“This is wonderful, what you are doing. I’m 81 and here are my little stories:
Age 16, groped on long distance bus: In my freshman year of college, I was taking the bus to Boston for a Quaker work camp, sitting next to the window on the right hand side, dressed up in my navy suit and stockings, and reading “Surprised by Joy” by C. S. Lewis. A man sat next to me, with a tan overcoat over his arm. Soon, to my horror, I felt his fingers on my outer thigh above my stockings! I tried to pull away; no use. I didn’t know what to do! I had been told “Just ignore it” – that may work for catcalls, but didn’t here. I suffered and agonized and could not get away. Finally I turned to him and said, “I’m ashamed a human being could act like you!” The man jumped up and moved. I cried the rest of the way to Boston. When I got off, it was dark; the bus driver asked, “What’s wrong?” so I told him. He said, “You should have rung that bell cord above the window, and I would have stopped the bus and come back there and given him a sock in the jaw!” I was surprised. The driver took me into the depot and sat me down and bought me something hot to drink and a couple of other drivers sat with us and they all comforted me. Then my bus driver, with the others vouching for him, drove me to where I was going in the big empty bus.
Age 17, bodyrubbed in Metropolitan Opera: In my sophomore year, I visited my aunt in New York City and went to a lot of operas alone, cheap, in this case standing room at the old Met. During the first act, I thought, “Gee, it is sure crowded in here!” Then when the man behind me started rubbing his body up and down on me, I thought, “It’s not THAT crowded!” I could not move away and I could not disturb the opera and I didn’t know what to do. If I had had my sharp-heeled shoes on I would have stepped on his foot, but I was holding them. When intermission finally came he hurried away and I told the usher and there was nothing more to be done.
I did not have trauma from either of these experiences, since 1) I was not terrified, because there were others around; 2) I absolutely had no guilt. (I was more affected by other angry but non-sexual violence, starting with my father.)
I know a number of women who have had MeToo experiences. Three were molested as children by family members. One was date-raped when still a virgin and vehemently saying no. In my small hometown in western Massachusetts in 1964 a 17-year-old star athlete and bully put his hand over a girl’s mouth to quiet her and accidentally did kill her.
My grandmother had to carry a hatpin on the NYC subway in the 1900s.
When my three daughters were about 12 (~1976) and we lived in Laramie, they and a friend had a lemonade stand in the park a block from our house. A man said to them, “Want to see my….baby?” Those cool girls sent one back to my house while the others stayed, and the police were arresting the pervert while I was still on the phone.
I am the class secretary for my women’s college alumnae class of ’57. After Dr Ford’s testimony, I started a little MeToo email group. I am referring to the women as “Witnesses.” Their experiences range from less traumatic when they were older to extremely traumatic when they were children. I’ll invite them to contribute to your site.
I have nominated Dr Christine Blasey Ford for an honorary degree and as commencement speaker for my college, and so have a number of my classmates. She is the Rosa Parks of the MeToo movement.”
“I was sexually assaulted while I was in middle school. I was assaulted by my friends – people that I trusted. I was assaulted in front of their parents. I was invited to my best friend’s house for his birthday party. It was going to be a barbeque with a pool party, attended by a group of about ten other friends, and my best friend’s parents, uncles, older cousins… Adults who were supposed to supervise and protect us from harm. (Running on the wet patio, horseplay, staying away from the grill, fighting, cursing, and all the other trouble kids get into). My best friend, whom I played video games with in font of the TV in his room, whom I shared family dinners with, who was there helping me when we rescued a stray dog, whom I got into mischief with regularly, who lived across the street from me, the boy that I traded Pokémon with… He and his family were there during his birthday pool party. We were wearing bathing suits. Boys in swim trunks, and I, the only girl, in a bikini. I had recently begun having my period, and was the first girl in my class to develop (small) breasts. I was initially uncomfortable coming outside to join the party due to previous incidences at home and at school which made me ashamed of my changing body. I was pouring myself a cup of Sprite, looking out of the sliding glass door. I was shy but excited to be there to celebrate my friend’s birthday. My best friend came in and invited me to come outside with him. I walked outside into the cheerful gathering on a warm sunny afternoon. We played in the pool, like carefree kids do. At one point, we started a game of Marco Polo. I’m sure everyone knows how to play it – everyone closes their eyes, someone says MARCO! The other says POLO! Then everyone stumbles around in the water trying to find where the POLO! shouter has gone. Anyway, things got a bit wild with the splashing and chasing. At some point, I was approached from behind, and hands were grabbing at my breasts and bikini straps. They were laughing and carrying on. None of the adults were paying attention – it was just kids having fun in the pool. I felt uncomfortable screaming, because I wanted to be one of the boys. I wanted to be okay with this, because I knew that boys my age would play fight in this way. But this was different. To this very day, I try to make excuses for their behavior. Boys will be boys, they were just playing, they couldn’t have known any better, we were just kids, etc. The truth is that in that moment, I stopped being ‘one of the boys.’ I could no longer hide the reality that my body was different. That we were no longer equal in strength or size. As they got closer, hands reaching for the clasp that would expose my breasts, I did tell them to stop. I told them to stop over and over again as I struggled to get out of the pool. I yelled at them to stop. No one came to save me. My best friend didn’t tell them to stop. His family didn’t do anything. Finally, I made it out of the pool and I ran into the house. The rest of the day is a blur. But that moment has stayed with me until this very day. I was in middle school when my consent and my voice were taken from me for the first time. I’m almost 30 years old, and I still feel dirty, ugly, gross, and scared when my lover reaches out for me from behind. I hate my breasts, despite how exquisite I feel when they are touched. (With my consent) This most sacred part of me, which defines my body as a powerful being, capable of growing and feeding another human being – this treasure that I posses is polluted by feelings of guilt and shame. I can’t enjoy or be proud of my womanhood with the knowledge that at any moment, my sacred and beautiful body could be raped. That I could be violated, by strangers or even people that I trust, because of my gender. That when I am most vulnerable, people could take advantage of me instead of giving me help. This event became a turning point in my life. As a woman and as the eldest child in my family, I was raised to believe that I’m a responsible person – and that anything that happened to me is a result of a choice that I made. That it was my fault.
This pattern of thinking turned me from a cheerful, outspoken girl to a quiet, scared child. I lost my voice. I became a victim. Predatory people can sense a victim. I know this because I have been abused and taken advantage of by classmates, by authority figures, by family members… Changing schools didn’t stop the bullying. Graduating from high school didn’t stop the bullying. I was bullied in college. I was bullied at my job. Victimhood is like a beacon that says ‘Walk all over me, it’s cool. I won’t say a word about it to anyone.’ To this day I work on my self esteem in therapy sessions in an effort to escape my victimhood. I can’t tell exactly how much of my life has been negatively impacted by this and other instances. I can say for certain that I have been in and out of therapy of all sorts from middle school until now. I know that I have been coerced into accepting lower wages, that I have had no confidence during job interviews, that I struggle to trust others and form meaningful friendships. Maybe speaking out will help me in some way. Maybe it will help someone else. Maybe it will validate someone’s experience. I used to say ‘well, it wasn’t THAT bad. I mean, it’s not like they raped you. They didn’t drug you or hold you down. They just touched you. That’s all. No big deal.’ But it is a big deal. #MeToo”