By Sarina D.’ 19
2017 was an important year for the fight against sexual harassment as thousands of women in Hollywood and across the country came forward to share stories of harassment and gender-related abuse. The conversation surrounding #MeToo prompted advocacy and legal groups to work towards solutions. But months of intense publicization in the media, including scrutiny of some of Hollywood’s leading men, turned sexual harassment accusations into a normalized part of our daily news. But just because the movement no longer generates the most buzz in the media does not mean that the problem has ceased to exist, or that it is no longer relevant. Sexual harassment is still a problem in the workforce, in our education system, and in our culture. It ends careers, contributes to low self-esteem, harms the developing relationships girls have with their bodies, and defines outdated power dynamics. Statistics are shocking, but sometimes this reality only sinks in when you hear stories from people that you know personally. That’s why I thought it would be interesting to compile stories of unwanted conduct or sexual harassment from students of all genders in the senior class.
These are some of the highlights of stories from students that you know of experiencing unwanted conduct or gender-related abuse.
- At a previous school I attended, I had a teacher who always paid special attention to the female students, especially certain ones that he seemed to pick out of every class that he would call “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” or “special.” I often wore running shorts to class and he always seems to comment on how short my shorts wore, or how my legs looked. He would often look at them during class. Even when I was wearing pants, he would make comments or jokes about my shorts and talk about how I liked to show off my body. He would also dresscode me several times in one week even when my clothing was not at all revealing, saying that he liked how my clothes fit my body but it was distracting. He also thought another female students’ cheeks were “adorable” and would pinch them without permission almost every day in front of the whole class. To make matters worse, this teacher was one of the most beloved faculty members at the school, and many students, particularly female students, saw him as a mentor, which meant that they spent lots of time with them alone in his classroom with the closed door. One day, I was taking a test in his class, and though I was just quietly working on my test, he came up to me and whispered “You seem stressed.” Without asking for permission, he began massaging my back and rubbing his fingers and then arms over my body. I tried to shake him off at first, but then his fingers got closer and closer to my chest and when they got there I went numb. A few students noticed and shot me shocked looks, but everyone just continued taking the test. I failed that test. It took me and my classmates who had similar experiences a few months to say anything to the administration, but I am unsure of what happened afterwards.
- Once I was at a party with some guys that I knew pretty well and had grown up with. One of them was in our friend group and was someone who I trusted and thought of as a good guy, but wasn’t super close with. When I was walking to the bathroom, all of a sudden he came out of nowhere, obviously drunk, and pushed me up against a wall. After a few seconds of just holding me against the wall, he tried to kiss me and pressed himself against me. He pushed himself against me and stuck his hand into my pants and grabbed my breasts. Luckily I was able to fight him off because he was so unbalanced. He seemed angry after I pushed him off. When I told everyone else, they seemed surprised but didn’t really know what to do, so everyone just pretended like nothing happened. So when I had to see him again at other things, I tried to avoid him a little bit, but then was told by him and others that I was being cold and bitchy. When I reported him, he refused to talk to me again.
- I once went on a date with a guy my age from a different school. Towards the end of the night, it was clear that he wanted to do something with me, but I told him I was uncomfortable and said no repeatedly several times. He kept asking, and I could feel him getting angrier as I refused. Finally, when I assertively told him nothing was happening, he slapped me across the face extremely hard.
