We, Too: A Callout on Harassment

We asked you to share your stories of sexual harassment and assault with us. Here they are.

If you’ve experienced the power dynamics inherent in most workplaces and in our society at large, then the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Harvey Weinstein may come as no surprise. Our bodies have always been subjected to the whims of men at the top. They’ve also been subjected to the whims of men at the bottom and anywhere in between — a stranger exposing himself to you on the street, your creepy uncle, your friends, your clients, your colleagues, your lovers, your mentors. We asked you to share your stories with us. Here they are.

About a year or so ago man exposed himself to me and several other women across a subway platform. Emboldened and encouraged by the female rage around me, I went upstairs to alert the police. I relayed my story to the officer on duty and was told that there was nothing he could do since he couldn’t leave his post. He asked if the flasher was being aggressive and said he would file a report. I returned back to the platform to inform the rest of the women around me, and we stood there helplessly while the flasher continued exposing himself. Eventually our train came and we got on, leaving him behind to do this to the next group of women. I felt shame in this moment, because I thought I did what I was supposed to do, that I alerted who I was supposed to. I felt ashamed for how briefly empowered I felt representing the women on that platform, and how helpless I felt returning to them empty-handed.

I once let a boy I never met grope me on a bus. I was young, maybe junior high school age. I was so mixed with emotions – I wanted to gain sexual experience like many of the girls around me (at this point I had never even been kissed) but simultaneously I knew this was not the way it should happen. I eventually stopped him and he was angry and I apologized. He changed his seat. The feelings of shame stayed with me for at least another year or so, until I realized that I had nothing to be sorry for. I don’t think I even knew his name.

While at my sister in laws house helping care for her 3 children while she recovered upstairs from having their 4th child that morning, my brother in law grabs my ass and finds every excuse to rub his crotch against me. When I told him to please stop and reminded him that his wife was upstairs recovering from having a 10lb baby, he tells me to shut up and that I “like it”. I tell him no forcibly again and try to keep myself surrounded by my nieces and nephews or make excuses to be near my sil. Later, when we took the children out to dinner so their mom could rest, he moves my nephew aside to sit next to me. Then while the children are looking at their menus and are distracted, he grabs my hand and forces me to touch his hard penis through his pants and whispers to me that he’s hard for me and his pants are wet with precum and that he fantasizes about me. I couldn’t leave without causing a scene and didn’t have my car with me. My relationship with my nieces and nephews that I love is no longer close since I try to avoid all contact with their sleazy dad. I miss them.

I’d been hooking up with a male friend for a few months. It was very “when we’re both in the mood” and only happened every so often. One night, we went out and partied with friends. We came back to sleep on our friend’s couch. We were both really drunk. I was talking to someone new, and I didn’t want to hook up with my friend because I wasn’t feeling it anymore; I wanted to focus on the possible relationship I was building. He was drunk and kept pushing it. I was drunk and got tired of saying no over and over. I left him do stuff to me and I came, then we went to bed. I’ve never felt grosser about something, and I felt guilty and as though I had no right to complain since it was one sided toward me. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. I never told anyone. I can’t tell my husband. So the story had just existed inside me. I am sharing it here in case it can help someone. Remember: It can be a friend you would have willingly hooked up with another time. In any situation, no means no. Drunk or sober. Friend or stranger. That word is enough.

I used to work at a school where I would respond to behavioral crises. Part of my job was to make sure all of the students got on and off their buses safely and were all accounted for. Several bus drivers would make frequent comments about how “sexy” I was, how much they enjoyed watching me, and one even told me that I “needed to be spanked”. I didn’t want to report any of this to my boss, because he had once let it slip that he had passed me over for a promotion before because I was a woman. I was afraid that he would feel justified for discriminating against me, because this wouldn’t have happened to a man. (And if you’re thinking that I should have gone to HR with my boss’s comment…..our HR representative had made flirtatious comments to me and several other female colleagues and had actually sexually harassed a woman who used to work there. Didn’t seem like a great source of support for issues facing women).

When I was in high school I had a boyfriend who clearly valued the sexual part of our relationship above all other aspects. I considered it normal; we were hormonal, sexually active high schoolers and he was the guy, the guy is always hornier than the girl, right? I really cared about him as a person and enjoyed being in a relationship, so I’d brush it off when all I wanted to do was cuddle and watch a movie but every five minutes I’d have to push his hands away from creeping up my shirt or down my pants. First it was laughingly, then more exasperatedly, but no matter what he persisted. Usually I’d give in and we’d fool around – he was my boyfriend, after all. Sometimes I wouldn’t and he’d get upset about it, the implication always being that it was owed as part of the pact of our being “boyfriend-girlfriend”. I fear that this is still typical, that we teach ourselves and our daughters that they owe something to men. It took many years for me to learn that we don’t.

