Childhood

Sage

I was 9 at a school event. This was my first experience with sexual harassment that I can remember. We were in the room for the Frozen sing-a-long (this was 2014). He was sitting behind me. He started using these cheesey pick up lines on me. I told him it annoyed me. I told him to stop. He didn’t. I continued to tell him to stop. He didn’t. Eventually, I told him I would punch him if he said one more word. He found a loophole. He told his friend what to say to me. I kept telling him to stop. He didn’t listen. Later I found out that he did that to every girl in class. Every. Girl. He hit on every girl and didn’t listen when every girl told him no. We were 9 and 10. Sexism is taught at too young an age.

Sage

I was about eleven. My 14 year old sister and I walked across the street to get ice cream while my mom waited by the car. On our way back, there were some boys standing against a wall. They were probably around 12. They whistled at us. My sister just kept us walking back to our mom. I was too young to understand what it meant. Now I’m not. I look back on it and think “Damn. Eleven years old.” I was too young for this bullshit. I am grateful I didn’t understand it but I wish it hadn’t happened. Why are 12 year old boys already educated on how to objectify women? What the fuck is up with that?

Maria

As a child, I would regularly get cat calls and have obscene gestures directed towards me from men many years older than me, often twice my age or more. I was told by my family and by teachers both in primary and secondary school, that they probably just really liked me. I was also told from about the age of 12, that I should wear baggier clothing, as I was overdeveloped for my age and this was probably confusing them. I spent my mid teenage years wearing baggier clothing, and got fewer sexual comments, but men would often tell me to ‘smile more’ and that’don’t worry, it probably won’t ever happen.’ I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, until I cam across the phrase resting bitch face. Turns out I suffer from this. It was during this time that I was repeatedly sexually assaulted by my first boyfriend. Only, I didn’t realise that this was what it was at the time, as he was my boyfriend and I assumed that it was normal. My friends didn’t believe me when I told them, and so I stopped talking about it. After escaping that relationship, I quickly found myself in another abusive relationship. He had had a difficult time of it, and so whenever he physically attacked me, I would explain it away. People never bothered to ask about the bruises, as they felt sorry for him too. It took three years for me to finally understand my worth and walk away from him. After that, I spent three years single, finally able to explore my freedom and come to respect and love myself. Unfortunately, I have experienced sexual assault more recently, being attacked by someone I considered a friend. When I tried to talk about this with friends, they were supportive and helped me through it. But they were not surprised, and one had been assaulted by the same man. It never occurred to us to report him. As who would believe us? The hardest part about that assault, was when I tried to tell my partner at the time, he grew upset. Not with what had happened to me, but because I had ‘put myself in that situation’. I struggle with the rage that I feel about the injustice of being blamed for an attack done to me. But it told me I was right not to report it. Because even if people believed me, they’d only blame me.

L.R

I had two experiences where I was touched against my will. One was when I was a child. This was done by another child. But I didnt want it. I could not say no. It was from the age of 4yrs old until I was 10. When I mentioned this to a professional, after remembering it for the first time, when I was 19 I was told ‘thats what kids do. This is normal’. But it wasnt. Because I did not want it and had never been taught what to do when I didnt want something. The second experience was when I was 19, just after I remembered the stuff from my childhood. I was on vacation and a guy asked me to take a picture of him in front of the ocean. Afterwards we spent the day in the city, ending up holding hands. I felt more and more uncomfortable. I told myself ‘he might be the right one.I am already 19 and havent been in a relationship, this might be my only chance. Don’t make such a fuzz’… It ended up in me convincing myself to do everything he wanted me to and just being able to stop him before the actual sex. I have been in therapy for 9 years (I’m 24 now) and havent been able to talk about this, because of the responses I have gotten when indicating the topic (Thats not so bad. Its normal. etc). I convinced myself it was normal, ended up in the psych ward several times. Last year I took the courage to start trauma therapy and finally found someone who acknowledges that ‘If it was a bad experience for you, it is valid and important to talk about it for us.’ Since then my life switched over and is better now. But it took almost 20 years since the first incident and 4 yrs since the last.

