When I was 12: the long-term impacts of harassment

It’s hard for me to tell this story because I was so shamed and distressed by it, but it’s good too, to share.

This happened a long time ago, but I think it’s helpful because it shows how this sort of harassment can hurt for a long time.

When I was 12 I was at the Winter Fair at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa with my 6th grade class. We were all running around being silly, having escaped teacher supervision. At that age I had already developed as a woman. As I was running past this old man who looked like a farmer, he yelled at me, “Nice tits!”. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It scared me and I still feel scared as I type this. The rest of the day was blur, except when he yelled it at me again, about 20 minutes later. That night I went to a family gathering at my Grandma’s and I felt depressed, anxious, withdrawn, dirty, moody and ashamed. I honestly felt like I would never feel safe and comfortable with my body or my self again. It took time but I healed from this; however, my body still feels the fear and shame today when I think of this.

I was sensitive as a pre-teen about my sexuality and it’s taken me a long time to become confident in it; it’s something I’m still working on at age 31.

I don’t know why a man would need to say something like that to a young girl, but anything we can do to stop this sort of action is important and valuable. I want the world to be a place where people feel good, confident, safe and respected. Thanks for creating this site!!

Submitted by Charlotte

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  1. Cathy says:

    I share a similar story, Charlotte. I was 11 and hanging out with a friend at the park. We were sitting on a bench when this creepy old man (probably homeless) walked right up to us and said, “I’d like to eat your pussy,” etc etc. We were so surprised we didn’t know what to do. Luckily a male friend was walking by so I yelled, “Hey Tommy, come over here!” When the creep saw Tommy walking over to us, he walked away.

    I was scared and disgusted and I even felt ashamed. That happened over a decade ago, but it still feels like it happened yesterday. Things like that have a tendency to stick with you, no matter how much time has passed.

    I, too, am glad this site was made. It lets people know they are not alone in experiencing these awful events.

  2. Jenn Jilks says:

    I have had a similar experience or two.
    Being groped on the subway when I was in high school.
    Running down a lane in downtown Toronto, only to have a man spit at me as I ran passed him.
    As a 10-yr. old walking by a car to my corner store where a man was sitting in his volkswagon, holding out his penis from out of his pants.
    I felt ashamed. I felt guilty. I felt disgusted. I was afraid to tell my mother, but told a friend, who told her mother who told my mother. I felt even worse when my mother asked why I didn’t tell her. I knew how they felt about sex. It wasn’t discussed. How could I explain this? More shame. More guilt.

    I didn’t have the vocabulary, the knowledge, the understanding of it all.
    It haunts me, 40 years later.
    We must stand up to this bullying. We must prevent it before children grow up to be bullies. I carry my camera everywhere these days.
    What a great self-defence mechanism.

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