Amid the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, actress Alyssa Milano recently revitalized an old social media trend, asking that all the women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed in their lives write the phrase “Me too” in the effort to show the breadth and magnitude of the culture of assault we live in. For over a week now, my timelines have been flooded with friends, acquaintances, co-workers and old camp counselors posting the slogan.
If this has surprised you at all, if you have been shocked by the amount of girls coming forward and saying they have been “harassed,” then you clearly have not been listening. EVERY. WOMAN. IN. AMERICA. HAS. BEEN. SEXUALLY. HARASSED. No girl makes it through life without being the victim of a lewd comment from a classmate or an uncomfortable glance from a family friend or an off putting remark by creepy cab driver. Any girl who has not experienced some kind of sexual harassment is either oblivious or is a brainwashed subscriber to the “boys will be boys” philosophy.
The most interesting thing to me about the “Me too” campaign is not how many girls have been harassed or assaulted, but how many people claim they were “unaware” until now. If you didn’t know, you’ve been shutting your ears to the voices of women everywhere. This is not a new concept.
A few weeks ago, a friend from high school texted me. She has since graduated college and is living a real adult person life. Her roommate had plans to go on a Bumble date with a guy who had attended Cornell so she texted me to ask if I knew him and to possibly dig up any dirt.
When she sent the name, my heart sank. I responded, “I don’t really know him, but I’ve heard he is kind of skeevy,” and left it at that. However, that was far from the truth. The last night of my freshman fall semester, I was sexually assaulted by him. I don’t remember all the details besides stumbling drunk through some fraternity’s halls late at night, looking for my friends to go home. He saw me and we started kissing. Admittedly, I was into it at first. He pulled me into his room and we kept fooling around and before I knew it he was on top of me. I don’t remember saying “no,” but I do remember turning my face to avoid his mouth. I remember his hands pinning my biceps to the sheet-less mattress. I remember that I ran out of energy and laid there for what felt like 30 minutes but was probably two or three.
Suddenly he stood up, looked around, said “this isn’t my room” and left. When I got back to my dorm that night, I called my sister from the bathroom, screaming and sobbing. She kept asking what had happened but the truth is, I didn’t really know. I was missing a sock and I was drunk and tired and upset.
It never even crossed my mind to report this incident. I had gone back to this house at 2 a.m. I had enjoyed kissing him. Everything that happened after that was a blur. I didn’t know how to give my story because I didn’t know what my story was. Now, three years later, he has graduated and I’ve moved on. I rarely think about him or that night. I had seen him around campus and at parties and he always avoided eye contact. I’ve told a few friends “yeah, I had a cringy experience with him freshman year,” but until now, mostly I kept the details to myself.
I’m plagued by the idea that my lack of reporting meant he could do this to someone else. The idea that my own insecurities allowed another person to experience this. Because I was scared and confused, maybe more people were hurt. I wish I had told my friend, “Don’t let your roommate go out with him! He is scum and I know that first hand!” But what if my memory was wrong? What if I had reported or told people and ruined this boy’s life and it was an honest mistake and he didn’t mean to step out of line? I was drunk and he was drunk and we were both stupid kids! For some reason, I found myself too scared of tarnishing this guy’s reputation on the off chance that I was remembering wrong or that he had changed.
Thoughts like these force me to admit that as much as I love to call myself a feminist, I have internalized the customs of victim blaming. Ideas I would scoff at others for saying about another victim are the same patterns of thinking that I have applied to myself.
That night I returned to my dorm missing my sock. The socks were from J. Crew. Navy blue knit with a white toe. Three years later, the match to that missing sock still sits in my drawer. I know for a fact that I will never find the pair but for some reason I can’t throw it out.
So yes, me too. Yes, I have been harassed (news flash: everyone has). But also yes, I have been assaulted. My story is just one in hundreds of thousands of stories just like it. Sharing it will change nothing in the grand scheme. Awareness campaigns are redundant at this point, but I don’t have a solution. What I do have is a single, mateless, sock, that maybe I am ready to throw out.
Willow Hubsher is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Not a Sex Column appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.