Today I am 28 years old.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be married and having my first kid by the time I was 25, just like my mom.
I’m single, with no cats, and I have an unhealthy attachment to my couch.
I am pretty happy with my life.
However, I’m not happy with society.
I have kept quiet for many years, and at 28, I feel that I can finally talk openly about it, because now I don’t have anyone telling me to stay quiet.
I remember the first time I was body shamed
I couldn’t have been 10 years old. I was with my father visiting family friends in Florida.
They had a pool, and two sons.
I am sure some girls know what happens next because they themselves had to go through the same thing.
My father made me put a big, baggy, t-shirt on over my bathing suit before I got in the pool.
“Your body is changing now, and boys can’t handle that.”
I wasn’t even 10, and I was taught that boys could not control themselves when it came to girls.
I remember the second time I was body shamed
My stepdad got a work transfer the summer before 5th grade started. We were moving from a smallish, southern town, to an affluent suburb of a major city. I didn’t want to be bullied so I worked on losing my southern accent, and learning to forget about all the “southern” things that I enjoyed.
A few weeks into school I started hearing the rumors.
“Her boobs are fake.”
“She had a boob job and that’s why they moved here.”
“She had her nose done, too.”
I had never thought of my body as being different. My mom had worked on a college campus, and I was around college-aged women all the time--I thought my body was pretty normal compared to all the women I was surrounded by.
Still a child, and I was body shamed by my peers this time.
Shamed because of something I could NOT control.
I remember the first time I was slut shamed because of my clothes
I had decided that for seventh grade I wanted to wear dresses to school.
I had saved up that whole summer to buy a pair of knee high, three inch heeled boots, to wear with my dresses. I thought the look was really fashionable, and I was so excited.
And my personal favorite….
Posh Spice wannabe (ummm what?)
They were just clothes, and shoes, but to my peers they defined my sexual reputation. A reputation that I didn’t have any experience in, thank you very much.
I was hurt, confused, and ashamed. I was only 12.
I remember the first time I was sexually assaulted
I had started wearing looser tops, and a sports bra or two to school to make my breasts less noticeable. At this point it seemed absurd because so many other girls had breasts many cup sizes bigger than mine, but for some reason mine garnered more attention.
My Nana arrived in town that Friday, and whenever she would visit, my mother and she would sit at the top of our driveway and watch me walk home from the bus stop.
It wasn’t my normal bus stop, though. I typically got off at the stop before with all the girls in my neighborhood, and cut through yards to get home.
This stop was the one all the boys got off at.
Typically the boys would all go down the first street, but on this Friday one of the boys kept walking with me.
It didn’t feel right, and then everything felt wrong when I realized no one was waiting at the top of my driveway for me.
We are taught as young girls, that “boys will be boys,” and that we should just laugh off their behavior and not take note of it. It’s a terrible lesson.
What unfolded next should never have happened.
The boy started making crude comments about my breasts. One after another they kept coming out of his mouth. I was doing as I was taught, attempting to laugh it off.
He lunged, and started roughly groping my breasts. I struggled to push him away, while yelling at him to stop it, and to leave me alone.
This happened two more times.
I had to fight him off, and yell at him a total of three times.
He only stopped because we had gotten close to my house.
I did nothing to provoke this. I simply got off the bus to walk home. I was not dressed in a revealing manner.
I was not “asking for it.”
My body was in pain. I was scared. I was confused.
I was covered in bruises.
That night at cheerleading I confided in a girl about what had happened because she called me out for not performing like usual. She told me he had done the same to her, and many other girls. I told her I was thinking of telling the school counselor, and she said she would come with me.
Monday morning everyone was looking at me strange when I walked into school. It turns out she had turned against me, and was now on his side of “boys will be boys.”
I went on my own to the school counselor, and as all things do, it got around to the entire school. My mom and stepdad ended up coming into the school to have a meeting with the counselor. I was asked one question by her.
“What do you want to happen?”
What kind of questions is that to ask an assault victim? I wanted it to never have happened in the first place. I didn’t want it to happen again, to me or any other girl.
This counselor wanted to know what I expected to happen to this boy. She wanted to know what his punishment should be.
