There’s a lot of talk right now about violence against women. I see the continued debate between women trying to be heard and men saying #NotAllMen, which is completely beside the point and shows they really don’t understand and don’t want to.
I see statistics floating around in an attempt to express the seriousness of the situation.
One out of six women is a victim of rape or attempted rape.
Nine out of ten rape victims are female.
One out of three female rape victims experience rape or sexual assault between the ages of eleven and seventeen.
These facts should shake men to their very core, sadly they rarely seem to.
I’ve decided to share a handful of my stories because much of the information I’ve read makes it seem as though if a woman suffers rape, sexual assault, or any violence at the hands of men then it’s a one-time incident — the wrong place, wrong time/outfit/drink/judgment.
As if once a female experiences this normalized reality of male violence then she won’t experience it anymore. Which couldn’t be farther than the truth.
When women speak up and say male violence is a problem, we aren’t exaggerating. When we say it’s part of our everyday life, we’re not being dramatic. We’re being literal. Sexual assault and rape are not a one-and-done situation. It happens again and again and again.
I’m a prime example and anything but an exception. Below you’ll find just a handful of stories from the reality of my life.
My grandfather molested me regularly every time I saw him for as long as I can remember until he died when I was about twelve years old. He did it at the kitchen table with other family members in the room. No one noticed.
My grandma and parents never left me alone with him. I’m sure if they had, then this particular story would be much worse. Still, I had to sit on his lap to greet him. “Hello Grandpa” I’d say, and he’d reach between my legs using the kitchen table as cover, or rub on my chest for a quick feel.
He was a man, an adult. I was a child in a room with other adults who had no idea what was happening. I didn’t like it, it made me feel dirty and wrong. But children do things they don’t like all the time because an adult tells them to.
I didn’t tell anyone until after he died, and only by accident. By that point, I was desensitized, well more than I should have been at that age. I won’t go into more detail about it because it’s part of a bigger story that’s not mine to tell. Suffice it to say, I have forgiven my parents for their mistakes, but I will never forgive my grandfather.
When I was about seven-ish years old, I was camping with my family at a lake. The camp group was busy with lots of kids running around and riding bikes. As a proud tomboy, I befriended two brothers around my age who were a couple of campsites away.
One time, the brothers invited me to play a game in their tent. The game was “Mommy and Daddy”. The boys said I had to play the mom since I was a girl. One of the boys took the role of the dad while the other pretended to be our kid.
The boy who played the dad took down his pants and told me I was supposed to suck his penis while his brother watched because “that’s what mommies do.” I didn’t want to play.
The boys told me I had to. That it tastes like candy.
I didn’t want to play. They wouldn’t let me leave.
Thankfully, their actual mom interrupted and I was sent back to my camp. She didn’t tell my parents for reasons I don’t know. I didn’t tell my parents because the two boys looked to be in trouble, and I didn’t want to be too. I just wanted to forget, though I never have.
One of my best friends growing up lived only three short blocks away. We often walked back and forth between our two houses. The street we walked along was right off a busy one with lots of traffic.
One gorgeous day, I think it was during the summer, my friend and I were walking from her house to mine. We were two ten-year-olds chatting while we walked when a passing car slowed down to match our pace.
Deep in conversation, we didn’t notice the driver — a skinny, middle-aged, balding white guy — roll down his passenger window before he called out, “Hey girls! Look at this!”
When I looked over, his hand was stroking his erect penis. He looked proud. My friend was terrified and froze in place. He thought it was hysterical. I wasn’t scared, though I should have been.
I calmly linked arms with my friend and led her away from the car. Only a block and a half left to walk. Thankfully, the man decided he’d had his fun and continued on his way.
I told my mom in the car on the way to school a few days later. I wasn’t sure what good would come from it, but I didn’t want my friend to tell her parents and then have my parents find out I didn’t tell them.
The result of telling the truth was that my friend and I weren’t allowed to walk between our houses anymore. We lost our freedom because of him.
It was then I understood there’s no winning when you’re a girl. Either you tolerate and keep quiet when men do things like that, or you lose your freedom.
After that, I never told my parents about any other experiences — except for when I slipped up after my grandpa died.
That’s Only Three Stories
Three times I was sexualized before I hit puberty. These three stories aren’t the only ones I have, they aren’t even the worst ones. Situations like the ones above were what I considered normal for a long time.
