I’ve debated whether or not I wanted to share this post over the last few days. I kept asking myself why I didn’t want to post. What was making me hesitate? And I realized all of those feelings, anxiety, fear, shame, are the exact reason why this culture of harassment and sexual violence continues. So here we are. I’m sharing some of these stories because I can almost guarantee every one of you who reads this will have a similar one to tell. Because everyday we face harassment in ways that become so routine we sometimes fail to even recognize it for what it is.
The first time I was sexually harassed I was 7 years old. I was in second grade. I had been selected to participate in a gifted arts program during school hours. For a few hours every week a group of us would go to a space in the school to work on artistic projects. Another teacher in the school who had nothing to do with the arts program always happened to be in the space we were using during that scheduled time (I also knew this teacher outside of school). “When are you and (he would name his son-I am omitting it here for various reasons) going to go on a date?” “Do you think he’s cute? You two would make a cute couple. He’s a stud, you’re a little cutie.” He was relentless. Every, single week. I imagine it would be hard not to sense my discomfort. I was 7. I was afraid. So nervous it made me sick. I suffered from severe migraines that year and I am sure this contributed to that. I missed almost a month of school because of it. I would reply by shyly laughing it off. I lied and told my parents I didn’t like the arts program so that I wouldn’t have to go and be singled out and humiliated. I never told my parents the real reason. I was embarrassed, nervous, afraid, ashamed. Somehow I felt like I would get in trouble for telling anyone, like it was my fault. I wish I could go back to that room with my 7 year old self and tell him to fuck off. The female teacher that ran the program never said anything. I don’t blame her in anyway, but I wish she did.
I hated working in restaurants because that’s usually where harassment was the worst. My first restaurant job, the owner came in one day and started massaging my shoulders from behind. “Wow you’re tight,” he said. I felt confident enough to tell him not to touch me. Some of the other girls didn’t say anything. It was excruciating to be around. One summer I got a job at a catering company. The first wedding I worked I was pouring wine for the table. “Look at this girl. Are you single? How many men at this table would love a piece of that?” The man was my Dad’s age. Everyone at the table laughed. One man at the table slipped me a phone number on a napkin. I was humiliated. I just laughed it off and went back into the kitchen. “Just get used to it, play along and you’ll get a better tip,” one of the other women I was working with said. I quit the next day.
One afternoon in College I stopped by my professors office to ask a question about an assignment. He got uncomfortably close to me and put his hand on my shoulder. My face turned red and I started sweating. This was someone I respected. I quickly stepped back and awkwardly ended the conversation. I never spoke to him outside of class again.
My first job out of college about 5 or 6 months after I started a top executive called me into his office to talk about my career path (he explicitly said career path in the email). This wasn’t someone I worked with in any capacity so I thought it was strange but I had no reason not to go, so I did. I walked in, he asked me to shut the door, I thought it was odd but I did it anyway. He started the conversation by telling me how he was in Mensa and boasting about his professional accomplishments. The topic then quickly changed. “Are you French? You have stunning features. You carry yourself like a French woman.” I didn’t know how to respond. I just sat there and listened to his bullshit for at least 30-45 minutes. I went to the bathroom and cried. I cried because I thought he actually wanted to hear about my career goals and aspirations, and because I was too afraid to speak up for myself in that moment.
