Relationships

On Sexual Harassment

By Saul Leiter

The first time I was sexually harassed was in a pizza place…

It was my first job — other than babysitting and shoveling snowy driveways — and I was 14 years old. Wearing my uniform of a white tee, khakis and a giant baseball cap, I was standing at a back counter, filling plastic cups with salad dressing. The owner, Bill, had stopped by the restaurant. Although we’d never met before, he walked up behind me and put his hands on my hips. “Don’t spill anything,” he said, peering over my shoulder. Then he slowly kissed my neck.

That night, when I told my mom, she said, “If that ever happens again, kick him where it counts and run home!” But it was disorienting. He was my boss. I wanted that job. It happened and was over in five seconds. I was filling the dressings the whole time.

Earlier this week, reading the horrifying allegations against Harvey Weinstein, I found myself thinking, I’m so fortunate, nothing at all has ever happened to me. But as I read the accounts, I remembered the pizzeria owner’s hot breath. And then countless other times came flooding back, when I’ve felt uncomfortable or violated. Nothing big, nothing major, but countless times for decades: Men at parties forcing kisses. A guy who stuck my hand down his pants when I was asleep. A boss who poked me in the stomach every time I walked by. The list goes on and on.

Last night, I was wondering, how have all these experiences always added up in my mind to nothing? That I’ve chalked them up to just part of life, part of being female? That I’ve brushed things off again and again and just tried not to think about them? Have you done the same?

“One of the cruelest things about these acts is the way that they entangle, and attempt to contaminate, all of the best things about you,” wrote Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker. “If you’re sweet and friendly, you’ll think that it’s your fault for accommodating the situation. If you’re tough, well, you might as well decide that it’s no big deal. If you’re a gentle person, then he knew you were weak. If you’re talented, he thought of you as an equal. If you’re ambitious, you wanted it. If you’re savvy, you knew it was coming. If you’re affectionate, you seemed like you were asking for it all along. If you make dirty jokes or have a good time at parties, then why get moralistic? If you’re smart, there’s got to be some way to rationalize this.”

Plus, you might feel like you’re powerless or have no real solutions, especially at work. “What can I do about it? Who do I tell?” wrote screenwriter Liz Meriwether, who was sexually harassed in her twenties by a powerful man but stayed quiet. “Was it that big of a deal? Did I make it up?… It was just a weird thing that happened, and now it’s over, and I’m fine.”

When I’ve told tales to male friends or partners, they’ve often been outraged. “Men who hear these stories, I’ve found, tend to interrogate you to get to the truth of what happened, then, if they believe you, they want retaliation or revenge. Men want rules to be enforced and authorities called,” writes Meriwether in New York Magazine. But of course it’s not that simple. “Women want those things, too, but we understand the complicated mental calculations that are forced on us. If a man reaches under your skirt on an airplane, does that mean you should put your career, your ambitions, your livelihood in jeopardy just to watch him get some kind of slap on the wrist? Isn’t that ultimately giving this stranger more power over your life? Women don’t have to explain these things to other women, because we’ve all had to ask these questions ourselves.”

If you say something, you’re often called uptight. You’re overreacting. You have no sense of humor. You’re hard to work with. (Remember this parody article?) After the Weinstein scandal broke, a top talent agent’s response echoed what the world often thinks: “He asked for a few massages? Waaah! Welcome to Hollywood!” Basically: Get over it, ladies.

And it’s not just Hollywood, of course. “Abuse, threats and coercion have been the norm for so many women trying to do business or make art,” writes Lena Dunham in the New York Times. “[Harvey Weinstein’s] behavior, silently co-signed for decades by employees and collaborators, is a microcosm of what has been happening in Hollywood since always and of what workplace harassment looks like for women everywhere.”

What happens now? Honestly, I’m not sure what the best steps are. Is it to share loudly? “When we share, we unlock other women’s stories, and suddenly secrets don’t seem so necessary,” says Jenni Konner in “Our Voices Are Our Superpower.” Is it for men to speak up? Is it to raise good children? What else? There must be something else.

P.S. On feminism, and how to teach kids consent.

(Photo by Saul Leiter.)

  1. This beautifully sums up what many men are wondering about. It’s something as women we just have lived with and accepted as “normal” for so long. I’m so grateful that we’re finally getting our voices heard and that hopefully future generations won’t even have to know what this is like. Thank you for posting. Xo

  2. Liz C says...

    Can anyone believe Matt Lauer’s news? Just disgusting.

  3. FB says...

    It’s beyond sad that so many of us, including Joanna, don’t even recognize that crimes are being committed against us. Grabbing a girl’s hips and kissing her against her will are NOT sexual harassment – that’s called SEXUAL ASSAULT. You were sexually assaulted, Joanna. Sexual harassment includes things like commenting on a woman’s body, asking a co-worker out for dates repeatedly, etc. Once a man touches your body against your will, it’s a criminal offense and it’s in the “assault” category.

  4. K says...

    I just have to say that this post gave me the courage to speak up about sexual harassment today. I’ve been thinking about it ever since you published it a couple of weeks ago and like so many others, have realized how often I excuse harassment or blame myself or try to make it no big deal.
    As soon as I read this post, I knew I had to do something about my current situation. Long story short, I work at a church and make bank deposits every week. One of the bank employees (an older male security guard) has continued to be way too flirty with me every time I walk in the door and has started asking personal questions that make me uncomfortable. I’m a shy, nice person and felt that by ignoring him I was being mean. About 2 months ago, I began dreading going to the bank and as of last month, tried to re-arrange my schedule so that I could avoid going while he was working. But you know what? I shouldn’t have to do this. No matter the details of the situation, he made me extremely uncomfortable and THAT’S what matters.
    I went to the bank this morning, made the deposit and then asked to speak with a manager in private. I explained to her how I was feeling and that I had started dreading coming to the bank to avoid this employee. It doesn’t always go this well- but she was awesome. She listened. She didn’t ask for details but cared that I felt uncomfortable. She affirmed that no one will know WHO brought this complaint forward, but that she will 100% take care of it. And then she apologized- like, sincerely apologized.
    Thank you for posting this- reading the post and the comments gave me the courage to say something.

  5. Dave says...

    I’m a guy who loves this blog. What I’ve read here and heard over the last 2 weeks is heartbreaking. I hesitate to comment here. But I know one of the reasons harassment is so prevalent. It stems from the teenage years. Guys are perceived as gay if they don’t behave like an alpha male. Many straight guys are terrified of this perception. So there is a lot of over compensation–harassment– to remove this perception. You know the sad thing? Some teenage girls participate in the rumor spreading. Some girls misinterpret harassment for attention. It’s sad this exists and I pray it will disappear… I know I am going to be attacked for this position (mansplaining and all that). But I just wanted to join the discussion.

    • Jen P says...

      I agree with you Dave!! That’s one aspect of the issue.

    • Laura says...

      Dave this is interesting insight, and I’m sure you’re right. (Doesn’t sound like mansplaining at all, either. Men can contribute to discussions without it being “mansplaining”). I thought the same thing, that guys often do this in front of their friends to sound manly or whatever.

  6. CK says...

    Just adding to the long list of stories. I, like many other women, have experienced numerous instances of sexual assault and harassment. But there’s one particular memory that always comes to mind first, even though it wasn’t the most physical or disgusting. I was riding the subway downtown to meet my then boyfriend. The train was packed and, per usual, a man used it as an excuse to grope me. There was nowhere for me to go with everyone crammed into the car, so I just glared at him and elbowed him a bit. We both got off at the same stop and I walked as quickly as I could into the crowd and towards an exit. But this man, a handsome man in business clothes, followed me, ran up behind me, politely tapped my shoulder, and said: “I wanted to apologize because I think based on your reaction back there you thought I had intentionally groped you and I wanted to let you know that it was really unavoidable because of how crowded the car was.” I stared blankly at him for a moment, speechless, and he walked away. We spend so much time thinking “was I really a victim? am I overreacting?” but apparently that wasn’t enough on this occasion. This man wanted to get the extra pleasure of layering on an additional layer of doubt. But him squeezing my butt and rubbing my thigh several times was not an unavoidable accident. I told my boyfriend about the incident once we got to where we were meeting. His reply: “Well maybe it really was an accident and you’re misreading the situation.” It took me several more years to realize he was an asshole and dump him, but it was the best decision I’ve made in my life.

    • Merri says...

      I admire you.

  7. Lindsay says...

    The first encounter I can remember is around the time I was 12 or 13 and my best friends dad said to me “If only I was 30 years younger”.
    When I was 15 working at a fast food restaurant, my manager, who was 30+ at the time, asked me out on a date.
    In high school, a “friend” started inappropriately touching me thinking I was asleep and I didn’t want HIM to feel uncomfortable so I turned away without saying anything. I shake my head as I type this…
    When I was 18, a married father of four, setup a plan for an elaborate picnic with alcohol on my last day of my internship. I never went, but I never said anything either.
    When I was 26 a coworker said to me “you’re really rocking those jeans” When I had the courage to call him out, it stopped him in his tracks and nothing could be formed as a retort.
    This doesn’t include the number of catcalls, stares, looks from much older men when I was very much still a child.
    As I write this, I’m ashamed I didn’t say more and speak up. I’ve always thought of myself as confident and a ‘don’t mess with me’ type — but I don’t think I was ever prepared for what I would encounter in this world. My assumption..this was par for the course and part of being a woman.
    It has to stop. #metoo

  8. Steph says...

    I was a college freshman, on her own for the first time. I had created a social media page only a few months before. I was getting a lot of attention from guys that should have looked the other way. Their words made me feel good. Haven’t we all been there?

    But words turned into plans and plans turned into a real man driving 45 mins to pick me up from my college dorm. We turned around and drove the 45 minutes back to his place where we shared a slice a pizza and about 10 minutes of a movie. Then he started touching me, kissing me. It moved from the couch to his bed. This is the part where most girls will tell you they were screaming inside but no words came out. Where they felt so trapped, yet they were free to run, if only they could get their limbs to move.

    Kissing turned to groping and groping turned to things I had never experience before. He wanted more and I told him no. I told him I was a virgin and still he pushed. “Lets just take a shower.” “No thanks” I said. He rinsed off. He drove me the 45 mins back to my dorm. Neither of us said a single word.

    I still think of that night from time to time. There were other nights just like, just a different guy in a different setting. I always managed to stop things before they “went too far”, but they had gone to far, hadn’t they?

    I think this is the question I keep coming back to. At times, I enjoyed the sexual experiences I was having and other times I didn’t. At times I felt the pull of attraction while at other points I only wanted to vomit. Was I a victim? I willing went with these men. I put myself in positions with people who cared nothing about me as a person. I was just some hookup. Some dumb girl from Myspace. I was young and I was bait, laid in a trap set by myself. I wanted the attention, for whatever reason, and the attention I got could have ended in a body bag.

    I have a daughter who is just over a year old. I grew up with the kindest parents who brought me up right, warned me of these particular dangers and still I put myself in positions that could have ended in tragedy. Who is to blame? Why did my self worth fall so short? Why did these men feel the need to objectify instead connecting?

    And most importantly how do I keep my sweet daughter from all of these same things?

    • Adrienne says...

      Oh my gosh, this. I am almost 40, and so often I think of myself in my late teens and it was the same thing. I put myself in so many situations (some I liked, some I didn’t) because I wanted the attention (for whatever reason)…and how the hell did I not end up raped or in a body bag??

      My daughter is almost 3 and every ounce of me wants to protect her from this shit when she gets older.

  9. Erica says...

    My first memory was around age 10, or probably younger. I was walking home with my parents one evening after having dinner at family friends house. We were crossing a cross light when a man leaned out of his big black SUV window and shouting at me laughing “yeah baby, don’t worry, I’ll hold the sheets!!!” while the driver next him laughed and then the car sped off and disapeared. I remember that I heard his words clearly but didn’t understand at all what he meant until quite some time later, when I probably still didn’t want to understand. I was so Young that i probably wouldn’t have really noticed all that much if it weren’t for my parents horrified reaction, my mom in particular who lost it and seemed to want to chase the car down the Street. I remember her telling my dad, ‘we should have done something!!’. I remember feeling so incredibly embarassed. I still remember the shiny black shoes with a pointed toe that I was wearing, I think I thought the fact I chose to wear those shoes didn’t help.
    Since that very first episode there have been so so many more and so so much worse. A couple over the years that led to serious anxiety and phobia during middle and high school years. I think that first episode however started it all somehow. I still feel an an awful wave of guilt even now when I think about it, a childs innocence shouldn’t be snatched away with so “little” as a comment yelled out of a car window in just a seconds time. Still makes me mad.
    It’s crazy that half of the entire worlds population can’t really understand or grasp this reality and what it means to have to go through life with these kind of moments that define and hurt you. I’m glad this is on the table and in the headlines NOW.

  10. Michelle says...

    I have raised three boys, who are now, young men. I have taught them (as best I was able) that love is not simply something you feel, it is something you DO…it’s something you ARE. It is an act of self-donation…the act of choosing something more for another then you take for yourself. It’s gratuitous and at the least, it’s goodwill for another.

