At first when I saw this “Me, too.” effort sweeping social media, I didn’t think I qualified. I’ve never been raped.
But I have been sexually assaulted, a reality that dawned on me slowly as the week has progressed. That counts. Finally I said, “Me, too.”
At eighteen, I went on a blind date and found myself trapped under a 200-pound linebacker trying to take off my clothes. I wriggled off the bed where he’d tossed me and made my escape.
At nineteen, I endured the disgusting advances of my boss in a part-time job. He’d stand directly behind me while I worked at the cash register, pressing his body against me and sometimes putting his hands on my arms. I quit the job after 30 days.
At twenty, I was married and while he was a good man, he wanted to ‘try things’ which at one point included anal intercourse. I preferred not to, but he insisted. I never knew anything could hurt that bad.
At twenty-two while my husband was overseas in the military, an acquaintance decided he’d have a piece of me. After forcibly kissing and pawing me while I said ‘no’ and ‘stop,’ he picked me up and started toward the bedroom. I realized he wasn’t going to give up and grabbed his hair. I said I would call his boss, who I knew personally, and that I would report him to the police. He put me down and left the house at which point I locked the door. And I did tell his boss, who was a Methodist minister. The offender was an associate pastor.
In my thirties, I was at my office. No one else was around when an acquaintance stopped by to talk about a project. As we stood there, he stepped forward and cupped his hand between my legs. I was like, what? What did he think would happen, that I would fall onto my back in a fit of uncontrolled passion? He had this weird smirk on his face. I stepped away and said nothing. I didn’t want to confirm what he’d done. Afterwards, I refused any phone calls or other contact.
In my mid-forties, I sought out a realtor who owned a property I wanted to buy. When we met to sign the Offer and Acceptance contract, he closed his office door, grabbed me by the arms, and kissed me. I’ll never forget the slip of his tongue along my lips. He was in his 60s.
I saw all these acts–and others I haven’t described–as the dues I paid as a female. I never considered it as abuse or assault. Not until ‘Me, too.’
But now that I’m thinking about it, I see how much of my life and the lives of other women are shaped by men who take it for granted that they have a right to touch women whenever and however they please. Even more, men consider it their right and duty to direct and control women’s place in the world: my father’s decision that the only career suitable for me as woman was to teach school; an employer’s decision that I could run a cash register and stock shelves, but never decide how products were displayed or advertised; or a spouse’s determination to control how I dressed and what jewelry I wore.
More than that, I see how I was brought up to be complicit in such controlling and/or abusive behavior by men. My parents followed a strict religion. Women were not allowed to speak in the church and were assigned, by God, to a submissive position under men, just as men were in submission to God.
I was mildly flattered with the touching. It affirmed my femininity. It made me feel desirable. It was a measure of my value. This was part of the female experience.
It’s been a long hard struggle for me to learn my way out of patriarchy.
My daughters know better. They are among the first generation of women to assert their rights as human beings, not to be touched unless they wish it, not to be assaulted in any way at any time. I’m so proud of them. I’m proud of how far women have progressed in my lifetime.
I’m hoping there will be no more generations who can say “Me, too.”