Ria’s story: “It’s a little scary how young stuff like this starts.”

When I started reading through the stories on this site, my first reaction was to sympathize and think, ‘wow, this is terrible. I’m lucky to have never experienced harassment like this myself.’ I’m a bit of a shut-in and, because of this, I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life until recently. I figured I just haven’t been in many situations where harassment could take place.

But the more I thought about it–the more /this site/ got me thinking about it–the more I realized I was wrong. Even with my life as a shut-in, I /have/ experienced harassment.

When I was in sixth grade, I used to go walking in the woods with a friend of mine. On one such occasion, we wandered into a previously-unexplored part of the forest and found the remains of an old treehouse. Someone had left a pair of extremely feminine lace panties there–my friend and I were too innocent to think of /why/ they were probably there. We merely found it funny in sort of a surreal way.

Then these three boys showed up. They began taunting us, shouting at us, insulting everything from our looks to our intelligence. One of the boys picked up the underwear; he mockingly asked if it was mine, and threw it at me. When we tried to leave, they followed us or blocked our path. My friend and I were frightened, angry, and humiliated. I remember I was shaking. I was almost crying.

I had been carrying a large, solid tree branch as a walking stick, so in a moment of rage and desperation, I swung it at one of the boys. At almost twenty years old, I now understand that assaulting someone who’s harassing you isn’t exactly well-advised, but at the time I was younger and upset. I felt so helpless; no matter what we did, the boys refused to leave us alone. Luckily the boys backed off. As they backpedaled, one of the boys called me a ‘psycho bitch’, and then they were gone. Still shaking, My friend and I ran home.

For years afterwards, I categorized the incident as just some other kids being dicks, and dismissed it. In retrospect I realize that if my friend and I had been /boys/, we almost certainly would have been left alone. These boys harassed us because we were two /girls/ alone in the woods, and much of what they said involved sexual slurs.

It’s not exactly a ‘street harassment’ per se, but it strikes me because those boys were roughly two years younger. By fourth grade they already had the idea that it was okay to demand our attention, harass us, block our path. It’s a little scary how young stuff like this starts. My friend and I never went back to that part of the woods again.

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