    If only……if only….we (myself included) could BE love in this world. Respect, compassion, empathy, selflessness…none of these would need to be preached. They would be the fruit of loving those around us, even complete strangers, in a way that expresses their value…that gives more than it takes…that puts what is truly good for another ahead of what we want for ourselves.

    Recently, my 21-year-old son, in a conversation about his peers, said, “it doesn’t matter what a woman (or man) does or how she/he dresses or speaks, I have no right to ever treat her/him, even look at her/him, as an object for my pleasure or as “less” than myself.”

    This made my heart swell. He has learned that we have a responsibility to see one’s intrinsic value as a human person and to respond in a way that speaks to that immeasurable value….always.

    Gratuitous, self-giving love for another elevates that person’s value in OUR heart and mind. That is why @cupofjo, your heart breaks when you look at your children. If only, our hearts’ would break a little for all of mankind with each encounter.

    Sexual harassment is yet another symptom of what’s wrong with the human heart. It is a heartbreaking reality that we do not value (LOVE) one another as we should. We are all capable. We choose not to.

  11. Aimee says...

    Thank you for writing this well- articulated post and to all the other readers for sharing their experiences. All I can say is ‘me too’ as these stories bring up countless times of sexual harassment that began in high school for me- parties, clubs, and even the classroom. I also think of my friends who have shared their stories of sexual assault with me. the progress we’re making as a society in this issue is too fucking slow. As for what I intend to personally do about it, I’m going to teach my son that all men should treat women with the respect they deserve and if he sees or hears anything otherwise he needs to say and/or do something, even if it means he might be unpopular in the situation, or inconvenienced by it. I think with his father as a role model he would never learn to actually engage in the deplorable behavior himself since he embodies respect for others in his daily actions with us. As for my daughter, my heart hurts to think that she will probably experience some form of sexual harassment in her life. So I’m going to teach her the importance of being stubborn and strong willed (we’re off to a good start already) especially with boys/men as well as actual self defense skills by enrolling her in martial arts so she gets comfortable with being physically assertive. We’ve also been having regular conversations about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate regarding others touching her, and what to do about it if she feels uncomfortable in a situation. We also talk about what it means to trust your instincts about people so she can at least stay out of some situations that could be avoidable. I hope everyone is able to feel some hope for the future after reading all of these comments because as women we share a common bond with each other. It will get better if we relentlessly fight back against this bullshit and support our sisters in having the courage to fight it.

  12. Kathryn says...

    When I was 17 I had a “new” boyfriend. He was beautiful – a musician, totally cool and James Dean-like. Everyone wanted to be with him. We moved pretty fast in our relationship – we had sex very soon after getting together. Within a week or two realized that I didn’t know him all that well. That all we were doing was a lot of hash and having sex. So one night, I tried to pull back. We started fooling around and I tried to stop it. I said no. He didn’t listen. After that, I told him that maybe we should take some time to get to know each other, that we should not have sex for awhile. He said he wasn’t interested in that and we didn’t see each other anymore.
    So was that rape? I didn’t think so for a long time. But then I realized – I said no. He kept going and I “let” him. Whether he was my boyfriend of week or month or many years – I shouldn’t have been forced to do something I didn’t want to do. I had a lot of boyfriends in my youth, most of whom I had sex with – none of them forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do. Not once. Ever. They always asked. I always decided. Maybe I was lucky.
    Outside of relationships, I have had countless incidents over the years where men made advances just to see what they could get away with. What they could try. It was only much later that I realized how offensive it was and that it was harassment.
    I realize that my story is not at all unique. That’s what is so maddening about all of what has surfaced with the Weinstein stories and the Jian Ghomeshi trial here in Toronto last year. It’s always the women having to defend their actions and explain their behaviour rather than ever, ever, having men explain why they thought they could do what they did. Where are the men in all of this? Where is the accountability?
    And where do we go from here? How will it change?

  13. Allison says...

    I was sexually assaulted the first month of my first year of college. Another student pinned me up to a speaker at a party and put his hands up my skirt. Another student saw and told a campus policeman, who helped me and insisted that I take the student to court. I was afraid of being ostracized and I was in denial, but the policeman was kind but persistent, and I agreed. I told my mother about it, she said it was my fault because I had drank that night. I never spoke to her about it again. I never told her that I had a state appointed lawyer help me and that I WON in court. I never told her that I hate her for it. I cannot forgive her for victim blaming me like that, I force a smile but 15 years later a rage boils under the surface when we talk. She has no idea. She wonders why we aren’t “friends”. I will never trust her with any emotional vulnerability again.

    • Rebecca says...

      I am so, so sorry you were not supported as you should have been during such a difficult time. I hope you had friends or other family that you could lean on.

    • Jayme says...

      What if you try telling her the truth at some point? It might allow you to release over a decade of anger. <3

    • Meg says...

      You are my hero! Same kind of thing happened to me. My sister and my mom blamed me since I had been drinking. Nevermind the guy kept pouring me drinks and I think he slipped something else into it. Nevermind it was a college visit when I was a senior in high school and he was supposed to show me around and set me up to stay in a girls dorm room (which he lied about). Nevermind my mom and dad were in Charleston, SC visiting my sister at college and were out at a nice brunch when they got the news and it ruined a perfectly good day for them.

      My other hero is my older brother, who I called at 5AM and he told me to go get in a taxi and go to a hotel that he then called and paid for with his own card. I was so tired, and traumatized I couldn’t even think of what to do next. I was just crying on the phone.

      My relationship with my mom is the same. I recently told her I would never be friends with her, even if we were the same age, and she was crazed. My sister called and yelled “I can’t believe you would say that to our mom!” LOL. The only thing that has helped me is lots of therapy, self work and finally not giving a +#ck about what my mom or sister think. I took a year off from talking to them and it was so helpful. I re-centered myself, and now our relationships are different…and I guess better?

      You are amazing.

    • L says...

      Respectfully, Jayme, I’m not sure how that would help. Her mom would still have said what she said.

    • Alison says...

      Thank you for writing this Allison + Meg. It makes me feel so much more “not alone” to hear of others with similar stories to my own. I have spent the past 13 years trying to “fix” myself…to get over deep-seeded resentment I hold towards my mom for not “being there” for me after I was raped in college. I told her about it exactly one time (when I was drunk and feeling brave) and then we never spoke of it again. No follow-up, no hug, nothing at all that my then 21-year-old-self desperately needed. I have been grappling with these for years and just to know I’m not alone is huge.

      Thank you.

  14. kelly libby says...

    I, too, have so so many incidents of sexual harassment and very disturbing stories of childhood sexual assault and attempted rape. I have basically shoved all these “stories” into the furthest places in my mind and body and never told anybody except vaguely to my sister — also a victim. But now… now, I’m remembering how awful and vile these incidents truly are. I always felt scared, ashamed, and even blamed myself. But, with every woman who has spoken out, I’m feeling more brave. #isupportvictims

  15. Bindi says...

    Thank you, Joanna, for giving us this safe place to share. I haven’t shared on facebook, because, I guess, deep down, it still feels shameful like it’s my fault somehow. That is so fucked up…we didn’t do anything wrong. Here are the stories that came to mind last night as I was reading this post:

    When I was about 10, our town had a boys football team and girls cheerleading squad run by our local community center. My sister and I joined with many of our classmates. One day my mom told us we were not allowed to participate anymore. I was so pissed! Why not?! My mom provided some bullshit excuse. She told me the real reason many years later- she had seen the coach fondling us under our cheerleading outfits. I don’t think she ever told any authorities because I distinctly remember my friends were still on the squad with this coach for years. I don’t remember the fondling but I remember the person.

    We had a fund raiser for school which included a car wash. Me and the other girls were told to dress “cute” and so we wore shorts and tank tops while the guys sprayed us with water. We stood on the side of the street, drenched in wet tank tops that clearly showed everything (some of us were starting to wear small bras but some of us were not yet), holding signs for a car wash. I remember several grown men repeatedly driving by slowly and watching us. Teachers were present and part of the fund raiser. We were 7th grade girls.

    Freshman year of college-me and my best friend starting hanging out with a couple of guys a few rooms down the dorm hall from us. One night, everyone was hooking up. The guy I had been hanging out with asked me back to his room. I was flattered. He was tall, athletic, very good looking and I liked the attention. Once we started hooking up, he put his hands down my pants. I didn’t stop him. He was so rough that I finally told him to slow down. He didn’t. He pushed his fingers inside me and kept going until I started crying and was bleeding. His response was disgust. I will never forget it. “What the hell??! Have you never been fingered before?” So I laid still and waited for him to finish. Then I left. The next day I went to the campus student health center because I didn’t know what else to do. I was hurting so bad! Something must be wrong! There was a very young male doctor and an older female nurse who took care of me there. They partnered together and never left me alone. The male doctor paid special attention to ensure someone female was by my side the entire time. Together and gently, they examined me and then explained to me that this person had basically scratched me so hard that it bled, but it will heal. They stayed with me the whole time while blood work was done, explained to me how to clean and wash the wounds, and what I should do if I wanted to file something with the police. They told me I had not done anything wrong and it wasn’t my fault. They told me that I had done the right thing by refusing actual sex since he didn’t want to wear a condom. They didn’t ask me “why were you in his room in the first place?” They didn’t tell me that I had asked for it. They told me that I was going to be okay and tried to convince me to take further action against the person. They were my heroes and I’ll never forget their faces. I never ended up filing anything because, really? What was the point? I was the one who went to his room, right? I was 18 years old.

    • Laura says...

      I think, like all of us who have experienced harassment, assault, and worse, we are just so weary that there’s nothing left to say. I don’t have the words to really say anything meaningful to you. Except, of course, me too.

      This made me cry. Thank you for sharing this, and I am so glad you had a caring doctor and nurse who assured you that you were not at fault. I am also so angry that those acts of basic human decency were needed at all.

  16. Hannah says...

    I felt so empowered by this post I read it to my husband….and then I told him my experiences of being sexually harassed. To say he was surprised would be an understatement – that in my relatively privileged life, I had felt pressured to do things I didn’t want to, or been touched in clubs and at work when I didn’t want to be.

    At a time when, as women, we’re demanding to be heard and treated equally I think it’s so important to talk about the experiences of when we were young and impressionable and to ensure that future generations of women don’t have to feel pressured or harassed.

  17. Victoria says...

    I’m sorry this is so long….when I started I thought this would be a paragraph. I guess I needed to get it out. I accept that I’m writing it for myself at this point. I never share this. Thanks, Jo….

    I had just graduated high school and I went to sleep over at a place my two girlfriends where renting 50 minutes from my parents rural home. One of them invited a small group of guys over unexpectedly at 11pm. There was beer but I didn’t have any. One of the guys was hitting me on very hard and I repeatedly explained to him that he was very nice but I was just fine with my boyfriend thanks very much…the guy must have kept it up for over an hour. I thought about going home but it was late and I lived pretty far away on roads that would have deer roaming about. My parents would ask questions about why I came home…at this point I thought I might be going back there regularly. Staying seemed safer. I vented to a guy who I would describe as a mutual friend. An acquaintance….about the nerve of that guy. About how ridiculous it was that I had to repeatedly tell that guy that I was very happy with my boyfriend. And I asked him if he could believe how absurd it was that the guy kept pushing it. This friend and I were going to sleep in the only extra bedroom. Originally, friend-guy was going to sleep on the couch but he had to get up early for work and the party was in full swing in the living room. We had one of those over the covers…under the covers arrangements. How clever. I’m an introvert and I was grateful to retreat to that back bedroom after the lengthy, exhausting exchange with the shameless guy. The friend-guy exuded a vibe like…”don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe from that creep.

    It ended up that I was worried about the wrong person. I thought of this while the guy I trusted was on top of me not an hr later. I wish I could say that I fought him off..that I screamed..but instead I just lay there in some stunned paralysis. Thinking..”but you’re my friend..what’s happening? You’re my friend.” I was in denial that it WAS actually happening I wanted it to stop but I wanted to not know that this person would take advantage of me. I wanted to hit an un-do button. I wanted to not make any ripples and any waves and minimize the experience so it could be mentaly erased I was comforted by a messed up thought that it would be over soon. Then I could start forgetting that it happened! Wrong. The actual event probably lasted literally 60 seconds. That was about 15 years ago and every time I think maybe it was my own fault…I remember the guy looking at my face. I don’t know what he saw there. But he seemed to like snap out of a fugue or something. “I’m sorry. I’m such a piece of S–t.” He said this sort of like he had stepped on my foot while we were dancing but it was an admittance non-the-less. I heard myself mumble something like, “Oh, ok. ” Then he says: “well I have work at 6am in the morning so I need to sleep.” It must have been around 2am. I remember laying there after still stunned starring through broken blinds at a street light streaming through trying to process what the F happened until the sun rose. He knew my stance because I had vented to him at length all the details of the guy in the living room. I wasn’t an active participant in what happened. But I didn’t fight so where does that leave me?

