It Didn’t Happen to Me

[Dad, you may not want to read this post. It’s got some language and some information in it regarding me, your oldest daughter, that you’d rather maybe not know.]

[Okay, you’ve been warned. This is a post I don’t want my dad to read.]

Unless you live under a rock, you know about the sex scandal rocking Penn State right now. You know about the allegations of sexual assault/harassment being leveled against the GOP primary frontrunner.

As I drove home yesterday, I thought about my post of yesterday. In my comment section, another woman I consider a friend had come forth to tell about the sexual assault she suffered as a teenager. As I said in one of my replies to her, “the inaction on the part of the adults [at the school] is reprehensible.”

Maybe in one way, in some way, the anti-bullying campaigns that are rampant in schools now will nip some of these horrible offenses in the bud. Maybe the boy picking on the girl he likes will learn another way to communicate, or will simply learn another way of talking to a girl he likes, or will learn to deal with rejection. Not everyone has to like everyone else. We don’t all have to be BFFs.

But the other thing I thought about was this: It never happened to me. And I wonder why.

I was never raped.
I was never sexually assaulted. I was never sexually harassed.
I haven’t even been significantly bullied.

[KNOCK ON WOOD.]

On Twitter, @QueenofSpain threw out there (in light of the Cain allegations, I think): “Can any woman in my timeline say they’ve NEVER been sexually harassed in some way, shape, form?”

I thought about it. I really did.

The only thing I could recall was of a part-time job I had in my early 20s. I was trying to make ends meet, and so I took an evening job with a company that delivered food from area restaurants. I took the calls when they came in.

The guy who owned the company and was my boss was a real jackass. I’m no prude, but this guy was a foul-mouthed jerk. He used the “c” word with impunity, and he had one phrase – I believe it was “lick my balls” or maybe “suck my cock” — that offended the hell out of me. He’d get off the phone with a restaurant, and say, “That jerk can lick my balls” if he was upset.

Yeah, he was a *peach*.

One night, I finally said to him, “Look, stop saying that when I’m here. It offends me. It’s hostile. I don’t want to fucking hear it any more.”

And you know what? He stopped saying it when I was working.

I guess I wonder too (and this goes to yesterday’s post a bit as well): What do we mean by harassment?

I have been hit on while I’ve been out in public by people – men – that I’d rather had not hit on me. I’ve been inappropriately groped once or twice in my life (not by the same person). But unwanted attention at a bar isn’t harassment – unless, of course, the guy can’t take a hint. This is when guy friends with tattoos come in handy.

I have never been propositioned by a person in authority above me. Not once.

I have never felt pressured to have sex. I have been in bed with a man, going hot and heavy, and when a condom proved unavailable, I have called it off. I have enjoyed consensual sex with guys who didn’t call me back the next day. Or ever. I have lived to tell these tales.

Now, obviously, the fact that I have not been raped or assaulted or harassed does not mean that rape, assault, and harassment don’t exist. It just means it hasn’t happened to me. And just because I can with a fair amount of certainty say it hasn’t happen to me does not make it okay that it has happened to ANYONE.

But how come it hasn’t happened to me, but has happened to two or five or 10 or 100 or however many people I know? What the hell makes me so special?

I am trying to suss this out a bit because I’m raising children here, children I don’t want to be raped, assaulted, or harassed; children I don’t want be bullies, rapists, assaulters, harassers.

Maybe I didn’t find myself in bed or alone with assholes, although the absence of a phone call after a night of sex would disprove this theory. I guess they weren’t violent assholes.

Maybe the fact that I did attend an all-girl Catholic high school protected me from sexual assault as a teen. This would seem to make sense. Maybe the guys I dated back then, and through college were good guys. Again, not all of them could be called gentlemen, per se, but I didn’t ever get a black eye from leaving someone with blue balls. No one shoved a hand under my skirt unexpectedly, or grabbed my head to make him go down on him.

The people I know who have suffered these things aren’t weak. They don’t have a victim mentality. When I’ve heard these stories, I’ve more or less said, “YOU? That happened to YOU?” They are beautiful, successful people; many of them are in loving relationships; many of them are parents.

If it can happen to these kind, sweet, lovely, successful people, it can fucking happen to anyone.

So why doesn’t it? And what armor, what lessons, can I pass along to my kids so they can say, “It’s not going to happen to me.”

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9 thoughts on “It Didn’t Happen to Me

  1. I don’t think there is anything you can do to 100% guarantee that it won’t happen to your kids. It happened, albeit briefly, to me, and my parents provided me with all the tools they had to protect me. I think the most important thing they did was give me the knowledge and self confidence to know that that was something I didn’t have to tolerate, even if my teachers were. They gave me the nerve to confront the principal repeatedly. They gave me the safety at home to tell them what happened, and know that they would go to bat for me. What else can a girl ask for?

    That episode doesn’t define me. It isn’t something I think about much at all. It’s merely a footnote in my life, one that taught me how important it is to stand up for myself, because no one else will (other than my parents. I hope that those are lessons I can share with my children, without them having to experience what I did.

    • No, of course, there is nothing I can do for my children that guarantee them 100% protection from anything. That’s hard to accept, but I know it’s true. I guess what is important is that they know that home is a safe place, where they can talk about anything, where their dad and I will do everything in our power to keep them safe, that we will, as you put it, go to bat for them.

      And when something happens — broken friendships, broken hearts, or more serious situations — that their dad and I help them rise above, and not define themselves by it. I think that will be important, too.

  2. I think maybe more importantly, you have a highly refined screening process. Maybe you just went out with nicer, higher quality people, rather than the average slick-talking, lunk-headed bad boy.

    • BWHAHAHAHA! Oh, Bluz. If you had met me 20 years ago, you would know this wasn’t true. The guys I dated in college weren’t exactly upstanding citizens, although they also were not outright thug criminals. They knew how to have a good time, and show a girl a good time (so to speak), without resorting to date rape. So “highly refined screening process” might be overstating it just a wee tiny bit.

  3. As mentioned above, you can’t absolutely guarantee anything, but having that highly refined screening process will certainly lessen the chances. There’s a lot to be said for being choosy about the company we keep.

    The part where your kids can come and talk to you about anything and know that you’re there for them, that is crucial. I didn’t have that with my parents after my assault and let’s just say that the ripple effect has been far-reaching. Knowing that you’re there to support them through whatever challenges they face in life will help them tremendously.

    • Yes, that latter part is what is vital now. I guess in some ways that is where I am stumbling. Granted (and God willing) I do still have time to figure that part out, and I hope I am doing it — reassuring them that I am there for anything and everything, to support and love them — building that, every single day. Thanks.

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