Unlike a lot of women I know personally and virtually, I am fortunate that I have never been assaulted. I’ve never been in a situation where I was absolutely powerless.
In tenth grade, another student on the school bus described in detail how he would like to tie up me and a friend and what he would do. We said nothing. I remember to this day feeling threatened and vowing never to be alone with that kid. He was two years younger than me, but bigger and stronger. I’d found him creepy before, but now I had a definite reason.
A year later, at a new school 150 miles away, I walked home from school one day when two boys decided to follow me home in a car. They drove slowly, keeping pace with my steps, yelling that I was a bitch and that they would kill me. I did nothing to provoke this. I barely knew these kids.
That time, I did say something to my parents. They followed up with the principal. The principal followed up on something unrelated my Dad told him. It was associated with the shouted death threats but as far as I know, there were never any repercussions for them, just confirmation what my dad said was true.
Years passed. In college and grad school, I did a few stupid things like walking alone across campus well after dark and accepting a walk home from a man I’d never met in person. I never felt unsafe with any of men I socialized with at the time, whether they were friends or something more. I trusted them and never felt any of them would be violent towards me.
In my twenties, I settled for a relationship with a man I did not fully trust, who I was not completely comfortable with. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. I truly believe he would have been physically abusive had he thought he could get away with it.
These are the experiences I remember. These are the times I remember feeling unsafe, the times I was made aware that the men hurling words at me could physically overpower me.
Words have power. Words can summon fear. Saying what you would like to do to another person does not make you more attractive. It does not make you stronger. It does not make you better. It is not funny. It is behavior that should not be brushed aside or laughed about. This behavior is not acceptable. If it makes you uncomfortable, call people out for it. Don’t bite your tongue like I did. The next time it happens, I am speaking up.
My experiences pale in comparison to what so many have had to endure. But I will stand by the women and men who have experienced assault and abuse.