I know I’ve written about this before, either on LJ or in one of my other blogs, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.
Based on the current news cycle, which has only further illustrated what a vile living being Trump is, discussion of sexual assault and the sheer shit women have to deal with is in the news again. As well it should be.
I originally titled this “Uncomfortable Incidents”, but I think that gives the offenders a pass for their actions and doesn’t lay the blame where it belongs. I was also going to start this out with “I’ve been fortunate to have never been sexually assaulted (and how sad is it to utter a statement like that”, but again, that gives a pass to at least the first offender. If I think that it’s assault for any woman (or person, for that matter) to have physical attention foisted on them against their will and without their permission (be it a brief kiss or a grope, etc.), then why wouldn’t the same apply to me? So I suppose I could say that I’m fortunate that my experience with sexual assault was relatively mild in the grand scheme of things and didn’t involve genitals? What a fucked up world.
Starting in sixth grade, I no longer had to go to a sitter’s and could easily walk to and from middle school (six-ish small town blocks, so maybe 2-3 city blocks?). There was an old man who lived on the corner, two doors down from my house. Some days he’d be sitting out on my porch as I walked by. I’d wave, say hi, maybe exchange a few pleasantries because I was brought up to be polite and neighbors are pretty safe, right?
This continued into early spring. I think he invited me in a time or two, but I always had an excuse and continued on. Finally, one day, I figured all right, no biggie. Kindly old neighbor, no harm, I can sit and chat for awhile. So I go inside. I can’t recall the exact details, maybe it started as a hug, but then his big wet lips were on mine. I remember being frozen, because what the fuck (although, since I didn’t start swearing until well into high school, it was more like “…”). Again, not sure on the exact details, but somehow I unfroze, pulled away, and made some excuse as I skedaddled out of there.
I know I blamed myself for the whole thing because STUPID idiot, you don’t go in a stranger’s house, even though he wasn’t a stranger, but wasn’t family or a close family friend so what did I expect?
The best course of action, I decided, was to ignore the whole thing. I was dumb but got out of there unharmed, so lesson learned.
Of course, he still lived in the house on the corner, sometimes sitting on the porch, and I still had to walk by every day. So, I started walking on the opposite side of the small street and didn’t acknowledge him as I walked by. Done, over, moved on, mostly.
Then either on the last day of school for the year or thereabouts, one of my friends was walking home with me. As we got close, I could see him out on his porch, so I told her, if he says hi or calls out anything, just ignore him and keep walking. I eventually told her why and she eventually convinced me to tell my mom what happened. I did and felt better for it. I don’t remember what Mom did (whether she talked to him or had a family member who sort of knew him talk to him), but I know he never spoke to me again.
He died a couple years later, and I was both relieved and glad. Hell, I’m still relieved and glad. And more than 23 years later I still can’t look at that house and not feel a bit ill or feel like I should really maybe get on the other side of the street to be safe.
The worse part of it all is that I blamed myself and still kind of feel like it’s my fault, even though by this point in my life I know better. If I hadn’t gone inside, it wouldn’t have happened. But nothing should have happened. I was 12 years old. He had no right to do that. Hell, if I’d been 18 or 24 or even 35, he’d still have no right to do that.
And to this day, I’m still hyper aware around old men or even just older men because there’s that part of me that remembers.
The other incident occurred maybe a year or so later. I was at the beach with some friends and we ran into on of our male middle school teachers, overly friendly but harmless. I’m sure the conversation was about how our summers were going or something simple like that. No biggie. Except at one point, he reached out and brushed sand off the side of my face and there was that frozen “…” feeling again. He could’ve said something, which would have been the appropriate thing to do. Nothing ever happened before or after. Then again, I always made sure to keep a good distance from him and didn’t go out of my way to talk to him.
Again, it’s sad to say, that I’m fortunate that that’s all I’ve experienced, outside the occasional looks or cat calls on the street. And I shouldn’t have to feel fortunate because I shouldn’t have to have experienced any of that. No one should; be it milder or far, far, far worse.
It’s fucked up, but hopefully this time, maybe, things will start changing, and some other 11-12-year-old-girl won’t grow up regretting that one time she was nice to that old neighbor man.