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It happened to me.
When I was twelve I was riding the school bus home after a long day of seventh grade. I put my earbuds in, connected them to my iPod, and tried to block out the world with the sweet music of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Just as we neared my stop, the boy sitting in front of me turned around and deliberately touched my breast. At first, I was shocked, I was stunned, I didn’t know what to do as his two friends laughed around me, their high-pitched, carefree laughter pierced through the music and hit me harder than a punch in the gut.
I remember asking him “why the hell would you do that?” only to be met with more laughter as I burst into tears. I remember running off the bus, my neighbor, confused, asked me what was wrong and I told her, she stayed silent. I remember running home and collapsing on the couch and crying. I remember my dad coming home nearly an hour or two later and me running to him in the driveway, still crying, and telling him what had happened. I remember him telling my mother, and then I remember begging them not to report it.
At fourteen, I was sitting in my Psychology class, minding my own business and writing something on my laptop. A senior boy behind me began to read what I was writing aloud in funny voices, prompting my cheeks to turn red and my anger to flare. I quickly closed the tab, turned around, and asked him very kindly to, “leave me the hell alone.”
And the next thing I know he’s asking for my Instagram and Kik, both of which I had and both of which I refused to give him. A friend of mine who was trying to seem cool was the one to give him my Instagram username. I refused to talk to either of them after the incident and instead decided to catch up on some other class work, but the senior behind me was persistent and said, “oh, playing hard to get? I had a girl play hard to get with me once and you wanna know what happened a week later? She was suckin’ my cock.”
I never reported what he said to me.
Theatre class when I was fifteen years old was one of my favorite classes for everything besides the teacher and her daughter/helper. I still don’t understand to this day why, but for some reason both the teacher and her daughter hated me. At first, it was minuscule, able to be ignored jabs; telling my partner to throw up on me in skits while allowing for her favorite students to go on completely vomit-free in similar scenes, rolling her eyes whenever I raised my hand to speak, and telling me flat out in front of everyone that she hated my performance for the lipsync assignment we were required to do. All of these things were minor, and most days they made for fun stories to go home and rant about to my mother and sister, but there was one that completely changed everything.
During the script unit of our class, I was handed a particularly graphic scene which called for a boy to harass my character into kissing him, give her a secret picture, and, most importantly, strip. And my teacher told both me and my uncomfortable partner that she expected us to do the entire thing without editing or changing a single thing.
This was the first instance of sexual harassment that I reported, and nothing happened.
I was pulled out of the class and allowed to work in the school’s library, but the teacher who did this still works at my school, she is still praised by the principal and the students, and she is still able to get away with anything else she desires.
Looking back, I wish I’d reported these incidents, I wish I had marched straight down to the Guidance Counselors and told them, and I know by not I enabled these boys to think that their behavior was acceptable, but I also understand why I didn’t.
The boy who groped me was the school’s class clown, and the boy who told me I was playing hard to get was a senior preying on a freshman. I was an easy target, a little girl with only a handful of friends, they could turn the school against me in an instant and they made sure I knew it.
For years I refused to acknowledge these incidents as what they were, sexual harassment. I didn’t want to seem overly dramatic or seem like I wanted people to pity me, but now, as I see hundreds of women come out and tell their stories, I want to tell mine.