The first time I had my space and body violated in a way I knew wasn’t okay, I was eight.
I don’t think I understood the magnitude of this event. I know I didn’t. I didn’t foresee a future in which my body would speak louder than my words. That I would become a tactile object in a world run by men.
At home, I was taught that I could be anyone and anything.
The world told me something else.
It starts with people normalizing the idea that “boys will be boys.” That if a boy likes you, he will let you know through acts of violence: hitting, throwing things at you, pulling your hair, and calling you names.
And we accept that.
When you get pantsed at the playground, everyone laughs. No one punishes the child who has just forcibly disrobed the other.
Ate age eight, I couldn’t have expected that my life would play out in a pattern of assault. Like many, I can say that I have been groped in crowded spaces and on public transportation. Like many, I can say that I have carried mace in my hand while I run outside because one too many cars has slowed down behind me to whistle, yell things, or follow me home. Like many, I can say that I have had to shout for help while being assaulted in public. Like many, I can say that I have been “groomed” by bosses with gifts and compliments, and then threatened with job termination for not acting in kind. Like many, I can say that I had a drug slipped into (not even an alcoholic) beverage followed by an attempt to coax me away from the crowd.
5 years ago, someone I considered a friend tried to rape me.
I no longer leave the house alone (if I can avoid it). I bring a big dog, or my male counterpart.
I no longer make eye contact with or greet people on the street for fear that a man will misconstrue my salutation as an invitation.
Like many, I have been told to swallow my voice – to know my place. To accept that things are what things are.
And, like many, I refused to stay silent on the issue. Rape culture IS common culture, and we need to be proactive in ending it.