    When I left the house everyone else had left for work. I took a shower. I drove home in a trance like state. I sat on my Dad’s couch for most of the day blinking into space and trying to decide what to do. I’m sure the best course of action seems obvious to an outsider but I had been assaulted by my step-father when I was younger and my mom lied for him and no one believed me. I was aware from previous experiences the consequences and repercussions of bringing something like this up and not being believe. So, this time, wouldn’t be a police matter. I would tell my best friend who’s house I had been at. She and I could decide what to do. I told her that I hadn’t slept and I needed to tell her something that happened. She said, “Wow, I’m shocked. I’m very shocked. I can’t believe this happened and at my house….I have to get ready for work.” I don’t believe this was a long conversation.

    At the time I thought she was sympathizing with me…later I realized that she just actually didn’t believe me. She and her roommate quickly became scarce and came up with some bizarre reason why they needed my key to their place back. She stopped answer my calls. I came to her work a few weeks later when I felt like my whole life was crashing down around me and I told her how disappointed I was that she had chosen to let me go. I told her I could really use a friend. She said calmly that I needed to leave. That’s the last time we talked. My entire friend support system let me go. Apparently everyone else was a shocked as I was that Mr. Nice guy could have done anything like that. They knew him much longer than they had known me. Of course I must have been lying because I was afraid my boyfriend would hear about it…

    Months later I was at community college and I saw the group of guys who had come over drinking at the party that night (sans the previous nice friend guy) They stood about 20 feet away from me we had a what should have been a “what have you been up to after high school” conversation They seemed very awkward and uncomfortable speaking to me and like I said stood strangely far away..kept walking backwards slowly as they talked…maybe you had to be there to feel how strange it was. But I realized they all knew. She had told them all..and they were giving a wide birth lest they be accused of something.

    My life took several self-destructive turns after this event but I know this is what set it all in motion. I questioned myself. I blamed myself. I felt the judgement of others. I wrestled with my responsibility in the situation. I chastised myself for my inaction. That moment around 11pm when the obnoxious guys came over…I should have drove home. That was the ‘Sliding Doors’ moment for me. Later I would learn that this is a rape but not the violent assault of a stranger that’s so widely envisioned. It’s often an acquaintance. Someone you know enough to feel safe around but still not someone you know very well. Everything unravels because you know them well enough to imagine that you are just in a very awkward uncomfortable misunderstanding of some sort. Things warp out of awkwardness..social structures like politeness…difficultly acknowledging a point when boundaries have truly been crossed..and shock when you realize they have. I did not consent. I lost a lot that night. Lost myself. As an women in her 30’s, I have 2 friends (none from that school). They live on the other side of the country. We text. I have my husband that I’m close to. I can have a dinner conversation with people but I don’t let them in to really know me. I don’t go looking for friends. In my mind, they’re more trouble than their worth and I’m better off looking out for myself. I think this mostly goes back to that night.

    Truly, Thanks again, Jo. #MeToo

    • L says...

      Hi Victoria, my story is different but I relate to this on so many levels. Would sincerely like to be your friend. I live in Ohio. xo

  18. Cheryl says...

    My gym teacher in high school was the father of three daughters. We also had a swimming during one of the school semesters and I used to lifeguard for the boys class. He would say these really ridiculous things to me while I was in my bathing suit like “Come over here and sit on my lap. You look really great today.” And then to think he would go home to his three little girls and try and raise them. It was the oddest thing and it scared me and disgusted me but I knew absolutely no one to talk to because authority figures in my school were completely faceless and nameless and no one ever talked to us like we were real people. I couldn’t tell my parents because i was convinced they’d handle it wrong.
    What can I say? Now I teach my daughter that the world is filled with great people but also plenty of bad people. I don’t ever want her to be afraid to say something to me or feel I won’t understand.

    This doesn’t even scratch the surface for the weird things that have happened to me in my life that make me so grateful it wasn’t worse. From a neighbor touching me with his erect penis when I was 9, to date rape, it’s hasn’t been easy being a woman. I have to think about those girls in Africa carrying the bucket on their head miles and miles to the one water source who are raped on a daily basis. It helps to talk about it and to also realize as powerless as we might feel as women because we are so easily violated in some ways, we are infinitely powerful for what we do and how we react.
    There will always be good to counter the bad, always.

  19. Shannon says...

    In middle school, an ass-grabbing “trend” developed – and we girls’ mock complaints about it were disturbingly thinly-veiled bragging; because “so-and-so grabbed my ass!” meant we were wanted/desired by some guy.

    We were 13 and that was already our perception of value.

  20. Amee Carter says...

    Thank you for this safe place to share. I’ve had a few experiences rolling around in my subconscious for a long time. Not knowing if they were real or big deals, and believing too that because I was young and because these things happened a long time ago , maybe it wasn’t real. When I told an elder in my life about this about this, someone I was expecting and hoping to give me context or help, she told me that these are things that happen to women. And that every woman has these stories.

    I’m a little late on this post. I’m actually in the middle of a move to New York City and have a lot going on, but you gave the space to talk and be clear and I want to take the opportunity to do so. Thank you, Joanna, and team, for making this space so comforting and powerful.

    The first unwanted sexual Encounter I had happened in Paris. The encounter wasn’t even the point. It was what happened after, and how I was met when I said no. I was studying fashion for the summer after high school and before college, staying with my friend in a little apartment. We’d go out every night and tested a lot of boundaries. We were friendly with people we didn’t know. She had been seeing a dj and his very wealthy friend, whom we didn’t know, was having a party at his chateau two hours away from Paris. They sent a car for us and we took it. We took the cars number in case we needed it, arrived at the chateau (out of a magazine) and we proceeded to have what felt like a magical evening out of a story book. After a while, all the guests left, leaving just me and my friend. My friend went upstairs with her Dj friend, and the owner of the house started coming onto me. We started making out, which I was ok with. In fact, I was into it. But he started forcing other things on me that I was uncomfortable with. It was early in the morning– about two or three am. When I told him no, for the final time, he told me to get out of the house. He kicked me out in the middle
    Of the night. In the middle of the french countryside. I had to go upstairs, interrupt my friend who was in the middle of having sex and tell her that he kicked me out. She got up immediately and she got my back, yelling at the both of them. And yelling at the dj for allowing his friend to get away with his behavior. We exited the gate and looked left and right and had no idea which way to go. We were in pitch black in the middle ronni where. Cell phones weren’t what they are now. There was a certain lightness to it because we were in it together, but now I realize that is not the point. Anyhow, We chose a direction and found a Baker making bread at about 4am. We asked “ou est le gare?” He pointed us to the train, which was past a wheat field. We got back to Paris at 7am. The experience quickly became a story that I would tell, ” this crazy thing happened to me In Paris and we had to walk home!” But it’s never set right, especially since I can think of other times I have been (in varying levels) taken advantage of because I am a woman (in many of these cases a young woman). A stranger put his fingers up my underwear when I was walking up subway stairs (I was wearing a skirt). when I got a fake ID at college the man I bought it from fondled my breasts. My nipples
    Actually. I have the picture I took after that, for the fake id, and I’ve saved it.

    What I am feeling, reading all these stories, and yours, is that these things have happened to so many of us. And not talking about it does nothing for us. We are all strong women who live our lives. It’s so good to have a place to share. I’ve never known the forum in which to speak up, to say something, even for the sake of saying it. Thank you for giving the space in this community of amazing, deep, beautiful women. I’m glad I wrote this today.

  21. Lindsey says...

    The one that gets me the most, and that I’ve never told anyone, was a night when I was 18. I went out with a male friend and a few others and we were drinking alcohol. Since I wasn’t old enough to drink, I stayed the night at his house to avoid getting in trouble. We were not romantically involved (and even if we were, this wouldn’t have been acceptable). I woke up in the middle of the night with him on top of me, putting his penis inside of me, and told him to stop. I said no and he didn’t stop, so I “let it happen”. I never spoke to him again after that. It’s never felt right to me but for years I thought it was my fault that it happened – I rationalized that I must have led him on, I shouldn’t have drank so much, I shouldn’t have stayed at his house, and the list goes on. I finally realize it was rape. Every once in a while the memory pops into my head and I cry and want to tell my husband but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it yet. I almost deleted this comment before posting it. Joanna, thanks for always talking about the things that others won’t.

    • Samantha says...

      I wish I could respond to each of these comments because everyone deserves to feel like they’ve been heard and acknowledged. There’s not much I can say that you don’t already know at this point, so I’ll just reaffirm that what happened to you was wrong and has no bearing on your value as a person or wife or anything else. I hope that someday you feel like you can share this with your husband or someone else you trust because I think it will feel like a weight off your shoulders. Until then, know that we all have your back here.

  22. Jen P says...

    I was walking to a movie theater with a friend when I was 10 years old when a guy pulled up next to us in a car and showed us his erect penis. My mom found us still frozen in shock after he left and called over a police man. I then gave very graphic detail of the deformed, hairy pile that I saw because I was convinced the police could capture him because it is was so deformed. I wanted to be sure he would get picked out of a line up. It looked nothing like my 6 year old brother’s! The police took me very seriously, but I have to think he had a little chuckle inside.

  23. Suz says...

    It’s so telling that your Mom’s reaction was to tell you what to do next time – not to quit the job!

    This is not to cast blame on her – it is just a reflection of how women were taught to deal with these things.

    • Jayme says...

      I thought the same, whoa! A 14 year old minor : (

  24. Laura says...

    Thank you so much for this.

  25. Caroline says...

    My senior year of college, I had an internship with a financial advisor at a large, well-known firm. One day, while carrying a large stack of binders back to my desk and both hands full, a man I didn’t know in the office came up to me, put his hand on my cheek, and asked how old I was. Taken aback, I managed to mutter “21”, while trying to avoid eye contact. Then he looked at me, as if in pity, and said “Oh honey, what are you doing here? Why don’t you try find yourself a nice man and just get married?”. I told my (female) boss about it, and she was horrified, but didn’t suggest that we report it. Instead, she told me to “just give him a good kick” the next time!

  26. “There must be something else. What is it?”

    WHAT IS IT!?

    I have been thinking about this like CRAZY lately. I just want to create a Think Tank with all of the women I know. What do we do now so that in twenty years my daughter isn’t writing “me too” in her Facebook status like her mother?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes. xoxoxoxo

  27. Karen says...

    It was senior year of high school in my Precalculus class. I was assigned to a group with someone I had considered a friend. As we sat next to each other he would grab my pussy. I would hit back, move away, tell him to stop. I was in a car with this same friend driving home on the freeway, he was in the front passenger seat and reached back to grab my pussy and because we were on the freeway my friend driving the car could do nothing to intervene except tell him to stop. At that age I couldn’t piece together that what was happening to me had a name associated with it, and his actions were sexual assault. I’ve googled him, he works with college aged students as part of ROTC, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is still sexually assaulting people, especially when he is in a position of authority with young students.

  28. Miriah says...

    My sixth grade (male) teacher would call you up to his desk when you had a question and tickle the backs of your knees while you were standing there. He would also rub the girls’ backs during class. I was a good student and had always been a teacher’s pet. I remember feeling so conflicted – weirdly glad for the attention, knew it wasn’t quite right, but also laughed about it with the other girls in class like it wasn’t as big of a deal as it was. How horrifying. We were 11 and 12. I had a high school art teacher write “sexy” on one of my drawings. I’m raising three boys and I try everyday that everyone around them is a human being who deserves respect and that they, too, deserve respect. Thanks to all who have shared.

  29. Paula says...

    when I was 15 I worked in a restaurant and all the male waiters would grab my ass (4 star boston restaurant)
    when I was 14 I walked past this gas station everyday from school and this one gas station attendant was a younger guy paid a lot of attention to me and like always chatted up to me… well, he asked me out on a date and we had sex and all this time, I thought it was consensual but I didn’t want it to happen I just don’t know if I said ‘no’ loudly enough?
    when I was 7, I was walking from church and a man slapped my butt as he was passing me, then he turned around, and flashed me
    when I was 16 a man sat in front of me on a subway with his penis out
    when I was 18 a young boy, maybe 14, jumped in front of me, took out a knife and scratched his throat saying to me what do you want bitch
    when I was 15, I was on the Boston subway, during rash hour, and a man, pressed himself against me and when he was leaving he gave me his business card
    when I was 16 a man followed me home from a subway, and rang my doorbell, and my aunt was home and she answered the door. I got in trouble that I ‘allowed him’ to follow me home
    when I was riding a public bus a man sat down next to me on an empty bus and started to breathe heavily and say things under his breath to me

    I have never told these to anyone. I discounted these events in my life. Not even my sister or my husband know these.

    • gabby says...

      I’m so sorry, Paulo. And, sadly, I very much relate. Giant hugs to you.

  30. Karin in NC says...

    I think the first time it happened to me I was twelve. Yeah, 12. I remember how awful I felt. How it rocked any sense of self confidence I had and how disempowered I felt.
    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on the issue and the comments are real and insightful as well. Thank you.

