I recently read a statement that made me think…to summarize:
“It seems that almost every woman knows another woman (or man) who has been sexually victimized, but almost no men seem to know another man who would do such a thing”. The. Math. Doesn’t. Add. Up!
This got to me (and my blood slowly simmering up to a boil) and I decided that my way to take action would be to speak up! I want the women (or men) who read my blog to see my story and feel safe. I want them to feel like someone understands what they have gone through (or are dealing with now), and that they are not alone. I want to perhaps inspire someone to have the courage to speak up as well.
I also want everyone to read my words and remember them when they look in the face of their children. I want my story to resonate so deeply that they imagine the face of their sibling, child, parent or friend saying my words – and are then fueled by the desire to step in, speak up and STOP these sort of things when/if the situation arises. I want this to open the gates for meaningful dialogue between parents and children about safe ways to express if this has happened and how to deal with it.
I consider myself a very capable, “strong” woman and without a doubt I know I have found my voice and sense of self, now at the age of 34 – but I wasn’t always so willing or able to stand up for myself. Without even capturing EVERY instance that could be fall into the categories of “sexual harassment” or “sexual assault” – I provide the following (abbreviated) anecdotes that occurred to me, at frequency far too constant:
10-13 years old:
– Groped (breasts and crotch) by a trusted friend to our family while staying over at their home. I pretended I was asleep in hopes they would just go away, and eventually they stopped.
13 – 15 years old:
– Woke up during a sleepovers at a girlfriends house to find their relative on top of me. Again – was too scared to say anything so attempted to pretend to sleep while they felt up my chest and then eventually went away.
– Taken advantage of in a movie theater (sexual assault) by an older “boy” (two grades above me) who had asked me to go to the movies with him. Being assaulted while others were sitting on either side of us in the theater seats and being too scared to say anything, or move/get away. To add salt to the wound, the following week at school the boys had all talked about it, and the word on the street was I was a slut for it. Consent was not quite the table topic that it is today – but there wasn’t any asking or permission – just doing, and I struggled for a very long time with the after effects of my classmates judgement.
15 – 18 years old:
– Verbally abused, physically assaulted and chased with a baseball bat – for telling my (then) boyfriend that I didn’t like him hitting on another girl who he was openly and unabashedly flirting with and touching at a frat party we were in attendance at together (in his frat house and where I was staying for the weekend – I left immediately after the incident, that same night) .
18 – 21 year old:
– Trapped in a military barracks room by a man who insisted that the only way he would move from the door and let me exit was if I gave him a kiss. After much pleading I relented and gave him a kiss in order to get out of the room. Even after he harassed me for months, was all over my socials (I ended up blocking him on every social media platform), and even this last year my anxiety was triggered when I ran into him in a doctors office. This “chance” meeting led to him again trying to add me on social media, etc.
**I do recognize and acknowledge that abuse or violence of any sort can be from anyone, not just male to female. I write from the perspective of my own experiences, but my sentiment is the same regardless of race/gender/sexual orientation or anything else. It is never ok and should not be tolerated**
These examples are just a handful of times in my life that I have dealt with overt (or subtle) sexual aggression. It is NOT ok. I don’t care what anyone “believes” – it is not a matter of “I should have said stop” – NO – THEY shouldn’t have done what they did. They should not have presumed that my body (because I was likely viewed as an object, not a person) was their personal playground or source of satisfaction. It’s sad to say that I truly believe if I have endured this many (and more) instances like this – I would wager many other people have suffered an even greater amount of far more unimaginable horror.
My heart goes out to anyone who has suffered physical, emotional, sexual abuse or any other form of trauma inciting aggression. It’s not ok. YOU are not alone though and YOU are not broken. The blame is not on you, and I hope that you seek the peace that you deserve, in the manner that serves you best.
If not me then who; if not now then when?