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.