  31. N says...

    Thank you so much for writing this. I was in a difficult spot a few years. It involved too much alcohol one night, poor choices (I should have just called it a night and gone home), and a friend I trusted forcing himself on me. At the time, I felt I could have done things differently by choosing to go home when I felt a little tipsy instead of carrying on and some of my closest friends said that while they sympathised, they would never have put themselves in that position, so I blamed myself for a long time. I even tried to frame the incident as a silly mistake, something to maybe laugh about, I continued being friends with this man. But the whole Harvey fiasco and this piece have helped me slowly deal with the shame and start to reframe it as wrong. He was a friend. And he shouldn’t have done that. Thank you.

    ps: Kottke has a link to this! I’ve found so many good pieces on Kottke through your blog and this link back just felt significant.

  32. Tanith says...

    Looking at the growing number of comments on here of women sharing so many incidents of sexual harassment feels like there has been horrifying, but it is good that we are all being able to let others know they are not alone, and the more we all speak up about sexual harassment and sexual assault, the more afraid all those horrible men (and sometimes women) who do these despicable acts will become.

    I have had my share of harassment and even an assault by a stranger on the N Judah Line in San Francisco, when there was no one else on the train car but me and a voice calling from somewhere behind me as we passed through a tunnel to Duboce Park: “Hey! Hey you!” And I didn’t turn around until I felt him come right up next to my seat, grabbed my breast and tried to kiss me. I turned away immediately, putting my hands up, and said (pathetically), “No thank you!” At that moment the train came out of the tunnel and he said, “Oh I thought it would be romantic.” As we were the only two people on the train car, there was nothing I could do but laugh it off, and be like, “No thanks, it’s okay.” And the moment the train stopped, he got off from a different set of doors, but still got on the completely packed train that we had to switch to in front of us.

    I still wish there was something I could have done, but what do you do when you’re alone, and then suddenly in a huge crowd of people, packed in like sardines?

    I’m not sure anyone can prepare you for a moment like that, and even if it happened again, I’m not sure how I would handle it, and that’s the most frightening part about all of this.

  33. Janie says...

    Thank you so much for writing this. When I was in seventh grade I was sitting in the computer room at school, and raised my hand because I needed my teacher’s help. My teacher (a man in his mid-40s with a reputation for being “creepy”) kneeled down next to me and put his hand on my thigh. He left it there the entire time he answered the question.

    When I was 16 I was working at a retail store, and folding shirts on a table near the front of the store. I saw a man hurry out the front door. Another man came over to me and told me he thought I should know that that man had taken a picture up my skirt. I was wearing a short denim skirt and had biker shorts underneath for modesty, but I felt so embarrassed and sick to my stomach.

    Both times I didn’t tell a soul – not my parents, not a friend, not my boss or principal. I was so ashamed and embarrassed, and it made me feel so weak and vulnerable. I haven’t mentioned it at all until now.

    I am so grateful that you wrote this post. I think every girl experiences this throughout their entire lives, and it needs to be talked about more. I have a little girl, and it breaks my heart to think of anyone even LOOKING at her wrong.

  34. angel says...

    When I think of all the “decent” men who are complicit by silence…We need your support in this issue now!

  35. Esme says...

    The first time I was sexually harassed was in 4th grade! It’s a very vivid memory because it felt so wrong, so dirty and so bad and I did’nt even understand why. An older boy in the lunch room was leering at me and making an “O” with one hand and sticking his pointer finger from his other hand in and out of it. He kept doing it over and over and watching me for a reaction. He would look at his friends and laugh and then look back at me, while continuing to gesture. The teachers finally caught him and stopped him, but not until I was petrified and disgusted. Just like the rest of us, I have countless sexual harassment stories, ranging from slight to severe. I have four sons. I can only hope I raise them to be better men.

  36. jill says...

    So, after reading for an hour, all these stories really illustrate how unsafe it is for 1rst world women in a supposedly civilized nation to report behavior that is ALREADY ILLEGAL. The grey area’s are challenging to social/emotional IQ, true, and if HR is part of the problem then, that IS a problem. But abuse recovery specialists know ALL ABOUT how those grey areas work as intimidation and oppression tactics and should be integrated by all HR departments effective yesterday. This blog post alone establishes a deep well of documentation that women are suffering and that we need it to shift right now. Human Resource departments of the world have simply got their work cut out for them.

  37. amber says...

    Yikes, these stories are a tremendous resource for men and women around the world! I suppose something to keep in mind is that while women everywhere still (2017!) receive backlash in some form for speaking up, in the western world at least, we are legally protected and therefore each time we speak up with confidence about our right to be treated with respect we are speaking up for probably hundreds of women around the world who are not in a position to do so safely. Proud of everyone here!

    • amber says...

      Also, a HUGE THANK YOU to all the decent men who stand up to protect women both in the work place and in daily life. You are much appreciated and the best possible examples for mankind everywhere!

  38. Katie says...

    Reading all these comments is sickening and disheartening and I hope we all feel empowered to stand up for ourselves in the moment and tell the perpetrator that their behavior is unacceptable.

    But I’m remembering something disturbing now about my first recalled instances of harassment. My BFF from middle school and I would walk from my neighborhood to the gas station to get snacks, wearing tshirts and shorts, gangly and giggly, and we would get honked at by drivers. And at the time, I suppose because our bodies were changing and all boys were cute to us then, we found it exciting and flattering. It meant they thought we were attractive. And that’s gross and disappointing to remember. I wish I’d known catcalling signifies nothing about MY appearance, but it’s about the power of the harasser.

  39. Nicole says...

    Such a great post thank you for it. When thing like that happen it makes you feel powerless. Speaking about it takes that power back.

  40. Mel says...

    A previous boss kissed all the female workers on the lips. I was shocked when I saw it and thought they were crazy for letting him do that. Yet it was so normal for them. He almost made it look like a customary thing, like when you kiss a cheek in certain customs. However it was so obvious to me that it was an old man abusing his right as a boss. One day he did it to me, I couldn’t believe how quickly he did it, it happened and he made it seem as though he was saying hello but put his lips on mine! I felt like it was my fault. After leaving that company I talked to my coworker friend and she told me her story that he did it to her and she was repulsed by it. But we both felt like in the moment we were over reacting. The fact that he was our boss and other girls let him do it makes you think you’re a prude, we should all listen to our gut!

  41. This was so beautifully and powerfully written. You expressed the viewpoint of women across the world in a way that didn’t come across as all knowing, you simply articulated the horrific state of the world currently. I love that this piece was not aggressive, or offering only one opinion, but rather is something that all women can identify with and offers an honest insight into this issue for men. You have left the topic open for thought provoking conversation.
    All in all, I thought this was a fabulous article and will be sharing it with my female and male friends alike! Thank you.

  42. Emma says...

    1. Once I was walking in the New York City subway and the guy drumming suddenlystopped and shouted at me to say “hello, beautiful”, and I looked around and realized everyone was staring at me because he had stopped drumming. When I turned away he started saying derogatory things and I felt for the longest time afterward tha I should’ve just flirted back.
    2. Shortly after becoming married, I was assaulted by an old acquaintance who tried very hard to get me to go with him into a bathroom stall at a party, a party where I had brought a single friend to introduce him to. The bathrooms at this place were lined up against the wall and all single stalls. I tried so hard to claw his arms away and when it became very clear the man was stronger than me I will never forget that sheer terror when I realized that nothing I was doing could stop him kissing me, not even the tears rolling down my face or me trying to break away, that instead this man would relentlessly continue to pull my arms toward his lap.
    3. Countless clubs with friends where the bouncer would make comments about how I looked before letting me in, and the one time one tried to come up to me later and grab my breast.
    4. I was four when a friend of my father’s tried to sit me on his lap and proceeded to ask me about how I thought he looked and began whispering things in my ear. . I have tried to block this out of my memory and all I can remember is my father coming into the room and throwing the guy out of our house.

  43. Mrs D says...

    I wish I could “like” all these comments somehow. Thank you ALL for sharing. Truly. I’m not ready to share today, but thank you for this.

  44. Marcela says...

    This is such a good post. I have lived my entire life in Latin America and feeling unsafe as a girl and a woman almost anywhere. For almost a year now I’ve been living in Thailand and its the first time I dont worry about any kind of violence. In fact the only men that make me unconfortable here are westerners, Thai men have a different way of expressing masculity that is not aggressive or intrusive. It is such a bliss to be able to just be respected as a woman on a daily basis, I feel a peace of mind that I didnt know existed.

  45. Erin says...

    I’ve been unable to stop reading the Weinstein coverage and have been having trouble figuring out why it’s gotten under my skin so much. Like Jo said, I initially felt fortunate that “nothing like this has ever happened to me.” Except there was that one time when one of my male swimming teammates kept asking and asking and ASKING if I was pregnant (WTF? I was 16) and when I said no, over and over, he was like “How can you be sure?” Um, I’m here to swim, not talk about sex with you, dumbass. And that other time when I was 20 that I went for a walk on a beach, sat down to watch the water, got up to leave and discovered a guy sitting 20 or 30 feet behind me, jerking off. And the time I arrived at graduate school, aged 22, and heard a whispered rumor that my new supervisor had been accused of sexual harassment over the summer, but no one in the university administration had thought it was appropriate to warn me before I moved 1,000 miles away from home. Because — you know — his “reputation” was more important than letting me make an informed decision about whether I still actually wanted to work with him. And the time at a scientific meeting, also when I was 22, when a much older guy came up to me at a networking event and started asking questions about which hotel I was staying in and whether I had a roommate. And all of this is minor in comparison to the prospect of having someone really powerful, who holds the keys to your career, chase you around a hotel room demanding a massage … but it’s not “nothing,” either. It’s exhausting to fend this stuff off, to “decide” it’s not going to bother you, even in the instances where it really does.

  46. Alex says...

    Just two nights ago I was walking home from the train after a work event. Probably 10:30pm. A clearly drunk guy walking in the other direction stopped right in front of me and forcefully asked me what time it was. I panicked a bit and kind of side stepped around him saying “I don’t know” and moved on. He started following me. So I ducked into the first bodega I passed. The drunk guy stared me down but walked past. When I told the guy behind the counter I didn’t want to buy anything I was just trying to lose a drunk creep, he got noticeably annoyed but didn’t kick me out. I got home okay and my husband asked how my night was and I said it was fun then kind of nonchalantly told him about the drunk creepy follower. He got super upset and asked why I didn’t call him right away or call the police. I was like “yea right, if I called you every time a creepy guy did something intimidating or offensive or scary, I’d be calling you multiple times a week and after a while you’d just get used to it and it wouldn’t matter…”
    this shit happens so regularly that it feels like it’s not worth talking about or thinking about because then how would we ever live our lives and build careers and mother families if we were constantly spending our time and energy addressing the transgressions made against us. But what do we do? I don’t know.

  47. Kate Baumwol says...

    I had a conversation where i denied every experiencing sexual assault or harassment… and i believed it for a second. Then in thought about it a bit more and recalled. The time a man masturbated in front of me at the park when i was 12, when i was in Bali at a man grabbed my crutch while walking down the street with mum when i was 13, when i was 20 and lost all my work shifts at a sports store when I refused the advances of a 45 year old co worker, when i was 20 working at Kmart and decided to stop bringing bananas to work for lunch break to avoid another oral sex joke aimed at me by my male co worker, when i was 23 and a patient at work grabbed my breast and his wife replied “be careful”, when i was 25 and a younger man reached into my bra and grabbed my breast at the markets, when i was 30 and sat in an almost empty subway car with a well dress guy with his penis hanging out (I took his photo and it turned out he had assault boy in the toilets the previous day). So the worst part is that if you asked me before “no i haven’t been harassed” and i a suspect everyone woman has a story.

  48. Nancy says...

    Yes, this! THIS! I’m embarrassed to say that I, too, didn’t appreciate that I’ve been sexually harassed numerous times over the years, because I thought it was part of being a woman/I led him on/I was drunk/this is what happens to girls, etc. I’ve felt shame that I let these things happen to me. It’s only in the last couple of years that I can call it like it was – harassment – and try to forgive myself. Even now, as a woman in medicine, the comments I get from male patients… You wouldn’t believe. We have a long way to go.

    • Jackie says...

      Yes, my thoughts exactly throughout my lifetime.

  49. Nanako says...

    I learned to protect my self after spending my youth in Japan, believe it or not, where molesters are common in the public.

    I politely ask a flight attendant to change my seat when I find out there is a man sitting next to me. I would be honest and tell them I am not comfortable to sit very closely next to a strange man. This works every time.

    My solution is to avoid situations with guys that can turn into any sort of sexual harassment.

    Simply speak up, no drama necessary, people will understand.

  50. Ashley W says...

    Reading through these comments, I just remembered a flight back to Seattle after my husband and I were visiting some family in Kansas about a year ago. We couldn’t get seats next to each other, so he was sitting behind me (both aisle seats). We were each doing our own thing, napping, reading, etc. There were a few Hell’s Angels on the flight heading back to Alaska, after a gathering of riders back in the midwest. I was sitting across from one of them who was interacting with a woman and her baby, talking about his grandchildren etc. He was really good with her little girl, and she was chatting his ear off.

