#WhenIWas Exposes Unwanted Sexual Attention

Dave D'Incau Jr for City Paper.
Dave D’Incau Jr for City Paper.

#WhenIWas

At first I was going to write about the hashtag itself and what it meant but then, I realized that I could do you one better. The hashtag was created for women to share their experiences with sexual assault. Some talk about catcalling and others about more graphic things.

Here’s my story:

Most of our parents don’t teach us what to do if someone catcalls you or when the person that touches you in a way you don’t like is someone you trust. My mom did. And even though I had that knowledge, when the time came I was unable to use it. They say that being paralyzed with fear is myth, a wives tale; it’s not. The first time he touched me I was asleep and we were on a bus to a fun filled family vacation. We were friends. I didn’t know how to not be his friend. Even after he slid his hands up and down my legs as I stiffened my body and pretended to be dreaming– I still didn’t know how to not call him friend.

And the catcallers, the strange men that yelled to me from sidewalks and far away corners; I called them friend too. I pretended that we had known each other for years and that instead of our names we called each other “sexy” and “lemme holla at you”. It was a game I played, a game that everybody got to participate in and one I didn’t enjoy. So When I Was fifteen I stopped playing. I stopped smiling and waving back to the men who yelled at me, I stopped looking the boy I called my friend in the eye– I stopped.

This hashtag means a lot to me. I didn’t want it to and I wish it didn’t but it does. There’s so much wrong with the we handle sexual assault and there’s so much that we can do to stop it. Call me by my name, keep your hands off of me unless I tell you not to. When I Was fifteen I learned that I had the right to speak up.

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