Speaking Up

I debated on writing this for a long time. I was originally going to write about it once I stopped repressing what happened to me, but there were too many emotions after taking down the mental wall that had been protecting me from my trauma for the past 7-8 years (you’ll know why it spans 2 years once I tell my story). The #MeToo movement was already well underway, so I didn’t feel scared to put it out there. I actually did do a simple hashtag post because I wasn’t ready to say everything (as explained) and because I’d been seeing stories pop up in my newsfeed by some friends and others (who also had #MeToo moments) saying they were triggered by just being hit with the story without any warning.

And then I was going to talk about it in relation to Cora Carmack’s Announcement about the next book in her Rusk University series (about a character who was sexually assaulted in the last, published book). The post was before I knew I truly had a story that fell under that (again, I repressed a lot), but once I realized I did, I knew I wanted to use her #WhenItHappened hashtag. Even at the time of sharing the post in 2015, it explained why I instinctively was so upset by that plot point. Beyond just the normal outrage any woman should feel. And I have to say should because there is an alarming number of women, in this country alone, who peddle the bullshit “boys will be boys, and men will be men” poison. It should be noted that it is also the only other post on my blog with the tag: Sexual Assault.

And that brings us to the present shit-storm of the Kavanaugh scandal (which he totally deserves) and the brave #WhyIDidntReport stories that are flooding my newsfeed. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge (anonymously) one friend who shared her story and I learned that it had happened when I knew her—and that that was a deciding factor that I needed to share my story.

Please keep in mind that I will be summarizing a lot of things. I’m still processing a lot of things and I can only handle sharing so much at the moment. Maybe one day in the future I’ll elaborate. Maybe I won’t.

It happened in middle school. Multiple times. There’s the #MeToo and #WhenItHappened parts (and it keeps going until you reach the #WhyIDidntReport part).

Before any of the assaults—yes, plural—I had been sexually harrassed by my would-be attacker for the few years before, and harrassed for even longer. I’d once been told that “it’s because he likes you,” and even then I knew how stupid that was and shut down the people who said that immediately.

The first time (as were the next 3 times) was at a bat-mitzvah. I had been dancing, and he grabbed me from behind. I pulled out of his arms immediately and tried to slam my heel into his foot, but he avoided it. So I punched him in the chest. I should make it clear that this was before I ever took a self-defense class: those were my knee-jerk reactions. After that, I told my friends to warn me if he was coming up to me again.

They didn’t. In fact, they didn’t warn me and laughed when it happened again. And that was when I subconsciously knew that the “always have a girlfriend watch your drink if you have to leave it,” (even though I hadn’t heard it phrased like that until high school) would never work. That was the final straw (in a 10-year horror show of bad girlfriends—the 11th and final year hadn’t happened yet) that ruined me trusting any girl my age.  People who were supposed to be allies—not even the “mean girls”—were the ones who had stabbed me in the back.

The next time, he brought the second-worst sexual assault offender in our grade (of 36 kids: 18 guys, 18 girls). They sandwiched me between them. He was still the one behind me. I pushed Asshole number 2 off me immediately and elbowed him in the stomach as hard as I could. I hit my target and he backed off for the night.

The third time was by a guy “friend” who had been touching girls inappropriately but was one of the “nice” guys so he didn’t get the reputation he deserved of being a sexual assaulter like Asshole 2, Asshole-in-Training, my “friend,” and another guy (who never did go after me—he was scared of me even before I ever showed that I didn’t take shit from guys), and him. For those of you who are counting: that’s 5 out of the 18 guys or 27% of the guys I had to see 5 days a week (sometimes 6 when there were group projects—and no wonder I now hate them).

And the last time was in school and 7 years ago (all the others were 8 years ago). While I was talking to a teacher. He walked behind me and grabbed my ass. The whole thing was blocked from the teacher’s view (because I was talking to him over his desk—not behind it with him like I normally did). Now, this teacher hated him. Most of the teachers did because he was disrespectful and never did homework. But I digress.

The point is: had I told him directly, he probably would have done a lot more for me than what happened.

This one I actually reported—kind of. Maybe it’s because I knew that it being during school hours made it more possible for it to be handled. I said that I’d been grabbed inappropriately by someone and that the guys needed a lesson. So my advisor called a meeting of our grade and our homeroom teachers (most of whom hated him for the aforementioned reason). They lectured. It was obvious no one was listening even during the talk. And then right after the guy who never went after me looked up another girl’s skirt.

In general, my middle school was a shitty experience. Any “rich” family—which basically was everyone, it was a school on the Upper East Side, after all—especially those with younger siblings in the school (which, again, was the majority) got a free pass without ever being adequately disciplined for bullying, (sexual) harassment, and sexual assault. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised by their lackluster handling of things. And I certainly wasn’t surprised that my grade (including the girls) didn’t listen at all.

That destroyed my faith in the system handling reports.

But here’s the kicker. Even with multiple lawyers in the family, I never knew that what he (and the others) had done was a crime. Had I known, I probably would have told one of my cousins (one was even the President of all the lawyers in the state, at the time). That’s the real #WhyIDidntReport part of this story. Because I didn’t know I could.

We were minors, so I doubt it would have done anything. But I would have known that there was something more I could have done rather than depend on my middle school.

Some final notes: None of this came out from being repressed until March 2018. And it was then that I finally realized I had clinical PTSD from middle school. Not just the casual “middle school was so traumatizing” that most people say. I stopped going to parties, I stopped dancing, even at family parties—and have now told a select number of members to never pressure me to dance if I don’t want to again. And I didn’t have (essentially) any friends my age anymore—I dropped my middle school ones immediately and never looked back. That last one made it easy for me to isolate and become depressed so quickly I couldn’t really “stop” it before I hit rock bottom in my freshman year of college.

To say this all did a number on me would be an understatement of the highest degree. But I’m working on undoing some of the lasting effects, and moving forward.

But I hope that my telling my experience can make someone else brave enough to tell theirs (like my friend’s story did).

Read about @AuthZH’s personal #MeToo #WhyIDidntReport experience. Also part of @CoraCarmack’s #WhenItHappened Campaign

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