With two dive bars located three houses away from mine, I wasn’t allowed outside after once the sun went down. My mom said she didn’t want my young voice to carry in the darkness for some old drunk man to hear and become tempted by. Such was life.
I learned how to notice the gleam in a man’s eye when he looked at me — not from my mom or a knowledgeable friend, but from experience. I knew what it meant.
I learned speaking up only punished me. No justice came, the men always got away unnoticed by anyone else. Speaking up only meant limiting my freedom in almost every way, to keep me safe. I decided it was better if I said nothing. So I didn’t.
A couple of years later, around twelve or thirteen years old, that same friend and I were walking along the busy street I mentioned before. We’d walk and count how many times we were cat-called or honked at. At the bare minimum, within a half-mile, the number matched our age.
Around three or four years after that, a man followed me off the public bus. I was headed to work after school and he wanted to know my name. He thought I was pretty. He told me so while maintaining my walking pace with his face less than a foot away from mine the whole time.
It was the middle of the afternoon, walking along a four-lane busy street. I only had two long blocks to walk between the bus stop and my work. Any detour would have taken me out of public view. I hoped he’d give up. He didn’t. I hoped once I reached my work’s building he’d stay outside. He didn’t.
He followed me in. This time a couple of paces behind me. The building was old, the lobby empty, and the elevator a relic. I tried to take the stairs. I hoped he’d think I was headed into an office. He didn’t. He followed me. By the time I got to the first landing, he reached out to grab my arm. I didn’t look, think, or process — I kicked him and he fell down the stairs. I ran.
By the time I reached anyone to let them know what happened, he was gone.
When I was sixteen, my boyfriend’s dad thought I was hot. I know this because he told me regularly and openly tried to flirt with me. It never mattered if my boyfriend, his brother, or his mom was in the room. The Dad often slapped my ass and thought it was great fun.
One time, my boyfriend and I skipped class to have sex at his house while no one was home. His brother came home and watched us through a hole in the wall. He told us all about it later.
I should have been appalled, but I wasn’t. Guys slapped my ass several times a day. Social culture told girls it was a compliment, by that point, I believed it.
That’s Only Three Stories
Three times I was sexualized before I was eighteen years old. Are you tired of reading these stories? Does it feel like overkill? They aren’t fun stories, I get it. But if you’re tired of even reading them, imagine how tired I am from experiencing them. Only three more stories to go for this article.
I learned words matter. My childhood friend from before promised a boy sex so he’d like her, then he raped her when she wouldn’t deliver. No one did anything, no adults knew. Everyone thought it was her fault for making promises she couldn’t keep. I didn’t tell because we already learned nothing good comes from it.
Playing along was the safest route. I learned smiling and laughing it off was the safest thing to do, but always keep your eyes open. Watch every movement a guy makes, pay attention when they grow near, most importantly watch every look exchange that takes place between two males. More often than not there are plenty of subtle signs to tell you where their minds are at.
In my early twenties, I was at a friend’s birthday party. Plenty of drinking and dancing going on. I came with a group of friends but they were mostly all outside smoking so I decided to take a break and find them.
A guy held the door open for several people to come inside while I waited to go out. After the doorway cleared the guy continued to hold the door open so I could leave.
I stepped through the entrance, my left foot in front of my right. I averted my eyes but gave a polite smile as thanks. Right as I did I felt his hand grab between my legs. I looked up at him, more with shock than anything else. The blatant, obvious, assault surprised me.
I stopped. Paused midstep with his hand still where he put it and I looked him directly in the eyes. He didn’t flinch. I saw no remorse, just a drunk, and arrogant smirk glued to his face until I finally walked away.
I told a guy friend. Not because I felt unsafe or because I wanted him to do anything. Honestly, the idea that he could or would do anything didn’t cross my mind because nothing had ever been done before.
To my surprise, my friend asked me to point out who did it. So I did. At first, I thought he’d just roll his eyes as I did at his lack of class. But instead, my friend marched over to the guy, shaking with rage. A few minutes later he waved me over. “You shake her hand and apologize for what you did.” My friend told him.
Now the guy looked nervous and afraid, but he did what my friend asked. Sometimes I wonder if it was the first time the guy had been called out for his behavior. Because it was my first time ever seeing anyone do anything about it.
I became a massage therapist for eight years. The number of indecent proposals I received during that time could fill a book. Though there was one guy in particular who stands out in my mind.
