I woke up three days ago feeling sick, because I had a dream that I had been molested.
After changing diapers, nursing my baby, answering a few emails and feeding breakfast to my toddler, I had a moment to sit down and feel what I was feeling, think what I was thinking.
My thoughts wandered back to my senior year of high school in my AP science class. My stomach immediately started churning, even 7 years later.
The teacher in this class had little control of the students. I sat in the back row. Throughout the entire year, three boys talked about my body daily.
I remembered what they said, I remembered their jokes about violating me, and I remembered exactly how I felt time and time again.
Everyone stared at their shoes in the class, even when comments were made loudly enough for every ear to hear. I tried to stand up for myself, but it was met with laughing and more jokes. I seemed to feel that the issue was all in my head, because I was the only one it seemed to bother.
I told my parents after a few months, and my dad just about blew a fuse. He begged me to allow him to take it to the authorities. But I was ashamed–of having my body talked about, of crude jokes I felt uncomfortable even repeating, and of making something out of what must have been nothing.
Something about them talking so cruelly of my body sparked shame inside of me–shame for my femininity and shame for my beauty. I wanted to shrink, to dress down, to never wear make-up and to hide under baggy sweatshirts.
I left that class every day either embarrassed or angry. I walked the long way to my next class, trying to blow off steam and mentally re-align myself to focus for the remaining hour.
Seven years later, as I sat surrounded by my two kids, still feeling sick from my dream, I had the distinct thought: BUT I WAS NEVER ACTUALLY RAPED. EVERYONE experiences what I did, to some degree.
Followed by this thought: Well, WOMEN experience what I did, to some degree.
(I’m sure my mom did, probably my sister, most of my friends. But none of us were ever actually molested.)
My rolling thoughts then screeched to a blinding halt in my mind.
Kaylee, women experience this. WOMEN, singularly. So as a woman, do you expect to be treated this way?
And then, Kaylee, do you expect for your daughters to be treated this way?
I realized then that I was a very real part of the problem of not only the inequality between women and men, but also the trauma historically and currently inflicted on “the weaker sex.” I have expected it my whole life. I had expected prostitution calls on my mission, dirty looks and winks at the grocery store, and crude comments about sex.
I don’t mean to be hard on myself, because I fully recognize who was in the wrong here–three idiot teenage boys. I also fully recognize that I needed to speak up.
I needed to speak up; I needed to take them down. I needed to raise the bar of my expectation infinitely higher for how I deserved to be treated. I needed to recognize that my body was not the problem.
How can I expect to enact or support change if my expectations are so base? And what will I say when my daughter comes home and has been thus violated with words, looks, or actions?
My bar has been raised, for myself, for my girls, and for all women. It simply is not okay, and it will no longer by tolerated in my spheres. I’ve found the bravery to stand up and call out.
At this point in my article, I could get on my soap box and rage–(maybe I will, sometime. I have plenty to say.) But for now, I would like to simply add my voice to the masses,