It is Not My Fault
I went out of my way to avoid the hallway where they always sat. If I had to walk past them, I kept my head down, staring at my feet, trying unsuccessfully to ignore their words. Years later, I don’t recall the words so much as the feelings they engendered: the fight or flight response that filled me until I felt like I must burst.
I started high school in 1994, and I spent the next four years avoiding one particular section of hallway. Bart and his friends sat there before homeroom, and during recess and lunch. Every year, lockers were reassigned and, one year, my locker was right next to that hellish bit of hallway. I tried to carry as much with me as possible every day so I could avoid visiting my locker.
To this day, I can’t stand the name Bart. It sends a chill through my bones, bringing back to mind the feeling of helplessness that dogged me from grade 9 through 12.
On the first day of English class, Chad handed me a folded piece of paper that contained a lewd poem. After reading it, I tossed it at the garbage in disgust, and he jumped from his seat to retrieve it, asking me frantically if I had read it, desperate that I had.
“Just don’t react,” my mom told me with years of experience in her eyes. “They’re looking for a reaction.” Well, yes. They do want a reaction. But my silence didn’t stop them.
I learned many things in high school. But the thing that I am still unlearning is that it is my fault when I am harassed. It is not my fault. And I will no longer ignore it.