And then there’s just the everyday bullshit. The cat-calling, the honking, the whistling, the sexual remarks on the street, the unwanted touching on the subway (anyone who lives in NYC can attest to this). And yet we endure it. And so often we blame ourselves. We feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, we make excuses. And we can’t win. If we don’t fight back, we’re weak. If we do, we’re cold and bitchy. If we’re too flirtatious we’re sluts. I wish I could say that all of us sharing stories of harassment would bring change, maybe it will, but until men get on board this is just a support group letting each other know that we’ve been there. And that’s a good start. I hope that by all of us sharing these experiences it will shine a light on this pervasive behavior that continues to be an everyday reality, but it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s shocking when a man caught on camera bragging about sexually assaulting women can go on to be elected President of the United States. More recently, I was disgusted by Donna Karan’s comments on the red carpet. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it? By presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? … It’s not Harvey Weinstein, you look at everything all over the world today, you know, and how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” This is where we, as women, do have control. Let’s stop shaming one another. Let’s stop blaming the victim or asking what else could she have done? Why didn’t she fight back? How much did she have to drink? NONE OF IT MATTERS. Assault is assault. Rape is rape. Harassment is harassment. The statistics are alarming. 1 out of every 6 women is the victim of rape or attempted rape. That number is probably much higher given how many assaults go unreported. I hope that this #metoo movement becomes a catalyst for change. I encourage you to share your own stories in the comments, if you’re not comfortable, that’s ok, you can just write #metoo. And I hope that by sharing some of these stories you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Let’s look out for one another ladies. Hold your heads high. We are fierce. We are brave. We deserve respect and equality. And this is where it starts.
Organizations working to raise awareness and fight sexual violence
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
End Rape on Campus
Local Domestic Shelters
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This always makes me so sad. I can remember the first guy who looked me down. I was in a huge baggy mock neck sweater and really unflattering loose jeans (nothing sexy or revealing at all), but he never looked at my face. I hid behind my mom in the checkout line I was so bothered. Teaching boys to respect women totally begins in the home. I wish more dads were vocal to their sons and in mentoring other young men (because unfortunately there’s a high chance those cat-calling aren’t going to pay attention to us). I wish it wasn’t normalized on television and movies. I’m really sick of harassment being normalized and people not just stepping up right away to stop it (especially managment positions in companies). I hate talking anything politics, but one thing that really bugged me in the last election was not only Trump but the Clintons. Hilary helped to bully women into silence when her husband was running for president, and yet that was never an issue. (How is it that a women who shuts up assault victims is the better choice for women?) It bothered me that by the end of the primaries we were (unless a third party member won) going to have a man accused of sexual assault living in the White House (and maybe a second time). I don’t get why people can’t just call out evil when it happens rather than pretending like it doesn’t count just so they can feel better about who they vote for. Sorry, I’m just really passionate about this. Thank you for sharing, it might be hard but it shouldn’t be something kept quiet about. Thank you for speaking up!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. When #MeToo started a few days ago I found myself having a hard time recalling any instance of sexual harassment in my own life. Once I started reading other women’s stories I realized that I have had many of these experiences, but for one reason or another I didn’t give it the label of harassment in my head. I would brush it off, roll my eyes, or just push it out of my head because it made me THAT uncomfortable. I think we all do this. We discount our feelings, chalk it up to “the norm,” or push it down so deep hoping we won’t have to feel the shame that come with it. But the shame shouldn’t be on us, it should be on them. Shame on any person who has used their power or position to make anyone feel uncomfortable, or less than, or only valuable for their body or looks or gender. Shame on them. #MeToo
So glad you decided to publish this post because as you said at the start, the reasons that held you back are exactly the reasons these stories needed to be shared!
You did so eloquently and my heart went out to you with each story I read.
You and I don’t hold a lot of the same political beliefs so a lot of times I don’t relate to some of your more personal posts (but I am always glad you share them and love hearing your point of view!), but this is not a political issue, it is a human decency issue and I am 100% on board with you.
I’m here for you. We’re all here for you. If there’s one thing I’m glad of right now, it’s this wonderful sense of camaraderie between women. We seem to be bonding and forming fierce alliances where before, there was none.
I tweeted about my experience yesterday and I’m hoping to upload the details of my own experience by the end of this week. You’re right: we shouldn’t stay quiet or scared any longer. It’s time to be brave and strong and share our stories with the world xx
The working in restaurants thing – couldn’t. be. more. true.