    At some point, I noticed that he kept glancing at me. I was a little creeped out, but tried to mind my own business and stay absorbed in my book, and passed the feeling off as me making things up. At one point he asked how far along I was (I was 4-5 months pregnant), and we started chatting. I’ve ridden motorcycles for about 5-6 years and have done several long-distance trips here and abroad, so we actually had quite a bit to chat about. It was one of the few times I’ve mentioned I own a bike or ride to a man, and they haven’t responded with something along the lines of “you mean your husband’s bike?” or “you mean on the back?”…

    I was telling my husband about some of our conversation afterward, and he asked if I had seen what he was looking at on his computer. Apparently the guy was looking at porn earlier in the flight, when he kept glancing at me. He had seemed weird about people noticing what he was doing, but I was only noticing it out of the corner of my eye, so I ignored it. I was so disgusted with the whole thing, upset with myself for not trusting my instincts, upset with my husband for not saying anything (to me, the guy, or a steward), and upset that I don’t even know that I would have been comfortable “handling it” in any way! I hate that I had a great conversation with him, and I had no idea what was going on.

    I’d say “little did I know”, but I DID know. I just ignored it. And forgot, until now.

  51. Steph says...

    My first husband made all my friends uncomfortable, asking them what color their underwear were, calling them pet names, always inhabiting their space. Everyone just let it slide by saying, oh that’s just “Tom”, he has no boundaries, haha, just excuse him. It wasn’t until I divorced him and he came into our house where he didn’t live anymore and told me I owed him one last time. I said no, but he forced me. Afterwards, I remember thinking maybe I did owe him for leaving him. How messed up is that? I deserve to be raped because I chose to leave my sexual predator husband. Crazy bananas.

  52. Charity says...

    I didn’t read all of the comments, but I read a lot of them. I’m blown away; I didn’t think I was alone in having stories such as these, but I never really thought about how common they are… theres over 500 comments here, and almost every one of them is somebody’s story. My heart feels so heavy!

  53. Lisa says...

    Throughout my late teens and early twenties I experienced “mild” sexual harassment, unwanted touching (like men grabbing your butt when in a club or a bar), but then had a more serious experience when I was in my mid twenties. I went to an old flatmate’s party. I think he’d been interested in me (I never was in him), and for most of the time we shared a flat I had a serious boyfriend. He was drunk (but even so …) he spent the whole evening grabbing me, pressingnuis erectikn against me. He was much stronger than me – I tried resisting at first but it was useless.
    It ended a friendship – my best friend didn’t believe me (she sided with him as she’d known him longer) and completely knocked my confidence. I couldn’t handle it when (and still struggle with) people touching me. I no longer felt safe when going out. It made me withdraw into myself.
    I decided not to report it because it was unlikely to go anywhere, and I didn’t want to cause trouble in his life (nevermind the disruption it caused in mine).

  54. H says...

    I haven’t read all the comments here, but can relate to so many of the stories.

    I was reminded of a podcast miniseries that I really resonated with. The podcast is called “The Heart” (and I first learned about it on this blog!), and the miniseries ran around May of this year and is called “No.” The host explores some experiences she went through when her “no” was not acknowledged and I couldn’t stop listening because I related so strongly. I highly recommend it!

  55. june2 says...

    That’s the problem, it’s often very tiny slights and improprieties that are basically subconsciously misogynistic power trips – but so slight as to make it seem petty if you object. I’ve noticed also that men do this kind of subtle power-tripping on each other too but it is still really toxic either way.

    How to call successfully call men out on these tiny but out-of-line behaviors really requires graceful social skills. I lost a freelance job for letting my boss know that his hugs made me uncomfortable. He was so offended and I felt terrible but I know I was right. I just couldn’t win in that position.

    • Blandine says...

      That is a good point but most of the experienced mentioned under this thread are more serious, violent and traumatizing than “tiny slights”.

  56. Tess says...

    Yes, thank you! Thank you a hundred times over for sharing your story and opening up the forum for people to share and raise awareness further- that most all of us has had some experience or experiences like this. The sad thing is that often these harassments are by men we trust… As a mother of a young daughter and teacher of middle and high school girls, it makes me even angrier and more willing to model defense and to defy these perverts-

    Women- watch hard and look for instances where we can stand up and help the younger ones. Knowledge is power and our loud voices and taking action for others (or standing in support of them) will help. It may not stop the actions before they happen but our fellow young women won’t feel like it was their fault or that they imagined it.

    There are so many wonderful men… right? Keep teaching the young men what are the right ways to treat women.

  57. Lana says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and writing this important piece about something that apparently, and tragically, seems to happen quite often and remains shrouded in secrecy. It made me realize how important and meaningful something that happened to me in my early twenties is – something I’ve been hiding and feeling ashamed of and trying to disassociate myself from because I felt like it was somehow my fault or something others wouldn’t understand. I’m only learning now how untrue the latter is; that sadly, a lot of women might understand. My boss at my first “real” job at a technology company threatened me and my job constantly by saying if I didn’t grope him, kiss him, show him my bra strap or what kind of underwear I was wearing, he would fire me and later, when things got really bad, spread rumors about me around the Silicon Valley so that I would never work again. At one point he grabbed my neck and threatened to kill me. As a young woman, who thought she was so worldly, this dampened my spirit and scared me to the point that I kept quiet for years. I only wish I had said something sooner, shared this with someone, exposed him.

  58. Meg says...

    I graduated right into the recession. I was a very young newlywed and at 22, had never been drunk. I took a job at a pub because I couldn’t get anything better, and worked there for several months, enduring all manner of nonsense from customers but never from the folks I worked with. My boss, a man in his 40-50’s, asked me and another waitress to work a big private party after hours, in exchange for overtime and free drinks and pizza after. When the party disbanded, he offered to make me a drink. He brought me a long island iced tea. I stopped drinking halfway into it because I thought I seemed to be getting drunk very quickly. I wasn’t: he had put something in it. He invited us upstairs to hang out in the jazz lounge, but when we got up there I realized the other girl hadn’t joined us. Alone in the dark and quickly losing control of my wits, I realized he was trying to take my shirt off. I couldn’t focus my eyes. Someone kissed me. I panicked and said I needed the restroom, where I locked myself in a stall that seemed to be shrinking. I stared at my phone in my shaking hands, hallucinating that they were huge and swollen, and literally couldn’t remember how to use a phone. Somehow I managed to call my husband and say, “something is very very wrong” before I dropped the phone and slid to the floor. I had our only car; it was well after midnight. He ran the mile and a half to the pub, found the door locked, kicked it in. I don’t know what happened after that except I awoke covered in vomit the next morning in the ER, with an IV in and a super annoyed nurse waiting to inform me that they had performed a rape test on me. My husband (understandably terrified) told me that when he drove me to the ER I was in a full panic, screaming and kicking and fighting him like I didn’t know him. The doctor (male) said: “good thing you’re so little and cute; much bigger and he couldn’t have wrangled you himself .” (!!!) We were unable to get our hands on the rape kit results or the drug tests because we couldn’t afford the bill for the night in the ER and they wouldn’t release any records without payment. They assumed I had just been drunk. Not knowing better, I believed them and felt both confused about and responsible for everything. It took us forever to put together what had happened. Obviously, I never went back, not even to pick up the money I was owed. That was nearly a decade ago. Recently I tried to look up my old boss to see if there was something I could do, but he wasn’t working there anymore and I couldn’t recall his last name.

    In my next job, one VP emailed me a picture of his underwear while he was on vacation. Another suggested I would do well working part-time at the strip club down the street. I left to work for a woman, and the difference in my day-to-day life was striking. The feeling of mutual respect was like standing in the sunshine after living in a cave.

    • Sarah says...

      Oh my Lord. I am so sorry that happened to you! You were so brave, and your husband is a hero.

    • My god, the world is mad. What a nightmare. I am so sorry you’ve been treated this way, and I’m glad you found the respect and safety you deserve to have at work.

    • kaela says...

      I’m so sorry for what you experienced, Meg. Amazing that you managed to call your husband and thank goodness he did what he could to support and protect you in that scary situation. You were strong, smart, and brave in that vulnerable moment… and every moment since. xx

    • Sofia says...

      Oh my god that must have been terrifying. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. One of the most regretful moments in my life was witnessing a guy in a restaurant dropping something in his date’s drink while she went to the restroom. They were sitting right next to us, but honestly in the moment I just questioned my own eyes and became afraid I was making a mistake. Froze and confused I only managed to tell the waitress and ask her to keep an eye on it. She actually said he used to come with different girls all the time. To this day I feel sick and ashamed that I didn’t do more (pull the girl aside and tell her, blast him out, call the police). I’m tormented by the fact I let that little doubt creep in and didn’t do what I could to prevent some horrible thing from happening to that woman and keep that guy from ever getting away with it.

    • Jill says...

      Re the pub incident, OMG that is beyond horrific. My heart was pounding fit to burst just from reading your account. I am so so sorry you had to go through that; your former boss is literally scum and clearly a practised predator — who knows how many others he’s targeted over the years. Thank god you managed to get away and your husband found you in time!

  59. Alex says...

    I have one more story to add just because it was so good it makes me tear up thinking about it. This weird old man was on the bus once SF and started harassing these two elementary Chinese school girls. I mean 9 years old?! He stands in front of them very confrontationally and starts talking sort of gibberish to them because they seemed scared, which he found offensive apparently. They walked away to a seat further down the bus and he FOLLOWED THEM. At this point one darling man steps in and confronts this man and tells him off sternly and when he tries to respond aggressively about half the bus stood up and supported the man who confronted him. It was a terrifying and also extremely comforting moment that there are guys out there who are righteously unlike the creeps who torment us.

    • kaela says...

      Thank you for sharing this. Made me tear up. There is so much good out there.

  60. Maria says...

    This article got me thinking about the ways I´ve been harrased in the past, but a few stand out in a good way and I just want to share them to inspire.
    1. When I was waking home late one night on the phone with a friend, a guy came out of his car and started masturbating in front of me. First I screamed in shock, but then I thought: wait, that is his car! So I told my friend the number of the licensplate in a loud voice. Suddenly, his expression of glee turned to one of horror, and he ran away, pleading that he hadn´t done anything. I went to the police the next day, and he actually got sentenced a fine. Still proud of that.
    2. When I was 15, my uncle used to call me and talk about my body, how it was so nice that I stayed in shape, dressed nice, had such nice legs and boobs. It was terribly uncomfortable, but first I thought I couldn´t do anything because it was just compliments, right? A friend of my mum told me how I could speak up, so the next time he called I simply told him “I don´t want you to talk about my legs or boobs” He got really mad. “What are you insinuating?” But from his reaction I became aware that he was actually very aware of what he was doing. And he never called me again and has always been polite to me when I see him ever since.
    So, I know I was lucky that I had the support of the police and my mum in those cases, but if that also applies to you in a similar situation, maybe you can turn it around! Fingers crossed!
    Oh, and one more thing: Men who harras women most of the time know that it makes us uncomfortable. It is rarely accidental in my opinion.

  61. Viola says...

    Oh God. These stories.

    I doubt there is a female live who doesn’t have at least one story of being sexually harrassed. In my first job out of school I worked in a watch packing factory for 6 months and there was a much older man who worked there, he had white hair and was at least 60. He would kiss me on the back of my neck when nobody was looking, approaching from behind when I had my head down working. It was revolting and I would freeze. I didn’t know enough then to say anything to anybody to stop it.

    In my second job there was a pervy older man who made it clear he found me attractive and made openly lewd comments to several of the girls working with me. One time I was stacking the bottom of a shelf when he came over, put his crotch right up to my face and said ‘While you’re down there, love…” and started laughing.

    At University I was pretty drunk and walking home alone through campus late one night (risky, I know) there had been a big University ball and there were lots of people everywhere. This guy came over to me and said he’d been watching me all term and asked if I was drunk enough to consider going back to his room with him. Luckily I was drunk enough to not GAF and just said “UGH’ as loudly as I could and walked away.

    Hmm what else. The guy who kept tickling me at work when we were alone. I effin hate being tickled and was clearly uncomfortable and uninterested.

    My older boss at a record shop who propositioned me and chased me really hard that is became embarrassing but I felt I couldn’t say no because, you know, he was the boss.

    It goes on and on.

    One example of a better guy that sticks in my mind though is when I was on holidays in the Greek Islands in my early 20s with some girlfriends. We had all had (way) too much to drink and I kind of blacked out. When I woke up I was laying pretty intimately next to a guy and it was clear we’d been messing around. I must have looked shocked to wake up to what was going on and just lay there frozen and terrified inside. he looked at me and said ‘You’re really not into this are you?’ I said no and he passed me top and walked me back to my room. That story could have turned out SO MUCH WORSE.