I compartmentalize these moments so well that at first I thought I didn’t have any Weinstein-like stories to share. The worst has not yet happened to me. I’ve never been raped. But I’ve been made to feel unsafe. When I worked late night shifts, I would choose work shoes based on how well I could run in them to outpace men who followed me home from the subway. After one bad OkCupid date ended up with me reading up on state stalking laws, I bought mace. When dates invite me over for the first time, I remember their floor plans for exit strategies. These are all terribly ordinary calculations women walking home alone at night have to make. I barely realize I’m calculating the equation of how to have fun and live life without getting killed by a man over it, but it’s math I solve for constantly.

Most recently, I had someone I barely knew expose nudes of mine without my consent or knowledge. She gained access to my nudes by violating the rules of a sex pos group that’s full of survivors of assault (myself included), and she violated the trust of that group by exposing me to her friends at a bar, for fun, all while body shaming me. A friend of mine who was there when this happened told me what happened almost immediately, and I flipped out.

There was blowback, I was slut-shamed, threatened with a lawsuit for libel (typical attempt by an abuser to silence a victim), and half assed apologies were sent my way. Right now, I’m just furious. Furious because all of these “allies” I know are posting #metoo who KNOW what she did, yet they’re still vocal friends with her and the people complicit in my exposure. I feel fucking violated, and it’s traumatic seeing the constant reminder of what happened when I go online. It’s almost morbidly hilarious to me, making me feel like simultaneously laughing and crying.

How can these people talk such a big game about allyship and feminism and STILL be friends with this person, knowing what happened? It’s just so funny. It’s so goddamn easy to to drag someone that you don’t know for something like this, but then it’s your friend or best bud, the person you’re probably MOST responsible for holding accountable outside of family, and suddenly you’re making excuses for them. Hold your friends accountable. Don’t make posts about fake allies when you’re one yourself. Sorry if this is incoherent. I’m just disgusted out of my fucking mind right now.

I was a freshmen in college when I met a boy through my roommate’s boyfriend. We went out a couple times and one night I brought him back to my place. We were on the couch in the living and I was *very* clear that I only wanted to make out. As we were making out he started talking about wanting to have sex. I said absolutely. I think he thought I was a virgin because he started saying “don’t be scared, it won’t hurt.” I kept saying no. At this point he was on top of my and had me pinned down on the couch. As I was saying no and he was telling me not to be “scared,” he started undoing his belt buckle. I tried to push him off of me but I wasn’t strong enough. At that very moment, my roommate walked into our apartment with her boyfriend. Jose immediately got off of me and sat up straight. I made him leave. We never talked or hung out again. The most fucked up part of all of this is that while I was afraid in the moment it was happening, I laughingly brushed off the whole incident as “boys will be boys.” It wasn’t until years later that I not only remember what happened, but also realized how close I had been to being raped.

My ex decided to Photoshop me into nude pictures and send them to my family and friends and posted them online in an all male group. It has been a rocky road since then, i am blessed to have supportive parents and friends but the effect it has on my mind is irreparable.

I was abused by my mother’s father as a child. I didn’t say no because I was raised knowing you have to respect your elders…that good girls don’t disrespect their elders and do as they are told. Even though in my gut I knew what was happening was wrong – I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I finally turned to a guidance counselor at school. I have little to no memory of the few years immediately after that time in my life…its just a blank spot in my memory. In the days and years since I first spoke up, it was made clear to me that I needed to protect my secret – and my abuser – from others finding out. Who would want to marry me if they knew? From a young age, I learned people would judge me before they would judge my abuser.

On a trip overseas, I was shopping for jeans at the mall with my cousin. We went into a store and the shopkeeper asked me my size. I didn’t know what my size would be, so he said he would measure my waist. As he wrapped the tape measure around my waist his hands “jumped up” to caress my breasts. I was 14. I was so shocked and embarrassed, my cousin and I made eye contact and neither of us knew what to do. I paid for the jeans and we quickly left. I never stood up for myself. I didn’t know how to.

On the night of my college graduation, my alcoholic ex got extremely inebriated, as he often did. We were on the dance floor. As we were dancing, he kept getting more and more aggressive, trying to shove his hands up my dress. He assaulted me on the dance floor of the club we were at with his friends. No one stopped him. I’m sure they saw me trying to get him off of me. No one intervened.

An Interview with the Woman Whose Protest Sign Led to the Resignation of a State Senator

Becky Haines shares her side to the story of how a retweeted photograph led to the resignation of Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner.

