Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Unless you live under a rock, or have no access to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you've probably seen your newsfeed flooded with the #metoo posts and hopefully the magnitude of women who have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. And these posts aren't even accounting for the men who have also been victimized.

Some have even been sharing their personal stories, which is such bravery. These stories are hard to tell, sometimes even harder to admit to yourself that they exist. It's weird, you start thinking about all of the times this happened and you remember more and more. Do they really exist? Did it really happen? Am I really a victim? Wasn't it just fun? Just a joke? An accident? Just a stupid, drunk, embarrassing night that shouldn't have happened? Isn't it my fault? I should've been more responsible. I should've been aware of my surroundings. I shouldn't have had so much to drink. I should be able to take a joke - it's funny. It was dumb. It's nothing. He's my friend. He's family. He's involved in my church -- he wouldn't really do something inappropriate. He didn't mean it. It was nothing.

I started this post so many times, but I wasn't sure where to begin. Do I start with my earliest memories of the first time a man acted inappropriate towards me? I was 5. He didn't touch me. But I knew he was wrong. I kept my distance.

When I was maybe 7, there was a teacher for some sort of special class. Music, maybe? I don't remember. He came to our classroom and put too much attention toward me. It made me uncomfortable. He kept hugging me. Touching my face, my shoulder. I didn't care for it and I said so. Maybe he was just too friendly? By then I was already cautious. I already knew to be cautious. I was told I felt uncomfortable with male attention because I had "trust issues".

Fast forward to jr high & high school. Good old independent, fundamental Baptist school. Where I, along with every other girl, was told that my clothing was inappropriate if it wasn't a full-bodied, below the knee pair of culottes, skirt, or dress. You never know what we girls might wear that could cause our male classmates and teachers to "stumble". Because we, as women, must be accountable for men and boys not being able to control their thoughts and actions. A teacher once told me, after I had gotten my hair highlighted, that because of my highlights I would probably just end up being someone's "live-in". No one was going to marry me. BECAUSE OF HIGHLIGHTS! It wasn't the only time I heard that or that I'd just end up pregnant before I was married - if anyone married me at all. Because getting married was the most important thing? Finding some man to validate me as a "marriageable" woman was the most important thing? Because being pregnant without being married was so horrible? Of course.

The summer between 7th & 8th grade, I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. My friend and I were the youngest on the trip at 13. We sat in the front of the van and chatted with the driver the entire way down, who was a leader in our church. His wife wasn't on the trip. He kept referring to us jokingly (right?) as "concubines". It was weird. There was a lot of "weirdness" on that trip that looking back now, as an adult older than he was at the time, is really uncomfortable. I kept my distance after that trip. But there were other trips and more to this story that isn't all mine to tell. I wouldn't respond to his antics. I told him he was inappropriate. I was passive-aggressively punished for it. I confronted him again for punishing me. I "needed to learn my place." Noted. I just waited to graduate and get out of there.

My school made us girls change for PE in a classroom with a piece of paper taped over the window in the door for privacy. One day I was the last one to finish changing and a male classmate walked in on me. I yelled at him to get out and he immediately turned back to the hallway where he reported to anyone and everyone he could find that he saw me "topless and bra-less" 
in great, elaborate, and embellished detail. (You know, because girls remove their bras for P.E. Nothing like running bra-less.) I confronted him. I went to the principal. I was told I was being dramatic. It would blow over. It's not that big of a deal. Why hadn't I checked to be sure the door was locked anyway? Why was I taking so long to change clothes in the first place? How could he have known I was still in there? Please.

I started attending church with my boyfriend. They had a new youth pastor and he and his wife were so nice. They were very involved and had the youth group over to their house regularly. The youth pastor was friendly with my boyfriend and I. He added me on AIM and would chat sometimes. But then the chats got kind of weird like, how did my boyfriend and I spend our time? Did I feel like I had ever done anything I needed to "repent" for? How easy it was to "stumble", but that if I did I could tell him about it. I could tell him anything - any secret. He wouldn't tell anyone. That it was possible for me to "stumble" without even involving my boyfriend. He started telling me about his own relationship with his wife - how he wasn't sure it would last. He started showing up at my work randomly. Asking if I could go to lunch and talk more. Freaking church... I swear. That was the end of that for me!