When I was 15-17 years old I was working at a market research firm after school and on weekends. The manager was a creepy man in his late 30s who would call 2-3 hour meetings with just me regularly. He’d just talk about whatever he wanted to and keep me there listening with no choice. At one point he told me that I made him want to have children. I finally told him that I didn’t think these meetings were productive (too scared to actually say I thought it was all very inappropriate) and he fired me the next day. I was left without a job the summer after high-school when I really needed to earn money for college, but at least I didn’t have to deal with him anymore. That’s just one of my experiences and frankly the least dramatic. #metoo
Me Too. Summer, a long time ago. Met a nice Attorney who was a friend of my guy friend. He was always trying to hit on me and take me out to dinner. I went. He ordered a bottle of wine. I’m not at all sure if anything was out in my drink but when he took me back to his apartment I felt like a rag doll . I said no. He asdaulted me anyway in the most degrading way. He said no one would ever believe me because he worked in the prosecutors office. It was hell. I was hurt. I never went to the police . It was rape and I was ashamed .
Good for you for speaking up!!! You’re right, you are not alone and none of this is acceptable. Hopefully the more this is talked about the more girls and women will realize that they are not at fault and that they will be supported if they speak up. Thanks for keeping this conversation going.
Your latest post really hit home for me, and I admire you for coming forward with your experiences. I haven’t always been as brave in sharing my own encounters with sexual assault. It’s something we all need to feel confident in sharing with each other so that we don’t feel alone in our experiences. I was sexually assaulted by a teacher when I was in high school. It took me some time to find the courage to come forward about it because you feel embarrassed, alone, and tainted. I blamed myself for it, when looking back, that was 100% wrong. Coming forward helped a lot of people and surprisingly helped some of the wounds I hadn’t realized I had. We are never alone in any struggle we go through, and we can always lean on others and our community to find strength when we need it most.
Thanks again for your vulnerability and sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing your experience and writing this post. I agree completely with all of your points and I’m with you on what we can do to push change. I’ve been a reader for awhile, but never commented until now; that’s how much I appreciated your words.
My boyfriend at the time was working at a restaurant and they needed a little extra help for a very busy night. I decided to be a waitress for one night. There was this guy at a table that can’t looking at me, head to toe, every time I had to wait a table. He was smiling at me and, thinking that it’s my job, I was smiling back. He called me to his table, and, me thinking he needed something went right there. He bluntly asked me if I wanted to have sex with him. I said “no” and he was shocked. He kept insisting, I excused myself and left. I told my boyfriend immediately what happened and he told the restaurant manager. That customer got kicked out of the restaurant, I got paid as if I worked an entire shift and was driven home by an employee, to ensure I get home safely. I can not describe the shame, the fear and guilt I felt for days, not to mention the distrust towards men, especially. It hurts writing this… #metoo
Wow. Shocking and not. I have just signed on to assist with the #metoo March Jess. You are amazing.
I am so sorry that you have had so many experiences like this. This is horrible and no girl should ever have to go through anything like this.
I’ve also gone through horrid situations where men have said things to me that were so inappropriate and made me so uncomfortable. I’ve been in situations where men touch me when I’ve repeatedly told them not to and it’s just really unnerving. It sucks that this even happens. You are so strong for sharing your story
When I was 16 and received my driver’s license, my parents let me take the car by myself to my Wednesday night SAT prep class. I had to stop at the gas station nearby my house (right off of a busy main road) to fill up the tank. It was the Fall and close to sunset at this time, so it was getting dark out early. As I stood outside of the car at the gas pump there was a pickup truck at the pump parallel to mine and I heard male voices chattering in the front seat. They started calling out some words trying to get me to turn around to look at them, I continued to ignore it. Unfortunately, I had to cross their path to go inside to pay for the gas and when I came back out I was trying to walk quickly to my car with my head down and suddenly heard the word “B*tch” yelled out from that truck. As if they thought their anger and that word would get my attention. I jumped in my car and locked the doors stat. My heart was racing and my palms were sweating. I remember being told by a teacher in school that if I ever feel like I’m being followed while driving that I should drive to the nearest police station. So in this moment, I waited until their truck drove off and I proceeded to turn onto the main road. I almost went home and skipped class because I was so shook up and didn’t ever want to drive alone at night again. And as I look in the rear view mirror, I noticed their truck driving behind me and I panicked. It looked like they took a loop around the block to deceive me or scare me or something so that they’d turn on the street right after me. I took a few unexpected turns off the main road and managed to drive away from them and onward to my class because I didn’t want my parents to get upset for my absence. I never told them what happened because I didn’t want them to feel like I can’t drive at night or by myself anymore, but from that point on I refused to ever pump gas by myself anytime after 4pm. That was 11 years ago.
