I was 3 the first time I was violated.
I don’t remember a time when my body was mine. From that first violation until I was almost 12 and I finally told him to stop, my abuser owned my body.
I remember the hush money. I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter — which was a lot of money to a little girl in the late 1950s.
I didn’t really need the money to keep me quiet because I knew I was the one at fault. I must have had one hell of a precocious come-hither look. Or maybe it was the way the lace on my ankle socks rested on my patent leather dress shoes.
In the theology I was carefully taught at church, any abuse was my fault because I was a daughter of Eve and therefore just as guilty as she of original sin, which was, of course, seduction.
Sex wasn’t discussed. Bodies weren’t discussed. Our vaginas were referred to as “down there.” Questions about anything to do with sex were answered with, “You’re too young to know that.”
All the while, I knew that; I also knew it was dirty and never to be mentioned because good girls didn’t talk about anything that went on with “down there.”
So, in this atmosphere of secrecy, my grandfather got away with molesting me for eight years.
As an adult, I was raped repeatedly by someone who was supposed to love me. He loved me so much he insisted we have sex when he felt like it, no matter how I felt.
I was never alone if he thought I would be naked. He followed me into the shower to grope me. Even when I changed my clothes, there he was, groping and sometimes insisting I satisfy him because it was my “duty.”
Since I had said yes, even once, that was license for him to take what he wanted whenever he wanted it. At the time, his actions were perfectly legal.
I know I am not alone in either of these experiences.
At work, I was told I was less than a man. I made less, even though I often did the job a lot better than men in similar positions.
If a colleague groped at me or made passes at me, it was my fault, or it was, “That’s our Bob! Heh, heh.”
At every turn I was made to feel less than men.
Sometimes, there was a boss who was on my side. When I sold ads for the weekly paper, the Rockland Review, and a client cornered me in a back room, I was able to escape because I knew not to let a man get between me and the door. I was a mess when I got back to the office. The boss heard me out, then he went to the business owner and told him if he ever touched me — or any other employee of the paper — the boss would educate him about proper behavior with a baseball bat. The man tried to say I had been flirting with him, but my boss wasn’t having any of that.
“Why would she flirt with you?” the boss asked. “You’re a creep.”
That’s another thing — the number of men who think they’re irresistible, or who want to make a woman feel guilty for rejecting them.
There was the military recruiter, Navy, I think, who made a pass at me while I was there to interview him for a story. Within moments of my arrival, he was suggesting we continue the conversation at his apartment.
I said no.
“What, don’t you find me attractive?” he asked.
“Frankly, no,” I said. “I find you offensive and I’m sure your superior officer will find your remarks as inappropriate as I do.”
That shut him up.
But standing up to men who think they’re entitled to sexual gratification because you have a vagina doesn’t always work. Some men think they can take what they want.
They might insult you: “Well, I don’t know why you’re saying no to me. It’s not like you’re beautiful. You should jump at the chance.” Yes, a man actually said this to me.
Or they might try to just take what they want because, well, they’re bigger and stronger and you have a vagina, which is the perfect place for him to park his penis.
That’s why I know to carry my keys pointing out of my fist so I can gouge your eyes out if you think you’re going to force yourself on me.
That’s why I don’t get into elevators alone, and if everyone gets off and a man gets on, I get off.
That’s why I don’t take the stairs at night.
That’s why I check around my car before I get in.
That’s why I don’t offer rides to men I don’t know well. I mean, really well.
That’s why I don’t answer the door if I’m home alone.
That’s why I ask to see ID when a repairman comes to the door, and it’s why I don’t let anyone in unless I have called for a repairman.
You get the gist.
In all the flurries of “Me, too,” I have seen a few men, and my heart goes out to them.
But even more, I have seen women — friends — divulge for the first time that they are among the women who have been harassed, abused or assaulted. I know even more women who still can’t come out and say it in public.
I have also seen a few men try to mansplain why men are not at fault. I had it out with one who insisted women lie.
I hated to drop the F-bomb on another person’s time line, but I did. He wouldn’t stop, no matter how many women came on to tell him he was wrong. He just kept defending his position, through dozens of posts, until I womansplained that his behavior — insisting he was right even after it was clear he was wrong and not shutting up until everyone agreed with him, even though he was clearly wrong — was a hallmark behavior of an abusive personality.
Another man posted a “me, too,” but then went on to say it was an ugly woman at work who harassed him. So, does that mean he would have been less offended if a pretty woman had suggested they have a sexual encounter?
I called him out and other men came on to defend him, calling me a drama queen. One man even went into great detail to mansplain how men really aren’t the problem here. I dropped the F-bomb again and blocked the offender.
So, here’s the reason for harassment, abuse and assault of women: Men who harass, abuse and assault women.
It’s a culture that sees men as entitled and women as at fault.
It’s a culture where women and children aren’t believed.
It’s a culture that doesn’t value women but sees us as vessels of men’s pleasure and the source of the children who will fight their wars.
It’s a culture that will place an admitted sexual predator into the highest office in the land.
It’s a culture that “protects” victims of sexual predation by not naming them, as though they were the perpetrators.
Well, my name is Leslie Boyd and I was the victim of many, many crimes. And I’m here to say we women are coming for your male privilege.