There are some stories we try to forget, that we bury so deep inside of ourselves, we hope they will never come to the surface. I have a story like that, one that I have pushed away for so long that even Ryan had never heard about it until today, even after knowing me for almost two decades.
This is the story of the first time I was assaulted.
I was eight or nine…I think. I may have been a little younger or a little older. Like I said, I have spent most of my life trying to forget it, so I don’t remember exactly when it happened.
I remember how it happened as clearly as if it was yesterday, though.
I suppose I was lucky…and I use that word loosely, because how lucky is anyone who is assaulted? But my assaulter was someone about my own age, a neighbor kid, not an adult man who might not have been scared off by my reaction, and for that I am thankful.
I don’t know what we were doing before it happened…whatever kids in the 80s did in the summer when they were playing outside, I guess….riding bikes or climbing trees. But out of nowhere, he grabbed my crotch. Hard. Even though he was about my age, he was a big kid, and it was traumatic.
After I ran home, I remember feeling two things. Pain and shame. His actions hurt me physically, to the point where I couldn’t ride my bike for a time. I couldn’t pretend that it hadn’t happened, because there was a physical reminder that I had been violated. It was undoubtedly a painful experience.
But what was worse was the shame. First the shame that someone had touched me there. Even at that age, I knew that no one…not a friend, not a neighbor, not a stranger, was supposed to do that. I was ashamed that it had happened at all.
I felt shame as I told my parents. The words wouldn’t come. How do you tell your parents about something like that? I remember choking the words out, and they were awkward, wooden words, “He touched me on the front of my bottom.” I couldn’t even bring myself to say the actual name of the body part.
The worst shame came, however, when his parents got involved. At first, his mother said I was making the whole thing up. She must have leaned on him, though, because eventually he did admit to it…kind of. He admitted to touching me, but according to his mother, it was my fault. My idea. “She touched, he touched.”
This was the 80s, so that was the end of it. There were no police, no lawsuits…we just weren’t allowed to play together anymore. His mother’s idea, because she didn’t want him around me. Already at a young age, I had been labeled as a harlot for what a boy had done to me. And I was one of the lucky ones, (there’s that word again), because that was all that happened to me. There are so many worse things that could have happened, and I know that. But it’s still not something I would wish upon any other young woman.
I am not sharing this story to jump on a bandwagon, or to titillate, or to make people feel sorry for me. I’m certainly not trying to equate my experience with the trauma experienced by a woman who has been raped. I am sharing it because we have a real problem in this country, and more people need to speak out about it. Back then, I assume he thought that it was ok to treat a girl that way because of something he learned at home. And how sad is that…a young boy being taught that it’s ok to do that to another person? To grab a girl without her consent in a private place? But what happens if someone who thinks that’s an appropriate way to treat women becomes President of the United States? What kind of message does that send to young men about how they should treat women? Then it’s not just a matter of what’s learned at home, it’s about what the most powerful man in the country has condoned, has bragged about doing himself. That is not the kind of man I want as a role model for my sons. That is not a man I want influencing the young men who will date my daughters. This is not a man I want representing our country on a world stage.
If you are a woman who has had a similar experience, it doesn’t matter how old you were, who you were with, where you were or when, or what you were wearing.
You didn’t ask for it.
You didn’t deserve it.
It’s not your fault.
It doesn’t matter what the boy next door, or your boss, or a rich man says about how he treated you. It doesn’t even matter if it’s said by the President of the United Sates. It’s not ok for a woman to be treated that way…it never has been, and it never will be.