Every Woman Has a Story Like Mine

“I want to fuck your daughter.”

Does my own #MeToo story still count if I was unaware of it for much of my life?  Can I still claim it as my own unfortunate, unwanted slice of the #MeToo movement when it has not traumatized me in the way other women have been traumatized by their experiences?

I have been wondering this a lot recently, particularly in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the other courageous women coming forward with their accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh.  Truly horrible things were done to them.  Nothing happened to me – not technically, anyway.  But of course it counts.  Of course I can claim it.  Because the only reason it did not re-write my entire perspective on the world is because my parents kept the details of it from me for over a decade.

Because how do you explain to a seven-year-old, who doesn’t even know what sex is yet, that a boy at school says he wants to fuck her?

“I want to fuck your daughter.”

I don’t remember many details of this particular period of my life.  But what I do remember is this: His name was Jimmy.  He was nine, just a couple years older than myself.  I knew of him because he and a friend’s older brother were in the same class.  I remember Jimmy talking to me during recess sometimes, and giving me a necklace one day.  When I came home with it and my parents asked who had given it to me, I told them.  They then told me to stay away from Jimmy, and not to take anything else from him, and to get an adult if he was ever bothering me.

Even at seven years old, I remember finding this to be an odd request.  It wasn’t like my parents to tell me not to make new friends.  But I listened.  In the end it didn’t end up mattering, because Jimmy never spoke to me again.

It wasn’t until much later, when I was twenty, that I learned what had actually been going on.  I learned from my mom that during this time, Jimmy had been calling our phone number, and saying to whichever of my parents picked up the phone:

“I want to fuck your daughter.”

I don’t recall how he got our home number, but in all likelihood I probably gave it to him.  Because why would a child think twice about giving that information to someone?

At first my parents thought the call was a bad joke.  I was only seven, after all.  Whoever was calling must have had the wrong number, the wrong house, the wrong daughter.

But the calls didn’t stop.  And so my parents met with officials at my school.  Told my teachers to be on the look out.  Told administrative officials who monitored us during recesses to keep an eye on me, and to keep Jimmy far away from me wherever possible.

And then my parents called the police.

The police gave my parents a means of tracing a call after it had been picked up.  So the next time Jimmy called, the police would be notified of the phone number and address on the other end of the line.  Sure enough, when Jimmy called again with his familiar refrain – my mom was the one to answer the phone that day – she traced the call and hung up.

She told me that after it happened, she found my dad in the garage and said, without preamble, “I caught the fucker.”

Later, the police could neither confirm nor deny to my parents whether or not it had been Jimmy on the other end of the line.  But they had made a trip out to the person’s house to investigate.

The calls ceased after that.  And at school, Jimmy left me alone from there on out.

I am not haunted by the events of this story.  Nothing happened to me, not really.  I did not even know the extent of what happened until thirteen years after the fact.  I even have the audacious luxury of forgetting about it sometimes.

But I am haunted by other things.  I am haunted by the specter of what could have happened if any number of factors in my life had been different: if I had less vigilant parents; if my teachers and school administrators had not believed them; if the police had not believed them; if I had not had the privileged protection of being caucasian and from a solidly middle class family…

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

What If and Almost are ghosts that hover on the periphery of my awareness, particularly now.

Because whether or not Jimmy would have actually harmed me is irrelevant.  How young he was at the time is irrelevant.  Because by age nine the world had already taught him – directly or indirectly – that female bodies could be acquired for his use and disposal with gifts and pretty words and, when those methods failed, by outright demanding them.  And it is a very short step from demanding women’s bodies to taking them by force.

He knew enough about the word fuck and what it meant to threaten me with it.

If you are old enough to know what sex is, and you threaten someone with sexual violence, you know what you are doing.

I don’t share this story now for pity or sympathy.  Again, for most of my life I was unaware that I even had a story to tell at all.  But every woman has one.  Many are more harrowing.  Many are less so.  But every woman has a story like mine, and so I’m sharing it now.  I am adding my personal cry to our collective, rage-filled scream, demanding an end to the systemic predation of women’s bodies.

Enough.

#MeToo.