Me, too. Where do I start?
It all started last night when I saw this post on Facebook
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.
The first time I saw it, I considered posting, but hesitated. Why?
I then saw it again 3 times before I decided to post. Between posting & falling asleep, another 6 friends had posted & by morning at least 20 friends (my mom included), had posted.
This is not ok. This should not be normal. This is not normal. You know it's all around you. Sexual assault & harassment are happening all the time, right alongside racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, disability discrimination, transphobia, ageism, sizeism, etc.
I was not raped, but have had things happen that I am able to move on from, even some that I know I've suppressed, times when all I can remember is a dark cloud looming.
For me, this is in the past. Not to say that I am immune from it happening again, but that this is not currently something that I deal with. So many other human beings, girls, boys, women, men, transgender folks struggle with this on a daily basis. I say humans first, because that’s what we are even though I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, I am a person & do not deserve to be treated as “less than.”
My experiences started out with your typical cat calling & slow driver. I don't remember how old I was the first time, but I couldn't have been more than 12. When men followed me, as a pedestrian or slowly in their vehicles, which happened a lot throughout my life, I would tense up. There's not much you can do. Scream? Run? Pray?
"Where are you off to? Need a ride?"
"Uh, no thank you. "
Luckily, that was always enough. They would either speed off, I would lose them by going into a space space, or they would lose interest. Sometimes I would write down a license plate, sometimes I would go back home, sometimes go into a fast food restroom to rinse my face or have a good cry. I had men try to follow me home & I had to hang out a grocery store until I felt safe, but never speaking up.
I may have told a security guard a time or two, but my concerns were always met with "you can hang out here for a bit" which is basically the equivalent to a shrug.
I don't know what it exactly that makes you feel ashamed of being the victim of harassment. Maybe I thought that no one would believe me? Maybe I thought I was the only one? Maybe I thought that I had done something, had I dressed too provocatively? Was I walking a certain way? Should I not be where I am? What about me said “talk to me”?
Nothing. It was not about me, but took me years to figure that out.
Watching my friends around me blossom was difficult, I was small-chested & made to feel inferior about it. I was told by a boy in middle school that no one would marry me unless I “growed boobies.” It’s laughable now, but really hurt then. It hurt when the world around me showed women as these curvy beings, the girls around me were buying& filling in bras, & all I had for the longest time was protruding nipples.
The internet was a whole other world. It is so much easier to harass people that you cannot see. Strangers asking to see pictures of you nude, asking where you live, how old are you, what are you wearing, etc. They didn’t care that I was a minor, they wouldn’t have cared if I was ugly or had no boobs. They were just there, chatting away, jerking off over the slightest thing.
I had just moved to CA from MN & was just trying to make new friends my age, but instead was having conversations with much older men that lied about being teenage girls so that they could meet up for a smoothie. I only know this because it happened twice! Once I was with another friend of mine & we were able to flee & another time I had a bad sense of things when I showed up & turned around.
By 15, many of my friends were bragging about having sex. I was a "prude" & ok with that.
In 10th grade, I wrote a poem in a school journal about being raped. I wasn’t raped, but felt like I knew how easy it was to be raped & no one would know or care. My English teacher, a woman, never commented, but did sign her initials next to the entry letting me know that she had either read it, or at least had checked that it was done.
At 16, I had my first boyfriend. He was very sweet at first. Then, maybe 2 weeks in, he became a sex crazed, hormonal nightmare. He was always pressing me to do more than I felt comfortable & blamed me for his blue balls. I knew, though, that wasn’t right. I didn’t need that. I dumped him. He made sure to let me know a few days later that some other girl had "given it up" & was a much better kisser. Whatever.
So many boys were pressuring to have sex or to do any sort of sexual act.
Friendliness was very often mistaken for flirting. Smiling & laughing were basically seen as open invitations. Unwanted advances, kisses forced on closed lips, a groping or two pushed away.
