Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault & Harassment
The MeToo movement has been around for ten years, started by a black woman named Tarana Burke (more info can be found here), but I didn’t hear about it until this week when Alyssa Milano wrote on social media, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Within a day, those words echoed throughout my timeline, in a way that was somehow simultaneously horrifying, traumatizing, and comforting. Horrifying: to know that so many others had suffered the same way I had. Traumatizing: as many of their stories made me re-live my own experiences. Comforting: to know it wasn’t something I did, some inherent failure in my person that caused these things to happen to me.
So here, if you can stomach it, is my list of some of the worst times I’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted. (I know many women have had worse experiences than these, I feel like mine are kind of “average,” which in a way makes this even grosser.) I’ve never had the nerve to report any of them, except the first incident, which quickly taught me how rigged the system is against the victim.:
- Age 10 or 11 : boys at school started a butt-pinching & pu**y-grabbing game called “squeaking.” (You can read that whole story here)
- Age 12: multiple incidents of walking to the corner store or grocery stroe alone and being cat-called or honked at, often by men older than my father.
- Age 14: was followed home and groped by a 12-year-old kid I’d gone to elementary school with. I tried to physically fight him off, but he was stronger than me. I only got away when I announced his full name loudly and told him I was going home to call the cops on him.
- Age 15: the 17-year-old playing my boyfriend in our community theatre insisted on “realism” by groping me during every performance (there was a part where I got to hit him in the play, and I regularly put my all into it). Same production, at the opening night party the musical director cornered me and told me I was so beautiful he was missing his cues, he spent all his time staring at me.
- Age 16: creepy old doctor insists I take my shirt off so he can use his stethoscope “properly.” I’m there for a busted ankle.
- Age 17: a teacher (I wasn’t in any of his classes, thankfully) started flirting with me/hitting on me so hard, I was scared to go to the caf on the weeks he was on lunch duty.
- Age 18: a boy on my co-ed softball league knocked me down (accidentally-ish) hard enough to knock me out and cause my first concussion. He then told everyone he “took me out” and I “went down” for him.
- Also age 18: I worked in a donut shop at the intersection of two highways. It was well known that the place was always staffed at night by a lone teenage girl. Guys would come and sit for hours in the shop, hitting on me, staring at me. I was terrified one day one of them would go farther. On the worst nights, I’d call friends and family to come and sit in the shop during my shift, and bribe them with free donuts. When they came, the guy(s) would leave immediately. I stopped taking evening shifts.
- Age 19: A friend’s dad got drunk at a wedding and grabbed me and kissed me.
- Also Age 19: a manager at my job who was always making lewd remarks called me and another girl in to the office to show off his birthday cake. It was an erotic cake.
- Also also age 19: went to Montreal with my English-only-speaking grandmother. Taxi drivers would hit on me in French, say lewd things. To this day, I don’t take taxis unless there’s no other way/other people in the car.
- Age 20: I invited a date over to watch a movie. We started kissing. He pinned me down and wouldn’t stop. I finally got him to stop, but then he wouldn’t leave my house. I locked myself in my room with a chair under my doorknob and didn’t sleep. The next day he walked me to work (where we both worked) and implied to everyone we’d slept together.
- Age 21: I got sent across the country to help train new store staff, with a manager and a male co-worker. We stayed at a B&B. The manager spent the whole week pressuring me for sex (“It’s just sex. Loosen up.”), even in front of my co-worker. I quit shortly after we got back to our town.
There are more that I can’t even bring myself to write. And others I’m not sure are worth the energy (the dozens of times complete strangers have rubbed themselves against me in bars/clubs/buses, for example. Or the (again) complete strangers that start by striking up a “friendly” conversation, that turns into a compliments session, that turns into angry name-calling if you won’t give out your phone number/agree to a date.)
I don’t have any good solutions, except that maybe if people start to realize how pervasive the problem is, we as a society can start to effect a change (but also, if you can’t bring yourself to post #MeToo because of the trauma involved, that’s cool too. Everyone needs to do what’s best for their own health).
For my part, I’ve already started teaching my kids (male and female) about consent and respecting boundaries so we have a basis for future lessons. My greatest wish is that my kids never have a #MeToo status to post.