As most girls who have been in this situation know what happened next; my classmates bullied me relentlessly after this incident. I was called a prude, it was insinuated that if a boy so much as poked me I would report him for sexual harassment. Not one person stood by me. I was victimized each and every day.
I was only 14.
I remember the second time I was sexually assaulted
I was the blonde, blue-eyed cheerleader.
I was waiting till marriage to have sex.
I was the only girl in a required physical fitness class, fall semester of my sophomore year.
There was a senior in my class that would talk to me about sex. He would list the positions he liked, the way he liked to spank his partners. He told me that he would spank me till I said I liked it.
I told him I was waiting till marriage to have sex.
“We will see about that.”
That’s when he started hitting me on a regular basis. The first time was Homecoming weekend.
Our teacher threw the test sheets on to a desk, and left the room to get extra pencils.
I leaned over my desk to grab a test paper from the desk next to me. The next thing I knew I was hanging over the bar of my desk, struggling to breathe, while an intense pain seared through right butt cheek.
I got up, walked calmly out of the room, and into the bathroom across the hall. I lifted my skirt to assess the damage.
There it was, a perfect outline of a hand; Scarlett red, throbbing in pain, and already starting to bruise.
I went back in, and sat awkwardly while I took the test. After everyone finished taking the test, we socialized waiting for the bell to ring.
I went over and sort of squatted down in front of a classmate’s desk, while I talked to him. As I went to stand up I once again felt a searing pain radiating from my backside. This time it was the left butt cheek. This time he hit me so hard my feet were knocked out from underneath me, sending me flat onto my back, once again knocking the wind out of me.
I calmly stood up, walked back to the bathroom, lifted my skirt, and saw another bruise starting to form in the perfect outline of a hand.
This senior realized I wasn’t breaking that easily. He decided his hand wasn’t good enough, and he started swiping ping pong paddles from the billiard class.
He did amp up his game, because now when he would hit me, I would be running laps on the indoor track.
I not only had bruises on my backside, but skinned hands, and knees.
“That’s how I like my woman’s knees to look.”
I tried to report him to my 60-something, white, male teacher.
“You bring it on yourself by being the only girls in the class.”
I was only 15.
How many more stories will it take?
I would go to parties, have a couple drinks, then go find a place to curl up and go to sleep. I’d start to wake up realized I couldn’t breathe or move, to find a drunk boy on top of me groping me, and trying to get my clothes off. I wasn’t drunk. Yes, I’d had a couple drinks, but I was just asleep.
Society says I was asking for it because at some point in the night I consumed alcohol.
I had an older co-worker at a job come behind the counter where I was helping a customer; he knelt on the ground by me and bit me. He bit so far up my inner thigh; it was barely considered the thigh region.
Society says I was asking for it because I acted in a flirtatious manner at work.
I was crashing on a friend’s couch in my early twenties after a night out at a bar. Her roommate came out, and started putting his penis in my face. Then grabbing me while he attempted to drag me to his room. I grabbed on to the couch, lost my grip and grabbed onto the corner of the wall. He was pulling my clothes off of me.
I don’t want to have sex with you.
Over and over again I repeated these words. This was what stopped him:
If you don’t stop, this will be rape.
He and I had been involved the previous year, and I had broken it off.
Was I asking for it? I said yes before, so is society going to tell me I couldn’t say no at this point?
I asked a trusted friend to walk me to my car from the bar we were at one night. I’d had zero drinks that night.
He pinned me against my car, and started trying to kiss me.
Get off of me
You have a girlfriend
I don’t want to kiss you
Only a loud group of people walking on the other side of the street got him to get off of me.
According to society, exactly how was I asking for it this time? Oh, I was dressed in a short dress, and heels. That’s what society will tell me.
Time and time again I have been a victim of body shaming, and sexual assault.
Time and time again I have been blamed for the actions others committed against me.
Why is it so hard for society as a whole to protect women?
Why are we not only the victims, but also the ones to blame?
Why do we have to be the guilty ones, until proven innocent?
I always hear the biblical reference of Eve is the one that tempted Adam with the apple, but Adam had the free will not to take the bite.
Women may be drinking, may be dressed in certain clothing, may be acting in a certain way, but men have the free will to do nothing.
If I see a guy drinking in a bar, and go hit him over the head with a beer bottle, can I use the excuse “He was asking for it because he was drinking”?