 By Frida Oskarsdottir

Becky Haines headed home from the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st with a renewed sense of hope. Hours later, a photograph of her and her sisters carrying signs that read “Not this Pussy” and “Not Mine Either” was tweeted by conservative talk show host Larry Elder, with the caption “Ladies, I think you’re safe.” The tweet gained thousands of likes and was retweeted by Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner. Many were incensed by Kintner’s endorsement of these remarks, and, amid the controversy, he resigned. Viral news of this nature often ignores the real people involved. We spoke to Becky to hear her side of the story.

How did you decide to attend the Women’s March?

My sister and I, I don’t know who said first, but we were like “Hey, we want to do this.” We invited our third sister to join us and we went together. We haven’t done anything together as sisters in a very long time, it was special in that context alone.

Had you ever marched before?

This was the first time I have ever taken a stand politically. I have never protested or marched or ever really cared about politics until now.

How did you decide on the signs?

My sister Nancy’s husband is an artist and he made us these beautiful hand-painted signs, one said ‘Treat Everyone with Respect. Period.’ and one said ‘United We Stand.’ And we flipped the signs over (laughing) and made our own signs because he refused to paint that for us.

So we actually had very beautiful politically correct signs on one side which we carried maybe 10% of the day and on the other side were more publicized signs that you’ve seen all over the place. And we are all very, we’re sort of reserved people and so that was big for us to carry these signs.

What was the reaction at the march? Did you see similar signs?

There were similar signs. Easily a hundred people asked if they could take our picture. We saw this wall behind one of the museums and said “Let’s get up on that wall.” So we’re above the crowd and not getting jostled but still can see everything that’s going on and be a part of everything. So we’re standing above everybody and people would stop and ask if they could stop and take our picture and yelled that they loved our signs.

How did you feel after the march?

I felt hopeful. I woke up Friday morning feeling depressed and afraid. Saturday after marching with my sisters I found my hope again. There are so many of us that are going to fight for each other. It was arm to arm people, no one shoved, no one said an unkind word. It was beautiful.

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Bill Kintner retweeted Larry Elder’s tweet after the Women’s March. Haines is pictured here, center, with her two sisters.

How did you find out about how your picture was circulating?

Originally a friend here (in PA) had posted it on my Facebook page but it was from a local conservative talk radio DJ and I could not figure out where he got the photo. At that point I had no idea that it had gone viral. And then my niece saw it on a blog and texted it to me in a panic because she didn’t know how to tell her mother. I said we had to tell them before it gets in the mainstream media and so we told both my sisters. I’m perfectly comfortable with it. It brought someone down that shouldn’t be in office. And even though it’s very indirect that I had any contribution to that I feel very proud that my photo helped to take him down. It made it worth the hateful comments.

The timeline was so immediate, he (Kintner) retweeted the photo, there was backlash, and a few days later he resigned. Were you following closely or just hoping the attention would go away?

I was following very closely. When it all came to light, my son posted on Facebook Mr. Kintner’s contact information and asked his friends to call and fax and write to ask for his resignation. He resigned that morning and my phone was blowing up.

I haven’t seen the video of his press conference but I read his response, he didn’t really take responsibility for his actions or ever apologize for what he did.

When you started hearing of the photos circulating were you surprised by the magnitude of it and the people who reached out to you?

Initially I was hearing only from people that I knew, and then I wrote a post to Pantsuit Nation that was published, and that was viewed over 33,000 times and over 2500 hundred comments, 99.9% were supportive and the people who expressed a negative comment were immediately challenged by someone else.

What would you say is the takeaway from this?

I feel like I made a difference. I feel like all of us becoming active, those of us who don’t stand with what the current administration is doing, we can make a difference. One little step at a time, but it gave me hope that we can turn the tide.

Are you going to go to any more protests in the near future?

I am! It’s funny I was just working on my sign, I’m going on Sunday in Harrisburg where I live at the Capitol, against the ban on immigration.

Becky Haines

What does your sign say?

It’s a picture of the Statue of Liberty with the words at the base, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who yearn to breathe free.”

We have to remain united, especially women, we have to take care of and support each other. I know that the news this week was that Trump is not going to take away LGBTQ rights. I have a gay son and that’s extremely important to me and my theory is that that’ll change down the road.

So this is personal for you in many ways?

Absolutely. I was in an abusive marriage; the verbal abuse of women is a huge point for me. I’ve had mental health issues which would preclude me, god forbid, from getting insurance if I ever switched employers. They are too numerous to mention the reasons why I’m willing to march out in the snow on Sunday.

Thank you, Becky.

Thank you and keep marching!