  62. Kat says...

    This article! I hope there is a landslide like it. I’ve asked myself “what happens next?” so many times this week. I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment and, even more unfortunately, sexual assault, myself. I remember reading the Stanford’s rapists’s victim’s letter and being so incredibly sad and empowered at the same time. She was so honest and direct – it put an unavoidable light on sexual assault on college campuses that I felt like has made a tangible difference in the time since. I was moved to message my own assailant – I had never confronted him before. I also told my husband about my assault. I had never felt strong enough to do so before. I can’t tell you how empowering it felt to be seen, for once. More than that, I can’t tell you how empowering it felt that I shown that uncomfortable light on my assailant. I told him in my message that to others he will be a friend, a brother, a son – but to me he will always be the one who didn’t take no for an answer.

    So, where next? I think all of the above. We hold men AND boys accountable for their actions, in the bedroom, at their frat house, on the street, at the workplace. We raise better children. And we shine that uncomfortable light on the exact situatuations these perpetrators make us want to hide out of fear and shame.

    • Kat says...

      Holy spelling errors – will you edit? *shone not shown and *situations. Those are just the most egregious.

  63. Dana says...

    I’ve certainly had my share of harassment. When I was younger, I always brushed it off somehow. The older I get though, the more I realize, hang on, there’s something to this sexism thing. I think about the time I had to physically run from a park in Spain with a friend after a guy tried to force me to kiss him. The time I was walking along the harbor with a friend and some guy literally ran up behind me, picked me up, and kissed me. The time some weird guy in another park sat next to me, turned to me and started aggressively stroking my hair. The time we were on a tour in a foreign country, and whenever my guy friends weren’t looking, the guide was turning around and inappropriately touching me and my friend. And there are so many other instances I’m not even listing. These things happen less frequently the older I get, but just a year ago I ordered a car to go a birthday party in Brooklyn — my husband was out of town and my mom was watching my kids. And as we were driving over the Brooklyn bridge, I looked up and the driver had his pants unzipped and was playing with himself. I immediately called my mom and just chatted until we reached my destination, thinking at least he’d know someone would know if he did something to me. I was too afraid to report the driver. I could have but I figured he had my name and address. It makes me sad, though, because he probably went on to do that to someone else.

  64. Jen says...

    I know kids and consent was discussed in a previous story, but would love to know how/if you’re using this “Weinstein momentum” to further the discussion in your household with young kids. Would love it if you had any professionals who could chip in on what’s age appropriate.

  65. Meg says...

    As long as I live, I will never understand how half the voters in this country heard Trump say, proudly, that he gropes women and gets away with it because he’s famous, and then they walked into a voting booth and thought, “yeah I’m going to pick that guy.” I may never stop being enraged by this.

    • YL says...

      I feel exactly the same way.

    • Mari says...

      And, by the way, I’m not excusing Trump’s comment. I’m saying that, given the choice between someone who made disgusting comments and someone who actively tried to destroy the lives of women who spoke out against her sexual assaulting, rapist husband and the young woman with whom her husband had an affair then lied about it under oath and who also got a child rapist off then laughed about it, I’ll take disgusting comments any day. And I am saying that the same standards should apply whether you “like” the person in question or not. Don’t pretend to be outraged by Trump’s comments after being complicit in the horrible behavior by both Clinton’s. And finally, I’ve been groped, cat-called, touched inappropriately by strangers on the subway, etc. I too know sexual assault up close & personal, and I do not condone it. In anyone.

    • Alex says...

      LOL. My brother in law reposts the grab em by the pussy headlines every week and writes, “NEVER FORGET!”

      Honestly I thought that was going to do him in!!! Ming boggling.

    • Jen says...

      Yes, this. I completely agree with you. And why is it acceptable that the president gets away with it but a movie mogul loses his job and is facing possible criminal charges? So many conflicting messages, so much to be enraged about.

    • Jayme says...

      I’m with Mari, below.

  66. SPG says...

    Thank you for such a great piece. It’s so relatable and resonated with me.

  67. molly says...

    I, like so many, have had multiple experiences with sexual harassment. Some experiences have been more violating than others, but I will not go into depth on those experiences. However, with all of my experiences one stands out in my mind. In college, I had a guy at a party come up to me and grab my ass. To be honest, this was on the lower-scale of sexual harassment, so I just gave the guy a dirty look and told him not to touch me (its sad that I was pretty much unfazed by this action) A couple minutes later another guy came up to me and told me he had witnessed the whole thing. He asked me if I was okay and went up to the guy at the party and told him to leave and to never touch me again. The guy who stood up for me was an acquaintance who I didn’t know that well and I couldn’t believe he stood up for me. The amount of respect I gained for him in that moment is indescribable and also made me realize there are also so many men who were raised to respect women and it made a world of a difference to me and made me feel so empowered.

  68. kate says...

    Oh my goodness this touched my heart! Like most of us I too have been a victim of sexual harrassment- since childhood no less! It sickens me how we just put up with it or blame ourselves. I remember feeling just so much shame. This week I’ve felt in awe of all these stories from actresses coming out and speaking up. It’s like a dam has burst! What an awesome time to be a woman! I wonder if this is how the women of the 60s felt?

  69. Sarah Lu says...

    Jo, thank you for sharing. It has encouraged me to share my own experience of a friend’s husband making disgusting and offensive sexual comments to me in front of my friend at breakfast while I was at their house for breakfast. And when I left he hugged me saying “bye hot stuff”. My girlfriend laughed. I would also like to also bring up that women are often complicit in hiding such harassment. Out of my conditioning to “keep the peace” at breakfast I awkwardly laughed . But when I wrote her an email about it the next day she emailed me back: “I don’t think [name redacted] was looking to offend or disturb you. I’m aware that what [name redacted] thinks as humorous can be interpreted differently and found off putting – I have found that it’s best to tell him in that moment to stop or he won’t really get the message.

    For what it’s worth, out of all of my friends, [name redacted] has always thought of you highly and enjoyed your company and spirit. ”

    Again, the onus is on the subject of the harassment, not on the harasser to behave better. Another girlfriend who heard about the situation said, “It’s a tough situation.” This situation was not tough, it was clear as day. Women, let’s believe and stand up for other women.

    • Caitlin Restivo says...

      Thank you for this comment. I have been in this position before and told my friends of an inappropriate comment someone’s husband made to me. When your friends don’t stick up for you it makes you start to second guess yourself and that is not a good place to be in.

  70. Amy P says...

    When I was about 13, I was at a church event for youth. One of the leaders was my teacher’s husband. He was pretty friendly with the girls, but no one seemed to think it was a problem, or at least not enough of one. He picked me up from behind and was carrying me and tickling me. I told him to put me down; he didn’t. So I pinched his arm as hard as I could and dug my nail in. He yelped, put me down, and glared at me. I glared right back and told my parents what had happened when I got home. They told me to do worse than a pinch next time, warn my friends about him, and tell them if anything else happened. I warned my younger cousin whose family was close friends with him and his wife, and told her to not ignore her gut around him; if she couldn’t tell her parents about anything that occurred, tell me. I know I warned more, but I was particularly worried about her.

    Years later, when I was married with kids, he was discovered to be in a relationship with a grade 12 girl at the school he was an educational assistant at (he was probably 45). He nearly lost his wife and two daughters over it – I’m still boggled that they’re together again.

    I worked at a pub in my early 20s and one night a drunk long-time regular called me a c*nt; it was out of character for him. I was a bit shaken but considered it part of the job. I mentioned it to a couple of my friends, and it trickled up to my boss. She immediately went to him, told him it was unacceptable, and banned him from the pub for three weeks. He and his friends were pissed at me and at her. I felt so incredibly validated and shocked that she would take it so seriously despite the loss of revenue from him and his friends (who did end up coming back after the three weeks).

  71. Samantha says...

    I commented earlier with a few of my own stories, and I’m not wanting to distract from this very important topic, but… is this how black people in America feel? The relentless thoughtless comments, the confusion, the surprise, the anger, the exhaustion… so far my female experience in this culture is the best lens through which I’ve been able to try to understand the black experience in this culture. God help us all.

    • Samantha – I’m reading through these comments, identifying with so many of them and then saw yours. I can’t speak for all black people obviously, but yes. This is often how it feels. One of the most shocking comments to me, was by a white female boss, who was also Jewish, so I would have thought she would have known better on so many levels. A very smart together liberal woman, who I quite liked and respected. I sometimes wonder if she understands how offensive her comment was. Maybe she forgot. To this day, I don’t even remember how I responded. I think I just ignored it and moved on with the conversation.
      I don’t even remember what the conversation was exactly, but she said to me that she didn’t consider me black. She didn’t see color. I was so offended. And shocked. That’s not a compliment! If I told her that I didn’t think of her as Jewish, because I didn’t acknowledge religion, I wonder if she would have gotten it. But she was my boss and I didn’t want to ruin or strain the relationship. It wasn’t worth it. We all want to be seen for who we are. She was erasing part of me. Not seeing me fully as a person. There is no color blind or not seeing color. We all see color unless we actually have some sort of medical issue with our eyes. Do people notice blue eyes? Do people notice blonde hair? I think so! If people pretend not to see color or say they don’t, they are lying to themselves and need to ask themselves why. I will never forget this comment and how horrible and confused it made me feel. Not sure if this helps, but I hope so.

    • Jasmine says...

      YES. And as a black woman, I get not only sexually harassed by men who look like me, but from men of other races/ethnicities, the sexual harassment is often accompanied by a dollop of gendered racism. We call that misogynoir. The world is so awesome *end of sarcasm*

    • Samantha says...

      Yes. This. It begins so, so early and it never, ever ends.

      It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I really engaged with the depth of the casual racism and mysogyny I experienced in my youth. I grew up in a Midwestern community that was more than 90% White. My best friend (also Black) was Prom Princess and I was pretty well-liked, but neither of us were ever asked out by a boy that went to our school. I thought I was ugly and unworthy for so long. But what I was was something else… an unacceptable choice.

      Later on, it became clear that I was considered by many non-Black men as an indiscretion, an item on a bucket list. I can’t count the number of times a man has approached me with some version of “you’re so pretty for a Black chick” or “I’ve never been with a Black girl before” as though those are compliments and I should feel honored. Or never considered me as a viable romantic option because of my race.

      I’ve been asked in the workplace if I can bruise. I wish I could’ve felt surprised that someone I worked with closely could reduce me to a thing in that way. But I’ve been prepared for it by a lifetime of microaggressions.

      But I’ve begun to push back harder than ever and I haven’t regretted it. I try to be gentle and generous with others but not at the cost of my own dignity. Their comfort is my oppression and I’m willing to compromise the temporary comfort of others for my permanent liberation.

    • Lorna says...

      ” I try to be gentle and generous with others but not at the cost of my own dignity. Their comfort is my oppression and I’m willing to compromise the temporary comfort of others for my permanent liberation.”

      Samantha, I will frame these words and put them on the walls of my daughters’ room so they can see them everyday.

  72. Janine says...

    My husband, who, in his adult life, has always been deeply respectful of women, was very affected by the recent news stories of sexual harassment. A few nights ago, as we were discussing it, he said, “I just want to be better. Even though I’ve never sexually harrassed a woman at work or on the street, it makes me wonder if I ever harrassed someone when I was younger.” And I responded, “Well, yeah. You harrassed me.”

    We’ve known each other since we were thirteen. Once, at a Halloween party in high school, long before we ever dated, he casually told me I looked like a whore in my Halloween costume. I stalked off and told my boyfriend at the time, who argued, “He was just kidding around, he’s nice when you get to know him.”

    Years later, when we reconnected, I was very cautious of him. It took a few years of my observing how he treated me, how he treated other women, and how he spoke of his exes (respectfully) to decide that he had changed. Needless to say, the fact that he didn’t remember this transgression, and that I had, left him gob smacked and gave him even more to think about.

    I’m proud that he’s willing to do the work, and that he understands now that harassment usually means nothing to those who do it, but it stays with those who are harassed.

    • Carmen Faye Mathes says...

      Whoa Janine, what a story. You are right to be proud of him, and he’s lucky to have you as a partner. To give someone a glimpse of their faults in a way that makes them introspective (rather than reactive) is a gift that both of you seem to have.

  73. Maria says...

    It’s amazing and awful how much I’ve suppressed over the years. Men approaching my friends and I as tweens. A frat trying to lure us behind their house when we trick or treated as tweens. My boss requiring me to put things in the pocket of clothes he was wearing. The female partner I reported it to who did nothing. My gratitude towards another attorney who said, “if he or any other man here ever pulls that crap again, you come tell me.” A guy I trusted telling me when girls say “no” they really mean “yes” in a way that frightened me. A guy grabbing my thigh, presumably feeling I owed him for the dino I accepted, and then accusing me of being racist when I withdrew. The guy who said he was just a friend with a girlfriend who insisted on massaging my back and reached up my shirt.
    We need to do better.

  74. Thank you for creating a safe and supportive and OPEN space for dialogue on this topic. Like so many of the other comments I read I too felt lucky to have never experienced anything as terrible as Harvey Weinstein and then, of course, all of those memories came back to me.

