Ok [deep breath], the first time I was 5. My parents had family friends over, their 12-year-old boy managed to get me away from everyone else. I haven’t been able to think about that family without hot shame flushing my face or disgust making me shake, ever since.
The second time I was 11, I was swimming when an adult family friend signaled me out of the water, I ran up to him all smiles before he grabbed me, right where our president likes to grab. It took years before I could look at that side of Osoyoos lake again.
The third time I was 13 and sleeping over at a friend’s house. She shared a room with her older brother. In the middle of the night, I felt his hand creeping into my sleeping bag. I never went back for another sleepover at that house.
The 4th time I was 12, in my orthodontist chair, he liked to cop a feel as he adjusted train tracks. I later learned he was banned, or whatever happens to dentists who aren’t allowed to practice because they’re perverts.
The 5th time I was 14 and my Uncle tried to kiss me. I’ve never told anyone about that before now.
5 times before I could even be considered a consenting adult. I’m guessing you’re thinking this is excessive and I must have asked for it. Maybe it was because I was curvy early? Perhaps my attitude? I was too friendly? It must be my fault somehow, right? After all, boys will be boys.
When I was in my early 20’s the one friend I had told about the incident at Osoyoos spilled my beans to the powers that be. The people of my community discussed this amongst themselves and I was forced to speak to a council of my parents and other community leaders about what had happened when I was 11. I was told that the man (at least 20 years my senior) was facing deportation back to his country, based on my account of what had happened, where he would face certain death. The pressure was overwhelming and the questions kept coming, I kept looking at my parents, desperately wanting someone, anyone, to be on my side. I was made to feel alone and this was almost worse than the violation I had experienced as a youth.
My daughter is 17, they refuse to ride a bike because they get constant catcalls. What I want for them, more than almost anything is to never experience what I and so many women experience, All. The. Time. I’ve lain awake nights, worrying about how I can protect them. I’ve not allowed sleepovers unless I knew the family and never if there’s an older brother or mom’s boyfriend around. My child deserves to be unmolested, whole, innocent and complete amongst themselves. This is a basic human right.
Why do we have to teach girls to be careful and safe? Why don’t we teach boys to respect girls and not to rape? It seems so simple to me. I am working hard to raise the kind of man I would want my daughter to marry, one who values and respects women, understands that everyone’s diverse strengths make up a strong team and most of all, one who understands what consent means. May he live in a world that values all people and one where respect for all life is paramount.
I wrote this post exactly a year ago, when the Access Hollywood video was released. I decided it was too private for me to post then, and buried it away. But here we are, a year later and the same story is circling – 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused or harassed in their lifetime. I’m not a victim, I’m a warrior… and a survivor. So this time I am sharing because perhaps my story can help swell the tide that will create a change in our world?