My oldest daughter has had her first experience with sexual harassment and sexual assault. There was a boy at her school who had numerous complaints raised against him due to grabbing girls in a sexual manner. My daughter had issues with this boy from the first week of starting at her new school. She filed a complaint during her second week but it is only recently that at least 9 other girls have come forward with their experiences with this boy and he has now been removed from the school. I could say my daughter was one of the “lucky” ones because she wasn’t necessarily grabbed and groped in a sexual manner but he has touched her leg and arm, even after she told him to leave her alone. (Why would I even qualify his actions by downplaying the way he DID touch my daughter? Any unwanted touch is inexcusable! The downplaying reaction to these situations is a huge part of the problem!)
Every day, this boy would relentlessly pursue my daughter and would position himself uncomfortably close to her, stare at her, look over her shoulder to see who she was texting on her phone, and would tell her he loves her. She asked him repeatedly to stop and each time she did, his efforts increased. My daughter admitted to me that she has recently had dreams where she is raped. This breaks my heart. Another piece of her innocence is gone forever. My daughter – who is only 15 and never had a boyfriend (or girlfriend) – has jumped from the giddiness of the thought of first love to being abused and assaulted by a boy.
I’m outraged by this. I’m sickened by it. And I’m mad at myself because I at first dismissed what she was experiencing. I am completely desensitized to this type of behavior from men in the sense that I never expect anything other than an almost predator/prey experience. I’ve had many experiences of men harassing me and abusing me – emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually. And time and again, I just swept it aside because I grew up with the notion (although never actually expressed to me by anyone), that women just had to deal with this sort of thing. I grew up with the idea that boys will be boys and that, as a woman, I needed to dress in a way that wouldn’t attract attention and not put myself in situations where I may “get in trouble”. I don’t recall ever feeling like I would be completely safe. Wow…that was a big “a-ha” moment for me. I honestly am unable to recall ever feeling like I am completely safe. There is always a thought, at least in the back of my mind, that a man could “do something” to me or, at the very least, is thinking some untoward thoughts regarding me. I could go on forever about my thoughts on this but I won’t bore you all with that – at least not right now.
What it comes down to for me is trying to get a grip on what is WRONG with these people who manipulate, abuse, harass, and assault others? And then, how do we find compassion or forgiveness in our hearts for those who terrorize others?
The world is getting used to hearing about men who have taken advantage of women and I can only hope that we can start to see real change. I’m proud of my daughter for speaking up. I’m proud of all the others in her life who are showing their love and support not only for her, but for each other. They have created a group called the Screaming Sunflowers which is centered on the topic of sexual assault and harassment. Sunflowers always turn towards the light and that is what this group of teenagers is doing. I have great hope for this generation in regards to social changes. Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where we looked at each other as fellow humans who deserve to be treated with respect rather than treating each other differently if they don’t look or act exactly like ourselves?