    Attorneys at my pre-law school clerkship who stared at my chest instead of my face when I talked to them, and closed their office doors after inviting me in to debrief about court appearances (and sat next to me rather than in their own seats across their desks)…

    Disgusting men at bars and clubs a la about a thousand other comments in this thread (I mean what do we just…not go outside anymore?)

    Reading so much of this thread in light of the renewed national conversation about sexual assault gave me the courage to finally tell my husband about an experience I had that I’d always thought of as a party mistake but which (now as an adult in retrospect) was absolutely something that happened to me, and not something I participated in.

    And now as the mother of a little boy I am plagued by fears of what the conversation will be like as he grows up. We’re lucky he has a father (and tons of bad ass aunties and grandmas) who will model good feminist behavior for him. All we can keep doing is having open, frank and honest conversations about how things should be, and how we get there.

  75. Cat says...

    When I’ve been cat called, honked at, been told to ‘cheer up’. All those times I froze.
    When my legit best friend from high school (who was a boy) put his hand down my underwear or up my top whenever I fell asleep around him several times over a two year period. I froze.
    When after I told everyone (except my parents) about this, and I lost nearly all of our mutual acquaintances who would rather be his friend than mine (both girls and boys) and who used excuses such as ‘I can’t not be his friend now, he needs help’ but did nothing to help him, or me. My heart broke and my young self decided to keep it quiet from then on.
    When the old guy on the bus sat practically on top of me and rubbed his leg against mine whilst rubbing his crotch. I froze.
    When I was travelling and drinking with friends and I woke up in a bed I did not know alone covered in my period blood with hazy recollections of men I did not know lying on top of me. I spiralled.
    When I told my male friend I had been travelling with what I thought had happened and he told me ‘well you must’ve gone back to their room with them what did you expect’. And so I never told anyone else.
    When I was followed persistently down the street by a man a month later who would not take ‘I’d rather be alone right now’ as an answer. He was the first man I ever shouted at about his actions. He asked me why bitches like me who walked around in skimpy clothes (I was wearing trousers and a normal t-shirt, not that it matters) never wanted to talk to men in the street.

    Reading these comments, and feeling able to find my voice lifts a small weight off of my shoulders. Thank you all for sharing – it’s tough but we must persevere in order to change things for the future, and hopefully find some peace for ourselves in the process.

  76. Alexandra says...

    THANK YOU for addressing this issue.

  77. Samantha says...

    As I read this post, I was thinking to myself how lucky I am to have never really experienced this… and then as I read through the comments, the memories started flooding back, one after another, all the times that men and boys had made me feel used or afraid or uncomfortable.

    In second grade a boy touched my crotch every day in line in our classroom. I told my parents about it and they were livid, and there was a big thing involving teachers and records and conversations with administrators and at one point I remember thinking, “we don’t have to do all this; it’s not SUCH a big deal.”

    When I was 8 or 9 I was running errands with my aunt and she asked me to stay in the car with the baby while she ran in to one store. It was a warm day so the windows were down and two teenage boys approached the car and as soon as they got close enough to lean an arm on the car door, one looked at me, said, “oh, she’s too young” and they laughed and walked away.

    Freshman year, I was in a math class with many upper class men, and a very attractive senior from the football team sat a few rows ahead of me. He and his buddies started calling me “Vanessa” and making comments every time I walked past. (FYI I have always had huge boobs and I can only assume that this was a factor? Sigh. I dunno.) Usually I tried to ignore them, but I felt extremely conflicted and self conscious in that class. At one point I responded, pleadingly, “that’s not my name!” And they laughed. I get anxious thinking about that math class, even now.

    In college, a guy I dated pressured me into giving him head, multiple times. This was my first explicitly sexual experience. The first time it happened I cried afterwards; he held me in his arms and comforted me.

    During summers I worked at a paint store and there was one customer who came in regularly who followed me around the store, asked me to come work for him, and told me at one point that if I only gave my fiancé “the milk” that he wouldn’t “want the whole cow.”

    I look back on these experiences and, even in my anger and indignation, I have no idea what I should have said. I have a wonderful husband and two baby boys now and I am determined to guide them to be people who would never treat other people like this.

    • Samantha says...

      On a related note, I used to work in a middle school where the head custodian called me “sweetie” on a regular basis, probably because he couldn’t remember my name. He was a darling older man who loved to show us pictures of his grandchildren and even though I knew it was sexist and that he would NEVER say it to a male employee, it didn’t bother me a bit.

    • M says...

      Ugh! The story about the college guy makes me so mad for you!

  78. Laura says...

    I’m also reminded of this quote from the parenting in Italy article:
    “E’ maschio” (he’s male) is something I’ve heard more than I would like to recall; it’s an umbrella excuse for male behavior that’s irresponsible or rude, etc.” Of course this expands beyond Italy. Can’t help but wonder if this viewpoint has something to do with it.

  79. Emma says...

    The man making kissing sounds while staring and progressively moving closer, from seat to seat, on the train
    The man who grabbed my ass as he walked by in a club
    The person who put their hand up my skirt and tried to finger me on the most crowded bus I’ve ever been on. I couldn’t move away, and never saw who was doing it.
    The coworker who made a point to brush against me (and most of the other women at my job) as we walked past each other, no matter how wide the space we were walking through was
    The man rubbing his crotch on me and other women on a crowded train, pretending he was just accidentally bumping us. He wasn’t.

    • Gilly says...

      I know you weren’t asking for advice on how to handle it, but here’s something my sister used to do in exactly these situations that might help — she would hide a big safety pin in her hand, and when a pervert would inevitably start feeling her up on the crowded bus/train/subway, she’d jab the sharp point as hard as she could into the offender. 9 times out of 10 the perv would immediately back away. She didn’t ever have to say anything — he knew she knew it was him, and she was on to him, and she wouldn’t hesitate to defend herself, and usually that was enough to make them crawl back into whatever hole they’d emerged from.

      It’s admittedly a little passive aggressive but in situations where direct confrontation might not work (like in the case of your repeat offender coworker who makes it a point to ‘accidentally on purpose’ brush up against you, and who’d most likely deny it if you accused him of harassing you and/or make life difficult for you at work or say you imagined it), it’s a subtle but clear way to get your message across. When said arse is about to pass you, fold your arms across your chest and stick the sharp point out at him at the point of contact. If any of them protest, you get to calmly say “Then you admit you were crowding me? Why were you pressing up so close to me?” and watch them stutter and stammer.

  80. Liz says...

    I really appreciate being able to beat witness to these stories. Makes me feel less alone in my experiences.

  81. Danielle says...

    Just a few instances of harassment that I’ve also somehow categorized in my mind as “nothing”: When I was 13, I was babysitting and took the kids to a playground nearby and there was a man there by himself with what looked like child pornography in his hands, trying to talk to me and the kids. I’m glad I had the good sense to get those kids and myself away from there immediately. When I was 15, My driver’s ed instructor used to press his hand on my right thigh when he thought I was going too slow. Last year, a man was walking down a crowded street heading in my direction and when my mom and I just about passed him, I saw he was holding a camera at an angle to take images of what was under my dress. I was shocked for a few seconds, and started screaming at him, hoping to make everyone aware of what he was doing so they would stay away from him.

  82. manoo says...

    One time on a bus in Brasil, a man rubbed his penis against my butt and when I moved, kept following me and doing it again. I caught his eyes and I will never forget his nonchalance grimace.

    When I was younger, my cousins and I were having a huge sleepover, and I woke up to my older (distant) cousin rubbing himself against me. I rolled over and pretended to be sleeping and finally kept asking him to stop. He finally asked me, “do you want to go sleep with my dad?” I was like WTF ummm no, I will stay here. A few years later, we saw eachother and he kept trying to talk to me but I couldn’t and I kept ignoring him or not catching his eye. And he KEPT trying to find me and I dont know, make amends?? Then two years ago, we had a big family Thanksgiving. It was the first time I had seen him and I could not even greet him or look at him even though he had become a yogi and seemed to have found his peace. My mother was furious at how “rude” i was being. It turns out he was being physically abused by his father growing up.

    There have been a few times where I’ve actually stood up for friends who were being sexually harrassed. My friend was being touched on her butt at a club in Ibiza. I yelled at the guy that we felt unsafe and made a huge commotion. Later we saw him again and I pushed him off the walkway. It’s funny how when it happens to you, you completely lose your voice, yet when the injustice is happening to someone else, you magically find yours. Ugh.

    • Kathleen says...

      Your comment about when it happens to you, you lose your voice but when it happens to someone else; you magically find yours. That’s been me – 100%. Ugh is right

  83. Shannon says...

    When I was probably around 12 years old I was at my grandparents house, playing with my cousins and the neighbours. My cousins were preoccupied with something and two of the neighbour kids called me over and then one of them came up behind me and grabbed my chest. I remember walking away feeling completely shocked and numb, and I never say a word to anyone. Looking back I wish I had told my parents who were inside the house at the time, but I think I was too afraid.

    • Louisa says...

      I’ve been thinking about my comment ever since… I brought it up because I quit my graduate program in the hard sciences after 4 years of harassment, stalking, and assault (I went on to finish the ph.d. at another program). In speaking with the department chair (who wanted to know why I was leaving), I mentioned the harassment. He asked who, and I said I wouldn’t share names. My intuition was that it could only come back to hurt me. I still think that’s true.

  84. Exhausted says...

    Back to my real world example from yesterday of a co-worker “joking around.” THANK YOU to the ladies who told me to speak up. Press CTRL F + “Exhausted” to see the thread.

    I wasn’t prepared I’d get a backlash from him but I’m going to share what I told him and what the response was. It’s sad that women are blamed in this society for speaking up or that men simply aren’t aware. I brought it up to HR (I had quit before this nonsense) and told them I’m not coming in for shifts because I no longer feel comfortable. It’s terribly sad.

    His comment (on my shift change): you would have to check with supervisor about shift change. I’m a bad boy 😛

    My Comment:
    so a note on your comments. RE: “I’m a bad boy.” “You’ve been a bad girl. Troublemaker.” I know we get along and you are being playful but in a context where the news has been swirling about Harvey Weinstein (a powerful figure in Hollywood) and his sexual abuse and how “innocent” comments go unnoticed, I encourage you to be more aware of what you say to others and how that can be perceived. Comments like these can make others (especially women) feel uncomfortable. Worse, in a workplace setting, you can be reported. I won’t be doing that but I think right now a lot of people are highly sensitive to the news. I’ll send you a link so you are more aware. In big cities, people are pretty passive agressive & let these comments fester. I’d rather I speak with you directly so you know. That’s all!
    I then sent a NYT link to the Harvey Weinstein article.

    His response:
    I’m sorry but I feel you are over sensitive. I am not being sexual with you in any way and think your self centered to believe I am.
    I am not forcing myself on you or even trying to do anything to you or be alone with you
    I am insulted that you would compare me to a monster because of my joking around.
    Don’t speak to me again.
    your sick

    Ummm….Did I accuse him at ALL? NO!

    I will not let my self-respect be compromised. And I know I am not the only one he has “joked around” with. He’s just…not aware.

    And I’m SO GRATEFUL I have this space where you all understand. Thank you.

    • Laura says...

      So in his mind it’s all well and good because he didn’t try to force himself on you…. I applaud you for speaking up.

    • Meg says...

      You did him a favor. No, two: you didn’t report him, and you kindly advised him how to behave more appropriately – for his own good – in the future. Maybe someday he will realize he owes you one. In the meantime, you’ve probably saved several women the headache of putting up with his nonsense. You did well. Try not to worry about him anymore.

  85. Mariele says...

    Every single woman has dozens, maybe even hundreds, of these stories. Honestly for me at least the best thing about getting older has been that the rate at which they happen has slowed drastically. When need to confront this for our children and theirs but how do we make it stick that women do not exist for other’s uses?

    • Lisa says...

      I do enjoy that too, that it’s few and far between now that I get harassed. But – doesn’t that really suck, that only aging protects you?

  86. Jess says...

    My parents have never understood why I hated being a golf caddy SO MUCH when I was 13, 14, 15. To this day they claim it was “character-building.” I’ve even told them point blank about the constant, accepted discrimination – most of the predominantly male golfers didn’t want a female caddy – and the relentless sexual harassment. Just constant comments relating to my female status, dirty jokes disguised poorly as flattery and disparaging comments about women in general – day-in and day-out “locker room talk” in the words of notmypresident. It was also impossible to get promoted, and I got the shittiest possible tips.

    I have absolutely shrieked at men a time or two – in college, a guy I was dancing with stuck his hand up my skirt uninvited and got an earful. Another one spread nasty, embarrassing and false rumors about me and I insisted he and the president of his fraternity come apologize to my house. While riding the T in Boston a nasty dude pressed his erection against me and I called him out for it. There are always so many stories when you start to dig into memories.

    But I’ve also let so many things go – including inappropriate butt fondling by a female supervisor while was doing volunteer work in high school – and I will always regret the times I haven’t said anything. It’s persistent and pervasive, so those of us who can, must speak out.

