Joan King’s letter last week told her own accounts of sexual harassment and assault. I am saddened to hear that yet another woman has stories of abuse. However, I am also disappointed her subsequent point in sharing these personal stories was to shame Roy Moore’s victims. To quote her letter “What happened years ago is nothing unusual. It’s up to mothers to warn their children, and if children won’t listen?”
So let me share my experiences. By no means are these all traumatic, but they are all instances of sexual harassment, assault or rape, regardless of the seeming innocence of some offenses.
The first time I remember feeling uncomfortable because of a boy’s actions was in the first grade. I was 6 years old and the class heartthrob stuck his hand down the back of my pants. I wasn’t the only girl this happened to. In sixth grade, the boy who sat behind me would pop my bra straps and try to unfasten it through the back of my shirt. I told him to stop; he never did.
In seventh grade, at age 12, I became the object of many an older male’s gaze, and the recipient of many strange compliments and invitations. In eighth grade, at 13, an 18-year-old sent me a message offering to take my virginity. In 11th grade, I woke up at my friend’s house to my boyfriend on top of me; he wasn’t in the room when I fell asleep.
Since I turned 18, I have had strangers and friends alike fill their hands with parts of my body, uninvited. I have been given the most disgusting propositions you could imagine by people’s grandfathers, uncles and dads. I couldn’t begin to count how many unsolicited pictures of male genitals I’ve been sent via social media and by phone.
I can’t remember a day when I was growing up where my parents didn’t warn me about predatory men. But I also remember how being polite was the most important thing I could be as a little girl, how everyone in my life taught me it was easier, and therefore better, to just brush off these men, walk with my keys between my fingers, buy copious amounts of pepper spray or dress differently.
My question to Joan, and to anyone defending Moore or simply brushing off his accusers, is this: What did his mother warn him of? Did Moore’s mother teach him to stay away from men like him? I wonder if he has ever even thought about purchasing pepper spray, or rethink wearing those pants out at night? Why should we expect victims to heed warnings that affect every facet of their lives instead of expecting predators to be held accountable, or better yet, be decent people?
I, for one, am glad that 2017 is holding men accountable, because I am sick of being blamed for what they do to us without our permission.