Sexism is not just a Hollywood Problem

As I see my feed fill up with statuses saying “Me too,” I find myself recounting the times I had been violated at the hands of men. I don’t know many women that haven’t been harassed, felt unsafe with a man, or been assaulted. As disturbing as it is to see so many friends come forward, it’s not in the least bit shocking. The time frames and ages were recounted to the best of my ability but here is my story. Or rather, stories.

I was 6 when my uncle told me I had to wear one of his tee shirts to bed during a sleepover. He picked one and I obliged as I was scared of him. When his children acted up, he made me choose the weapon of punishment and forced me to watch as he hit them. He then paid special attention to me, explaining that I was a good kid, unlike his children. I believe he was trying to groom me.

I was 7 when my friend’s father insisted I take a shower at their house. We had been playing and gotten messy somehow. I lived across the street, so it wasn’t necessary. But he sat in the bathroom and supervised. As I walked into my home with soaking wet hair wearing my friend’s clothing, my father barked out “What happened?” I told him and somehow he was yelling at me. I shouldn’t ever do that. Don’t ever let an older boy or man convince me to do this again.

I was 8 when a stranger tried to lure me and my brother into his car with candy. We ran home and locked the door. We believe he was trying to kidnap us.

I was 8 when my Aunt’s boyfriend took me into the basement and threw me against a wall for being too loud. I passed out.

I was 9 when my brothers spoke up about an uncle they felt hugged a little too long. I agreed. He made us all uncomfortable. My parents laughed it off. They were sure he was harmless.

I was 12 when a teacher taught us that we should yell “fire” instead of “rape” if we are ever being sexually assaulted.

I was 14 when one of my classmates kept pulling the back of my bra and snapping it. When I turned around and told him to stop, he said “shut up or I will punch you in the face.”

I was 15 when a distant cousin that was at least 10 years older than me told me he liked my legs. “I like women with thick calves” he said. No one seemed to mind. No one spoke up.

I was 15 when I got my first job at a family business on the boardwalk in New Jersey. My boss grabbed my ass and pretended it was an accident, often asked me about my underwear, and generally said disgusting things to me. His uncle and brother often said sexually explicit things as well. When I complained to co-workers, I was told it was flirting, that it was a good thing. I was told I should be flattered.

I was 15 when I went out on a date with a boy that was 19. He asked me to go under the boardwalk but I decided to go home instead. Later a cousin told me he had a reputation and a nickname: “Rapist John.”

I was 15 when I was set up on a date with a 17 year old through a mutual friend. He quickly became co-dependent and violent. At one point, he asked if I wanted to see a magic trick then put his cigarette out on me while laughing. After confronting the mutual friend that set us up the next day, he confided that my date had a history of stalking his ex-partner and that he thought it would be funny to set us up.

I was 16 when my math teacher rubbed my shoulders while I was making up work after school. He made a joke saying his wife would be upset if she knew we were alone. I never went to his class alone again.

I was 16 when I got drunk at my own house party. In the middle of the party I tried to rest in my parents room but woke up when I felt the weight of a boy I barely knew on top of me, trying to reach under my shirt. I pushed him off and called my boyfriend crying. He told me it was my fault for drinking too much. He said I was a slut. I told no one else.

I was 16 when my boyfriend raped me. He asked if we could have sex. I was a virgin and wasn’t ready. I said “no” and he held me down and forced himself onto me anyway. I stayed with him for a year and a half through an ongoing abusive relationship. Abuse at the hands of men was normalized to me at this point. My body wasn’t my own.

I was 16 when my father found condoms in my nightstand. He sat me down and lectured me. He said he didn’t work hard moving us out of the city in order for me to be “just another one of those Philly sluts.”

I was 17 when I had a pregnancy scare. This same boyfriend punished me by raping me. I screamed and cried for his mother who was in the other room. She never came. I told no one but my diary. Shortly after, I found that diary page in my mother’s nightstand hidden under some books. She never told anyone, so neither did I. When confronted years later, she simply stated “I don’t remember.”

I was 17 when I told my boyfriend’s father that his son was hitting me. He told me I was dramatic and usually both people are at fault.

I was 17 when I stopped seeing this boyfriend. I told my mother he had been hitting me. She told me she was disappointed in me for allowing that to happen. He would continue to find a way to contact me every few years for the next 10+ years even though I told him to stop.

I was 18 when my friend’s boyfriend laughed and said “I could easily rape you right now” as we drove through a desolate area. After getting upset he said “Relax! You have no sense of humor.”

I was 21 when I calmly told my boyfriend’s bandmate to stop yelling at a 16 year old girl. After lightly touching his arm, he grabbed mine and twisted it behind my back until I was in tears. “Never touch me again” he said. No one did anything. My boyfriend continued to be his friend.

I was 24 when my drink was drugged. I was at a bar with friends and they had left ahead of me. I made it to my car and locked the door just in time to call my boyfriend before passing out. He initially was angry that I allowed myself to get so drunk.

I was 24 when a friend of a friend screamed at me across a bar that I owed it to him to find him one of my “fat friends” to sleep with him that night. He showed up to my husband’s show a month later, pulled him aside and apologized. He never apologized to me.

I was 25 when a strange man grabbed my arm so hard he caused me physical pain. He did this so he could pull me away from my friends because I wouldn’t speak to him.

I was 29 when an acquaintance rubbed his genitals on me in a bar while my husband was in the bathroom. I told my husband who then hit him but later continued to be this person’s friend. It is normalized so much so that this behavior isn’t deemed enough to end male friendship.

I was 31 when I attended a pool party with a friend. I felt one man’s eyes on me the entire evening so I kept my distance. He eventually swam over and got so close to me I could feel his genitals. I swam away and hoped it was a mistake. He came over to me again doing the same thing. He grabbed my arm at some point and started to pull me. I said “I didn’t consent to being touched” and he made a rape joke. As we got out to leave he heavily sighed, as if he was owed something he didn’t receive.

These are the instances that felt worth sharing for the sake of this article. I have many more memories of micro-aggressions, times I wasn’t trusted in my profession or taken seriously, times men told rape jokes or times I felt unsafe. It’s overwhelming to even sort through the examples in my mind. So many friends have discussed similar history of sexual harassment and/or assault. So, yes, me too. I stand with you all.