When I was in high school or middle school I was walking on a path across a park with my friend, Carol. It was a beautiful day and we were talking about whatever teenaged girls talk about. A group of prepubescent boys approached us and as they passed us one reached out his hand and grabbed my crotch. He and his friends laughed. I remember feeling ashamed, embarrassed and angry at the same time. Carol and I didn’t speak of it then nor any time after that.
I rarely took our dog for walks, but one night when I was about 16 decided to take Franz for a walk around the block after dark. It was a chilly night and I wore my red winter coat. I was approaching my house and as I did a person in a green snorkel parka (the kind with an orange lining) passed me near a tree that grew close to the sidewalk. I may have nodded hello to the person, I may have not but just after the person passed me he grabbed me, said “Hi there, how are you?” while feeling my breasts through my coat. I was stunned, embarrassed, and again ashamed.
It was Christmas eve. I wore a red turtleneck sweater and long skirt. I was 16. We were at my mother’s youngest brother’s house. At some point I went upstairs to use the bathroom and my mother’s oldest sister’s husband walked out of the bedroom where the coats were. I might have said “hi”. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the doorway and leaned against me. I pulled away and ran downstairs. I felt it was my fault because my sweater was too tight and I went upstairs by myself.
I was about 17. Our neighbor was a guitarist in a local band that played country and western music. My brother and I wanted to learn how to play the guitar so we took lessons from the neighbor. The lessons were usually done in the basement — and my brother and I were usually at the lessons together. One time, however, the lesson took place in his bedroom because the basement was being used for something else. Now he was married to a really sweet woman. I babysat their kids, so it didn’t seem that weird and while my brother didn’t attend this lesson, there was another student in the room with us, so I was ready to learn more on the guitar. At some point the other student left the room to wait in the living room. The neighbor asked if I liked the student — a guy about my age. I said I didn’t know him enough to know if I liked him and besides, I was not that into boys or dating. The neighbor then walked over to me and kissed me on the lips. I was stunned. He must have known I was upset because he left the room. I picked up my guitar and walked out of the bedroom. The other student looked up but I just kept going and walked out the front door. I never went back for guitar lessons. I never talked to that neighbor again.
I told no one about these incidents at the time. When I did, later, mention them to people who were supposed to be outraged all I got were pats on the back and phrases like “he was drunk”, “he makes passes at everyone”,”don’t tell your dad”. The walking dog incident got me scolded for going outside by myself after dark. I learned that these are the things guys do. No big deal.
Each of these incidents still make me angry. The fact that both adults in these incidents, the neighbor and uncle, died tragic deaths does not lessen my anger.
It’s NOT okay.