Not Raped

Never raped, not me, not yet. I don’t identify as being traumatized in sexual ways as a kid or young adult. Instead, I was an object or recipient of ‘little transgressions’ perpetrated by males. These incidents have surfaced from 50 years ago. Tiny sexual assaults and sexual harassments in my earliest work experiences –the life lessons about what it is to be female.
• Walking along a road at age 11-12 saw a boy riding a bike toward me on the same side of the street. I did not know him. He punched me in the breast as he rode past.
• I did a lot of babysitting. The husband was responsible for paying the sitter and taking her home.
On several occasions, different men, would try to kiss me, cop a feel or speak in ways that made me uncomfortable.
• While in grade school I was working in the concession stand at football games. Men or boys wanting to be men would leer and make salacious remarks about my body. I pretended I hadn’t heard or didn’t understand and gave them ordered items that were paid for with a smile.
• Sitting in summer school Typing class (pre-keyboarding), I noticed a boy swatting in the dark
Hallway trying to get my attention. We made eye contact. He gestured, spreading two fingers apart. When my face registered confusion, he forcefully pointed below my desk and rudely gestured to spread my knees, so he could look. I had on a skirt. I mouthed NO angrily.
He ran. I was rattled, sweaty and felt sick. This is the first time I have shared this from
56 years ago.
• At 15 my summer job as a soda jerk was always uncomfortable working alone with the owner
on Sunday nights. Business was slow the last couple of hours. I would broom the entire parking to escape to his creepy stare and create safe distance. This began the sharpening of gut speak.
• By 17, I worked at a downtown shoe store selling bags, hosiery and cashiering. The manager was a peeper, (voyeur) assigning me to dust and restock high and low shelving as he hid or positioned himself to try to glance up my skirt. I learned to navigate by calling him out in a humorous way. Unsatisfied he became bolder telling me what customer he planned to visually violate making me sickly complicit.
• At 18 walking with a few friends in broad day light, boys on bikes rode up behind us and goosed our behinds. Eighteen-year-old me thought this was racism, today I realize it was sexual.

I never told anyone. I reasoned this is a part of growing up. I think I remained confident and competent particularly about work. As I woman it was apparent to me this is a part of the world, the truth of being female. We females develop work- arounds, strategies to better protect themselves. The truth remains, the evidence cannot be refuted, even “tiny transgressions” teach females they cannot be safe of body, work, income, identity or freedom.

8 thoughts on “Not Raped

  1. Kate Arthur

    Great piece, Michele. You’re right! IT IS the little things, the ones you learn to work around, to diffuse with humor, to pretend you don’t understand, to try to forget ever happened because they embarrassed you. I’m sad this all happened to you–and I know you would offer the same condolence to any other woman, because, thinking back, we ALL have stories like these. Even if you weren’t raped, you were harassed if you’re female. We need to develop strategies that are more effective, so that when our daughters and grand-daughters are harrassed, they are absolutely prepared to know how to handle this, and how to make sure men clearly understand that they won’t tolerate it!

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  2. Peggy

    This is so much the same as I had. I hate remembering working at Block and getting my legs felt and having him look up my skirt. It wasn’t only me, it was lots of us girls. Much of what happened to you, happened to me.

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  3. Amy Frazer

    I know of no girl/woman in our age group who has not experienced overt or subtle harassment. I had hoped that things would have gotten better over several generations, and we are absolutely no further. But there is finally so much outrage that we may throw off the shackles of patriarchy. Thanks for sharing your painful past.

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