short hair and a round face. As I swam away I said. “Thank you.”
Perhaps this was all the incentive they needed. I was not wearing anything remotely sexy. I was in my shorts and tee shirt from the beach. Nonetheless I felt a man swim behind me, trying deftly to pull down my shorts. I was sure that the other man from the log was behind him but I did not see him.
I found a high coral that gave me some leverage and I kicked off strongly. The man’s hand fell away. Suddenly not caring remotely about sharks in the water I started testing my arms and legs against the coral on the bottom, scratching my knees and feet as I went. Blackie rejoined me quickly and in a very short time we were back to shore.
“Eliza she wake up.” My husband said as me and Blackie came to shore. Our 1 year old baby was playing with his brother and a few Thai women who had come over from the next blanket. “Everything okay?”
That’s when I said it. “Somebody try to rape me.” I was not even sure if my husband would understand the word rape or grasp its implications. He was not a native English speaker.
He got it immediately. “Who?”
I needed to clarify it for him. “Two men out in the water. But they did not rape me they just tried to pull down my shorts as I was swimming. I think they were friends with the fisherman.” I was referring to a Thai man we had met earlier on the beach.
Oh was already standing and walking towards the water. His brother seemed confused by this. “Where Kuhn Oh go?” He asked me.
“Oh! I’m not sure who tried to do anything!” I said as my husband was walking towards the water. But it was too late. I heard my husband screaming at two men in the water as his brother Ka went to join him. The Thai women from the next blanket retreated and I took care of Eliza.
Shit. I saw my husband arguing vehemently with one man who I was sure was on the log earlier. His brother tried to placate things which did not help. Fists flew. My husband started punching the man in the water. After a few seconds everyone went on to shore and behind a huge bend of trees that prevented me from seeing them. I did not hear anything spoken either.
After five minutes I was starting to think that this disagreement had led to a disappearance. That’s when my husband appeared. “Let’s go. The police come soon.” He said.
I picked up Eliza. My husband’s brother appeared behind him. “Gen I can take care the mat.” He said, referring to our beach mat and the food strewn on it. I headed towards the motorbike but it was too late. The police met us there.
Some words were exchanged in Thai. “Nobody rape me!” I said vehemently as my husband and the policeman spoke. “They just try. TRY.”
“What they do?” Oh asked.
“I was swimming back towards the shore with Blackie. There were two Thai men hanging on to a log. Blackie swam towards them because I think he was tired of swimming. I said thank you then continued to swim towards shore. One of the Thai men–I do not know who–tried to pull down my shorts as I was swimming. He was swimming from behind, on top of me. So I found a high coral and I used that to push off away from him. And then I swam like crazy, as fast as I could, back to shore.”
My husband translated this for the policeman. He already had backup on the way. A man took our pictures on his phone and I have a feeling we might be in the Phuket Gazette. “Few minutes.” The policeman said as he wrote something onto a notepad.
“You are sure they try to rape you?” My husband asked me as the policeman questioned him.
“Yes I am sure. What else they try to do?”
“They try to pull down your shorts?” Oh asked.
“Yes.” I was starting tol feel intimidated by this line of questioning.
“But then you swim away?” Oh asked again.
Around then the second policeman came back with a lineup of perhaps 15 Thai men from the beach. Short men fat men drunk men skinny men. All were youngish men, but that described 90% of the Thai men on the beach that day. None of them looked like my attacker.
There was one man in the police lineup–youngish, with a long face and long hair, that looked like he might have been one of the men on the log. He looked drunk too, which didn’t help his case. I pointed him out.
“Are you sure?” Oh asked me when I pointed to him.
“No I am not sure!” I said. “This is very hard for me.” Oh translated for the policemen as I talked. “First of all, we were in the water. So the men were not wearing shirts and their hair was wet. And because we were in the water, I don’t know how tall they were.” Oh translated. “I am pretty sure one was taller with long hair and a long face. The one that I think attacked me was shorter and fatter, with short hair and a round face.”
I was afraid of mentioning the second part, but I did anyway. “I know the men were Thai. But being Thai, young, in the water, I don’t think I could identify them. I’m sorry.” Oh translated and the police dismissed the entire group of Thai men in the lineup.
Oh’s brother said something in Thai after everyone left. “He say maybe you make up the whole story.” My husband said.
“Why would I do that?” I said. “If I make up story about an almost rape, why wouldn’t I just make up story about a real rape?”
Here’s hoping that my daughters never have to live through this…