25 years ago

I’m 34 and this happened in 3rd grade…so it’s hard to remember all the details. But the one part of this story that sticks out crystal clear in my mind is of little 9-yr-old me, hiding behind a dumpster on the playground, out of breath and trying desperately to hold back tears. A boy in the grade above me and some of his friends had been chasing me all over the playground trying to get that one boy to kiss me. I was a fast runner and I was always able to stay away. I would run, get lost in some other kids, stop and look to see if they could find me. When they did I would start running again. Only by hiding behind a dumpster was I able to buy myself enough time to catch my breath and clean my tears until the bell rang. I don’t have any memory of reporting it or what happened after. I know I felt ashamed and my conservative “hush hush” upbringing probably told me to just keep quiet. But it stuck with me. It’s just innocent “kid stuff,” right? No. It was scary and I didn’t have the tools to deal with it.

Teresa

When I was about 3 or 4 years old my grandfather what me and my family visited in summer was doing a lot of wird stuff to us – my older brother and younger sister. He had a shelter built in the backyard behind the garden. He used to send me and my brother to the shelter with him. He said to show him our private parts. And if we did that he whoud give us candy. I and my brother did that of course to only get the candy. He said that we coudn’t tell anybody of that. But we told her and she was very angry at him. We didn’t visit him and my grandma because of him. About 2 years went by and we visited them in the summer when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My family and me thought that he was changed but he wasnt. That summer he did the same thing to my sister. I remember he told me to sit on his lap and I did IT because I wanted the candy… I really didn’t know then that was wrong and an awfull thing to do to child… That summer when with my sister happend the same thing my mum, dad, grandma and everybody find that out because I told them. My grandma and family was very upset and we fast went home. We havent been to my grandparents ever since. And now I am 13 almost 14 … I think he has gotten to therapy but I really dont know… I just want to meet my grandma and talk to her before something bad happends…

P

remembered today with stark clarity that at 7 years old on holiday with my family older boys wolf whistled at me when i walked down a boardwalk. My mother told me to take it as a compliment and i never batted an eyelid or questioned it – it took me a long time to realise that it was the exact opposite of that.

Anon

I’ve been doing these exercises from a book about sex (yup, nearly 30 and need a sex ed textbook. Well done, education system.) and the first one is all about remembering your body’s history, like, recalling times that you were aware of your body, how you felt about it, how you physically developed etc. First off, I notice that there are very few happy memories related to my body. Alarming. Secondly, I realised that the first time I ever felt fat was in a ballet class when I was 6. It wasn’t anything that was said to me, I just noticed that all the other girls in their neon-pink leotards had flat stomachs and mine wasn’t. Being a girl fucking sucks, doesn’t it?

Mel

I was raised by feminist hippies in the 1980S, under a female primr minister.. It was still made clear to me that I couldn’t be a lifeboat crew member, a reenactment viking, an astronaut or a golf caddy due to my sex.

SM

I was visiting family this Labor Day weekend. My 2 1/2 year old niece was coloring a picture, and I started flipping through the coloring book it came from. It was princess-themed, of course, and the more pictures I looked at, the more depressed I got. Here is a sampling of the captions that were at the bottom of each page: -Pretty as a Picture -Pretty as a Princess -Lovely Locks (underneath a picture of a princess brushing her hair) -Sweet Smile -Such Poise -So Graceful -In love (under a picture of a princess apparently daydreaming about a prince) -Beautiful new dress I counted at least 5 different pictures of a hand mirror or a girl looking in the mirror. Not one picture showed a princess or a lady actually DOING anything (unless you count the single picture of a girl dancing with a prince – I don’t). My smart, energetic, very active niece is not yet 3, and already the toys and books we surround her with are giving one clear message: you are here to be looked at.