It was pretty common in my home town that one hitch-hikes from A to B and once I had this experience I never told anybody before because I felt so ashamed and thought it was my own fault. I was really busy and entered a man‘s car for a 10 min trip and he would ask me of we could have sex – I said, feeling very uncomfortable and ashamed, no and he would further beg me to have sex and I would get any money I can imagine etc – I was so glas this has happened right at the end of this trip – went home and cried for an hour.
Also I once a muslim man yelled at me in a park I would provoke him with my appearance and clothing – I wore black tights, a dress and a learher jacket. That time I yelled back as loud as I could – to show people it‘s not my fault…
Today I am a teacher at high school and one of the most important things I teach my girls (and boys) every day is that they are equal and never ever have to feel ashamed if something like that happens!
The first encounter I can remember is around the time I was 12 or 13 and my best friends dad said to me “If only I was 30 years younger”.
When I was 15 working at a fast food restaurant, my manager, who was 30+ at the time, asked me out on a date.
In high school, a “friend” started inappropriately touching me thinking I was asleep and I didn’t want HIM to feel uncomfortable so I turned away without saying anything. I shake my head as I type this…
When I was 18, a married father of four, setup a plan for an elaborate picnic with alcohol on my last day of my internship. I never went, but I never said anything either.
When I was 26 a coworker said to me “you’re really rocking those jeans” When I had the courage to call him out, it stopped him in his tracks and nothing could be formed as a retort. I see the look of shock on his face as I write this.
This doesn’t include the number of cat-calls, stares, looks from much older men when I was very much still a child.
As I write this, I’m ashamed I didn’t say more and speak up. I’ve always thought of myself as confident and a ‘don’t mess with me’ type — but I don’t think I was ever prepared for what I would encounter in this world. My assumption..this was par for the course and part of being a woman.
It has to stop. #metoo
Thanks for posting. I wish design and fashion bloggers I followed were being more open about this. Because I think it is everyone.
Oh Jess, thank you so much for opening up with your own stories so that you can give light to this issue, and encourage other women to share their experiences too.
A truly beautiful post.
I’m so sorry to hear of all of the ill-treatment you’ve gone through, you are one helluva woman and I have so much respect for you, both in general, and for sharing.
Love, Monica x
I didn’t feel comfortable posting #metoo on social media… maybe because I’m afraid what other people would think? After reading yours and so many other women’s comments on this site I truly feel like I’m not alone and for some reason feel the need to share my story.
After I had just turned 21 I was at the bar trying to order a drink. A younger man waved $20 dollars in my face and grabbed my butt saying he would buy me a drink. Obviously I told him to shove it.
There is another instance that still haunts me to this day. I think the real reason that it haunts me is not because of the emotional and physical trauma of the situation but rather the fact that I can’t remember enough to know if it was “my fault” or not. I know what you’re thinking, it’s never the victim’s fault but it’s really hard not to feel this way. I was a junior in college and was invited to a fraternity formal by my girlfriend who was in greek life ( I was not). I had just transferred schools and didn’t know many people and decided I would go. What I do remember is a boy passing around a cup that he called a “hurricane” which I guess is a mix of different liquors (and other things I soon discovered). During the dinner part of the evening I felt very drunk and sick so I went back to our (the girls’) hotel room and fell asleep on the couch. I woke up in a daze on the bed and have brief and hazy memories of having sex with a man. No clue how it started or how he got in our hotel room, but in my daze I let it happen I guess. The reason I feel so strongly that I was date rape drugged is the fact that when I woke up the next morning I felt like I had been run over by a train. Nothing at all like a hangover, more like every part of my body just ACHED. Almost done venting here, but once I decided to tell the story to a guy I was dating at the time (total tool btw) and his only comment was “You weren’t raped, you just got drunk.”
One of your best articles. Thank you.