Beth

I was 14 years old. My friends and I were walking through a neighborhood I wasn’t familiar with, and they didn’t tell me where they were going. We went through a grimy alleyway to find a bunch of men, all of whom were clearly in their 20s, standing around in a circle drinking beer. One guy immediately asked my friend, in reference to me, “who’s your hot friend?” He strode over, and I braced myself for him to flirt. Instead, without saying a word, he reached around from behind me, grabbing my crotch and then my backside. He said “you liked that, didn’t you?” Everyone laughed, and I didn’t have the courage to say that no, actually–I hated it. I did nothing when he stuck his tongue in my mouth and then convinced me to sit on his lap. I wanted to run away, but since my friends acted like nothing bad was happening, I knew that it was just me being too “sensitive.” When a few minutes passed and I started getting (inwardly) upset, I told my friends I had to go home. I walked away feeling shamed, dirty, and worthless. I don’t think I ever told anyone. Sixteen years later, I am an accomplished, intelligent professional who is about to get her master’s degree. I am so sad that because of the society we live in, it has taken me 16 years to realize that what that man did that day was assault.

Rebecca

I told my father that I wanted to pursue higher education to become a neurosurgeon. He sighed and suggested that I settle for an easier occupation to then find a husband. I graduated from high school top ten in my class.

Hanna

My eldest brother sexually abused me from the age of 13 to 21, which was the last time he raped me. At 21 I medically withdrew from college for suicidal ideation and a mental breakdown. Shortly after, I began to see a therapist and a clinical psychologist which informed me that I suffered from a handful of mental illnesses that had gone untreated for years. I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, the highest leading cause for this in adults is a past history of child sexual abuse, and incest even more so. Not only had my body, trust, self-esteem, and identity been torn away from me, but also, in some ways, my sanity. Finally working up the courage to confront my brother, I asked him why he had done it. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wanted my dick played with.” Dumbfounded, I couldn’t believe that the traumatizing events, for him, had been insignificant. I still attend therapy to undo the negative effects and visit a psychiatrist monthly.

Sarah

I’m a high school senior. During a party at a friend’s house, I accidentally grabbed someone else’s cup and drank a huge gulp of alcohol. Afterwards, I became tired and sat down in my friend’s bedroom. I guess I fell asleep, as the next thing I knew, two guys from the football team were climbing on top of me and pulling my skirt down. I tried to resist, but one of them grabbed my arms and held them down. If I continued resisting, they said, with a laugh, they could easily snap my neck. For the next half hour or so, they took turns raping me. When they left to get their friends so “they could have a turn,” I stumbled out and went home. The next morning, I decided to tell my counselor during lunch period what happened. But upon arriving to school, I found out that the guys told everyone that I came onto them at the party, and they “nailed me.” Several people called me a “drunken slut.” One of my teachers overheard and chuckled. By lunch time, I was hoping to seek some solace in my counselor. But after telling him what happened, he kept asking me questions about how much I drank and what I wore. Then he insinuated that I consented but regretted it because I didn’t want to be called slutty. He told me that I should’ve known better and that attempting to tarnish the reputations of “two fine young men” is “morally reprehensible.” Then he sent me out of his office.

Sarah

I worked as a cashier at a gas station. There was a crew doing road work near by and some of the guys would come in on breaks to get drinks and snacks. Over the course of a week or so I developed a rapport with them, joking and chatting a bit. One day, as I’m ringing them up one at a time, the group is ragging on one guy a bit more than usual and he’s had about enough. The fellow in front of me looks me strait in the eye and says “Don’t worry about him, he woke up a woman today”. What. The. Hell. The smile fell right off my face and I said “I wake up a woman everyday” They all seemed pretty uncomfortable after that. I’m glad they had the good sense to be uncomfortable.

Kristin

I am an engineer and every time I go into the field I get lectured about how to wear my hair and to be careful of my jewelry. I wear a wedding ring and sometime short earnings, and often wear my hair pulled back. I’ve never heard the men get lectured and be told to be careful and safe before going outside. In a meeting, where I was the only women attending, I was hugged before and after the meeting by someone I had only met once. This man did not hug the other men that attended the meeting. It was incredibly unconformable and frustrating.

Rose

I’m in high school, and up until this point (sophomore year), I’ve either never experienced or registered sexism. This year, however, perhaps due to the mainstreaming and acceptance of previously unthinkable actions/words, I’ve begun to understand what women and girls are talking about. I have heard my male classmates, who are for the most part respectful and intelligent, call girls the b-word, degrade them as objects and essentially promote rape culture. I had a female classmate try to justify sexual assault, listen to a health teacher (and my male classmates) speak about how women who are sexually assaulted shouldn’t be wearing “slutty” clothing (because obviously we shouldn’t show an inch of skin…but oh wait, full facial covering is associated with Islam, and that’s definitely not okay either). I’ve been told that there is no such thing as sexism anymore, that reproductive rights shouldn’t be guaranteed to women, that we should accept and be thankful for what rights we already have and not push for more and that girls need to be dominated by a stronger male. I’ve listened to boys talk about “moving onto a girl” or brag about “banging” x amount of chicks; I’ve heard “x profession is no place for a girl” and “go back to the kitchen” and had guys encroach upon my personal space or stare at me, when I’m obviously creeped out. Basically, I’ve found it kinda sucks to be a girl today. So much for progress!

Denali

I was at a family event one day, and we had just begun eating. My cousins were sitting at the table with me, discussing their favorite football teams. One of my older cousins asked the younger kids, “So what’s you guys’ favorite football team?” The younger girl’s response was, “I like the Cowboys.” “You mean the ‘Cowgirls’?”, my older cousin said, “They don’t play like boys, they play like girls.” She has a lot of influence on all of the younger kids. It was an insult, which I could see easily enough without even knowing anything about the Cowboys or football in general. I was pretty annoyed with that, especially since the kids are so young. They shouldn’t grow up hearing people talk about women and girls in that fashion at such an early age where it has a better chance of sticking. My older cousin could have — should have set a better example. It’s especially disappointing to witness this when most of my family claims to be feminist, but things like this continue to happen. They still treat the boys and girls differently. They still make little comments like the one previously mentioned.

CL

Every time I change my profile pic on a social website I get sexual comments from a guy I dated casually 25 years ago. “Show me your boobies” or “What are you wearing?” or “Send me some pics of you naked”. I’ve never responded to him (not since we were dating so many years ago) but silence isn’t a clear enough signal to send. My profile pics are nothing special and not the least bit sexy. I’m a 50 year old woman, and in my most recent pic I’m wearing a long-sleeved tshirt- no low cut top, nothing tight or even form fitting, thick material- not see through. How much less sexy could I be?!? And then I remember, it’s not about me or what I’m wearing. It’s about his assumptions that since I am a cishet female I should be available to him. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing and it really shouldn’t. He’d probably send these creepy, unsolicited comments no matter what I have on. Today, I messaged him back with the words, “______, please stop.” Does this treatment never stop no matter how old you get?!? I guess we’ll see how he takes a direct statement. His behavior is both gross (and sadly, at least in my generation) typical. SMH

Kat

I was an a house party and dancing with friends when I suddenly was grabbed by the hips and this random guy started grinding on me. I immediately pushed him away but I still felt gross. He didn’t even apologize and walked away looking insulted.