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By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about writer Kelly Oxford’s tweet requesting that women share the stories of their first sexual assaults. If not, you can read about it here. She posted this tweet on the evening of October 7th:
Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my “pussy” and smiles at me, I’m 12.
By about the same time the next day, she had accumulated over 9,000,000 tweets from women sharing their stories. I tweeted my story to her, followed by this tweet to her:
The saddest thing about this is, I had to really think about which assault was the first.
In four hours, I received over 200 likes, messages, and re-tweets. Women who told me they had to do the same thing. Women who told me that they realized after they tweeted her that there was a prior assault.
I am still getting tweets about this (over 400 now), and it breaks my heart. And the other responses: story after story of girls (yes, it seems most of us were around 12) violated.
As I typed my message, I thought about it in more detail than I have ever let myself. It was the thing when I was 12 to 13 – “gripping” girls. The middle school version of notches in the bedpost. How many pussies can you grab? Gotta grab ’em all. I heard about it. A few friends told me it happened to them. One of my friends was grabbed while she was on her period, and all the boys made fun of the guy who grabbed her because he grabbed maxi pad instead of cunt. I walked the halls and wondered when it would happen to me. It seemed like it was happening to all my friends. Part of me just wanted to fit in, to be considered cute enough for someone to want to grab me, but the child part of me was terrified of the unknowns surrounding sexuality and my own body. She was terrified and didn’t want anyone to touch her in any way, much less that way. And why in the world was this the measure for being “in?” How did this become something that happened on a regular basis, for weeks?
I remember that I was in my science class, talking about this very thing, when one of the older boys (14 or 15 but still in 7th grade), asked me if no one had grabbed me. I told him no, and when class let out, he grabbed me right outside the classroom door. I remember running to gym with red cheeks. I remember waiting until math to write a long letter to who I thought was one of my best friends telling her what happened. Too shy, too ashamed to go into much detail, I wrote, “He grabbed my front.” She read my note, and to my horror, told our other friends about it. When I came out of the building at the end of the day, she was wearing a sign across her crotch that said, “FRONT.” I felt more alone and more betrayed by her than I ever had before. She was supposed to be my friend. This was exactly the moment I stopped trusting anyone.
I didn’t tell my mother. When my “friend” told her older brother, he actually came up to me and said he was sorry someone touched me that way. Like ???? Right?! But apparently I was “in.”
It happened a few more times, the same guy again during science when we got up to do a lab, another guy in that same damned class. I’m sure I should’ve told someone. I’m sure the teachers only found out because someone braver or angrier than me spoke up. One day, we got a lecture on touching without permission. We were told that if anyone was caught “gripping” a girl, they would be sent to the principal’s office. I never heard of anyone being caught, but it stopped, probably because it got boring and not because of the threat of punishment.
No one was ever reprimanded. No one was ever taught not to treat girls this way. It was grab it if you want it. That was the first time, but it wasn’t the last. Only once I was a little older did I start slapping back – verbally and physically – anyone who tried something like that on me without my permission. That didn’t always work. In fact, twice, I wasn’t even awake to voice whether or not I wanted to be touched or engage in intercourse. That didn’t matter to him, and when he told his friends about it right in front of me, they laughed and slapped him on the back. Then I knew that none of them cared about me. I might as well be a walking pussy-tit doll, and this is the message sent to women when we are girls.
Not long after I sent my tweet to Ms. Oxford, I saw posts on my Facebook by some “friends” who were those boys back then. How much they love and respect their wives. How much they love and respect their daughters, their mothers, and I just wonder like…do you remember anything? I know I blocked out a lot of middle school, but did you? I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them don’t remember. It was just a game to them.
The stats are 1 in 6. I’m sure it’s far more than that. Woman are afraid and ashamed, and “friends” like mine make it even harder to speak up or speak out. Even though it’s horrible and heartbreaking to see all those tweets, I’m so glad women are sharing and supporting each other. We can help each other heal or at least cope, and hopefully, as survivors, we are teaching our daughters and sons to respect and protect themselves and others. My body, my choice.
You thought my fear of bridges as ridiculous as my fear of tunnels. How else could we cross relatively small bodies of water, you asked me. So as we drove the ugly trough of white concrete that bulged above the Choctawhatchee Bay, I stared straight ahead to the shore and focused on singing along with Sheryl Crow.
I never remember much about driving to Florida, but I remember that bay, that bridge, and the Tom Thumb at the crossroads.
