Boys Will Be Boys: My #MeToo Story
On October 15, 2017, over 1.2 million women (and men), from around the world, stood in solidarity against sexual harassment and sexual assault by typing a very simple message; #MeToo.
By typing #MeToo, this hashtag allowed people from all age groups, political parties, social status, and more, to bring awareness to the immense problem of sexual assault and harassment, without being forced to tell their full story.
Each victim raised their hand and whispered, #MeToo. Every whisper became a loud voice for change.
I, too, shared a few instances of sexual harassment in my own life. I think it’s important that victims know they are not alone and they can reach out for help from others. I also think it’s important to show the vast age ranges of victims. I’m 50 years old. Looking over the #MeToo hashtag, I found women in their 70s telling their stories, and girls as young as 16. This is disturbing.
As others have noted, I believe the #MeToo hashtag is just the beginning. We must take this momentum and change the way we act as adults and how we raise our children. We must provide safe spaces for victims to report crimes, process all rape kits in America, punish offenders to the full extent of the law, and yes, I believe we need to offer counseling to possible abusers if current behavior or the need is warranted (as in my story). We can’t do this if we don’t know where the disconnect occured and know how we might have stopped bad behavior before it progressed to much worse behavior.
I’ve decided to tell my full story of one of the many times I’ve been harassed in my life. It is one instance where I truly believe something could have been done to stop the abuse and protect the victims, if only someone would have listened.
Here is that story.
The “boys will be boys” mentality must end. There is a long-held belief in America that boys can do as they wish because they’re boys. This includes harassing girls. Many people have heard the familiar quote, “If he picks on you, he must like you.” This quote is passed off for various bad behaviors from pulled hair, popped bras, to stalking. These actions are not acceptable.
I think we do a great disservice to our boys and men when we accept bad behavior and pass it off as “boys will be boys.” This cliche sounds as if we don’t believe they can achieve a higher standard than acting out with bad behavior. This isn’t fair to them and only sets them up for failure.
We teach children it’s necessary to eat vegetables, not play in traffic, & not to stick forks into light sockets, it’s also imperative to teach boys (and girls) to respect each other. If parents and teachers fail to correct this behavior early-on boys are at risk for carrying this dangerous behavior into adulthood.
Here is my story of one such boy.
From fourth grade through sixth grade I attended a far-right fundamentalist Christian school. Students in our school lived in various towns, but the school only owned one or two buses which made the bus rides very long.
Some students would do homework, but most would fall asleep. Due to Christian school dress code, all girls wore dresses, and sometimes, while asleep, the young girls dresses might ride-up or their legs might open a little too much. This would typically not be a problem, but for one boy on our bus, he made this his hunting ground. When most students fell asleep, he would quietly crawl under the bus seats and try to reach under girls’ dresses to touch their genitals.
Many girls, myself included, reported him. He wasn’t punished. To remedy the problem, the teachers instructed the girls to sit at the front of the bus. If the front of the bus filled up, we have no choice but to sit elsewhere. This put us at risk of his deviant behaviors.
In our school, the religious curriculum taught girls never to challenge boys. Our bodies did not belong to us. The Bible teaches us God created Eve as a companion to Adam, and girls should behave as a mate and we were not to question a man’s actions. This type of education creates a hunting ground for predators and creates a hostile environment for victims to report abuse.
I describe this because coming forward is always hard, but is particularly frightening in a religious school. In our case the constant harassment was greater than the fear of punishment. At various times I reported the student and so did others. Our complaints fell on deaf ears.
As a young child, I realized most adults would not protect us from the dangers of the world. When many children were playing with friends, I was making plans to survive.
In my 10-year-old mind, I created a plan to stop him. One day I sat near the back of the bus and pretended to sleep. I opened my eyes just a little and watched him crawl under the seats. He stopped at the seats where, during their sleep, young girl’s legs had opened a little wider than normal. I waited. When he got to my seat, I waited for him to get into his comfortable position. He turned on his back so he could look us and try to reach up to touch me between my legs. As he reached up, I jumped with all the fury.
