Inspired by Belle Jar’s article.
Trigger warning: sexual assault, child sexual abuse, street harassment, domestic abuse
- As a child, I loved exploring my neighborhood. There were certain places I wasn’t allowed to go unless a man was with me because those places could be dangerous for a girl. My brother was allowed to go to these places alone.
- In third grade, I rejected a guy who had a crush on me. The next day he threw a rock the side of a baseball at my face, leaving a massive bruise that lasted for days.
- When I was nine, my parents were having a fight while I was in the room. I saw my dad slap my mom across the face.
- At a party for my brother’s Boy Scout group, two of his “troop mates” (who were probably 11 and 7 years old) brought me to the basement and coerced me into taking off my shirt while playing truth or dare. I was about 10. Another boy from the same troop grabbed my chest without my consent. (Full story here).
- At the age of 15, an older man (I think he was 26 at the time?) began texting me. We didn’t know each other and I didn’t feel comfortable talking with an older man who is a stranger. He guilted me into sustaining a “friendship” with him because he said he “had no friends” He would call me “honey” even though I told him to cut it out. From the beginning this guy weirded me out and I gave him false information so he could never find me. A few years later I realized that this person is without a doubt a pedophile. Thankfully we never saw each other face to face.
- I was never afraid of the dark until I learned that as a woman, I should be. I learned to scan my surroundings, to walk with confidence, to tell people when I expect to be home, to carry pepper spray. I learned that if I get attacked, society will automatically say it was my fault. At 22, my boyfriend was baffled when I refused to walk downtown with him at night. He’s never felt unsafe at night even in the middle of a big city.
- I went on an exchange trip to Mexico City at the age of 15. Before going on the subway for the first time, our teacher told the girls “You will get groped” as if it were inevitable. She was right.
- While on a mission trip in rural Colombia, building a school, the man in charge of the project wouldn’t allow women to carry bags of concrete and other heavy things even though all of us could do it without much difficulty. We were all given the jobs that required the least amount of strength and physical exertion.
- Also in Colombia, the person in charge of the trip told women never to respond when people catcall us – to not even look their way – in order to avoid potential violence. Things really aren’t much different in America.
- At 17, strangers found it acceptable to start greeting me by saying “Hey bitch,” “Hey baby,” etc.
- I was walking downtown with my dad and brother when we heard a woman yell for help across a busy street. We all stopped to look and saw her speed walking away from a man who was clearly harassing her. I insisted that we go help her, but my dad and brother didn’t want to risk bodily harm. The man saw us staring and the woman was able to get away. Then, the man followed us on foot for almost a mile. The last time I saw him before we shook him off, he had something resembling a gun hanging from his hand.
- At 22, a man said “Mmm look at that,” as I walked by. He was with other people and was clearly bigger than me. For the first time, I felt scared when cat called. Every other time I had been in a large group of people or in my car. This time, only two people were with me and I didn’t have my pepper spray. In a way it’s lucky that I don’t have much time to go out because of school. Otherwise, I’m sure I would’ve gotten much worse than this by now.
- When I was 17, I supported my mom as she divorced my abusive dad.
- At the ages of 18 and 19, multiple ex-boyfriends made me feel guilty for having sexual boundaries that didn’t match up with theirs. They made me feel like it was wrong to not give them whatever they wanted even if I wasn’t comfortable with it.
- I have no doubt that if I were up for whatever they wanted me to do, I then would’ve been called a slut.
- Three ex-boyfriends claimed to respect my boundaries and then crossed my lines anyway, sexually assaulting me. I have symptoms of PTSD because of them, and am still working through the scars they gave me (hence, this blog).
- The first person I told said that I should take it as a compliment that my boyfriend “couldn’t resist me.” No. I take it as a compliment if a boy respects me enough to not cross my boundaries no matter how much temptation there is.
- After I told my mom about my experiences with sexual assault, she told me that my experiences are normal. She’s right, but that doesn’t make it okay.
- At a swing dance I organized at the age of 21, the old, male bandleader I hired looked me up and down slowly and told me how attractive I looked. For the rest of the conversation, he talked to my boobs rather than my face. When I confronted him about his disrespect, he said “I’m an old man,” as if that excuses his behavior.
- When I was 23, I was swing dancing with an acquaintance. He sexually assaulted me in the middle of the dance floor.
And people wonder why I’m a feminist.
Thank you for reading this article. You can find my full story here.