It’s Sexual Assault and It’s #notokay

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On Friday evening, when the online communities were ablaze with the topic of Trump (again), Kelly Oxford asked women to share their stories of sexual assault and rape on Twitter under the hashtag #notokay. Three hours later she was getting a new post every second. By 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning, a million women had posted about their assaults.

I posted mine. One of two. Both times, I was a 20-year-old college student living overseas. Once in France, once in Switzerland. Both times, I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t dressed provocatively. I don’t look like a model, never have. I wasn’t ‘asking for it.’

The first time, I had just arrived for my junior year abroad and was spending an evening in Nice with college friends – some new, some established. We were drinking beer. I had had one beer. I got up to find the bathroom, which was inside the cafe, down in the basement. Before I could enter the stall, a burly, hairy man in a white apron reached out and grabbed a breast before I could slam the stall’s door against him. I was afraid to leave the stall and stayed there until one of my friends came downstairs looking for me.

The second time was months later. There was an outdoor festival with German music. I had had one or two beers, tops. Everyone was dancing to the music, no one was paired off. My girlfriend and I joined the group, and after moving around for a few minutes, I found myself face to face with a man probably in his forties. As he exhaled a breath that stank of beer, he grabbed my crotch through my jeans. I staggered backwards and away from him as he grinned.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes. That’s females and males. We cannot allow children to grow up in a society that permits such behavior. It’s not ‘boys will be boys.’ It’s not ‘locker-room talk.’ It’s assault. And it’s not okay.

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15 Comments

Your post got me thinking, and it took awhile to wrap my head around what I’ve experienced. While I have never actually been attacked or manhandled, I’ve spent a good part of my life being leered at, ogled, smiled at lasciviously, whistled at, and all the other ways in which men make women know that they are being seen as sexual objects. As a young teenager, I turned in response to a yell from across the street, and a man was exposing himself to me. I’ve gotten sexually explicit phone calls both at work and at home, (in the days before caller ID). I was told by a high school teacher to write higher on the blackboard (skirts were short back then). One by one, these memories came back, and I’m sure that there are more of them buried in my middle-aged memory. Many more. I was sexualized even before I was aware of my own sexuality. I came of age thinking that this was the normal way of the world. No one told me otherwise. I’m glad that the world is coming around to saying that it’s NOT OKAY.
Thank you, Martha.
And, by the way, did you see Michelle Obama’s speech? https://youtu.be/r7e3QKKOp50

    Deb, all of what you wrote. Yes. And, like you, there’s more. There was more for me, too. Your line ‘I came of age thinking this was the normal way of the world’ really resonated. Me, too. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. 💕

Kelly Oxford was on television yesterday with Anita Hill being interviewed about their thoughts on “rape culture” in the US. Oxford felt that we now have social media and a way to combat this culture and support women. Although Hill did not have social media at the time of her harassment, she said she did receive many letters of support from women at the time.

No it’s never okay! I am approaching my 70th birthday and I still struggle with the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. These scars don’t heal.
Good post, Martha.

The very sad truth is that there are many men who see nothing wrong with Trump’s comments and see women as mere objects to do with as they please. I am sorry you had those experiences.

Dear Martha,
Thanks again for sharing from your heart on two horrible experiences. It is never OK as you firmly write. I had two , one came to light on our 40th reunion, a “minister” named Gil when I was in 9th Grade at Winman. Later in the Seminary a Fr Don…both attempts at unwanted inappropriate advances. It is never OK!
I just watched “Spotlight” a month ago and that jarred these memories.
Bless you and all of us victims…keep speaking the Truth!

I pray with a lot of people who have been sexually abused, mostly women of course. The abuse often leaves them feeling bad about themselves, guilty, ashamed, though it’s not their fault. It leaves them afraid, it can leave them having a need to be controlling so they won’t get hurt again, it can lead to perfectionism, etc. etc. Terrible stuff. My wife went through an especially bad case as a little girl and is still not whole.
It’s devastating. You don’t just get over it with time. I’m truly sorry for any of you who have been abused.

Connie Ciampanelli October 8, 2016 at 3:35 pm

I babysat for my cousins five kids, all under ten, every day after school when I was in high school. One day, her on-and-off-again estranged husband was there. I was talking about an article in “Esquire” magazine, one which fetured, Groovy Hutchinson from my home city, one of a few people murdered some time earlier, in Truro. He purportedly wanted to see the photos in the article and I got close to show him. He grabbed and fondled my breasts. I was, as you say about yourself, no model. I was a fat teenager. I can to this day describe the blouse I was wearing: short sleeve, button-down, collard, with a riot of colorful butterflies all over it.
I didn’t tell anyone for years until one day my Mom asked be point-blank if (*&% ever did anything to me. I told her.
My cousin’s husband. He’s dead now, but I could still spit in his face. Besides assaulting a young girl, such a betrayal of his wife and children.
It happens, one way or another, to most of us. And it’s not okay, not in any way. Locker room talk? Bullshit.

    Connie, thank you for sharing. This was the first time I’d ever related those incidents, ever. I think I’d simply tried to block them out.

      Connie Ciampanelli October 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      I never blocked it out, Martha. I felt so ashamed, damaged, dirty. Why? I did nothing.
      My Mom picked up on the fact that I was always uncomfortable when this guy was around and that I didn’t want him to give pick me up or give me a ride home for babysitting. It was years before I could tell her. She waiting for the right moment. She was sitting in her recliner and I was brushing her hair, something I did often to help relieve her frequent headaches. It was an intimate moment and she just knew it was the right time.
      I know I was in no way at fault. I was a truly innocent fourteen-year-old.
      How many of us have such legacies hidden in our hearts?

Thank you for sharing. That was scary and absolutely wrong in so many ways. I would have been frightened that would happen again. This is not okay!

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