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That Sounds Familiar

culture and society

When last Friday’s news came to light, and the audio of Donald Trump and Billy Bush played over and over on the news, my reaction was “I know this guy.”

It was the reaction of many (most? shit, all?) women across the United States. For many, it kicked up a lot of old feelings and memories and triggered traumas. Because not only did Trump boast about — very pointedly — sexual assault, he and Billy Bush also reminded us of horrible conversations, lecherous stares, and uncomfortable scenarios girls and women have been subjected to time and time again.

Until Friday, I had almost forgotten about the 24-year-old friend of the family who relentlessly pursued a 15-year-old me. I had fallen asleep on the couch and woke up in the dark to his face within inches from mine. I got up and locked myself in the bathroom. He pursued me further via AOL Instant Messenger until I told him, from the safety of my computer, that he was creepy and never to contact me again. He complained to extended family that I had been disrespectful of an adult.

Until Friday, I hadn’t, in a long time, thought about being seventeen working at a country club. I wore a polo shirt and khaki pants and smiled a lot. Someone had called the front desk asking for me, impersonating the Human Resources department, and I naively answered questions about my weight and my height. That same mysterious man called my mom and said I never showed up to work that day, that no one had seen me for hours — a kidnapping that wasn’t. Or wasn’t yet, as the police pointed out. They couldn’t quite figure out the scenario, and suggested that I get escorted out to my car by a male coworker after every shift.

Until Friday, I hadn’t thought about the kind, grandfatherly, 65 year old tennis player at that same country club — the one I chatted with about school and the weather — who one day leaned over and whispered “I bet every single one of your body parts is delectable.” Words, they’re just words, we’ve heard people say this week. Words that cut right to the heart and terrify young girls, words that stick to them like tar, words that can’t be unheard.

Until Friday, I had sort of forgotten being eighteen, waiting tables. One man with a newspaper had requested my section and a table in the far corner. When I greeted him and asked his drink order, I thought I saw his penis out of his pants. By the time I brought him his drink, he was masturbating under his newspaper. My manager sent me home for the evening.

That Sounds Familiar

In these scenarios that I’ve chosen to share, no one put his hands on me. No one — as the candidate for the family values party so eloquently expressed — grabbed me by the pussy. And yet each instance riddled me with fear and shame and made me feel unsafe. The real problem is that none of these stories are abnormal. None of the stories about rape and assault being shared around the internet since Friday are out of the scope of statistics we’ve read. They’re heartbreaking and horrifying, and incredibly and appallingly common.

And there aren’t statistics on every woman who has had to walk down the street at a steady clip and then duck into a busy coffee shop because the man she just turned down got irate and started following her. There aren’t statistics on every college girl who took a waitressing job who’s been slapped on the ass so hard it left a mark. Nor on every teenage girl who has received lecherous comments about how nicely she’s “blossoming” (barf, please never use that word) at a family barbecue from someone’s drunk dad.

But if you poll my women friends and women peers and the women reading this post, that number is damn close to 100%.

It’s an indictment on our society as a whole. It’s why “feminism” shouldn’t feel like a dirty word, and why it goes far beyond relating to having daughters or sisters or mothers, but about creating a place where our children are respectful, are kind, are safe.

It’s why so many of us have felt tightly wound since Friday. It’s why my friend cried on the train, hearing the leaked audio and thinking about crimes against her. It’s why it’s been — as another friend put it — a really bad week.

It’s why I blink back tears when I think of each of my three wonderful, smart, loving daughters and the first time some asshole on the side of the road is going to call her a dumb bitch for not responding to his catcalls.

Because we’ve all been through it. And unless we fight for change, we know our daughters are going to go through it, too.

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29 Comments

  • Reply Lauren October 13, 2016 at 11:27 am

    ALL THE “YES.” Thank you for sharing your gift for words when I couldn’t gather all of my thoughts.

    • Reply Roo October 13, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      Thank you for such a nice compliment, Lauren. xo

    • Reply Rachel C. October 15, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      It SUCKS. My uncle did the things to me Trump described in his leaked audio. The election cycle brings up the memories and shame I feel over it (ridiculous, I know, because I did NOTHING WRONG). I have family members who are voting for him, knowing the same things he confessed to doing, are the same that happened to me. It fucking pisses me off. They describe him as “the lesser of two evils” or shamelessly condone his aberrant actions. I’m so done. I called them out for it and … crickets. Reading this is assuring. I hate that I’m not alone and hate that the thing that connects us is so awful. Thank you for sharing, Roo. I want and will create a better world for my daughter.

      • Reply Ray November 4, 2016 at 10:31 pm

        Self-righteous much? How can you be so self-involved that you can’t see any valid reasons for voting for him? I realize that both sides of this election do everything to demonize their opposition, but I would expect that someone who clearly feels confident enough to speak out against Trump would have done any kind of research on him. He never said that he raped anyone or anything so vile. I understand that what he said on the recording was wrong, yes, but you’ve never said anything stupid. I know I threaten to kill everyone around me three times a day, but, of course, I do not mean it. I see your motivations are good; wanting a better world for your daughter is honorable. However, claiming that Hillary can’t be worse than Trump only shows either your ignorance or your arrogance, or both. That said, people who say that these comments SHOULD be said are just like this but on the opposite side of the spectrum. Perhaps you should learn to see why other people feel the way they do instead of only explaining why you feel the way you do.

