Recognizing a thin Line

Posted: July 8, 2013 in Past issues

I’m a lucky girl. I am 26 years old and I cannot say that I am scarred in any way when it comes to sexual harrassment, being molested, rape, and the likes. Sure – there HAS been sexual harrassment. But nothing that really hurt me.

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I have to say I am quite self-esteemed and what happened to me most likely would’ve been a lot more hurtful for other girls. I also have seen so many times how women got into really uncomfortable situations when a guy didn’t know when it’s time to stop.

The advice I usually give is: search the public. If you scream at him, if you hit him, whatever – if you are LOUD, people will turn around and actually recognize that there is a girl with an unwelcome guy around her. This gives the folks around you the opportunity to take an eye on you if necessary instead of thinking this is a private issue or maybe just playful banter between a flirting couple.

But there are situations when public just isn’t around.

We all know that most cases of rape happen within the family or a circle of friends.

I still cannot imagine how this must be like and I am dead glad I don’t have to. To recognize that it is WRONG what people who should encourage, love and respect you must be a huge thing to master. To turn against them even more.

But as for someone like me who has an awesome family and great friends it always was seen as quite unevitable that girls who experience must , at least inside of them, feel the need to fight back, even if they don’t dare to.

Until I remembered some things from my past.

Like already said, I have been really lucky in this area and I really don’t want to make my petty experiences with this sound crasser than they are.

It just made me think.

I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. I was at my grandmother’s who used to run a bed & breakfast back then and there was a family with a daughter of maybe 17 years old. The family came practically every year and were good friends with my granny since.

As a little girl it seemed so much cooler to play and hang out with that girl who was so much older, of course!

She, on the other hand, did not really feel like being around such a little girl very often. But since there were no other young ones around, she did here and then and I felt quite honoured of having such a „grown-up“ friend.

Oh God, this is gonna sound so cliché – but yes, she convinced me to play „doctor“. Just that in her opinion this meant locking the door, darkening the room and heavily massaging my non-existing breasts.

I can’t say I suffered from this. I just thought what a stupid and incredibly boring way it was to play this game like that!

Many, many years later I only recognized what had really happened to me.

Until then I didn’t even really remember.

Several years later, being 16, I used to go a lot for long walks with my dog and on the way home I often stopped at an inn. The owners were friends of my parents and I often got ice cream or at least a glass of coke for free when I came along, and they were really very nice!

There was a regular’s table of the local hunters, some of which my parents also knew well and it was always fun to listen to their exaggerated stories; I liked them, they were entertaining, and often enough they paid me a second glass.

They had always been making stupid and sometimes salacious remarks but I didn’t care, it was never serious and, to be honest, this was not so unnormal for men in their 50ies on the countryside, especially when they sit and drink in a pub. I had learnt to deal with it, take it with humour and talk back – which was much appreciated. They never took it over the top.

Except for one time when one of them put his hand on top of my thigh. And you know what? I didn’t say anything. It would’ve been too embarrassing. He left that hand there for about 10 minutes and I sat still and ignored it cause that way at least nobody would notice since my thigh with his hand on it was hidden under the table.

Two years later: I took driving lessons, eagerly awaiting my licence. The teacher was an old friend of my father, about 60 years old and a really friendly and funny man in his 60ies.

In Germany there is (or was) a rule that, in order to be allowed to apply for your licence, you have to do one ride at night and one long-time ride for about 2 hours. We decided that we’d do both rides in one because that way it would be a lot cheaper for me.

Even before that ride I had noticed that said driving teacher had the bad habit of lightly patting on my thigh when he wanted me to drive faster or slower. But in a really unsuspicious manner (if you can say that at all) so that I was a bit annoyed but not really uncomfortable.

But on that ride at night, after like 15 minutes, his hand stayed there on my thigh, quite close to my crotch.

Again, I kept my mouth shut. The only reaction of mine was passive aggressive, like being not really friendly – maybe even bitchy. The whole ride I felt extremely dirty and helpless, it was indeed awful. I had forgotten about it 1 or 2 months afterwards, so it wasn’t really „bad“. But that’s not the point.

In the last 2 cases I totally knew what they were doing was wrong, that it was misuse and absolutely creepy!

Nevertheless my long-term memory didn’t file this under „sexual harassment“. I don’t know why.

The only thing I ever mentioned was the thigh patting of the driving teacher, to my mom. She was all „Whhaatttt?“ and I even defended him, saying that he does the light patting with all of his students, even the males (although I don’t think this was true). My mom was somewhat calmed that way. I can be really convincing.

The thing is: my parents would’ve always been on my side, totally! If I had told them, boooy, you can bet they would’ve given the responsible ones shit like nothing else!!!

But I didn’t say a word.

But why?

Classical answer: I didn’t want to cause a scene. I was ashamed.

Don’t get me wrong – I  totally knew what wouldve been the right thing to do and I so knew that I myself had no reason at all to be ashamed!

Fact is: I didn’t tell because I didn’t want my parents to feel uncomfortable. These two old jerks were family friends or loose friends, but nevertheless friends. If I had told my mom or dad, I would have put them in an uncomfortable position, to realize their friends are assholes, to get angry, to have a silent word with them, to worry about their daughter, to enrage them for the fact that they had no possibility to prevent it. I decided to bear that cross all by myself because I wanted my parents to feel good. Because I loved them so much.

And sure, that was not clever. In no way my parents would have blamed me! And if I told them now, they’d be surprised and maybe even a little intimidated that I didn’t say anything.

But what does a kid know?

This whole memory made me understand a little bit better what might go on in even worse situations. I shut up back then, me, who has always been a loudmouthed person – and had it been complete strangers, you can bet I would’ve enjoyed embarrassing them and demasking them as the perv pigs they are! – then how easily can it happen to fall into a state of silence in really bad situations?

I hope maybe if some of you gets in a position like that, you might remember this article and act better than I did.

Seriously, take care of yourselves, ladies. Some girl’s mind who is or was in a way, a lot more critical situation than I ever have experienced. I learned how dangerous it can be to slip into silence when attacking back and making things seen should’ve  been the answer.

Holler back! React.

(appeared in Wolverette Zine’s Mixed Issue)

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