And though sharing my stories so publicly is up there with some of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had, I think it’s important to get these out. I can’t sit back and watch as others come forward to share their experiences, while I hide in the shadows with these secrets.
I am inspired…and in the spirit of helping push for change, it is an honor for me to share my experiences with you today…
I remember thinking, as I was growing up, how much simpler and peaceful my life would have been if I had just been born a boy. How many less warnings my parents would have felt the need to give me each time I started walking out the door… How many less restrictions I would have had, how much later I could have stayed out and played. How much easier I thought my life would have been. How many less scars might I have today?
“Be careful out there, watch your surroundings, don’t wear this or that, he’s staring at you – lets move over this way”… So many little things we’re told as little girls because no one wants to address what the conversation should really be about.
I remember being told once that if I wasn’t careful, I would end up being raped, murdered, hacked to pieces and spread out in the Florida canals in Tupperware containers. I was 14 years old.
Many times I was out with my mother and sister, shopping at some store, when one of them pulled me away and guided me to a different area of the store because some man was ogling me. I remember being so very angry that I always had to move away or adjust what I was doing because some grown a** man couldn’t control his gaze on a teenage girl.
I was always questioning my mother – I usually tried to make a point of calling them out on it in some way, much to my mother’s fear. It was this unspoken rule that you just didn’t do that – you moved along and made whatever adjustments you needed to in order to remove yourself from danger – instead of holding the person accountable for their own deplorable character flaws and unethical actions.
I remember walking home from the bus stop on several occasions where truckers would cat-call and honk at me. One particular day, there was a man driving some sort of sedan on the opposite side of the highway that stared at me for so long, he almost wrecked into another car at the red light. I was very clearly a teenage girl walking home from the bus stop WITH A BACK PACK.
My parents, being scared and not knowing what they could do to prevent something from happening, taught me to start yelling “JAIL BAIT” at offenders to try and bring them back to reality and stop them from staring at me.
When I hurt my achilles tendon and had to be on crutches for a week and a half, this boy decided to pounce. I was on crutches, carrying a back pack with only one strap, and somehow also managing to carry my clarinet case – on my merry way to shop class.
With both hands, Lester full on grabbed my butt, almost pushing me over. I was filled with so many emotions, mostly shock and rage, as everything I was carrying dropped to the ground, in the middle of the bustling hallway.
No one but Lester and I were aware of what even happened, or rather, no one spoke up or let on that they had seen anything.
My experiences with the men in public as well as the boys in school taught me that my body wasn’t my own, it was only meant for their own personal use / pleasure. Nor was it safe to dress or act how I wanted.
I remember trying to walk up the stair wells when I first started high school, wearing a skirt. Someone reached through the lower level to grab my butt from underneath. I had no earthly clue who even did it…and it was guaranteed that it wouldn’t be the last time.
Often times, through the hordes of students filing to class, boys would “accidentally” bump into my chest…some even would go so far as to full on grab both breasts, claiming they had tripped and fallen towards me. I once had a boy tell me to my face that I shouldn’t have worn a certain outfit or walked a certain way if I didn’t want to be chased and touched.
Berated with “HEY GIRL” everywhere I went – learning to completely tune them out – even when they became angry because they were of the assumption that they were Gods, and you couldn’t ignore their advances.
My very first serious relationship experience was literally the worst of all of.
It was my first kiss, ever, and I remember feeling that amazing fire burning deep within my soul. He was tall, strong and so very sweet… he had me hooked.
In time, driven by his own insecurities and a need to maintain control over me, I spent several years being physically, mentally and emotionally assaulted. I was too good for him – and he knew it – he had to use every means possible to keep me in a state of “I have no where else to turn”.
Over those years, there were several times where I realized how scary things were getting, and I tried to break things off. He would show up at my work (which made me quit my first real job after 2 weeks of working), my house, my classes…
He knew my schedule – and he made sure I KNEW THAT. I walked around school constantly hiding the bruises all over my arms and legs, entire hand prints on my throat from being slammed against a locker because I “said the wrong thing”. Constantly looking over my shoulder because I expected him to be following me (and he usually was). He would twist my words around, make me out to be a “bad girlfriend”, attack my friends for supposedly “coming on to me”.
I eventually pushed most of my friends away – I isolated myself entirely – under the guise that it was my responsibility to do so – I was “protecting” them. I took everything on alone, a sad and unconscious effort to minimize the outside sources which would cause me more pain and punishment.
Interesting how I could be surrounded by such a massive sea of people, yet feel so very alone.
In my freshman year of high school, this beast would force me to skip classes (under much duress) so that he could “have his way” with me. The day I lost all motivation to argue, fight or run, was the day the icy tendrils of those fateful words wrapped themselves around my still-beating heart: “If you don’t give it to me, I’m going to take it”. And so he did – aggressively.
And afterwards, he belittled me about how it didn’t mean anything to him at all… he laughed about it with his disgusting slimy friends who would later come up to me (on several occasions) just to ask me about it so they could laugh in my face.
At that time, people could see what was happening. Everyone could see it. I felt like I had no where to go, no where to turn…and if I left him, he’d kill me – or so I was told almost every single day. It’s why my parents began restricting me at home so badly – “if we keep her inside the house, at least we can protect her outside of school”.
So many years have passed since then, but those words are forever etched into my memory.
It was my “first time” – and because of his inability to control himself, it was forever tainted. Moments you can never get back in your life.
As I grew older, it broke my heart just listening to these “fairy tale” scenarios from my friends about their “first time”. It made me very angry for a very long time.
Every day, I questioned how many other girls / women I caused to experience this abuse from him after me. “If I had reported him, could I have stopped something from happening in the future.”
At the end of the day, I do still feel bad that he was never reprimanded for his actions…but I forgave myself…because I was a teenage girl who truly believed that speaking out would mean my own demise.
This isn’t about what we as women can do to prevent ourselves from being put in these situations.
It’s about educating our youth – it’s about teaching mutual respect and self-control. It’s about being honest about what is happening around us, holding people accountable for their actions in tangible ways, and being willing to get dirty, to start making some real, progressive and loving changes as a society.
It needs to be brought fully into the light.
To me, this f***ing conversation is LOOOONG overdue, and “we the people” are demanding that our freedoms, safety and security be defended as equally as ALL OTHERS – we are demanding real CHANGE.