I learned early once I started driving not to look if someone honked at me on the interstate. It only took 3 different men exposing themselves to me at 3 different times while driving to learn that. I still don't always look if someone tries to get my attention.

One of my first jobs was a sales rep for Voicestream (which later turned into T-Mobile.) It's the only job I ever walked out of. They hired me on the spot when I turned in my application. On my first day, the assistant manager told me, "Chicks don't last long here. I doubt you make it two weeks." Then went on to comment about the size of my breasts. Every day, he'd find a reason to "accidentally" brush my boobs or my ass. Or "accidentally" make me squeeze past him to get in and out of the store. Another guy who worked there would call him out on it and tell him to leave me alone. He'd just make sure not to schedule me with that guy. Every day it was comments on how I wore my hair and make-up, what kind of panties I was wearing. It was disgusting. It took about 2 weeks before I finally went crazy on the manager and said I wouldn't be back. I was young and naive and didn't know what to do - otherwise I doubt it would've taken that long. The best part? I never even got paid!

After that, I took a job with a watch company, still in a kiosk, but on the other end of that mall. There was a man who owned a little kiosk next to us that sold purses or something. He was a super creep. He'd come over and try to talk to one of the girls that worked for me. She complained to me that he was making her uncomfortable. I confronted him and asked him please not to talk to my staff. He told everyone in the mall that I was a lesbian and didn't like him talking to "my girls." Right.

Same mall, different guy. This one is a mall walker and he's my grandpa's age. He'd come every day and be waiting at my kiosk for me in the mornings. At first he was nice. He'd just be chatty, small talk. His wife was walking and he'd just hang out and wait for her. Then she stopped coming with him, but he'd still hang around my store. He started bringing me candy. I would take it (and then throw it away) to be polite, but it was kind of odd. I figured he was just a nice old guy. Then it started getting really, really weird. He started using the candy to try and bribe info out of me. Where did I go to school? How old was I? Did I have a boyfriend? Is my boyfriend older than me? I didn't even want his candy! I was vague with my answers and started ignoring him when he'd come up. He was creeping me out. It got worse. He started asking daily if I had anything to "confess" to him. What kinds of things had I been up to with my boyfriend? Did we have "sleepovers"? Was I a "good girl"? He started following me. He knew what car I drove. He followed me to my apartment once. I had to file a police report. They recommended an order of protection, but I didn't even know his name. I had a police escort for a few weeks and transferred stores and never saw that creep again, thankfully.

I learned to keep my gaze down when walking down the street, the mall, pumping gas. Not to go anywhere alone. To ignore the hollers and cat-calls. It was worse when I worked at that kiosk in the mall. You're like a trapped rat there. Or a piece of meat. Men would come and lean on the counter and just leer and say creepy things. I quit smiling at people when they would walk by because more often than not, it would encourage someone to say something inappropriate to me. Then I would get in trouble for not smiling.

Hearing comments all the time about our bodies, our size, about what we're wearing, specific body parts. Being pulled on to laps of drunk friends who think it's funny or it's a game. Being kissed when you didn't want to be by someone you didn't want to kiss. Being inappropriately touched by someone you don't want to touch you. That little hint of worry when it's just you and a man you've never seen before in the elevator or passing on an empty street. That drop in your stomach when someone you thought was good unleashes their inner weirdo with their creepy comments. The disgust and discomfort in knowing you'd have to see that person again and again. Worrying it could turn into more than talk. It happens all the time. We are so desensitized to it because it starts from the time we are babies. When we are told to give so-and-so a hug and a kiss. Even when we protest. What's the big deal? Be good. Do as you're told. Be polite. BE. POLITE. Don't offend. Don't be rude.

This is just a handful of stories. If I sit and think about it, there are so many more that come to mind, some I don't want to tell, some that aren't completely mine to tell. 
I am lucky. My stories are small, they are "insignificant" in the sea of other stories. Far, far worse stories. Mine are minuscule. They are every day occurrences. Someone groping me at a bar, someone taking advantage of the fact I had to much to drink. They're "just locker room talk". Accidental contact. A little bit of bullying. Unwanted attention. Hollers & cat calls are compliments! It means I looked good! I should be flattered. Not a big deal. Surely nothing to write a blog about or repost a hashtag over, right? It's nothing.

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