Today I saw this awesome PSA that Joe Biden put together for the 1 is 2 Many campaign which was designed to bring awareness to the disturbing problem of sexual assault and violence against women, particularly women on college campuses.
Interestingly enough a few days ago I asked for your input on Facebook:
If you are a woman who doesn’t mind sharing her story, I would love it if you would answer the following question, either as a comment, a message or an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to keep your identity secret if that is what you want. How and when in your life were you subject to unwanted sexual advances including but not limited to: comments, gestures, groping, forced contact, abuse, rape, etc? It is my guess that it is way more often than most people realize. I want to write a post about this topic in which I will include my own experiences.
Sadly, I did not receive very many responses. [Thank you to those who have responded. I will be sharing your stories in a future post and rest assured I will treat them with the utmost respect, care and confidentiality.] So today I would like to share my own experiences in hopes that more of you will be willing to share yours either in the comments section or anonymously via email. By sharing our stories I hope to bring awareness to the issue and to encourage other women by showing them that they are not alone and that they are not to blame.
To start out I will say that I believe I have lead a fairly normal and safe life as far as these things go. I never witnessed violence, disrespect or inequality in my home. I was never a victim of rape or incest and I have never been beaten by anyone or even been in a fight of any kind. However…
When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I had a man expose himself to me at the Ann Arbor public library. I was not alone. I was sitting in a common area with lots of other kids and he was sitting nearby in a chair reading a magazine with his legs apart in his very short late 70’s style running shorts sans underwear.
When I was about 9, I had an adult man I had just met that day try to kiss me in the woods at a family camp I was at with my parents. He wanted me to meet him for another walk the next day but I never went back.
The summer I turned 14, I had a 20 something guy who was working at a teen Christian camp I was at ask me for a birthday kiss and when I gave him a peck said, “No, I want a REAL kiss.” It was VERY awkward, but then he laughed it off since there were people standing nearby.
When we were moving to California we stayed at a couple of Air Force Bases. To pass the time, I would go to this activities center where people could do crafts, frame pictures, do ceramics etc. I liked to hang out in the print shop and the dude who worked there was really cool. And he was flattering; he offered to take my picture. He said I was photogenic. He even told me stories about how other kids had gone to his house and let him take pictures of them there. At the time I thought he was a nice guy. Now? I’m not so sure.
When I was 15 or 16, I was grabbed in the breast while walking alone down the sidewalk in Riverside, California. No comment. No warning. Just grabbed.
A co-worker referred me to by making the gesture of holding his hands in front of his chest to reference my breasts as if that is how I was known to the rest of the all male bartenders.
I have been paid less than a guy who was hired after me who had less experience. My manager said it was because he was a man and needed to provide for his family.
I was fired for “over pouring” shots at a bar where I worked. Fun fact: I didn’t over pour. I did however rebuff the advances of the management and their friends.
I have been grabbed and danced with against my will while cocktail waitressing.
I have been propositioned at my job at JC Penney.
I have had customers say things like, “You sure have a shirt full of those things, don’t you?”
I had a customer who continually asked me out on dates. No matter how many times I said no.
I had a customer who would ask me “hypothetical questions” every time he came into the club which usually involved my husband coming home and catching me and this dude in a compromising position. Disgusting.
Honestly, on most of these occasions I never even considered saying anything because it seemed to me that either nothing could be done or would be done, I was embarrassed and/or I wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened. Worse than that, I knew that often a woman is blamed when she is the victim of these types of behaviors and is thought to have “asked for it” in some way. Want to know what is weird? I learned to try to think of the verbal assaults as compliments. (How sick is that? I mean seriously, how sick is that?) And as for the ones that happened to me when I was a child, I think I mostly just thought I misunderstood what was happening.
This is not an exhaustive list of everything that has been said and/or done, however it does cover all the major events and give you a good idea of what kinds of things are said and done to women daily. I didn’t even mention the times I have been dismissed as “missy” or “honey” in an effort to shut me down in a conversation or debate. I also didn’t include the times people have thought I was pushy or bossy or bitchy for wanting to be treated with respect. I have been told I have no sense of humor when challenging a sexist joke. I have been told that what I need is to get laid. I have been told to “calm down” or “not get so excited” when I speak about equality. I have even been told I’m cute when I’m angry or I’m sexy when I’m worked up. Thank God that as of yet I have never received the comments that many female bloggers, gamers and politicians get threatening rape. If you are not aware of how prevalent this problem is for women online you can check out these articles (WARNING: These articles contain quotes of actual graphic threats made to real women)
As I said before, I consider myself very fortunate to have lived a pretty amazing and safe life. I still have experienced way too much in this regard. It may surprise you to know that I am not even close to alone. Start asking your friends, your sister, your mom or your wife or girlfriend. You might be surprised what you hear. Give them time to really think about it though. I have found that many women automatically respond that they haven’t had it that bad. But if they are anything like me, when I began to write this stuff down, I just kept remembering and remembering.
If you have been the victim of rape or sexual assault of any kind, please talk to someone you trust and report it to the authorities. Men and boys can also be rape and sexual assault victims. Rape and sexual assault are never the fault of the victim, male or female. Rape and sexual assault are always wrong.
For victims assistance:
RAINN: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
Statistics on Rape and Sexual Assault: