My earliest memory of feeling creeped out, based on a male’s behaviour towards me, is from around age 7. I’m sitting on an uncle’s lap, while he and his son, my older cousin, joke suggestively about it. No one else hears or notices. All I understand is the feeling I get; thanks to the instincts I was born with. I jump down and sit on the floor. I don’t tell anyone about feeling strange.
A few years later, still a child - I’m walking along my country road, alone. A man drives up beside me and stops. “Ever seen one of these?” - he watches me intently as I approach his car and look in at the erect penis in his hand. Calmly, I say, “fuck off!”, turn around, walk up a neighbor’s driveway, and wait until I’m sure he is gone. I don’t tell anyone.
Fast forward to my first job. I’m a teenager. The ice cream shop owner that I work for likes to fondle the girl’s bottoms. I’m the only girl working this afternoon and it’s getting uncomfortable enough that I call home, ask to be picked up. My family arrives, I give them all free ice cream cones, and quit. I don’t talk about why.
Highschool, myself and a friend are getting a short lift back to our car, from classmates we know as acquaintances. They have other ideas. We fight them off.
It’s later the same year - a male customer from my workplace, who I’m nice to, like all the other customers, surprises me at the back door one night as I’m closing the shop. Sexual assault with a weapon. He’s charged. I’m forced to testify in an open court room. He harasses me on my way in and my way out of the courthouse. After his release, he stalks and intimidates me. I move away to Toronto, where he finds me and continues to stalk and intimidate me, for months. The one time I do speak out, I learn it’s not worth it.
Forward along to my 20s - I’m in the music business, where any number of opportunities might come my way if I’m a little less professional and a lot more willing. I lose track of how many ‘business’ meetings get uncomfortable. I don’t speak up, I just scratch the creeps off my list, one by one – then I get a manager to represent me.
I was a smart girl and I’m a smart woman. I’m confident and I can take care of myself. The older I’ve become, the less I’m targeted. Lately I’ve questioned why my response has been so muted over my lifetime’s experiences. All I can say is, it felt natural to retreat. When something has spooked you in that way, all you want to do is remove yourself from danger, to flee from the creep.
Women are now saying “me too”. The silence became too excruciating. There’s comfort in numbers.
Where do we go from here? In some countries men can still beat their wives, legally. Let’s start there. And let’s just say until every woman has the right, in every aspect of her life, to be treated with respect, and to feel safe from sexual predators, then we have not arrived. We still won’t have arrived until every man agrees and is fully on board with the idea, that women deserve to be treated with the same respect that men have eagerly bestowed upon themselves, for centuries.
We go towards mutual respect. We go towards education, empathy, open communication, positive role modelling and creating a new paradigm where this shit is out in the open, and extinguished, for good.