- One time, I went to see a very well-regarded doctor, an older man who had been practicing for years and who was well-known in the community. I had seen him only once or twice before for a short period of time with my parents in the room. One time, however, I had come from school and was wearing a nice dress and makeup and had done my hair. After staring at me and saying nothing for almost ten minutes, the conversation immediately turned to my appearance. He told me that the past two times I had seen him, I looked like a mess but this time I was “lovely.” He commented on my eyelashes and on my facial structure, saying they were beautiful and the boys probably loved them. He then repeatedly asked me if I had a boyfriend, then demanded to know why I did not. Was I gay, he wanted to know? Why doesn’t a pretty girl like you have a boyfriend, he wanted to know? He insisted that we exchange phone numbers. When I expressed discontent with my appearance, he continued to comment on my appearance and say I was crazy. He then asked me to leave my seat across the table from him and sit on the table itself right next to him, so he could “get a closer look.” I was sitting on the table with my feet dangling over the edge, inches away from him, as he did a physical examination of me, something he had never done before, touching me all over, starting with my upper body and then grabbing my breasts, and then my thighs, legs, and butt . I was seeing just him to make sure I did not have a genetic illness, so his job was strictly reading test results and asking me a few questions, but never a physical exam. In fact, I had never had a physical exam where I was touched the way I was here. When another doctor asked me several times how my appointment went, all I managed was to mutter “Fine,” or something about how I didn’t want to see him again. She tried to prod me further but I second-guessed myself, thinking maybe I had made it all up, since he was such a well-respected professional. Three months later, I finally told her what had happened.
- When I went to Walgreens with my brother, a man who looked like he was in his twenties complimented my leggings, then proceeded to walk up behind me and grab my butt. I just kept walking and then when my little brother asked if he touched me, I didn’t know how to explain it and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because I felt like it was trivial, so I just said no and kept walking.
- This guy and I were not dating, but we were talking for a few weeks and I thought it might go further. One night, we were at a friend’s house and sitting in a room by ourselves talking while the others were watching TV. We started making out, which I was okay with, but he tried to go further and I was super uncomfortable. I kept saying no, but he kept taking my clothes off and trying to press himself against me and acting like he didn’t hear me say no. I swear I must have said it so many times. Luckily, some people came into the room and stopped him before he could do anything, but it’s actually so annoying when I have to hear what a “good guy” he is all the time. But yeah, we didn’t date after that and I had to report him to the program we were at and I was terrified he would find out it was me.
- I have been followed so many times in the street and at the mall. One time, a man followed me through three different stores and I had to hide in the fitting room.
- As a freshman volunteering at a senior home, I’d shown up that morning wearing a brand new pair of ripped jeans. Imagine not only my surprise, but utmost shock, horror and permeating sense of being violated that arose when the man that I was helping out decided to not only shove his hand up one of the rips in my jeans, but subsequently begin stroking and squeezing my bare thigh. Being just a freshman and having no idea how to advocate for myself or even how to tell him to stop (my reasoning being, ‘He’s probably just a senile old man or something’), I felt as if I had no choice but to just sit there and take it for fear of any repercussions that may have come out of my telling him to stop.
- When I was at work one day, one of my customers- an older man – grabbed my butt and kept touching me as he walked by, laughing every time that he did or putting his hand on my shoulder. I felt like I could not say anything because I knew the man was very well-liked and respected as a customer and he had a lot of power there.
- I was dealing with someone my age who I knew and saw every day and they would harass me about my sexuality, relationships, and finally texted me asking me to do inappropriate things for them. I also had my personal space violated with leg touching, groping, grabbing and attempts to take my phone and belongings. It lasted for 2 years but I finally told an adult and I am glad this person is finally out of my life.
- A friend of mine and I briefly saw a private coach for a sport that we were playing at school at an athletic center. We played with the coach a few times and begin to notice that something was off, as he would comment on my appearance or my friend’s legs, or touch us for extended periods of time when he did not need to without asking. Soon after we started with him, he DMed he over Instagram a few days later, sending me graphic photographs, calling me beautiful, and asking for photographs back. It was only after going onto his social media profile that I also learned he was married. He kept asking me for photographs, getting more demanding when I would not provide them to him, and commenting on my appearance. He soon got angrier, and gave me ultimatums or said that he wanted to come see me. We obviously quit the coaching and reported him, but he had been coaching for a number of years with young girls and we could only imagine how many girls this had happened to.
- While I was waiting in the airport, a man came up to me in a uniform, indicating that he was from an airline. He asked me how I was, and I conversed with him because I thought he was being nice. The conversation quickly took a turn for the worse as he called me “baby” and his “girlfriend” multiple times—keep in mind this is a professional. He asked me to add him on Snapchat multiple times although I kept saying no and trying to leave to “make a phone call.” He also kept calling me “beautiful” and other pet names. He also proceeded to touch me as I tried to walk away from him, but I had to wait in that area and was extremely uncomfortable.
- There was this guy I knew and we hung out frequently over the summer with a group. Most of his friends had girlfriends but he didn’t, so he took that as an open invitation to just be as touchy as he wanted to be. He would grab my butt, grope me, be “playful” by wrapping his arms around me, throwing me on the floor and then rolling on top of me, and he would make incessant comments about my body or how he wanted to see me naked. He would also try to kiss me even when I would pull away and then he’d be like “oh, you’re no fun.” The other guys in the group just thought it was hilarious and would even egg him on. One time an adult witnessed what happened and questioned me about it. When I told them, they talked to the boy and told me that if he ever crossed the line they would immediately report him and were telling his parents and his school incase. I didn’t know what would happen after that so I just stopped hanging out with that group, but none of them even reached out to me which hurt.
- I was repeatedly asked for nudes from a group of boys who were older than me. When I said no or blocked them, they would find a new platform like Snapchat or Instagram and put me in group chats and talk about my body on those group chats. They would also follow me in person or show up places or make comments about my butt or boobs when I was near them. I wasn’t really sure what to do, because other people told me I was lucky for the attention, but I was really uncomfortable and I couldn’t get them to stop. It happened to another girl who reported them, but I was ashamed I didn’t do it first.
- One time I was at a dinner with many adults, and I was seated next to this middle-aged man. The entire dinner, he asked me very personal questions and made statements about me that made me uncomfortable. I tried to physically move away from him, but every time he got closer to me and touched me more.
- After a victorious competition late at night, my friends and I went to In-N-Out to celebrate. We were sitting at a booth wearing our professional dresses or pencil skirts when a man walked up to us, clearly drunk. I was sitting on the side of the booth closer to him, and he attempted to grab my legs, mumbling “pretty legs, pretty girls.” We instantly got up, and ran towards our car, but he followed us into the parking lot and tried to get into the car with us. We called the manager of the store to let them know, but were petrified that he was following us in his car afterwards.
- I have been catcalled on the street countless times since I was in middle school, and I have had teachers in middle school make inappropriate comments to me.
- Walking through the city is dangerous for me and my friends. We get catcalled numerous times, if I am walking alone men will follow me and make unwanted comments. I have also been touched inappropriately while walking down the street several times or will be repeatedly verbally harassed.
- Since I was about twelve or thirteen, I have received countless pornographic images from older men through social media or requests for sexual interaction that I would always reject, but never seemed to be able to stop. I have also received requests to meet up or FaceTime, comments about my body, and constant messages through numerous forums on social media even after blocking and reporting the perpetrators.
- I was an innocent freshman with few male friends when I started a seemingly great platonic relationship with an older guy in one of my classes. Maybe two or three months into the school year, he started telling me disturbing things about his friend’s interest in my body. At first, I laughed and played along, thinking he must be joking. He kept bringing up how his friend, my “secret admirer,” loved my “ass” and wanted to see me naked. The comments escalated into alarming warnings—“don’t get caught in an empty hallway with him because he wants to saddle you up”—but I tried to ignore them rather than ask him to stop. I’d never talked to his friend with the alleged interest, but I grew extremely uncomfortable just seeing him from across a room. Nothing ever “really” happened, but these jokes or rumors, or whatever they were, made me feel quite uneasy during my first semester at Crystal. Now older and wiser and more confident, I’m decent friends with both the guys involved; none of the inappropriate comments have ever cropped up again.