“Jane! Go around back and pull your pants down.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Please, we won’t look.”
“Why would I do it if you’re not going to look?”
“Okay, we’ll look!”
“If you’re going to look, I’m not going to do it.”
Bobby and Chris would not let up. I relented and walked to the back of the house. I stood behind the house and waited. I did not pull down my pants. It didn’t take long before one head then two popped around the side to take a look.
I felt icky and went home and I never went back to Bobby’s house. This was my first experience with unwanted sexual attention. I was 8-years-old.
At 10, Paul, the boy across the street wanted to play – you show me yours and I’ll show you mine. I complied. When it was his turn he refused. On another occasion he suggested that when my parents weren’t home he would come over. We could take our clothes off and he would lay on top of me. I said okay.
It was later that I wondered why I would agree to do such a thing. Thankfully, at 10 my parents rarely left us alone and never for long. I remember them leaving for a quick trip to the corner store. I waited in fear watching from the window for Paul to come over. I had said yes and I didn’t think I could change my mind. He never showed up.
I had a sleepover at my cousin’s house when I was 13. My uncle asked me if I had a boyfriend. When I said no he was surprised that I didn’t have one. The look in his eyes made me uncomfortable. I wanted to go home. I was scared that he might come into the bedroom while I slept and do something. I thought about how I would handle it if he did sneak in. It never happened.
It would be ludicrous to think that I had done something to deserve this unwanted attention. I was a child. But what if I had been 10 years older. Would people say it was my fault? That I must have done something to deserve it. Was I dressed like a slut? Was I out partying and drinking? Was I out alone late at night?
There are 3 responses when we’re scared: fight, flight, and freeze. I always freeze. In every situation of unwanted sexual attention my heart races, my breathing becomes rapid and I remain motionless. The same response in grade school is the same response as a teenager and as an adult. Over the years I’ve learned to adjust my body to make touching me difficult. It has worked.
I think about the women who could not avoid this predatory behaviour. Weinstein and Epstein’s victims come to mind. A lot of people are outraged at what these men have done, but there are just as many people, men and women, who feel these children and young women brought this on themselves.
Why would a woman go alone to a hotel room? No one is that naive! Why would they go back after the first encounter? Why didn’t they say no? If they looked provocative they were asking for it. There is always an excuse for the man’s behaviour and always a reason why it’s the victim’s fault.
It doesn’t matter that these rich, powerful men were skilled predators and masters of manipulation. People will always wonder what she did to make it happen.
Early on I realized that it wasn’t an accident when a man groped my breasts. It’s almost impossible to accidentally touch a woman’s or a man’s private parts. I don’t know of any cases where a woman accidently touched a man’s penis.
I thought about calling out these men, but it was so long ago and I don’t want to cause trouble. I wonder if my experiences actually classify as sexual assault. As a child nothing was done to me. As an adult it was groping. Calling it sexual assault seems a bit of a stretch and a bit dramatic.
These incidents made me feel uncomfortable, afraid, and violated, but aside from being groped I can’t say I was actually assaulted. It’s likely that I’m making a big deal out of something that is seen as simply bad behaviour. After all, boys will be boys.
I’ve listed a few examples of unwanted attention. I include the relationship these males had to me, the situations in which they occurred and the age I was when it happened. The exceptions are the incidents described above.
11 – while playing in a lake with other kids one boy grabbed me and pulled my bathing suit bottom open so he could take a look.
19 – when I asked my hairdresser for a more grown-up look he suggested I go to a party and find a man to have sex with. He offered to do it for me as he wasn’t a brute like most men. Later he asked me what I thought and I said I would think about it. As he proceeded to wipe perm solution of my gown he touched my breast.
Early 20s – groped by a cousin on a trip to a church youth day.
Early 20s – while sitting at a table with friends my friend’s father stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders. He proceeded to slip his hand down and touch my breast. His wife sat directly across from me. Another time he tried to stick his tongue in my mouth.