I can't tell you how many times I said "no." , "NO!" , or "Stop!" No, I wasn't asking for it. I was scared out of my mind.
It seemed like everyone at school knew I was a virgin. I wasn't bothered by that, but it made me think of all of the girls that weren’t, they just went along with it all. Sure, some were in love & a few later got married, but mostly it was teenage lust, oozing. I wasn’t immune & was interested in it all myself, but I felt like things had to be “just right.”
Male friends that would, out of the kindness of their own hearts, offer a ride, always seemed to want something in return at the end. "Nope, but thanks for the ride."
It seemed like anyone that did anything nice for you would have this unspoken agreement with you that you were supposed to give something in return & I became very defensive, stating my intentions before anything happened.
"We're just friends. I'm not interested. "
" You're jumping to conclusions."
" I don't even like you like that."
"I heard you were a virgin."
There was something in the eyes, though, that said otherwise.
Boys & men would become defensive when you turned them down, too.
"Fine, you're ugly anyway."
"Heh, whatever. You don't even have boobs."
"You've got a bigger mustache than I do."
"I can do better than you."
"I like my women with a little more meat on their bones anyway."
This was always funny to me. Oh, you don't want me now that I've turned you down? What if I were suddenly interested? Would you apologize & take me back? Oh, please? I want you so bad.
I used to take public transportation a lot from 17-22. Having someone rub themselves into your hip or try to graze behind you was not unusual & I usually just rolled my eyes. Men would offer up seats next to them, I would decline. One time I sat on the bus, felt a tug of my hair & felt it pulled & heard it being sniffed. I grabbed my bag, & got off the bus. It was not my stop, but I knew where I was.
"Muey buenita!" "Mamcita!" "Look at those legs" "Woo Wee!" "Wanna come home with me?"
These are supposed to be compliments, I'm sure, but made me feel so uncomfortable & insulted. I wondered if that ever worked.
Many of my relationships started out as friendships & blossomed into more. Strangely enough, I had difficulties trusting men.
If I had any restoration in the male sex, it was because of my stepdad. I saw how he treated my mom & I knew that I, too, deserved to be respected & loved like that. I don’t remember talking to my mom about any of this. I don’t really think I spoke to anyone. Things happened, I might have a cry, but then I’d try to forget. Not normal. She was as safe of a space as I could’ve had & still didn’t talk about it. I think that is typical, though. Girls & women just grin & bear it, like it’s supposed to happen. It’s not.
Most of the things mentioned & so much more happened between the ages of 15-22. I lived in Burbank & Los Angeles. The funny thing is that I always look back at my time there so fondly. I think about the good things. I think about the friends that I had that protected me from so much, but not the fact that they also put me in uncomfortable situations in which these things happened.
I think about going to FIDM, but not the times that I quickly scurried away from from a predatory male for the 2 blocks from the metro to where the security guards at the school were within sight.
I think about the art scene, but not the times where I had to take 2 boxes of my paintings on a bus only to have my ass smacked by a man while exiting the bus.
I think about the beach, but not the lewd comments received while walking down the boardwalk in my bikini.
I think about the 4 years I spent doing extra work, but not of the comments made by fellow extras or a p.a. or a craft service guy, or whoever the heck that guy was.
I think about the amazing house I lived in with a multitude of roommates, but not the one time that one got drunk & forced his tongue down my throat.
Overall, my views of California are good ones. I felt scared at times, but because nothing "major" had happened, I felt lucky. The sex was always consensual, I was not physically injured, I never got an STD. I got away unscathed.
Oh, but one other thing I hated about LA, & I feel as though this should be considered as sexual abuse of another kind, is the non-exclusivity of relationships, the serial dating, stringing girls along with no intention of being faithful. Having come from the Midwest at 14 & having an idea of what healthy relationships looked like, this always boggled my mind. No one wanted to be with me more than just sexually.
