Want to Know Why Women Don’t Report?
How Do You “Come Forward” About Something So Commonplace?
Lou Dobbs and his ilk (Monsters, Inc.) are asking why these women didn’t “report it” and “come forward” when they were groped by Donald Trump. Report and come forward to whom, exactly? The police? Cops have bigger fish to fry and as many women can attest, it’s often more emotionally taxing to speak with a police officer than it is to just have a good cry with a friend and try to forget about it. Could these women have emailed NBC and been like, “Hey, remember when you had a TV show with this guy? Well he just groped me — do something.” (Who would they even reach out to? How would they gain access to anyone there? What, gropegripes@NBC.com?) Up until his presidential bid, Trump has been a private citizen who runs his own company — who does he answer to that one could even “report it”? The media? Often they don’t care — many of Cosby’s accusers tried and tried to get some attention for their assertions that he had sexually assaulted them and the media brushed them off for decades.
Some people think the timing seems fishy and say that these women are opportunists and shills for Hillary, but the truth is much sadder and simpler than that. The truth is that for most young women, being groped is just par for the course, so why make a big deal of it? Being touched inappropriately or kissed on the mouth or pawed at by a stranger — these are experiences that we have been socialized to just deal with as part of our day-to-day. And, even more pernicious, after something like this happens, we often blame ourselves and feel embarrassed about it so we don’t make a big deal. This is one of the many reasons #WhyWomenDontReport was trending on Twitter last night.
Like it or not, in our society, children grow up on a steady diet of subtle messages about what they are allowed to do and how they may behave — “boys will be boys” and girls must be “ladylike” and demure, polite.
I don’t think I know a single woman who has NEVER been inappropriately touched or groped, yet we all just keep on stepping. That’s how we’re trained. I’ve been groped by strange men a few times and have never “reported it” much less made a huge deal of it, and it’s a shame but it’s also a survival instinct.
Here’s a tally of a few times I was inappropriately touched by a stranger or strangers — this isn’t every single incident — these are the ones that I feel comfortable sharing. I feel a bit embarrassed to bring these to light, but I also think it’s important for people to realize that nearly every woman has a bunch of stories like this:
-In 2003 I was living in Chicago and a guy stopped me on the street (North Sheridan — near my apartment) and asked for directions, which I gave him. He then hugged me without warning or reason and held the hug much too long. I was just startled — I didn’t know what to do. I remember so vividly that I didn’t want to be impolite or make things weird (I know, I know), but I tried to wiggle out and walked away.
-In 2009 or so I was walking down a street in Murray Hill with a friend. I was wearing a new dress that I liked — it was a warm night and we had just visited my crush at the bar that he owned. From behind us on the sidewalk, a man rode toward us on a bike and once he was next to me, he stuck out his hand and forcefully grabbed my butt. He managed to keep his balance as he groped me and keep on pedaling — I didn’t even get a look at him. Should I have gone to the cops and given ZERO description of this guy? What’s the point? It made me feel really uncomfortable and anxious about people on bikes approaching me from behind, but what does one do? Not walk down the street? Never leave your house?
-A couple of years later I was walking alone one evening in Chelsea on my way to meet a friend for a drink — it was around 7:00pm on a week night. I was listening to “Pumped Up Kicks” on my iPod, wearing shell toe Adidas, a puffy vest, and jeans, and a group of about a dozen young men were coming toward me. They sounded rowdy and I remember feeling a lot of fondness for them — they reminded me of the times when my friends and I would go into Boston from the suburbs and be loud, run around. As we got closer to each other, I realized they were all drunk and thought, oh, they may say something smart to me but they didn’t just do that. Instead, the dozen of them encircled me and thrust their crotches at me (clothes were kept on — just pelvic thrusting movements were made on me/at me) and forced me against the side of the sidewalk, where I bumped into a tree and screamed, “Are you fucking kidding me?” repeatedly until they continued on their way. I walked a few steps, tweeted that I had just been accosted by a dozen guys, went to the bar where I was meeting Rebecca, and started crying. It was terrifying. I’m a woman who prides herself on being strong — a few years before this I chased down my mugger and got my own purse back — but that group assault was really scary. I couldn’t start kicking or punching — it was 12 against 1 and I feared that escalating things would only end badly for me. And I didn’t call the cops — why bother? Again, a blur of drunk high school boys encircled me and pushed me into a tree — I have no idea where they went and didn’t get really good looks at any of them.
-In 2014 I was walking in the east village of Manhattan and I turned a corner and came upon a drunk guy on the street who lunged at me so as to hug me. He had one hand against the building and was blocking the sidewalk so that I would have to walk into his hug. I was able to duck quickly under his arm quickly and pass through, screaming expletives as I went.
In all these instances I was upset and shaken up, but more than anything I was embarrassed. I consider myself a tough cookie and in all of these instances I felt taken advantage of and mostly very stupid. It’s hard to rewire your brain and fight your instinct to be polite and “not make it weird.”
These women aren’t coming forward now because it benefits them AT ALL (nobody gets a Grope Parade, believe me) — they are coming forward now because Donald Trump did this to them, then he was recorded admitting that he does these things, now these women finally feel like they will be believed and that their experiences matter. Of COURSE they are coming forward now — when else would they? When is the right time to come forward about something that women have been subtly trained to simply endure as part of the female experience?