  • Reply Cassandra Whiting October 13, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Thank you. Thank you.

    • Reply Roo October 13, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      I was feeling awfully anxious about this post, and was ready to pull it back into drafts, but your comment made me tear up a little bit. Thanks for being exactly what I needed. 💕

  • Reply Maggs October 13, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Thank you for your bravery and words. Thank for you being willing, and able, to take a stand for yourself and others.
    And thank you for eloquently reminding me how GROSS it is to be told “Your blossoming into quite the lovely young lady!” *barf*

    I’m sorry you have seemingly had more than your fair share of this nonsense, too. I wish nobody NEEDED reminding, though. Perhaps someday…

    • Reply Roo October 14, 2016 at 9:21 am

      I feel like it *should* already be a blanket rule that no one should comment on a teenager’s progress through puberty. I’m cringing thinking about how gross it is.

  • Reply Karen October 13, 2016 at 11:52 am

    I’ve had these terrible experiences as my younger self and I can assure you it is genuinely terrifying when a stranger whips out their penis and makes a lewd remark. Thank you for sharing your history. I don’t know how to make this stop but I believe it starts with speaking up.

    • Reply Roo October 13, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      It really is terrifying! I was eight months pregnant, with a friend who had *her* toddler, leaving a Target and some guy whipped out his penis in front of us. Police caught him in his car a few rows over (they suggested he was masturbating) and were kind of surprised that we wanted him arrested. He claimed that he was “just having a little fun.” I don’t know how to make it stop, either, but I’ll take suggestions.

  • Reply Tanja October 13, 2016 at 11:52 am

    As always well written. As a Canadian, I pray that come November Americans don’t elect a man who has openly talked about sexual assault like it’s ok.

    • Reply Roo October 13, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks, Tanja. And me, too.

  • Reply Lisa S October 13, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I can relate to 100% of this piece. And that’s awful to say. Thank you for this!

    • Reply Roo October 13, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      It really is. I’m sorry, Lisa.

  • Reply jennifer p October 13, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Amen sister.

  • Reply Katy October 13, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    I have experienced sexual abuses since the age of five. Additionally, I have had multiple experiences of not being heard or defended or protected when my stories were shared, even by “well-meaning” friends and family. The injuries run deep and permanent and ever raw. Like you, I shudder at the thought of my little girls enduring life as a female in this insensitive world.
    Thank you for putting this out there.

  • Reply Sharmyn October 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you for expressing what so many of us have felt, at one time or another. For me, it was an incident at the age of 15 involving the schoolbus driver. It surprised me that, 40 years later, the memory still brings shame and sadness.

  • Reply Caron October 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    This. So much this.

    Of all the MANY times I’ve been harassed the time a guy told me he’d like to “fuck me in the mouth” makes me ache even to this day. ALL the men who condone this behavior are part of the problem. We all must be courageous and speak up!

  • Reply Chiconky October 13, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Yes. Perfectly written. Thank you.

  • Reply Sarah October 13, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you. <3

    • Reply Roo October 14, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Thanks for reading, Sarah. ❤️

  • Reply Mary Anthony October 14, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Thank you so much. I hate that we all have these stories. My stomach knots with rage when I think of my daughters having these stories. The hope in my heart comes from the power in telling the stories, telling the truth.

  • Reply gina (fitnessista) October 14, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you for writing this and for putting into words what so many of us are feeling. <3

  • Reply Vera October 19, 2016 at 8:05 am

    A M E N!!! Drop the mic. Perfectly written.
    Thank you.

  • Reply Laura October 19, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks for your voice of bravery, honesty, and strength. You’re the best.

  • Reply Sarah October 28, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I, like any woman, have experienced what you describe, and I’m feeling the revulsion in dredging up those moments and how I often don’t speak up for myself. But I think it’s important to note that this candidate for the “family values” party did not come out of nowhere. People who are made to feel like victims are just waiting for permission to be bullies. We are responsible for raising not just women but men (ahem, Brock Turner) who understand that this treatment of women/minorities/etc. is not just wrong, but utterly immoral. We need to raise kids who do not tolerate the goods that the most visible bullies are selling. The party has, over years, systematically associated certain behaviors with being manly/cowboy-ish in a way that, at best, idealizes a very pigeon-holed role for women, and at worst, is disparaging to women. It hasn’t gone unnoticed; in response, women have been flocking away from the party for years. And yet, Scott DesJarlais was elected and reelected by a constituency that apparently prizes family values. I am disappointed not just in our leaders, but in our electorate, and the implications for the future generations this electorate is raising.

  • Reply Lauren January 5, 2017 at 1:35 am

    Trump was elected. Thank you, Jesus. Now we don’t have to deal with Hillary. Also, I’m a woman who has dealt with sexual assault and yes, I have a daughter.

    • Reply Roo January 9, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Your comment is irrelevant to the topic of the post.

  • Reply Titania Jordan October 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I love you. Thank you.

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