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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Is Sexual Harassment STILL a Thing?

I used to watch a lot of Lifetime movies.  Their storylines were average and the acting was piss poor but I couldn't help it.  When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time watching those films with my mother.  Since I already struggled so much when it came to bonding with her, I jumped at the opportunity whenever she was parked on the couch watching those cliche films.  (Read all about my relationship with her, here.)  Each film had some kind of moral woven into it combined with a 'this could happen to you' storyline.  Those Lifetime plots were either about the estranged ex-girlfriend, the guy who stalked you that you shouldn't have befriended or sexual harassment from the football team.

My mother had taken these films almost too seriously.  She would always put an emphasis on whatever crazy scenario was being shown on screen; 'see?  that's why you have to be careful who you date and who you associate yourself with'.  I'd sit there baffled, confused and almost annoyed.  As if I'd be that dumb to get wound up in these kinds of situations.  It just didn't seem possible in my eyes.  Wouldn't I see that shit coming and know to shut that shit down with the quickness?  So I'd blow it off and reassure the same thing, over and over again; 

"I would never let that happen to me.  I'm not stupid."

When I joined the Girl Scouts (against my free will) I made one friend who would always let me sit next to her during snack time.  She made time within the Girl Scouts bearable (for the most part).  As a raging tomboy--I wanted to play freeze tag instead of playing with makeup.  I was immediately thought of as a weirdo by the other girls which resulted in me being an outcast, so when Deb* invited me into her tiny circle, I was thankful.  Although I had literally one dependable friend in the cookie-peddlers-from-hell troop, I was relieved when it came time to quit.  When it came time to start high school, my mom thought it wouldn't be such a bad idea if I hitched a ride to and from school with Deb's mom since they lived just around the corner from us. 

Sometimes I'd hang out with Deb outside of school.  We'd do the usual.  And by usual, watch stupid YouTube clips, play video games or watch a movie.  We did normal teenager things since neither one of us had any money to do much else.  Her brother Chris* would sometimes tag along which I found to be quite odd seeing as though he was older and about to graduate high school.  He had been quite nice to me and her friends although you could tell he enjoyed picking on Deb from time to time.  I didn't think much else of Chris since he was either forced to help out with Girl Scout crap or rode with us on the way to school.  He was just there like some light fixture or dust in a forgotten corner...

One afternoon during the weekend, I was hanging out with Deb in her room.  We had found some pretty hilarious cartoon clips that we couldn't stop giggling over.  During our bursts of laughter, Chris came into the room just to see why we were being so loud.  As I was sitting on the bed, Deb decided to go into the kitchen to grab a soda.  As I stared at the screen watching this comic, Chris put his hand on my leg.  Unaware of what was happening at first, I sat there as he stood awkwardly close to me with his puffy sausage hand on my leg.  When she came back, Chris yanked his hand away.

I know what you must be thinking right now;

"Yo Meg, why the fuck didn't you bite this guy's hand off?  Why didn't you call out for Deb?  Why didn't you tell Chris that he's a creepy, disgusting pervert?  Why Meg? Why?"

I'll tell you why--I was in a state of shock.  The second he placed his hand on my leg, I felt that my whole body was just frozen in time.  I just sat there not knowing what to do even though those stupid Lifetime films had taught me otherwise.  I felt like I could see everything happening right before me, but I was too paralyzed to stop it.  And it's weird because I kept wondering why I didn't do anything.  I knew this was wrong and besides, it was just downright creepyChris had crossed a line.  He was attempting something (I'm  not sure what) and it sent a pretty clear message.

I was young, afraid, confused and unaware that because I didn't say something at the time (frozen or not)--I was going to pay for it later...

Puberty was in full swing for me in my junior year which (I believed) landed me one of my first short-term relationships.  I had met Tom* through Deb.  Tom was a geeky nerd and all around nice guy.  He had accepted my tomboy nature and (for some odd reason beyond scientific explanations) thought I was smoking hot.  Some weekends when we were all available, our giant nerdy band of friends would gather at Tom's house and play endless hours of Super Smash Brothers.  And since Deb was there--guess who tagged along?  Yep--Chris.

It felt awkward having Chris around.  I was already catching a ride with Deb on the way to school.  And now he was associating himself in our little gatherings.  I would always make it a point to sit near Tom on the other side of the room.  I felt safer that way.  As long as I was with other people while Chris was nearby then everything would be fine.  I could just swipe shit under the rug like I always did and I would forget that he put his hand on me.

