Elaine’s Story: “People should never brush off sexual harassment”

This happened when I was 13, and the memory’s stayed with me since. I was at my school camp, taking canoe lessons with the rest of the class. The canoe instructor, who was next to me, kept leering and saying things like, “You’re so pretty, what’s your name?” Being 13 and painfully shy, the only way I knew how to deal with it was ignore him.

I thought he’d just go away. Instead, he said, “Come on, I’m not going to bite you,” and grabbed my left arm and actually bit me. It wasn’t a deep bite but it was repulsive. He then proceeded to, what I now understand in retrospect, hump his canoe.

When I told my teacher about this, she brushed me off and said, “Oh, they’re just fooling around. Don’t take it so seriously.” Well, it was frightening, disgusting, and even now, 8 years later, those feelings are still with me.

People should never brush off sexual harassment just because it’s too troublesome to deal with it, or just because nothing seriously illegal was involved!

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