I know very few women who have made it out of their twenties without being inappropriately groped, harassed, or assaulted in some way. The high school and college years are especially treacherous for women. It happens when you are walking the hallway at school, in the dorm or even in the cafeteria. It happens at parties, concerts and ball games. I’m not talking about innocent brushes against you in the elevator. These are blatant acts—like when some guy, pushes you up against the wall or pulls you onto his lap and licks your neck as his hands roam your body. Maybe he just grabs your breast or sticks his hand up your skirt as he walks by. Or maybe your date thinks “no” means “yes.”
We’re taught to laugh it off, give him a break because he was drunk, or take it as a compliment.
But what do these experiences really teach us?
From an early age, we learn to travel in groups to use the public restroom—not because we need a second opinion on the color of our lip gloss, but because some predator may be lurking in the bathroom stalls. By twenty, we know to hold our keys between our knuckles when we walk to our parked cars. We buy special nail polish that turns colors when dipped into a drink that’s been roofied—just to feel safe. We are told to keep secrets for our own benefit. “Don’t say anything. It won’t do any good. Do you really want everyone to know?” We learn to question ourselves. “Did I do something to provoke it?” “Was my shirt too low cut?” “I shouldn’t have made eye contact with him.” We learn to keep our guard up, and if something does happen to us, it is our fault and we are not worth defending.
I struggled with whether to post on this topic. I am not one to complain or jump on the bandwagon of trending causes. But this is personal to me and I am who I am because of my experiences. I’m a writer and my past gives me fodder for my work. If I’d never had to run from a speeding “Bubba-truck” with two men leaning out the windows taunting me as it chased me down a walking path, I don’t know if I would be able to write about the kind of fear I experienced that day. I know in my heart that if I hadn’t been able to cross the railroad tracks in time and make it to the busy highway (true story), I would not be here to write this post. I know what I know because of my past. My experiences make me a better, more relatable writer. And at this point in my life, I wouldn’t change any of them, even the horrible ones. I’ve survived this far.
But, what would the world be like if our daughters didn’t have to grow up with these experiences? What could be accomplished, if they didn’t have to worry about walking too close to a dark doorway or someone posting a lewd video of them online? I post this with hope for the girls and boys of the future (because it is not just a girl problem). Recognize that assault is widespread and needs to end. Raise your hand to show your friends they are not alone. Keeping secrets does not change the future. We are in this world together. #MeToo
©Susan Schussler 2017