The neighborhood that I grew up in was pleasant for the most part.  Down the street from my home was the park and built right next to it was my elementary school.  The country club was nestled just up the hill which was packed with elegant homes of the yester year.  From an outside observer, my neighborhood appears to be a 'whole-some, white-picket fence' community.  Just on the opposite side of the park was Tom's house.  Walking distance it takes about 10 to 15 minutes tops to get from Tom's house to mine.  So, when it came time for me to go home because of curfew--I assumed Tom who was a college freshman at the time would drive me home in his shiny Volvo.  Chris objected to the idea saying that because I lived so close to him that he would drive me home. 

Have you ever tried to communicate to someone using your eyes but they miss your non-verbal and subtle hints that you end up internally screaming?  Yep.  That was me.  I was standing there with this odd look in my eyes that read; 'please drive me home, please get off your ass and drive me home for the love of god.'  Chris had offered to take me home.  Tom missed my communication.  And now I had to climb into Chris' mustang only to have the longest ride home in my life.

As a teenager, I hated having a curfew to begin with.  I wanted to be able to hang out with the rest of my friends who didn't really have an early curfew like I did.  I could have grabbed a ride home with my mom.  She was one call away.   But I didn't want to be that girl who had to have her parents come and pick her up.  And to be honest, I was hoping Tom would offer to take me home and decline Chris' offer.  But Tom didn't know what was happening and what I was going through.  He was just as blind to it as everyone else.  He was too trusting just like I was before all this bullshit came to be... 

I fucked up.  I climbed into the car with this slime ball.  As I sat there, I stared out the dirty window locking eyes with Tom's house.  I felt so trapped in that dirty red mustang that wreaked of stinky feet.  I began shaking with anxiety.  I was plagued with fear.  This wolf had cleverly disguised himself as an innocent sheep.  I was his target.  And he succeeded in getting us alone.  I couldn't make eye-contact-in fact-I refused.  As we approached our first stop light, Chris began to rub my left shoulder with his right hand.  It was happening all over again.  I could hear myself screaming inside hoping that this light would hurry up and turn green.  But he continued, he began to rub both of my shoulders.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I felt violated

Have you ever been thrown into a situation and you didn't know how you got there?  Or maybe you knew how you got there but you just didn't know how to get out of it?  It's as if you're having this out of body experience.  You can see everything around you, you anticipate what's about to happen, you know that you desperately want out, but you fall short?  You choke.  You freeze...

I have this knack of overanalyzing shit until it's dead and buried.  There have been countless times where I tried to figure out how I got myself into this mess.  Why was I there just letting some creep massage my shoulders?  How the fuck he was able to start touching me feeling like he was allowed to do so in the first place?  Why did he think it was okay to just invade my space?  Why wasn't I fighting back?  I always told myself that I would never end up in this kind of situation.  I had become that stupid Lifetime girl who wound up in a situation that she herself had seen coming but didn't avoid it better...

Every light was turning red, and Chris had taken every stop as this 'opportunity' to repeat the same shit he had been doing since the start of that miserable car ride from hell.  I was screaming on the inside.  I just wanted his sexual advances to stop...

When the car pulled up to my house, I didn't wait for the car to come to a complete stop.  I threw the door open and ran for my front door.  I couldn't wait to get inside my house.  Racing into my room, I closed the door.  I broke down and cried.

Days later, I came clean to Deb.  She had invited me to another session of video games and chill.  I asked who else was going and when Chris' name came up, I immediately declined.  There were more invitations to other social gatherings but Chris' name would always appear and I declined every-fucking-time.  I wasn't going to put myself into another miserable situation.  I mean--what if he didn't turn the car down my street?  What if he parked it somewhere else and took things to another level?  These kind of gestures start out small as a pre-game to the real deal.  I have all these what if's circling my brain like a hula-hoop on steroids.  What I endured was minor to what could have been.  But who's to say that it couldn't have been a possibility.  His hand resting on my shoulders, massaging me as I screamed inside wanting to burst into flames in his car.  I was done.  I wasn't going to give Chris the opportunity to touch me ever again...

Deb had become upset and bothered by my lack of appearance.  I had practically cut all ties with everyone and since Tom and I broke up anyway--it made my disappearance that much easier.  I realized that she had to know what was going on.  I decided to rip this shit off like a Band-Aid.  In a sudden moment of courage over our online chat, I came clean.  I told her what Chris had been doing to me.  And it felt incredible.  It felt so good to bring that slimy shit to the surface.  But her response was far slimier.  In fact--it was like a giant slap to the face... 

