October 8, 2016 3:02 pm

Sexism

In case you have been living under a rock, or are not in the US, one of our presidential candidates was caught on tape describing sexually assaulting women as though it were nothing out of the ordinary.

Trump said:

“I just start kissing them… Just kiss. I don’t even wait,’ Trump said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it.”

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

After this came out, writer Kelly Oxford shared her experiences with sexual abuse using the hashtag #NotOkay and invited other women to join in. She was receiving an average of two stories per second after her request.

Here are mine.

Age 13, at sleep-away church camp: An older boy – who I was previously on friendly terms with – somehow got one of my roommates to loan him their room key, and then used it to sneak into our room late at night. I woke up to the sound of the door opening. He crept over to my bunk and whispered to me that he needed to borrow something – a book, maybe, that we had talked about earlier – and while I opened the wardrobe to retrieve it for him, he pressed himself against me in a side-hug I couldn’t escape from. I stood there and let him hug me inappropriately in the middle of the night until he felt he had hugged me enough and then I hurriedly ushered him out of the room. My roommates slept through the whole thing.

Upon returning home, still feeling like I had been violated and taken advantage of, I confessed the situation to my boyfriend, who blamed me and then accused me of cheating on him. I cried, trying to explain that I DID NOT INVITE THAT HUG and I DID NOT WANT HIM TO BE DOING THAT and IT WAS REALLY SCARY and he was mostly upset that I didn’t let the older boy know I was taken or tell him “no.” I think some part of me had been expecting an “Oh my gosh, are you okay? That sounds really scary. Have you told anyone?” but we were thirteen and despite a rando thinking it was okay to sneak into my room at night at church camp and sexually assault me, it was “my fault” because I didn’t say “no.”

I never told anyone else. The perpetrator was clearly unpredictable (I had been SLEEPING!) so I was partly thankful that it hadn’t escalated further, we were at church camp so any boys-in-girls-rooms-at-night was strictly forbidden and I was afraid of getting in trouble because he had our room key and how was I going to explain that away, and it was “just a hug” so I didn’t think people would take me seriously.

Age 14: my then-boyfriend (different guy from above) was very jealous and possessive. He didn’t like if I talked with my guy friends in the halls between classes or gave them hugs, and asked me to stop being friends with them. He told me what he wished I wore. His favorite color was yellow; I should wear more yellow. Did I wear thongs? (No. I thought they were gross.) He thought they were sexy; I should wear them. Why wasn’t I wearing them?

We went to a movie together and at first I was excited when he put his hand on my knee affectionately. I was less excited when he kept moving his hand up my leg. I repeatedly pushed it back down to my knee and I remember writing in my diary that by the end, I practically “threw his hand” and was satisfied when he finally kept it at my knee after that.

On my 15th birthday, I was at my Driver’s Education class about to get into the car for my lesson. He arrived on his bike, handed me a gift bag with an embarrassed look on his face and told me to open it when I was by myself. I snuck a peek so I could be prepared if any of my classmates or my instructor asked questions about the gift.

He had given me a yellow thong for my birthday.

I played it off to my classmates and instructor that I was going to wait until I was home to open it, knowing there was no way I could explain it away. He knew I didn’t wear thongs. He knew I didn’t like yellow clothing. I was barely fifteen. This was not a birthday gift for me. His intent was for me to be a gift for him.

I found out later that he had the sister of one of his friends purchased the thong on his behalf because he was too embarrassed to do it himself. (Not too embarrassed to give it to me in public though!)

After we broke up, I was in Health class during a segment on abusive relationships and realized in hindsight that he ticked something like nine of the ten boxes that were presented to us.

Age 18, first day in a new city: A scraggly, possibly drunk middle-aged man stumbled toward my roommate and I hollering “HEY GIRLS! SEXY! COME GIVE ME A BLOW JOB!” We escaped by running down an unfamiliar alley. He laughed as we ran.

Age 18, coming home from a late class at school: I walked through the park blocks and saw a man inside the kids’ play area. I intially thought it was funny he was playing on the toys. I realized belatedly that he was masturbating.

Age 18, on my way to school: Walking across a bridge (so there were literally no alternate routes I could take), I saw a man facing the railing. I realized as I approached that he was actually urinating off the bridge. I was too close to do anything but keep on walking, so I kept walking.

Age 19, while manning the copy center at college: I received a MySpace message from a new (male) hire that said:

“oh my god, you will never know how eternally joyful that i am to be
able to say the following sentence:

“hello my coworker”

omg, i sense a heart attack heading my way”

I brushed it off, thinking it was funny/strange but ultimately harmless. That was until I received another message that included an image of an imaginary album cover he had made (filename: “meggancoldblood.JPG”), using a photo he had lifted from my MySpace page complete with song titles he had made up based on topics he saw on my personal website.

meggancoldblood

I was incredibly freaked out and sent an email to my manager, who, as far as I can remember, handled it admirably. He made it clear that yes, this was not okay and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. The new hire apologized to me in person.

He kept his job. I tried to avoid him at all costs, especially night shifts.

Age 20, while manning the copy center at college: an instructor was leaning over the counter to write her copy instructions on our order sheet. A male student saw her and backed up, took out his phone, and snapped a photo of her butt. He was so quick that it was too late to say anything by the time I had realized what happened – all I managed to do was make eye contact with him as he walked away, and he stared right back, as though saying, “I dare you to do anything about it.” It didn’t seem like it would have helped the situation to tell the instructor what had just happened, so I told my manager instead.

The incident got escalated appropriately and I ended up speaking with the president of the school about it. He was very concerned and made it clear that the behavior I witnessed was not acceptable. I ran into the student on a couple of different occasions after that and it gave me a panicky jolt of adrenaline every time. Unfortunately, because I didn’t know the student’s name or any other identifying information about him, he was never identified nor punished.

______________

This is not where these incidents end. I would wager that nearly every woman has similar stories she could tell.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up with these kinds of stories to tell. I don’t want my son growing up thinking it’s okay to behave like this.

imwithher

File Under:

1 Comment

  • Jem says:

    This makes me so sad :( Sad because you went through this. Sad because I’ve been through this. Sad because unless something drastically changes, our daughters will go through this.

    It shouldn’t be this way.