The first time I experienced “street” harassment it was from male classmates. I was 11. And I was at school.
I was the first girl in my grade to hit puberty and when I did at age 10 it hit me like a brick wall. By 6th grade, I had real boobs. Not like little buds that so many girls get at that age. No. I had titties. Despite my attempts to hide them under sport bras and baggy t-shirts, they attracted LOADS of unwanted attention from just about everyone.
Reactions ranged. At first, I got a lot of looks. Most of them either leering or disapproving. Then, as we got older and the (primarily) boys got bolder, looks turned into snide comments, which turned into shouting obscenities and even unwanted physical contact.
To make matters worse, I had to wear a back brace for scoliosis that, while preventing the S curve in my spine from becoming any more pronounced, also had the unfortunate effect of pushing up my boobs and making them more obvious than they already were.
There was one kid, Cory, who made it his life’s mission to make me as uncomfortable as he possibly could, even going so far as to try to pull my shirt down in the hallway on one rare day when I wore a tank top. But he wasn’t the only one.
The one thing that hit me the hardest was the reaction I received from the people who were supposed to be there to help me. Teachers, school nurses, and principals alike were more concerned with telling me what I was doing wrong than reprimanding the guys who were making my life hell. Their suggestions ranged from telling me how to dress to suggesting I stop wearing the brace that was stopping me from becoming physically deformed later in life.
This was just a primer for what I was going to experience for the rest of my life. By the time I got to college, street harassment became more physical, more aggressive, and more dangerous. I’ve watched my female friends be pushed over, groped, shouted at, and intimidated by strange men, often peers, countless times. Once, sitting on the train on a Thursday evening, I had some bulky guy in a BU jersey put his hand on my leg and ask if I wanted to do him a few favors. Frozen in shock, I stared at him blankly until the train stopped and practically pushed him out of the seat next to me so I could get away.
If I could make one request of those reading my entry, it would be this: if you see someone being a jackass, say something to them. If you remain silent like all of those people on the train who watched that guy try to feel me up, you become part of the problem. If no one confronts dangerous behavior, it doesn’t stop.
This post is part of a series of contributed posts about individual experiences with street harassment. If you are interested in sharing your experiences, please submit.
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