ANNIE FRAZIER HALLADAY
This is Part 1 of a 2-part post, addressing the Me Too campaign. In the first part (below), I write about my own experiences with sexual harassment and assault. I talk frankly and in a non-identifying way about what happened, what I did afterwards, the fallout, how I felt about it and how it affected me. I talk about the things that happened afterwards not because I believe they were the ‘right’ things, but because I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all deal with assault and harassment in different ways: there is no right way, there is only the way we did. If you would prefer to skip over the potentially upsetting or triggering specifics of my experiences, CLICK HERE TO BE REDIRECTED TO PART 2, in which I write more generally about my thoughts about the Me Too campaign, sexual harassment, assault and being a survivor.
Me too- the time in high school I was sleeping over in a friend’s living room. My friends were all there, sleeping and unaware, and I was cuddling with someone that I was starting to like. His big, warm body wrapped around me and I felt happy, on the cusp of adulthood and independence. I felt safe and then I didn’t. I repeatedly asked him to stop, removing his hands from my body but he didn't listen. Over the course of the night, he continually moved his hands back onto my body, into my clothes and underwear and assured me everyone was asleep and no one would know. I broke up with him in the coming weeks and he immediately asked "is it because of what happened? It wasn’t that big of a deal." This told me what I suspected was true: that he knew what he had done. But I froze and could only say "no, it wasn't because of that." I think it was an effort to feel in control of my own story again. I vaguely remember him telling our friends I was a bitch, and I vaguely remember not caring, just glad to be away from him. I didn’t tell anyone, and he went on to assault someone else shortly thereafter, which I regret immensely. I spent the next few years vacillating between seething rage, overwhelming guilt and blind panic whenever I would bump into him or overhear his name in conversation. I still start to panic when I think about the possibility of ever seeing him again.
Me too- the time at a party in college, too far from home to get a cab and a little too drunk to drive safely. I fell asleep on a couch and woke to a hand being shoved underneath my clothes, the erection and sweaty body of someone I didn't know pressing up against me. I lied and told him I needed to go to the bathroom and would be right back, leaping off the couch as he tried to pull me back down. The only people still awake were two people I had met earlier- they were cute and nice and were flirting in the kitchen. I initiated a threesome with them so that I had the chance to be in control of what happened that night and so I would have a safer place to sleep. Did this mean I would be cheating on my boyfriend? Maybe so, but at least it was my choice. I hated everything about myself the next day when I had to call my boyfriend and tell him what had happened. He definitely did not forgive me, and he definitely did not understand. I got sick with strep and for weeks afterwards believed it was my punishment for what had happened
Me too- the time my TA followed me into my dorm room, shutting the door behind him, blocking my way out. He smirked and asked if we should hook up. Playing it off as a joke, I said "ha ha, maybe another time" to get him to leave, even though I was terrified and 100% not interested. He propositioned me again later, becoming enraged when I turned him down more directly. He began to viciously and unfairly criticize me and my work in front of the class and to the teaching staff. Humiliated, I worked up the courage to tell the professor. He was gone from class the next week, and I received an email from an official sounding campus organization saying that a case had been started on my behalf and they would be in touch with me shortly. After months of hearing nothing from them, I called to find out if there was anything I should be aware of and hoping to ask questions like ‘has he been asked to stay from me?’ Instead, the woman on the phone coldly insisted that the case (of my own harassment!) was confidential and that she could not confirm anything, including the existence of the case, and could answer none of my questions. I learned from a friend that he had lost multiple jobs across campus and I spent the rest of my time in college afraid to run into him, awkward and afraid of retaliation when I did see him and unsure of what the result of my coming forward had been.
Me too- the time I was happily drunk with a boyfriend, and we started kissing and rolling around in bed. Waking up very late the next day, my stomach dropped when I saw my vaginal birth control ring on the nightstand. I didn't remember having sex and I didn't remember taking it out and it dawned on me that it had now been out for so long that I would probably need to take Plan B. The most horrible and awkward 24 hours followed, during which I could almost not speak at all. I finally broke through the ‘freeze’ and was able to explain to him that I felt violated. I explained that I felt confused because I remembered being enthusiastic, and then I remembered nothing. Neither of us had quite realized how drunk we both were. He felt horrible too, but was defensive at first. He then quickly and genuinely apologized, took responsibility for his role in what had happened and asked what could be done differently and how to begin to repair the violation and make sure nothing like that ever, ever happened again. We both cried for the hurt that had happened. We agreed to work together on processing the event and that it might take a while to feel okay again. When we were ready, we agreed to simple and realistic rules about drinking and having sex and we reminded each other of them. We moved forward, it got less awkward, and it never, ever happened again.
Me too- I literally cannot count the number of times that I’ve had gross or uncomfortable things whispered in my ear or shouted at me from strangers on the street, in the store, while in my car and on public transit. I cannot count the number of times that men have put their hands on me, groped or kissed me before asking ‘is that okay?’ I don’t know how many times I have been called a slut and been otherwise mistreated for turning someone down. I have been both verbally and physically ‘reminded’ that straight men are not okay with two women dating each other.
Click through to Part Two to read more about my thoughts about the Me Too campaign.