Megyn Kelly was shocked on her morning program at the stories coming out from women about their workplace harassment. I am not. I was born in 1962, the Mad Men era. Growing up, when there were parties at our house, I had to sit on strange men’s laps as a child — it always creeped me out.
Inappropriate touching and comments started at home. I was taught to avoid situations. I was taught boys only wanted one thing. Despite the fact that I was raised to do well in school and have a career, I was also raised with this notion of women as sexual objects that boys just wanted sex from and somehow it was my responsibility to fight it off.
Rape culture was the norm. How was she dressed? Oh, she was asking for it. Oh, she drank — it was her fault. Oh, she should not have been walking alone at night. Always it was the victim’s fault — and worse, she wanted it.
At 14, I went with my parents on a business trip to Asia. I was sent to spend the day at the American school with the other children of business folks. I was a ballerina and already obsessed with thinness. I was dressed in a long quilted denim skirt and cream colored T-shirt with a crocheted accent neckline. I liked it because it accented my dancer’s waistline.
I don’t remember the school day, but we headed afterward to this tiny hole in the wall and everyone ordered frozen beer. It was stifling hot out, so I did, too. There were about 10 of us ranging in age from 14 to 17. An older boy with a mustache was looking at me. The decision was made to move the party to someone’s house so we piled into taxis.
The boy who was looking at me held a door open for me, and I hopped in. We were the only two in the cab. I did not know that we were headed a different way. We ended up at his parent’s house. So, of course, I got out. Little did I know no one else was home.
When he kissed me, that was great. When he went for more, that was not — I had barely been kissed before. I tried to stop him, but he was much bigger than me. As things progressed, I cried, screamed and passed out. When I came to, there was blood everywhere, and he made some comment about the blood on the sheets.
I gathered my clothes, found a phone and called a cab — I don’t even know how I pulled it together to do that. At the hotel my mother asked what was wrong. I told her I had my period — which I did (in hindsight thankfully).
Something in me knew I could not tell her at that time. It took me five years to say anything. When I finally did, she remembered that moment. Her response: “You were a savvy kid. How did you get yourself in that position?”
Classic victim blaming.
No. I was not a savvy kid. How did I get in that position? My parents put me there — the very people who were supposed to protect me. I was not dressed provocatively. I was dressed, in fact, modestly by any standards.
When I think back to the number of times at work, at parties, at home when things were said that should not have been, I am astounded. I think of the many times at many jobs when creepy men would paw at me and I would just stand there trying to just go home.
For me, teachers in school ended up not being safe but seducers. I am saddened to think how I avoided an entire department in college because of it. Yes, Megyn, this has been reality for decades. Speaking up meant retribution. I know because I did. I turned in letters that got a professor fired, and his friend, the head of the department of my major, took it out on me.
We pass laws that do not even give women dominion over their own bodies, yet we are surprised that men think they own us?
I am not the only one who is naive.
Cathleen London is a physician with a private practice, Door To Door Doctors, in Milbridge.
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