A few days ago, I posted #MeToo as my Facebook status to show my friends and family that I had survived sexual assault.
What was a little unexpected to me was the total deluge of women (and some men) admitting that they too had experienced sexual assault.
The first sexual assault that I can remember happened in 7th grade when I was 12 years old.
I was with my mom shopping in Payless. I was in the toy aisle, looking at toys.
I was wearing my school uniform – a blue and green plaid skirt, a white peter pan collar short sleeve blouse, white knee socks, and comfortable shoes.
My mom was elsewhere in the store when a man moved past me and as he did, I felt something brush my butt.
It almost seemed innocent, at the time.
I thought for sure I was making things up.
But just to be safe, I moved to another aisle, away from the man.
As I was looking at merchandise, the man came down my aisle and THIS TIME HE STOPPED, REACHED UNDER MY SKIRT, AND GRABBED ME BETWEEN MY LEGS.
In the pit of my stomach I knew this was wrong, just like I now knew the earlier touch had been intentional.
I should have screamed. Yelled. Pointed my finger at him and shamed him.
But I was little.
I only told my mom what happened when we were safely at home away from the man.
The last time I was sexually assaulted was when I was out to dinner with my kids.
We were eating at Fresh Choice, and I was carrying two trays with food – one for my boys and one for me.
A busboy offered to help me with a tray.
When he reached for the tray, his hand rubbed slowly against my breast.
That sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach started to bubble up again.
I sat down immediately, trying to calm myself.
Feeling tears coming on.
When he set the tray down on the table, he brushed my breast AGAIN WITH HIS FUCKING HAND, and I nearly came undone.
This time, I’m happy to say I reported him to the staff at Fresh Choice AND to the Campbell Police Department.
Since it was a he-said-she-said case, the District Attorney opted to not prosecute, but at least I started (continued?) the paper trail on this predator.
In the 30 some years that transpired between these two incidents, there have been countless others – friends of my sister’s boyfriends who thought I was there for their pleasure, strangers in bars who liked how I looked and wanted to touch me, predators who offered to take my photo but turned it into something else, etc.
I’m proud I fought back as an adult woman but I have to admit, whenever I get sexually assaulted, my initial reaction is ALWAYS the same.
A sick feeling followed swiftly by fear and the urge to get as far away from the predator as I possibly can.
I’m still 12 years old.