  87. Chelsea says...

    I was in Target one day, picking out a greeting card for my grandma. There was only one other person in the aisle, a man who was crouched down appearing to look at some cards on the lower display. I didn’t realize it until it was too late, but he had his camera open on his phone and was trying to take pictures under my dress. I jumped back and yelled at him, what are you doing?!??! and he jumped up and ran out of the store. What was I to do at that point? I thought about telling a security guard, but what good does that do when the dude is long gone? The cops aren’t gonna send a search team out for a pervert.

    I immediately called one of my guy friends (I was single at the time) and explained what just happened, slightly in disbelief, and my friend laughed about it. That was a double whammy. Shouldn’t be funny that I felt violated and exploited with no remedy.

  88. Anna says...

    I am very, very lucky in never having experienced any unwanted physical contact with a man. That said, I have felt very, very uncomfortable being looked at by male coworkers, and having them make unsolicited comments on my clothes and appearance. When it’s a compliment, how are you supposed to react? I think they genuinely meant to be nice, but it felt wrong.

  89. Kal says...

    Since every woman seems to have stories of being sexually harassed, it would be interesting to see what would happen if a group of men were asked to recall times they had sexually harassed someone. Would they admit to anything, even anonymously over the Internet? Or do most men not even realize what behaviors qualify as harassment? Of course a good amount of men wouldn’t have any stories to admit to, but if sexual harassment is such a universal female experience, it’s not like there’s just a few men doing all of the harassing. I think of my dad, brother, male friends and wonder if they’ve ever done anything that I would consider sexual harassment. I love them and think of them as good people, but I’d imagine most male harassers have women in their lives that love and trust them too.

    • Laura says...

      Such a great idea!

    • Melissa Porras says...

      SO true! That would be a very interesting project.

    • Betsie says...

      When I was a freshman in college a guy sidled up next to me and rested his penis/balls on the edge of the table I was standing next to and asked “Does this make you uncomfortable?” and laughed. Fast forward nearly a decade to a party with a bunch of old college friends, where I asked him if he remembered doing that. He denied it, and acted like I was a sicko for suggesting that he would ever do something so gross. I think he actually believes he never did such a thing.

  90. Linda says...

    As a young teenager I wanted to look closer at a belt at a market, we were on a journey and I was walk-in-closet by myself away fr.o.m. The family for a while. The seller insisted that I should try the belt and that he should help me. When he did he put his hand down my skirt and fingered me. I was paralysed, bought the belt and went away as fast as I could, never Tilling anyone. I remember being so angry at myself for buying the belt, and I never used. Now I can see that I bought it because I was afraid of him.

    At a camp during my confirmation one of the boys came to my bed at night, layed down beside me and put his hand into my sleeping bag, touching me kind of everywhere. Once again I was paralysed, but he left after a couple of minutes.

    When my first son was born a man who was a stay at home dad invited me over with my son for coffee. I remember thinking about me going there before I did but I thought that it was safe because our one-year-olds were with us, and he was a nice person, and of course women and men can be friends. But he was so creepy, hugging too long and in the wrong way, saying creepy things, letting his leg lean against my leg during coffe and so on. Once again I was afraid, inside his house with no witnesses but showing with my body that I didnt want to touch, leaving the house as fast as I could. He came with me to my car, commenting that it was a nice car but that the inside was bad… The week after somebody broke the headlight on the car. I was so sad, it was right before christmas and we were so poor at the time. We fixad the headlight. Then, a week later, somebody had smashed the same headlight. Im convinced it was him showing his anger.

    • Linda says...

      The autocorrect did a lot of strange things to my text…

  91. Jen says...

    I feel like we, as women, owe it to one another to read through some of these comments. They’re both shocking and relatable. And a reminder that we are stronger together, and do have the power to speak up.

    I do not think a single girl/woman can make it through the world without experiencing some form of sexual harassment, if not worse. That’s shameful. I’ve had so many countless situations myself that they’re hard to even remember. But here’s some I do:

    1. Having my breasts gropped for several minutes by my high school “boyfriend” at the time while he was driving. No joke. My breasts were nearly bruised afterward.
    2. Many moments of unwanted cocks rubbing up against me in bars while ordering a drink.
    3. In 2nd grade, laying in the sand at the neighborhood park and having a preteen squat above me pretending to teabag my face in front of his friends
    4. Passing ass grabs in a crowd of people. Sometimes even in school.
    5. Being bullied/touched by another girl in elementary school who said she saw it in one of the “movies” her dad watched. Looking back, I think she was being molested by him.
    6. Being undressed by strangers’ eyes in the grocery store if I’m not wearing a bra. Sometimes even when I am.
    7. Creepy shoulder rubs by a few men in positions of power.

    The list could go on. For those severely hurting/struggling/fighting, please hold on. Talk to someone. Come back to this thread of empowering comments.

    • Leah says...

      Thank you for your comment. We ARE stronger together. We do need to be there for one another. At first I thought, like others have said, “I’ve been so lucky”. But then I started remembering… Especially now in the climate of our current administration, we truly do need to speak out and demand the respect we deserve. It’s 2017 for fox sake.

  92. Lindsay says...

    When I was 12ish, my parents were at a gallery while me and my little brothers went to a small toy store next to it, and there was no one there, just us and this old man who I don’t believe worked there, and he kept squeezing past me and patting my butt as he did so. After 3-4 times I got very scared and didn’t see any worker there, and just grabbed my toddler brother and ran to the gallery. I feel bad that I left my other 2 brothers….anyway, the crazy thing was that I was too embarrassed to tell my parents what happened. I cried on the way home quietly to myself, just scared. Around the same time I was home alone and got a phone call (hey there, mom or dad home? nope. You getting pretty big now?? ya. Big enough to wear a bra?? um ya……so you are getting pretty big tits huh? etc etc). I remember being like in a sort of depression, life feeling very dark, crying in the shower, very scared of things I had heard of girls getting kidnapped or raped etc. So sad. Glad it went away eventually and I haven’t had much happen since. Just little things, like old italian boss telling me if he were a honey bee he would like to suck up all my honey. yep. ?! Im thankful nothing more has happened to me. Not sure what we can do about this. There will always be bad apples. And I am sure it goes the other way sometimes too, with women harassing men. We all need to train our children from a young age to tell us if ANYthing like that happens.

    • Sophie says...

      One of my earliest memories of sexual harassment also involves, what I’ve always called, a “prank” phone call that happened when I was probably 9 or so. My younger brother and I were latchkey kids and were left home alone after school for an hour and a half or so every day.

      One day after school the home phone rang. I answered, and a male voice asked for me personally. Yeah, that’s me, I responded. How old are you now? I answered with my age. So do you have any hair on your pussy yet? I was so scared I immediately hung up the phone and hid in my room, crying.

      I remember feeling so terrified for years after that. I was constantly wondering who the caller could have been — it was obviously an adult voice but who would do such a thing? A neighbor? One of my parents’ friends? A teacher? A friends older brother? How did they have my home phone number? How did they know my name? Did they know I was home alone in the afternoon and that’s why they called at that time? I became endlessly suspicious of any of the adult men in my life from that day forward and was terrified when left alone. It never happened again but the fear stayed with me for years.

      The first time I ever told anyone this happened to me was about a week ago, actually. After a few glasses of wine and a long, thoughtful discussion (one of many we’ve had in the last year) about Trump, sexual harassment, and what the futures of our three young daughters look like — I finally told my husband. Even though it was only one of many times I’ve felt sexually harassed, it was like a weight of one thousand bricks had been lifted off my chest. Maybe it’s because I was so young when it happened.

      This shit shouldn’t be happening to young girls, or any females, ever. How do we protect our daughters?

  93. Sharon says...

    You should read “Sex Object: A Memoir” by Jessica Valenti. It is SO GOOD, and is exactly about this – – every single little time that all adds up. It shapes who we are. We accept it to the point of actually forgetting that it happened. It’s not okay. Right before the U.S. election last year, I was on a work trip and sexually harassed when one man told another that by not knowing the answer to a question he had “ruined his chances with me”. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and disempowered and ALSO like I had to make it okay for everyone. Then I thought “Hilary Rodham Clinton is about to be President of the United States, I don’t have to put up with this anymore”, and simply said “this conversation is over for me”, and walked away. Then Hilary lost (WHY America?), and I was so sad. And I read this book, and I promised myself that even if HRC isn’t President, that I would never, ever stay feeling little or feeling responsible, I would try to always think the same thing – – this conversation is over, and I am leaving.

  94. Reading these comments, I’m wondering what women do/think we should do when catcalled or harassed in front of our kids? I’ve had a few instances of men shouting things out of cars or beeping their horns, for example, when I’ve been out with my daughter. Undoubtedly, even as a toddler, she’s observing my reaction (ignoring them) and learning something from that. Should I be yelling after them, or saying something? I don’t want my daughter growing up to be conditioned to ignore it when men do stuff like this, as so many of us are.

    • Samantha says...

      This is my worst nightmare. I want to have some kind of game plan should it happen, but like you say – what??

    • Suzieq says...

      Yes to a game plan! Not victim blaming for what people haven’t done (me, so many times) but empowering plan for what we can do, while staying safe. How about brainstorming ideas for some common situations, like:

      1. Strangers shouting from cars
      2. Sexual assault on a crowded bus/subway car
      3. Physical but not overtly sexual contact in the workplace (shoulder massage, etc.)

      I’ll try:
      1. Pretend to take a cell phone pic/video to scare the person that you will report. (Is this safe??) If you’re with kids, give an age appropriate debrief when you are away and in a safe place.
      2. Scream “who the f* is the jerk grabbing my butt?!?” LOUDLY, and count on the crowd to keep you safe and shame the perpetrator.
      3. Say sharply “please don’t do that!” And then NOTHING else. Don’t minimize, apologise, or explain. Try not to not feel badly/obsess about setting a boundary, no matter what the response is.

      These don’t feel great, but they’re the best I can come up with on my own…Ideas?

    • Jen says...

      I’d love guidance here as well. I have had a scary encounter with my (then) infant son. My kids are now 1 & 3 and I don’t want to cause them unnecessary stress but I also want to know how to speak up and protect us all from harm.

    • Sofia says...

      YES, I also have a little girl and this is such a good point, for parents and caretakers of both girls AND boys. How do you react? I’m not sure what the best approach is either…
      To the ones shouting from cars (or construction sites, or rowdy bars), I don’t know if reacting, yelling back is a good idea… because they’re really looking for your heated reaction anyway, right? But on the other hand, ignoring, like you’re above it, also feels somehow dishonest because it’s not right and it does affect you.
      If it involves physical harassment, like in public transportation, I think it might be best to step away (when possible), and speak up and call them out on it.

  95. Arielle says...

    he lived five floors below me in our dorm building. It was a Friday night, and I had stayed in for the evening, settled in my pajamas and worked on homework so that I could go out with friends that Saturday. I remember it was late, I think past midnight and my roommate was out. My boyfriend who had been drinking came into my dorm room and I remember I was sitting on the floor and because my room was small and there was nowhere to sit, we moved to my bed. I remember my pants being off, but my shirt was still on. He forced himself on top of me and had his way. I froze not understanding what was going on. I lost my voice. I turned my head and looked at the alarm clock on my nightstand, glowing with blue numbers onto the ceiling. I kept thinking, “Stop. Stop it. It’s almost over. Just stop.” But I didn’t fight back. When he was done, he got up and left. I was stunned. I went across the hall to the bathroom I shared with 42 other girls and I remember there being blood. “Oh shit. What do I do now?” I started to cry, but then stopped. A boyfriend can’t rape you, can he? And if it was rape, why didn’t I yell and scream and fight back? Did I let this happen to me? I went back to my room and stunned, I never spoke about it to anyone. When my roommate came back, we had a normal conversation and both went to bed. My rapist boyfriend continued to live five floors below me for five more months before I could move out.

    The same month, my male best friend stuck his hands down my pants. i got up and left and we stopped speaking, after being friends for years.

    The following year, I was sitting with a med student studying at a coffee shop and he grabbed my hand and stuck it into his pants to touch his penis. he wasn’t wearing underwear. a future doctor. i was shocked. i withdrew my hand

    i haven’t spoken about my rape for 9 years keeping it a secret; i almost forgot about it because i had shoved it down so far in my refusal to accept and acknowledge that I had become a “victim”. but the need to tell my story bubbles up and then i feel anxiety until it’s released.

    • Leah says...

      I am so sorry that happened to you. It also happened to me when I was 14. I didn’t realize what really happened to me until I was an adult, and I mean 50 years old, and a nurse asked me a question during a medical history and I realized that yes, I had actually been forced to have sex by a guy that I had liked and trusted. I hope you realize it wasn’t your fault and your reaction when it happened was and still is normal.

    • K says...

      Oh Arielle I am sorry you had to endure this. I did too. Your story could have been mine it’s so similar. I remained “friends” with my attacker for months after but never was alone with him because I was scared. It wasn’t until I started having nightmares about it that I recognized what happened.

  96. Liza says...

    This is the most articulate and relatable piece I’ve read since the story leaked. Thanks for making it personal.