When I was sixteen a boy told me to give him a blow job because "that's what girls from Cali do." A year later, a guy I was seeing took me to a look out and forced my hand down his pants. I told blow job boy to blow himself, and I told look out guy to take me home. It never got worse than that.
No, besides that it's just the stuff you would expect by default.
I walk down the street with a facade of confidence. Chin up and eyes forward. Maybe I'll appear a little less vulnerable. But not without glancing over each shoulder repeatedly, as if I'm driving down the highway mindful of the cars in my blind spot.
Because being aware doesn't change what anyone else might do. Confidence doesn't save your life. The cars sneak up, they cut you off, and you have to move. But sometimes you can't, stuck, frozen in time, waiting for the noise to pass. The motorcyclists zip by as your heart skips a beat. They nearly skim you or knock your mirror as if to tease their presence. They claim their space between the lines, unamused by your fear.
There is no peace in an elevator. Once he enters I am more alone than before he arrived. My solace is the eye in the security camera above us. I ride seventeen floors high reminding myself that if anything, I'll have proof so no one can call me a liar.
Going to a public restroom brings on a smilier anxiety. Especially a single stall, especially when the men's room is across the way. So much as eye contact with a man peering into the women's bathroom, even by mistake, is enough to set my mind fumbling. I am squatting behind a locked door, but all I can think is what he might do if he comes in here? What will he do to me? How will I fight back?
The man who grabs my waist at the bar -- the one who believes in this move, who truly imagines his physical ambition to prove his desire -- stops me dead in my tracks. My rouged cheeks flush as my brain begs my body to react.
This stranger, like the carefree motorcyclist, the man on the street or in the elevator, has not taken a special interest in me. Rather, he is after the power of attaining anyone like me. Legs, waist, torso, breasts, hair, lips. Something he imagines as less than him. For him.
Those who shared #MeToo, and all the ones that didn't. The ones that wrote #MeToo, but whose stories weigh so much greater than a hashtag, or those that didn't write because their stories feel too small or uncertain. Or those that don't owe their violence to the Internet.
Every 98 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted, with 1 in 6 women falling victim to attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I know this, I read this, and I don't see myself in the numbers. And yet, I feel afraid, nervous, alone, and lucky every day.
How many more marks on the spectrum -- from fearful to not as bad as to fearless -- until it ends? How many women have to hold this sentiment, #MeToo? How many more have to work past it? How many have to sit with the question, #Me? #Too?
What more proof is there? How better can we prove that we exist? That we matter?
Men can do more. Men can always do more. But this is a post for the women. All of us, still stuck on the other side.
To the women who have experienced so much more, I am your ally. I do not and cannot pretend to know what makes you a survivor. But I do carry a piece of your heavy heart and I champion your resilience. I hear you. I see you. I stand with you.
Visibility is our weapon. Share. Listen. Tell. Talk. Hear. Educate. Defend. You are not alone. You are not alone.
x Dani Pinkus
Photo courtesy of reenarayphotography.com