She called me a liar...

 This wasn't the response that I was hoping to receive.  I thought I'd receive an apology, but I was dead wrong.  Deb--someone who I thought was my friend--called me a liar.  She accused me of lying just like Tiffany* did.  Tiffany who had also been a close friend of her had made claims as well so naturally she thought I was just another Tiffany.  But then I realized something--what if Tiffany wasn't lying?  She was judged for being promiscuous but was she lying about Chris?  What if she had been telling the truth? I suppose I'll never know but for some odd reason--I can't help but think that maybe she too had been sexually harassed...

The whole thing made my brain melt.  It left a pit in my soul.  It bothered me to my core.  Nothing was going to get resolved.  Chris would never be punished for what he did.  He would never be reprimanded for his actions.  He would continue to walk around thinking it was okay to violate someone else's space.  And his sister would defend him till the end of time by taking the side of a snake.

Do you know what makes shit even more awkward?  I still had to catch a ride with her on the way to school.  Pretending that nothing happened was infuriating.  I bit my tongue just so I could catch a ride with her to school.  The thing about Deb is that she has two volumes; loud and louder.  Everyone would sit in the car as she'd talk all our ears off on the way to school.  Normally I would tolerate her obnoxious conversations about pointless shit, but I had enough at this point.  To be honest, I wanted to choke the life out of her.  I'd sit there in complete silence as I ignored everything that she was saying.  She was nothing and no one to me.

As I sit here recalling the first time my boundaries were violated, I have to remember that I was just a child.  I was innocent and unaware.  It was perfectly normal to enter a state of shock the way I did.  Those memories still give me the chills.  I can't even tell you how it feels to be at a loss of words when you're faced with that situation for the first time especially when you trusted that individual.  Especially when you can't predict it.  Especially when you thought that you'd never see yourself being faced with that type of situation...  

Over the years, I've encountered similar situations in the work place.  I've received it from men who were married and who were my superiors.   The majority of it had been verbal which is equally as creepy and violating.  Looking back on these moments, the amount of instances that I've endured sexual harassment were a combination of verbal and non-verbal actions.

A few days ago, I decided to try a little experiment.  On my Twitter feed, I posted a poll.  I asked if anyone had been sexually harassed before and the results made my heart hurt...

I've also been contacted by two other's who have mentioned of their run in with sexual harassment.  That mean's that 69% voted yes.  Holy. Shit.

Is Sexual Harassment STILL a Thing? Yes.  Yes it is.  And it's sad to think that those responses are the way they are.  I keep looking at those totals trying to shake the reality.  But in all honesty--this subject will always be that dark, looming cloud that we have to learn to fight off and be aware of...

This topic wasn't easy to write about.  I struggled with it.  But I brought those painful memories to the surface despite how upset they made me feel.  And I realized that if I didn't write about it--how would all the young, innocently unaware Meg's of the world know about the gruesome reality of being sexually harassed?  The reality is that someone will always test your boundaries.  The reality is someone out there will always seek an opportunity to touch you because they feel as if they can...

And the reality is if it does happen to you--you need to tell that person to keep their hands to their fucking selves...



*Names have been changed*

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  1. I hate that you had to experience this, especially at such a young age and to be called a liar by your harasser's sister/good friend is devastating! Harassment for females is inevitable; at some point in our lives, all women become victims of sexual harassment. From my personal experience, I can honestly say that most of my sexual harassment encounters could have been avoided if I had done things different; the biggest thing being that I should have communicated better and made it clear that the advances were inappropriate and unwanted. A lot of my friends have claimed to be sexually harassed and worse, the majority of them being women and drunk at the time of the harassment. Though most of the claims are valid, there are some that raised questions like, How did you get yourself into a situation to become sexually harassed? Did you do everything in your power to prevent this situation? Did you make it clear that the advances were unwanted? Is the accuser truly and solely at fault? You should immediately report a situation you feel to be sexual harassment to someone you can confide in. Lastly a tip, if you start to feel threatened or sense that you might become a victim of sexual harassment, discreetly start recording either audio or video on your phone so you have evidence!

  2. However, the sexual problems that women contend with vary fundamentally from men's and this factor is not being researched or critically looked into.


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