You’ve probably seen that hashtag on Twitter or Facebook. You are probably wondering what it may mean. What #MeToo deals with is sexual harassment and assault. Some are adding details. Others are simply saying “Me too” and saying little else. Those two words are enough, as the memories are overwhelming.
I know this because I have dealt with it as well. As you can imagine, this may be a bit much for some. If you are bothered by this subject, do not go past the jump.
When I was in fourth grade, I was molested by a fellow classmate. She was an older girl, a foot taller than me and she would trap me in the bathroom, grinding against me or groping me. I hated it, hated what she was doing but was absolutely terrified of telling anyone. She was bigger, it was my word against hers and who the hell would believe me anyway? So I kept silent. The only real signs of trouble came when I stopped doing my schoolwork and started skipping out on my homework. To my mother, it was just a sign of me being lazy and not wanting to put forth any effort. So I got blamed for slacking off and was told to “straighten up my act”.
To this day, my mother doesn’t know the entire truth. She may never know, to be honest.
In my junior year of high school, I started dating. We became a long term couple and things between us slowly inched towards sex, until it finally happened four years after we began seeing each other. I didn’t want to have sex until I was good and ready and at that point, I felt as though I was. But my then significant other? Probably not.
My significant other at the time had no concept, no idea of consent. To him, hearing me say the word “no” meant “Keep asking until she says yes”. Which is exactly what he did. I could say no ten thousand times and be met with twelve thousand pleading questions, some in the vein of “But it won’t take me that long! Please?” I wish I could tell you I was kidding.
I would say yes because I wanted to shut him up, because I wanted him to leave me alone. But can I really claim that true consent was even given, as the word “No” meant nothing to this man?
When I was in college and biking around the campus, a guy in a pick up truck asked me for directions, then proceeded to follow me as I headed down the street, cut me off and then begged me to watch him as he masturbated in his vehicle. Me being a smart ass twenty-something just rolled my eyes and said, “I have better things to do” before I biked away. It never occurred to me that he could have had a weapon or try to follow me again and possibly do something worse. Thankfully, he just drove away and I never saw him again.
Months later, while walking into the local Taco Bell, I was accosted by a man in a white jumpsuit. He was driving a windowless panel van and kept asking me to watch him jerk off, saying he would pay me. I kept saying no. His offers kept climbing upward–and I kept refusing–until I walked into the building. I kept an eye out as I ate lunch; if I spotted the asshole while I was in there, I was going to make damn sure that I screamed he was a molester and a pervert in front of as many human beings as possible. He didn’t follow me inside.
When I was 21 and working at my second shitty job, one of the guys who worked in the convenience store which housed the sandwich shop that employed me would walk over to my side of the building. He would press his ass against me and pin me against one of the prep tables, then grind against me. He would try and shove my hand down his pants. He always had an erection when he did this. He made sure we alone every single time. Eventually, he was fired. It wasn’t for what he did to me; it was the fact that he was caught skimming money from the till that got him canned. No one ever knew what he had been doing to me.
Two years later, I was in an even shittier job; this one was still food service. I had a coworker who would again, pin me against a wall and grind against me. I hated it but I knew better than to go to management. We had a serial sexual molester in the building–not the same coworker–who had been reported. But rather than fire the harasser, the manager punished the young woman who came forward by cutting her hours. I knew better than to say anything. I needed the money so I put up with the shit.
These stories are all true. I have never really spoken about any of them. I have never really mentioned any of them. Why? Because of the fear. Who would believe me? When I started talking about the abuse I had suffered at the hands of my mother, I was promptly silenced by one of my supposed best friends. I had already seen what happened to other women who had spoken out about sexual harassment and assault: they were silenced. It is common. It happens. Like any other form of abuse, there are those who don’t want to hear about it or deal with it. They would prefer that those of us who dealt with such things keep our heads down and our mouths shut. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t say anything. It wasn’t that big a deal so keep quiet about it.
And I did. For years. And nothing has changed. So now, I refuse to be silent. I will do the one thing I should have done years ago, the one thing that abusers don’t like their victims doing.
I will speak. I will be heard. I will be silent no more.