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  • I was 10 at a dinner party with my mother’s coworkers. I went upstairs to the second floor to pick a game for me and another kid to play while the parents were eating at the dinner table. I picked a game and stopped briefly to look over the balcony and when I turned around, the 21-year-old son of my mother’s friend was standing there a few feet away, staring at me with his robe open, very naked and clearly on purpose. I turned around quickly, embarrassed and freaking out, trying to pretend I hadn’t seen what I just saw. I heard him walking behind me and he put his hands on my shoulders and back and started rubbing while saying calmly “It’s OK.” I wiggled away and ran down the stairs. I pulled my mother aside to tell her we need to leave and I’ll tell her why later. She thought I was just being difficult and we didn’t leave for another hour while he roamed about the house and I avoided eye contact. Later that night while my mother was encouraging me to release my feelings about it, I cried and punched a pillow.
  • When I was 19, I went to the house of the owner of a bar I used to go to in my home town. I had already been drinking and went with intentions to continue drinking, maybe make out — I though he was cute and funny and we had a mutual friend I was close with. We started making out and fooling around on his couch. I was a virgin and he knew. I felt him begin to try and insert… it. I said no repeatedly but it kept happening. I stopped saying no after he wasn’t listening and didn’t fight. I told friends later that I’d lost my virginity but didn’t tell them it was rape. I didn’t even admit it to myself for a long time and even tried to see him again a day later. I didn’t want to admit to myself that this wasn’t my decision. I wondered later if he remembered what happened (he was drinking) or even if he thought that he raped me. That question was answered 12 years later (a few months ago) when I received a Facebook friend request and message, “hi.” I didn’t know his last name and only after looking at his pictures did I realize who he was and sitting at my desk at work, I felt my whole body run cold and tingly. That triggered some old feelings I do my best to bury, but it was a little comforting to know he absolutely knows what he did. He wouldn’t try to contact someone he thought he had a consensual one night stand with, after 12 years.
  • There are countless other instances but those were the big ones that stick out. I’ve been called every awful word in the book by men I don’t know and who don’t know me. All of my close girlfriends have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. I’m 31 now, in a healthy relationship, good job, great friends and all is pretty much good. Still, anytime I’m alone in public I feel I have to be hyper vigilant. Every time a man cat calls, or yells anything at me from a distance, approaches me to speak, I wonder if it’s just going to be the words or will it escalate to something worse. My sweet and very progressive boyfriend is supportive, and generally wonderful — but I don’t think even he understands how frequently this happens. He’s seen things happen, but he doesn’t understand how often it happens when I’m alone and the fear that comes with it every time. It has nothing to do with the way I look on any given day, the sheer fact that I’m alone invites comment from the male peanut gallery to exert control, however innocuous it may seem. Not sure how to end this. How about … vote on Nov. 8.
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