I was five the first time it happened to me. The same age as my youngest daughter. I was with my parents at someone's house, family friends I guess you could call them. The adults were downstairs visiting, I was upstairs with their kids playing. All I remember is one of the boys (the kids were all several years older than I was) made me get in his bed under the blanket to see a "snake" and touch it. I didn't even know what it was. I knew it wasn't a real snake, but I could't even imagine what it might be.
Then came the classroom. In elementary school, one boy sat behind me and would hit me, hard, in the back of my head every single day. I told my parents. I told my teacher. I was told "Hit him back, he'll stop." One day I did hit him back. I got in trouble, not him.
Another year, another class, same boy - he would sit behind me in class. He didn't hit me. He grabbed my breasts. In class, while the teacher was talking. He intimidated me so that I was afraid to say anything. It had already been reinforced to me over the years that telling someone didn't do any good. It wouldn't make him stop.
I can hear it now - grownups saying "Oh boys only are mean to the girls they like." Every time I'd try to talk about various boys who would touch me, hurt me, mock me, harass me - "he's just doing it because he likes you." I'd get the good-natured teasing "Christine has a little boyfriend!" More reinforcement: Your discomfort doesn't matter as much as the boys' pleasure.
In college, I had several guy friends. Suddenly, there were more. Guys from my classes would call me in my dorm. I'd chat with them, sometimes go on dates with different guys. Many times I'd go with a group of people and we'd go out dancing. Then I found out there was a rumor going around that if a guy was nice to me I'd sleep with him. I was floored. Finally I was confident, I was happy, I was enjoying myself, but since many of my friends were guys that meant I was a whore? I wasn't even sleeping with them, but that's beside the point. I broke down crying at home and the first thing said to me was "Have you done anything to cause people to think that?"
This is why I'm sickened by so many people's reaction to the whole Bill Cosby thing. Yes, we grew up loving Cosby Show and Jello Pudding Pops, and his comedy albums, and the specials. Yes, he was America's favourite dad. But that was a character, not the real person. These allegations have been whispered about for years. But finally, someone listened to one of the women. And that gave others courage to speak up also. Because I am damn sure those women were also shut down when they first tried to tell someone. "Bill COSBY did this to you? Are you sure? Didn't you maybe have too much to drink? Maybe you just led him on." And on and on it goes. More and more women came forward, and I had the displeasure at hearing a male in my life say out loud "I bet they're all making it up, their stories are too similar." Or maybe his MO was that consistent?
Yes, I'm sad that such a hero of our culture turned out to be such a villain instead. But I'm even more disturbed, saddened, and absolutely disgusted by the defense he's still getting.
Quit perpetrating the message, however subliminal, that girls and women aren't good enough to not be assaulted. Quit implying that because a man is powerful, respected, funny, well-liked, he couldn't possibly have done anything to them and they must have brought it on themselves. Quit teaching our daughters that if they are ever harassed or sexually assaulted, that it's their own fault.
It isn't our fault.