I screamed at him to stop while I attacked his face with my feet. I threw my books down on his face and chest. He tried to scramble away. The students woke up and looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I didn’t care. I was small for my age, but I continued screaming at him and pounding him with my 10-year-old legs.
At some point an older student or an adult pulled me away. The entire incident lasted only 10 minutes, maybe less. But I sent him a message. I would not be messed with any longer. His face showed he was surprised and feared me. I thought I had won. I thought a victory for me would be a victory for all the girls in my school. I was wrong.
The school informed my parents of the incident. My parents, the principal, and the teachers were angry. They weren’t angry at him, they were angry at me. They were disappointed I wasn’t “acting like a lady.” I was told it was our (the girls) fault because we girls should sit up front and do homework on the bus.
I was expelled for a few days. I was also spanked with a wooden paddle, by a male teacher while a female supervised. My punishment was for causing a disruption on the bus and fighting. My parents were angry because by being expelled from school I caused them problems. We were living in poverty, so I needed to behave so they could concentrate on work.
As far as I know the boy never received punishment. After that day, I never talked about that day with the other girls, but I could tell my punishment sent a message to them; if you try to protect yourself from boys, you will receive the punishment.
As the months continue, this boy could grab at young girls whenever he wanted to, and considered the girl’s fault for not staying out of his way. As he gained more courage, he harassed us not only on the bus; he also harassed us more & more in school. He would try to push girls against the wall and rub his body against us. We would push him off and he would laugh about it. He got a kick out of making us feel uncomfortable around him.
The sad part is, he wasn’t the only young boy to harass me as a child. This is only one story of “boys acting like boys” and using this excuse to harass me and other women in school and in the workplace.
After enduring Christian “school” for three years, and being expelled for questioning religious and scientific beliefs, my parents allowed me to attend public school again. Between the abuse my sisters and I received from home, and the abuse from school, I was programmed to avoid speaking out, but I continued to speak up when I could.
The first year back in public school was hard. I had so much to learn compared to my classmates. Though I was a bright student, Christian school is not only Bible based, but we were also self-taught, with the facilitators only present to guide us through our studies, not there to teach us. This resulted in me falling behind in many of the subjects important to normal life, such a grammar and writing.
Though I was painfully shy, I enjoyed school, and I learned to become my own person. I eventually caught up with the rest of my classmates & later, in high school, I enrolled in advanced classes.
In a twist of small-town fate, the same boy who harassed me for years, showed up at my school the next year.
I think about this often; when victims are abused, harassed, and treated horribly by students, if they speak up, there is no safe place for them to go. When a victim speaks up, they must wait for the completion of the investigation to know the outcome. If the victim wishes to maintain an education, they might be forced to face their abuser in school, classes, and extracurricular activities until the case is completed.
Due to the number of cases where the abuser is found not guilty or is found guilty, but awarded a lax punishment, the victim might be forced to spend years with their abuser or be forced to move to a new school district to continue her education. Young students aren’t stupid. They read the news. Given all a student must lose when reporting harassment or abuse why would a victim come forward if they believe no one will protect them? As adults, we must find solutions to fix this. We must do better for all victims.
By attending public school, I had one big advantage, unlike Christian school, where everyone was in one room; I was smarter than he, so we did not take the same classes. I only saw him in the hallway & sometimes at lunch. I avoided him as much as possible. When I was near him, he still grabbed for me, and made me uncomfortable. I spoke to one teacher about this boy’s actions, but again, I was told to stay away from him.
The constant lesson was; “boys will be boys” and if girls wish to take part in a boy’s world, we girls must stay out of their way or suffer the consequences of their actions.
I would avoid him by taking another way to class, only to find myself occasionally late to class.
This boy harassed me since I was 9. I was 12 years old and it was ingrained in me that the only way to survive as a female in this world was to change my life so abusers could continue to live an easier life. Some teachers would offer hope by saying school didn’t last forever and when we graduated, it would be different. The teachers forgot to add, the boys who harass girls, grow up to be men in college & the workforce who more than likely will continue to harass women.
Things don’t change unless we make the change early in life.