You said you loved my voice, loved to hear me sing, and that I missed my calling as a country music singer/songwriter. I reminded you of my opinion of most country music and told you that you were full of shit. You laughed, but I was still afraid that any moment the bridge would give way and your car would drop forty feet into the swamp. I lit a cigarette the moment the wheels touched asphalt again and smoked in celebration of surviving another trip over water.
Cheap cheap smokes, back then when I was young. I had my purple Bic, the last of a quickly vanishing breed of non-childproof lighters. Adjustable flame and see-through plastic. When it finally ran out of fluid, I tried to open it to refill it. The plastic cracked and fell apart in my hands.
You said it wouldn’t be much longer before we were in San Destin and inside a house of strangers to me. With only you for a liaison. I was as afraid of that house as I was of the bridge.
It rained every day but even so, I went out on the beach, fully dressed because it was still too cold for swimming. In the drizzle, I danced and sang in my head.
You made me feel things I’d never felt. Cute in a skirt. Protected, sheltered, and yet afraid at the same time. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t intentional. Once the fear connects itself to the pain, it’s hard to ignore. It’s hard to shut it down and move on. I had to shut it down and move on every time you touched me and looked at me that way.
I was young, and I didn’t know any better, and I should have. It isn’t all your fault. Like with so many other things, I didn’t know when to stop, to say “Enough,” until it was well beyond the point. The fear of being without you matched the fear of being with you. The fear ate up everything until there was nothing left. Then, one day, the fear was gone, too.
I’m okay with bridges now, as long as I can see the other shore. I can see a way out. I still can’t abide tunnels.
The thing is, he never has been okay.
Like too many ice-coated mozzarella sticks dunked into the fryer,
Everything outside flashes to steam,
Bubbling up, catching fire, and burning anyone nearby,
Triggering angry red whelps and blisters and curses,
All of which will leave permanent marks,
And the instantly-molten inside bursts free,
Contaminating the oil and leaving nothing
But a golden brown husk.
I’ve queried and pitched and pitched and queried. So, I’m trying something new.
I actually love this novel I’ve written, and I think you will too. Check out the summary and partial first chapter. If you like what you read, and you’d like to read more (and preferably the whole thing), please follow and pre-order. It can happen if I get enough support from those of you who like me and/or what I write. And, if it’s not your bag, baby, that’s cool too.
Here’s the link: SOUL SEARCHING
I’m about 18 and dating a guy who is throwing a party. I’m supposed to sleep over, and my things are in one of the many rooms in his parents’ house. There is something locked in a chamber under the hardwood floor in the dining room. Everyone who walks through there gets bumped from underneath, but they all keep drinking and pretending they don’t feel it. I am on the roof watching the wind blow naked tree branches and wondering if I’ll be kissed at all. My boyfriend doesn’t kiss, but I wish he did, even though he wears his collar popped. What year is it even? I don’t know. My hair is long though.
Around sunrise, I come off the roof. I’m tired and want my bed. Someone is helping my boyfriend put new hardwood down in the dining room. Whatever came up was reburied. He doesn’t kiss me. The guy helping him grabs my ass when I walk by. There are two guys passed out in my bed. They won’t wake up, so I can’t get them out. One is snuggling my nightshirt. All the beds are taken. There is nowhere to sleep.
I wander into the small laundry room and find a door that I think leads to the crawl space under the house. It leads to a large closet filled with canned goods – the homemade kind, in a mixture of Ball and Mason jars. There is a cot there, and it’s very dark, so I think I’ll be able to sleep. I need pitch darkness to sleep during the daytime. I think I’ll be safe, but I check to make sure the tiny door doesn’t lock. The light switch is on an exposed stud by the dryer. I don’t want to sleep in there when the light switch is outside the room, but I am so tired. So tired. Then, the kid under the dining room floor (now I know it’s some kind of really fucked up kid) is thumping again. I’m not going to sleep or be kissed.
when Belle shows up to try to swap herself so her dad can go free, the beast discovers that her dad is a quirky inventor and is like, “You’re really pretty, but I think I’m gonna fund your dad’s inventing shit. Since the town is going to take your house, you can hang around if you want.” So the Beast lets Pops out of jail and funds his inventing projects, including an unstoppable siege weapon. Beast, Pops, and Belle overrun the whole town, being sure to crush Gaston and all the townsfolk who have been trying to commit Pops to the loony bin and steal his house. To this day, the town is still inhabited by animated household items.
I just got the cover art for the sixth Camellia book. It’s so pretty!