Of all of the things that happened to me, this was by far, what hurt me the most. I had two (what I would consider) boyfriends in my early 20s. One for 9 months, another on & off for 2 years. Neither one of them wanted to use titles. I was not their “girlfriend” & they were not my boyfriend...to them. I had considered both of them to be boyfriends, not really talking about the whole logistics of the relationship. We had "the talk" about being exclusive much too late in the relationship.
Both relationships I did not suspect a thing. We spent pretty much all non-working hours together, I hung out with both of their friends, they never got texts or phone calls while with me, but to them, I wasn't enough. They "cared" about me, but I wasn't enough.
With the nine month guy, we were laying in bed when he brought up his girlfriend. Wait. What? What the actual fuck? What a lovely way to tell me that you've started to date someone else & more seriously, even though that is all I've wanted from you was that stupid title.
With the two year guy, he was never really vocal about his affections, but that was ok with me. We had a good thing going & cared about each other. After a year, I assumed that he would at least refer to me as his girlfriend. Wrong. Nope, I wasn't going to meet his parents & in fact they didn't even know I existed. We broke up. He missed me, apologized, insisted things would change, etc., but after a year of him having good days & bad, I broke up with him. He tried to get me back, but ultimately I knew I had to be strong.
I knew I deserved better, someone that would be proud to call me his.
I moved back to Virginia & shortly after moving here, I met my husband. We started as friends but before I had really even considered it, he was calling himself my boyfriend. He couldn't imagine not having that with me & that was all I needed. It was so easy to be loved by him & to love him back. We've been together 9 years & I have always felt respected & loved by him.
Society doesn’t help women feel safe about coming forward, because women do come forward & nothing happens. Their voice isn’t heard, so it is quieted. Certain things are just so ingrained into our world, that they feel normal, but shouldn’t. Someone in your life needs to tell you what is acceptable vs. what is complete bullshit.
One time, I visited my dad in Virginia while I was living in LA. I was maybe 21 & was wearing blue eye shadow. My dad picked me up from the airport & the first thing he said was “Wow, blue eye shadow? I didn’t know I raised a whore.” I was furious & we didn’t talk for the car ride from the airport to my grandparent’s house. I was so used to his comments that I debated in the ride whether I should actually be mad. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn blue eye shadow? No, fuck that. There were so many things that man has said in my life that I fear have only made me more comfortable with abuse.
He is an alcoholic. He has said inappropriate things about me or my friends that he often forgets that he’s said & sometimes even later repeats. He recently owned up to his asshole behavior, stating that it amuses him, so that’s where he stands. I guess that’s where they all stand. It amuses them, so they continue until someone tells them it’s not ok. Most continue beyond that, until it no longer amuses them.
It is all a power trip. These men feel as though they are owed something. I have been verbally harassed by mainly white, black, & hispanic men. I'm sure most of them were in relationships, had kids, respectable jobs, etc. None of that stopped them from doing what they did. Nothing in their mind said, "Hey, wait a sec. This isn't right." The straight up audacity it takes to yell something at someone or to touch someone without not only their consent, but knowledge it's going to happen is beyond me. I cannot fathom being so brazen, so unapologetic about such harmful behavior.
I defended this "me, too." movement today when a woman claimed she was going to start a #notme movement to run right along side, because at "60+" she has not been assaulted or "seriously harassed" & she called #metoo the "women as a victim" movement. These are the same peope spouting "all lives matter" to me. These are the people that think only about what is happening to them, right now. If it doesn't affect me, it doesn't matter & it's a freaking plague.
I am proud of who I am today. I could never condone sexual abuse of any kind, but what happened to me is part of my history & who I am. The thing is, though, womenwill become who they are meant to be without that shit, too. If it weren't for that shit happening, I wouldn't be who I am, but someone else just as great. I carry my stories & voice my past, to help others find theirs.
I feel I have to be conscious of so much more now that I am a mom. I want to be open about my experiences, so that my children will have empathy for those around them. This world needs more kind-heartedness, more straight up love. This world does not need more rape.