Age 11, 1996
After my grandmother died in 1992, her brother was the executor of her will. From what I've been told, she left money to help me go to college and she left it under the control of her brother because my mom was never good with money. Around this time in 1996, he and my mom were heading to court over this issue. I lived in Maryland with my mom, but visited Ohio, where he and the majority of my family lives, every summer and stayed with one of my grandmother's sisters. I was visiting Ohio when sat me down and started kind of apologizing for all of mess going on with my mom...while rubbing my feet. We were in the living room. His wife was there. And he was rubbing my feet in a really weird and intimate manner that didn't make any sense to me.
Age 12, 1997
Same great-uncle. He was the only member of the family who had a pool, so I'd go with my great-aunts several times each summer, even though I couldn't really swim. On my first visit that summer, I was wearing a two piece bathing suit - not a bikini, but those two-pieces that are made for little girls because I still had the body of a little girl, even though I was tall for my age. He told his sisters that the bathing suit was not appropriate for a girl my age.
They assumed that he meant that I should be wearing a one-piece instead of a two-piece, and took me to Walmart to find a more modest bathing suit. The next time we went to his house I brought an older friend. She was 14 and had breasts and hips and I was in awe of her, and she wore a bikini. When he saw me and her next to each other he told my aunts that the bikini was the type of bathing suit that he thought I should be wearing at my age, not the little kid bathing suits that they kept buying me. I remember them looking shocked. I was shocked. That was my last summer in Ohio.
Age 11-13, 1996-1998
You might think that middle-school groping only happens to the girls who develop early. You'd be wrong. I was nearly the height I am now, 5'5, and must have weighed around 100lbs with (still!) no breasts, but I still had to deal with boys trying to grab my butt or chest. Often they were my friends. Often I laughed off. Boys groping girls was so endemic at my middle school that we kids had a special day where girls were allowed to grope boys back. Teachers looked the other way.
Age 14, 1999
My mom needs help with bills, so I have my first job at BJ Pumpernickles in the Olney Shopping Center down the street from where I live. I last less than two months there. One of the managers, a middle-aged white man, makes me uncomfortable and one day pinches my butt as he brushes past me at the hostess podium. I never return.
Age 14-18, 1999-2003
I finally have breasts - they seem to have appeared overnight, and they are C-cups. I can no longer walk down the street without being harassed by grown men. I tell them that I'm not 18. Few of them care.
Age 18-19, 2003-2004
I'm a college student at Cornell University. I'm highly introverted, but my friends occasionally convince me to go to parties with them. At one, some guys who don't look like students are there and one of them aggressively grabs me and starts grinding on me. That's the last party I go to.
Age 21, 2006
I spend a summer in New Orleans post-Katrina doing organizing work with a small non-profit. Aside from the general street harassment, a fellow volunteer aggressively pursues me. I don't want to be mean, so I keep politely rejecting him until his time there is up. In another instance, I spend a couple hours talking with an elderly man struggling to restore his home. As we leave, I hug him and he "accidentally" grabs my breast. For a second before this happens, I'd thought I was more than just a pretty girl.
Age 22 - 27, 2007-2012
I live in New Orleans now. I don't have a car, so I am often harassed on the street walking to and from the bus stops. Once, on the Canal streetcar line a man masturbates with his hand inside his jeans while staring at me. I'm wearing one of my favorite dresses, and it's shows off my cleavage. I don't wear this dress again.
Another time, a man follows me from the bus stop to my apartment by zig zagging up and down the cross streets. I'm on the phone with my mother when he stops in the middle of the street, gets out, and tries to get me to talk to him. Once I reach my apartment the German Shepard seems to scare him off. Later I read the description of a man who kidnapped a girl and raped her, and I realize that the cars sound similar. I try to call the detective on the case, but he never calls back.
On my way to work one morning I walk past the house across the street from my office and witness a man and woman engaging in intercourse, while another man looks on. As I rush past, in shock, the woman yells "rape". I hurry inside and call 911. I wait by the window and look out for the police, but am distracted by my boss after a few minutes. When I return, the group is gone and I see no police. The man lives in the neighborhood I work in, and occasionally I see him as I walk to and from work until I left that job.
Age 27, 2012
I had a complicated relationship with a former boss. When I worked for him I was attracted to him, and we were very close friends who worked crazy hours on something we were passionate about. Nothing ever happened between us, though, and by 2013 we were both working elsewhere and only occasionally in touch. Also, my feelings were in the past.
It's a couple weeks after his birthday and I Facebook message him to remind him that we need to reschedule the birthday lunch that we didn't get to do a couple weeks prior. He responds that what we should really do is fuck and insists that he come over. I can tell by all of the misspelled words that he's very drunk, so I gently tell him that that's not happening because I know he'll be embarrassed in the morning. I go tot sleep. I wake up a couple hours later when my front door slams. It was unlocked. I trusted the aforementioned German Shepard to keep me safe against intruders, because I never expected an intruder to be someone we knew.
He forces his way into bed with me and starts trying to grab my breasts and vagina, then passes out. I lay there wondering how I can get out of this situation. If I move to leave the bed I'll have to crawl over him, and I'm afraid he'll wake up sober enough to actually rape me. We repeat this routine a couple more times, then while he's passed out I remember that my phone is nearby. I call my landlord, who is sleeping across the courtyard from my apartment, and tell him to come over immediately. He does, and I climb over my former boss and leave him to sleep his drunkenness off in my bed while I stay with my landlord for the night.
The next morning he messages me an apology. He can't remember anything. I tell him that we should talk about what he did. He never wants to, so I unfriend him and never make contact with him again until a couple years later, when he does a storytelling show at the comedy club I take classes at. I watch, amazed at how unaffected his life appears to be.
Age 28, 2013
I'm pressured into sex that to this day I'm not sure I wanted.
Age 28-32, 2013-2017
I've gained a significant amount of weight over the years, so I'm harassed on the street much less. Still, this doesn't stop the occaisional creeper, like the one who tried to kiss me as I walked past him to the bus stop.
Age 32, 2017
I live in a beautiful, new, secure apartment building in the CBD. We have a rooftop, and I host a party for a close friend. Another tenant comes up and starts harassing and trying to touch some of the female guests. He appears to be drunk, and I tell him to leave or at least go on the other side of the roof, where we are not. He later comes back and I feel obliged to make small talk with him since he's a fellow tenant and I felt weird about telling him to leave earlier. One of my friends sits nearby, looking at her phone. At some point, he tries to kiss me and I tell him not to touch me. He says something about "this is what men do" and I tell him that no men that I know try to kiss women they've just met. My friend proceeds to curse him out for trying to kiss me and demands that he go to the other side of the roof, which he does.
I later complain about him to the building manager. He is often drunk, and is apparently a problem tenant for her. For now, I have to occasionally see him around the building and recently he "introduced" himself to me, because he has no memory of me from before. I love being on the roof but he's often there, so I rarely return without my boyfriend.
I originally had the idea to write about the incident with my neighbor a couple months ago, but never did. In light of all of the accusations coming about against Harvey Weinstein, I started thinking about all of the times I was in fear of a man the way Weinstein's accusers were in fear of him, and I realized that my experience goes beyond this most recent instance of harassment.
Talking about this stuff is hard, but we should try to do it more. I find myself wondering why I refuse to name my boss who assaulted me in my own bed. I think it's because I cared for him very much at one time. And while he and other men clearly have had no problem doing damage to me and other women, I think it's harder for women be ok with our truth causing damage to men.
I'm trying to get over that.