His arrogance was apparent immediately. Everything about his appearance and manner said he had money and therefore he didn’t think the rules applied to him.
He asked me for a happy ending. I said no.
Within minutes of the massage, he had a full erection, which I should note is not necessarily unusual for any man during a massage. However, he decided it was imperative that I see his. He seemed quite proud as his gaze went from his penis, to me, then back to his penis, as if to say “ta-da! look what I can do!”
Once he exposed himself I knew the proper protocol was to end the session and tell him to get dressed and leave. But I also knew the protocol wouldn’t do anything to fix the situation. He’d continue to harass the next girl he saw.
So before I kicked him out, I stood there with a straight face until he got awkward, then confused. When I felt his confidence dip I looked at his softening erection, then back at him and raised an eyebrow, “if you’re trying to impress me with something, then make sure you have something impressive to show first. We’re done, get up, get dressed, and don’t ever come back.”
His face got red, his erection disappeared, and he didn’t leave me a tip. Figures.
I was seeing a guy for a couple of weeks, he had a son who was about six years old at the time. But before anything really got started, life got busy and complicated so we parted ways on good terms.
A few months later I saw him at a bar while I was out with a friend. We were both drunk, me more so because without my knowledge my friend ordered my drinks as doubles without telling me. She thought it would be funny and any other night, we probably would have laughed about it.
I went home with the guy. My friend said she knew I knew him so she figured I was fine. I don’t remember most of it.
But I do remember laying on the ground of his living room. Too drunk to stand or move from where I was. He came over and slipped a pill in my mouth after I told him no. The rest of the night I only have fragments of memory.
The strongest drug I’d tried by that point was weed and alcohol. Later I realized he must have slipped me ecstasy or something similar. I remember sex and extreme dehydration. I ran to the bathroom to drink water from the tap and saw my eyes dilated in the mirror. I was terrified and confused.
The next morning I asked what happened. He said he had to leave. He walked out and left me with a dead phone, and no way home. Luckily, I was ten blocks away from a friend's house. I walked in my clothes from the night before, covered in puke, and continued to vomit every other block until I arrived at my friend's door.
That’s Only Three Stories
Only three examples of being sexually harassed or raped in my twenties. These aren’t even all of my stories, I have plenty more. These situations were part of my everyday life. I learned no one’s coming to save me, or any other female. But I refused to be a victim.
Do I hate men? No. I know there are plenty out there with good intentions, but probably only a handful who truly are good.
Am I scared of men? I probably should be, but no. At some point, once you’ve gone through enough bad things and survive to see the next day, fear changes. After a while, I stopped being afraid. Men see strength in their rage. I see weakness but more than that, I see fear. I see a boy unable to control his emotions so he wants to control me.
Maybe that’s harsh to say, but I don’t really care. Violence against women happens every single moment of every single day. This is my truth and I get to speak it.
Final (Few) Thoughts
I don’t exactly go around broadcasting the stories I’ve shared here. Well, until today a least. Although, none of them are a secret. Most people in my life know a story or two, if I’m really close to them then they probably know more.
Women are never surprised to hear most of them, they have their own arsenal of experiences to contend with. But men are almost always surprised. They tell me they’d never have guessed I’ve suffered at the hands of a man once, let alone dozens of times.
They seem to have this idea in their heads that any woman who’s been raped or experiences male violence is meek and timid. That they’re scared, fragile, and in need of protection. I don’t fit their assumptions.
Violence and sexual assault at the hands of men have infiltrated my entire life. I’m not an exception to the rule. I’m not a minority, I wasn’t a loner, I grew up middle class with loving parents.
For most of my life, I thought this behavior was normal and to be expected. Sadly, I was right. I’ve grown used to the leers of dirty old perverted men. I’m accustomed to the arrogance and entitlement of younger men.
I see #NotAllMen men who don’t think they’ve ever caused a woman harm, laugh along at sexist or misogynistic jokes because calling their friend out would cause too much fuss. These #NotAllMen men often have that one friend they always think they need to apologize for. As if their apology means anything to the woman their friend harrassed.
One of the statistics I said at the beginning says one in six women is a victim of rape or sexual assault. Yet I don’t know any female, not a single one, who hasn't experienced male violence to some degree.
I just laid out nine different moments from my life. Nine different moments with nine different men, and as I’ve stated, these aren’t all my stories. If I’m honest, I don’t know the actual number. I gave up counting long ago.