it happens. every day.

i was 5.  the kids in my kindergarten class started playing kiss-tag, where the boys would chase the girls around the playground and if a girl got caught, she got kissed.

i was 6.  we sat in groups on the floor during reading time.  a boy who was a friend would stick his hands under girls skirts.  mine, nicole’s, candace, jennifer’s.  where did he learn that behavior?

i was 12.  we had to get physicals from doctor’s the school recommended in order to play sports.  dad took me that day.  he didn’t know he had to go into the room with me.  i didn’t know i needed to ask the doctor to bring a nurse in.  the male doctor checked my lymph nodes.  i felt uncomfortable.

i was old enough to date.  i went to the movies with a boy.  afterwards we were kissing in the front seat of his parents car.  his hands were everywhere.  i said no.  we kept kissing. suddenly i felt his penis on my thigh.  i freaked out and asked him to take me home.  i never saw him after that.

i was 17.  a cyst ruptured on my ovary, causing me to bleed internally.  for hours i told the emts, firefighters, and medical staff that i was a virgin when they suggested it could be an ectopic pregnancy.  they told me i needed to tell the truth so that they diagnose whatever was causing my abdominal pain, and blood pressure to be so low, and the life to be slowly draining from my body.  i WAS A VIRGIN, but no one believed me.  i bled internally for over 12 hours before they realized a cyst had ruptured and they had to perform emergency surgery.

i was an adult, a college graduate, a divorcée.  i was running in the park.  a man in a car would sit watching as i ran by, then once i got out of view, he’d drive a little further up and park again where he could watch me run by.  this occurred for 2 miles.

i was at my best friend’s apartment.  we were in her pool, with a couple of kids whose mother was watching them from her pool chair.  across the street was an overgrown strip of land with trees that lined a railroad track on the other side.  do i really see what i think i’m seeing?  i squinted.  yes.  yes, i do see a man hiding in the brush, masturbating.  he ran when i got out of the pool staring in his direction, still wondering if my eyes deceived me.

i was at oysterbake.  i had shorts on, and i was walking through a crowd.  some person grabbed my ass as i walked by, and then disappeared into the crowd.  my bf at the time later asked me, “well, what were you wearing?”

it happened again in vegas, the weekend of my thirtieth birthday.  at a club on a crowded dance floor.  i whipped my head around, but the guy was already through the crowd.

i’m 32.  i don’t wear earphones when i go running.  i stop and watch every car that drives by me.  one man slowly drove by in a pickup truck, his phone pointed in my direction.

i stared down a man who was sitting across the street watching my sisters and i unload corinne’s truck one evening our parents were out of town.  when he drove off, i went inside and armed myself and then continued unloading the truck.

i get angry when my bf doesn’t leave the outside lights on when i am going to get home late at night before him.  i get angry when my family leaves the lights off at my parent’s house too, even if they are already home, even though they have security cameras.

these are the moments that stick out in my mind.   there are others, i’m sure, that i don’t remember.  and maybe one or two that i don’t want to talk about.  some of the ones i’ve written here today, i’ve never told anyone before.  i couldn’t tell you exact dates, but i remember certain details vividly, like what i was wearing, what i did afterwards.

these are just my experiences.  my sisters and my mother and my aunts and my grandmother’s have some of their own, i’m sure.  most women do.

we hope that you start listening to us.  we hope that you start believing us.  we want a world where our daughters and our sisters and our friends don’t have to keep looking over their back.  we want a world where all people feel empowered, and we don’t have to turn on our location services to go on dates, or training runs, or the gas station/grocery store.

my heart is with dr. christine blasey ford today.  my heart is with survivors everywhere, every day.

#metoo

image:  @kellyetz via:  @theeverygirl.

over the weekend, i saw someone post this:

“Me too.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

Please copy/paste.

#MeToo

so i reposted it.

then i started feeling sick and spent the next 24 hours sleeping off what i believe to be exhaustion mixed with allergies and the beginnings of a sinus infection.  i missed monday’s posts, and most of what was circulating around Facebook.  when i finally signed on to Facebook and saw what some of my friends and family had each posted (and in some instances, tagged me in) i was glad to have missed a full day of social media.

the truth is, so many people have experienced or been affected by sexual assault and harassment.  this isn’t just something that straight women encounter.  my guess is that every person in the world has either witnessed a sexual assault or harassment, or been a victim of sexual assault or harassment, men and women alike.

so many will ask, why speak up now?  or they may be dismissive of the recounted tales of victims being posted over and over again on their newsfeed.  this pains me.  how can we trivialize another person’s trauma?  how can we tell them to get over it, or move on, or tell them they were probably asking for it?  how can we blame them?  those of us who are victims of sexual harassment would be hard-pressed to forget it, as for many of us it happens every single day.

it happens to me at the grocery store.  it happens to me at the gas station.  it happens to me in my very own front yard.

and then there are the places where we know it happens.  music festivals are notorious for their high incidents of sexual assault.  i know i’ve had my ass grabbed under my skirt, dress, or shorts, a number of times in large crowds at festivals.  and there certainly have been a lot of times where i’ve felt a guy rub up against me from behind.  this has happened to me in clubs and bars as well.

where are we supposed to be safe?  not in the workplace, as we’ve seen from the headlines the last few weeks regarding harvey weinstein – and he’s certainly not the only person who has used their power to sexually assault others employed by them.  not in schools, as we’ve seen from the numerous cases of students being assaulted by other students, faculty, etc. – and their perpetrators laughable punishments.  not in our homes.  not in our grocery stores.  not at the gas station.

the problem is that for so long we have made sexual assault and harassment a “woman’s problem”.  we’ve taught our daughters to be hyper-vigilant, to carry rape whistles, to not wear revealing clothing.  but it’s not just a “woman’s problem”.  it’s everyone’s problem.  as we’ve learned from the harvey weinstein case, so many people were aware of what he was doing, and didn’t say anything.  this is far from being singular to this one case.  think of all the times you heard of or saw something that made you feel uncomfortable, but you didn’t say anything.

this is what we’re asking by sharing our stories.  we want you, all of you, men, women, non-binary, alike, to roar with us.  we’re tired of living in the shadows, of being afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation or that our words will be diminished by those who are afraid to take a stand with us.  “boys will be boys” is not a thing anymore.  we won’t stand for it.  we’re tired of always being on edge when we’re alone.  we’re tired of men making decisions about our bodies, when they can barely speak about menstruation or sexual pleasure without embarrassment or any knowledge of the female anatomy.  we’re tired of being told to dress a certain way, to only run in groups, to carry mace or rape whistles, to worry about date rape drugs, to not speak up for fear of losing our careers.  we’re tired of being secondary citizens, of not having these conversations with our fathers, our brothers, our friends.

we want you to stand with us.  we want you to speak out with us.  we want you to take all the anger you have ever felt once you got over your surprise that your mother, sister, daughter, friend experienced something like this, and we want you to use it.  use it to help us change the current rape culture in our society.  use it to help us educate our children, so that we can make this world a better place for them.  because this isn’t going away.  we won’t forget, we won’t be silenced, and we won’t back down.