I learned school was not a safe place for female students, but I continued to do my best and tried to keep my focus on the future. My goal was to work hard in school and graduate. This goal helped me survive the abuse I experienced in my home and at school.
Thankfully, as time went by, he failed his classes, and I lost touch with him.
Many years later a classmate told me to check the Sex Offender Registry. I had long buried the experiences with him in the dark corners of my mind. He wasn’t on my radar and I hadn’t thought about him for years.
But when I looked at his photo on the computer screen, tears of both happiness and sadness flowed down my cheeks. I cried because he was finally arrested, but I also cried for all the girls he harassed over the years. He stole many moments in our childhood. The adults in our lives allowed him to become the terror before me now.
By the time I read the report, I had created a wonderful career (which allowed me to live in many countries), a wonderful home, many friends, and a great family, and yet, through technology, this creep was back in my life again. As I looked at his photo, the memories of his ugly grin and irritating laughter hit me like a rogue wave.
I read the sparse details on the registry. The physically and mentally abusive boy grew into an abusive man and assaulted a teen girl.
I was successful and confident. I did not expect to react so emotional. But, as the tears ran down my face, I felt just like that little girl again, terrified to ride the bus and terrified of what my teachers would do if I complained again.
The memories of him came rushing back; the memories of him as a nine-year-old boy reaching under girl’s dresses, as a ten-year-old boy rubbing his body against girls, as an eleven-year-old boy reaching for a girl’s breast, as a twelve-year-old boy popping bra straps, making lewd gestures, and harassing girls in the hallway. They all came back and flooded me with disgust and sadness.
I also remembered the how often we girls reported him to adults in school and they failed to keep us safe. Our lives were not important enough for them to protect us.
I looked at his face and I remembered the lessons I was taught; “boys will be boys.”
I didn’t know who he attacked, but when I posted it to social media, my stomach fell. My best friend from high school told me the person he abused was her much younger sister. She never knew my story because, after being ignored for so long, I put the memories aside and never talked about it. No one would help me or protect me, so there was never a reason to talk about it.
Now I find out my best friend’s little sister was hurt by this predator. At first I blamed myself, but then, I remembered all the adults who let us all down. We did the right thing. We were ignored. Now another young girl was assaulted.
She’s another young girl who can join the sad history of so many and post #metoo.
Throughout the years, I’ve posted his photo on social media a few times and various classmates contacted me. They told their own stories of harassment by the boy who was now a man.
The stories were all the same. He would grab them in the hallways and make them feel uncomfortable. The girls did not want to sit with him because he would harass them. He would try to pull up their skirts, pop their bras, or make a lewd comment to them.
I always knew I wasn’t the only person he harassed, but I never imagined the hell he had caused do much hell for so many others.
As we compared our stories, some of us realized that at different times we had all reported him at least once and he received no repercussions. The adults in our lives recognized the type of boy he was and what he did, but not one person stopped him.
The women who contacted me had grown up with this memory, but we had all become strong, confident women who outgrew his hold over us. At this point in our lives, we were no longer sad or scared, we were full grown women and we were angry. We were pissed off. We wondered why no one helped us stop him. Not one person thought enough of us to stop him from terrorizing us.
Because I’ve lost touch with so many classmates, I don’t want to imagine the true number of young girls this “boy” hurt over the years.
This “boy” is now a man, and he is on the sex offender’s registry. The link below is the man who used his entire life to harass women and girls. He needed help. We girls needed help.
We all needed the help of the adults in our lives and they failed us all.
The next time you hear someone say, “boys will be boys” click on the link above and tell my story. Use my story as an example of the damage caused when bad behavior is not punished and young children are not protected from young predators. If it will help save one child from fear and harassment, I give you permission to use my story as an example to stop bad behavior early.
Remind others, the boys who are allowed to harass young girls with a flippant “boys will be boys” might just grow up to become men who rape young girls too.
Until next time…
Please be safe, be kind, be happy, and take time to love one another. We’re all in this together.
*Note: From wonderful advice friends have offered, a few words were edited for clarity. Thank you.