When I was 13 years old I was sexually assaulted on the school bus. My friend, with whom I shared a seat, lived about a mile from me and she always left the bus 4 stops before I did.
After she left, an older boy would slide into the seat next to me. For the next 2 stops he would run his hand up my leg, trying to touch my crotch. I would brush his hand away or try to create a barricade using my backpack or flute case, but sometimes his hand would find its target. I would contract every muscle in my body, become as rigid and small as possible, and try to turn away. He would laugh.
This went on for months.
I never told anyone because I thought it was my fault.
To this day, I cannot stand to have my legs touched.
The #metoo movement seemed so clear when it started – a cry to women to break their silence, to speak with honesty the pain they have experienced, and to shine a light on a problem far more pervasive than anyone wants to admit.
But as testimonies – not “stories” because stories are too easily dismissed as fictions – continue to flood newsfeeds and newscasts, things don’t seem so clear anymore. With each testimony shared I find myself looking back through my memories and re-examining things, wondering if they were #metoo moments, too.
I worked the night shift at Blockbuster. One of the (male) managers was a bit “handsy” and would often come up behind me and give me a shoulder massage. I would wiggle away but never tell him to stop. #metoo?
I was at an off-campus party and, like all of my friends, drank too much. Full of liquid courage, I started flirting with a guy I just met. I was definitely drunk when we left the party to go back to my dorm room. We “hooked up” and while I definitely didn’t regret anything in the moment, I woke up the next morning with a nasty hangover made worse by soul-crushing regret. #metoo?
I was the only woman on the project team and one of the new guys decided that the best way for him to get ahead was to take me down. He took every opportunity he could to call me a “bitch” or a “stupid bitch” or a “f*cking bitch.” I told him to knock it off. He didn’t. I complained to my boss. He spoke to his boss. His boss joined in on the name-calling. #metoo?
I was in SF enjoying happy hour with three colleagues. We found a table and I went to the bar to order our first round. After the first 2 drinks were made, I carried them back to the table and returned to the bar to get the final two drinks and pay the bill. As I approached the bar, I noticed a man had taken my space so I tapped him on the arm and asked him to step to one side so I could pick up my order. He smiled as he made room for me but also grabbed my arm and ran his hand down my back, from my neck to the top of my butt. #metoo?
Before #metoo, to each of these questions, I would have answered No but inappropriate, No but a mistake, No but probably harassment, and No but inappropriate.
Now, I wonder if the answers are Yes because he was my boss, Yes because I wasn’t sober when I gave consent, No but that is harassment and discrimination, and Yes because I didn’t give consent.
But these new answers don’t feel right to me. And the fact that they don’t feel right to me but do feel right to other women makes me wonder if I’m a bad feminist or if I’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy or if, worst of all, I’m victim-shaming.
I don’t know. And that makes me wonder how many other women (and men) don’t know and how not knowing will impact a conversation that we desperately need to have. #metoo?