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Letter: Instinct is a woman’s best defense against predatory men
Participants march against sexual assault and harassment at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (Damian Dovarganes) - photo by Associated Press

With many women recalling past acts of sexual abuse, I looked back on my 80-plus years to recall similar experiences.

I was an airline stewardess in the dark ages when the company dictated the length of our hair and design of our undergarments. I had many a pat on my behind from male crew members accompanied by, “Just a girdle check, Honey.” A girl learned to step quickly out of the way of some of the “more friendly” pilots. But I was over 21 then and supposed to be a grown-up about these things. 

So let’s go back when I was 10 or 12 when a candy storekeeper tried to lure me behind the counter. Then there was the man at the beach who touched my breast and offered to take me to the races. I don’t remember being warned about these things, but somehow my “icky” antenna went up and I simply walked away. I never told my mother.

I didn’t tell my mother about the vegetable man, either, a local grocer who delivered door-to-door. Mother enjoyed talking to him, and he was often in our kitchen. One day when Mother wasn’t in the room, he told me a story about a statue in his hometown in Italy depicting a woman being raped by a donkey. I didn’t tell my mother about that, either, but I avoided him from then on.

But this story happened years later when I was working for the airlines, about how I didn’t get raped. Flight crews usually went out to eat together on layovers. The girls — we were all girls then — carried their own luggage, paid for their own meals and, of course, had their own rooms. 

When one of the pilots insisted on paying for my dinner and walking me back to the hotel, I was uncomfortable. Even more unpleasant was his insistence on escorting me to my room. I may have been over 21 but I still fairly naive. Today, I would have loudly said, “Get away from me.” 

But the hotel was quiet and nobody was in the hall near my room. When we reached my door, the man said he needed to use the bathroom. Again, I could have said, “Use your own bathroom, Romeo.” But I wasn’t raised that way.

Instead I unlocked the door, let him in the room and stood in the open doorway. When he came out of the bathroom, he could see that I could get away if he made a move to grab me, and he left.

Later, I learned the man had raped a number of stewardesses. Finally one of them told her family and brought charges against him. It wasn’t training, education or emancipation that save me; it was instinct. This is why I look upon stories of sexual abuse that happened years ago with a jaundiced eye. 

I have no love for Roy Moore, but the case against him is pure politics. What happened years ago is nothing unusual. It’s up to mothers to warn their children, and if children won’t listen? Well, there’s nothing unusual about that, either.

Joan King


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