When You’re The Victim Of Sexual Assault, Do You #ShoutBack?
Source: Everyday Sexism
Today, I discovered a Twitter trending topic that was actually worth writing about: #ShoutingBack. One of our writers, Brokey McPoverty, was discussing some type of “game” she and her peers played in middle school and with her followers. The game didn’t have a name but from what I could see several of Tracy’s followers, from all over were familiar with it. I searched “down thread” to find out what they were all talking about.
Sadly, I remember that game. And other ways in which slick comments from our male counterparts were brushed off as “boys being boys.” There was the boy, Ewing, who I liked my entire middle school career. In seventh grade, I was fortunate enough to sit at the same lab table with Ewing and one of best friends. I thought for sure, this would be the semester our love flame would grow. Instead he said something completely disrespectful. One day I dropped my pencil and bent down to pick it up. By the time my head was above the table again, Ewing, the boo in my head, said the most vile thing: “What you wanna suck me or something?!”
I snarled and turned away from him choosing to do all work for that day on my lap so I wouldn’t have to look at him. But it never occurred to me to tell on him. He was being a boy and that’s what boys, especially boys in middle school, did. In his defense, I do believe he apologized later but middle school was just the beginning of the type of sexual assault that plagues my life and the lives of young girls and women around me and around the world, on a almost daily basis.
As the discussion continued on Brokey’s page, one of followers admitted that eventually the game became so prevalent and so accepted that she found herself wanting to be involved in it, because she knew it was the boys’ way of showing affection.
As ashamed as I was to admit this to myself I had been there as well. When I first moved to New York from Indianapolis, I read this book unclothed in which black women talk about body issues, identity and self esteem. In one of the essays, one woman talked about the street harassment she endured particularly in Brooklyn. Having just relocated to Brooklyn, I wondered if these New York men would find me attractive and I secretly wished I’d get a fraction of that attention the woman talked about. Before I had only explored the neighborhood with the protection of my father; but as soon as he left and I hit the streets on my own, I learned to be careful what you wish for. By the second week of men hollering all types of disrespectful pick up lines, I knew, whether they were genuinely trying to compliment me or not, this was harassment and I didn’t want any parts of it.
There have been hundreds of examples but one of the most terrifying ones came when my cousin and I moved to the Bronx a few months later. We lived in a very sketchy neighborhood where it wasn’t uncommon to hear about our area on the news or see the blocks leading to our apartment roped off with police tape. One night when we were walking home, these two men, who we could barely see in the darkness asked us if we were walking home. We ignored them. They kept following us. They asked us if they could walk with us. We ignored them. They kept following us. And apparently took offense to our silence. “What you don’t like us because we’re not light skinned? Ya’ll want Chris Brown looking ni**as huh?” Then “Are ya’ll scared? Why are you walking away so fast?” Luckily it ended with them turning in another direction and my cousin and I getting into our apartment, shaken but unharmed.
The tragic thing about this type of harassment is that it’s not uncommon. Anywhere you go in the world, you’ll find men assaulting women verbally or physically. And many times we, women never say anything about it. We let it ride, assuming that this is just our lot in life, the way of the world, just how men do what they do. But the days of silence are very played out.
A campaign called #ShoutingBack started by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, encourages women to be more vocal about the types of sexual assault they’ve experienced, letting other women know that they’re not alone and that it’s not okay.
Check out this video of women detailing the types of assault they’ve experienced from right around the time they hit puberty, to present day.
What are some examples of the types of sexual assaults you experienced? Did you always feel comfortable speaking about these incidents?