Learning How To Run
*Originally published on Thought Catalog.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault
Maybe it was your Drivers Ed teacher’s hand on your leg when he wanted you to accelerate. Or the one time he put his finger in the back of your jeans, skin on fucking skin, to try to get you to stay in the driver’s seat, even though you didn’t want to drive anymore. Or the way he concentrated on the words “juicy” written on the t-shirt stretching across your chest. Or the way he always bought you all coffee. Like it was a trade-off. Like this body was negotiable. Just drink this coffee, and you will forget about the way it felt as his hand slid down your leg.
Was that the first time someone touched me and it felt wrong? Was that how coffee became associated with coping with my pain?
Or maybe it was the day you were alone with him, and he tried to convince you that you needed more time to practice driving, more time with him alone. And the way you corrected him and told him that you had met your required school hours, and then practically ran out of the car.
Like a bat out of hell. Like a woman the first time she learns how to run away from a man.
Some days, I feel like I am just going crazy and like I am just being overdramatic. But then I remember how when I was just a few years older, it happened again. And how it hasn’t stopped happening since.
Different scenario. Different men. But still touching me as if this body was the roadblock on the path to their success. As if this body could be bartered for. As if a compliment was worth losing my job over. Hands on me that do not belong there. Hands on me that I never gave permission to be there. Hands on me just to get what they wanted. It does not matter if they are strangers. Or someone I know well. I am constantly reminded of just how difficult it is to get through my daily life without harassment. I am constantly reminded of just how much my body was never meant to be mine.
Whether it was enduring long shifts at the grocery store, while half of the prepared foods department gawked at me or doing my best to avoid customers who tried so desperately to get a little too friendly, I could never find peace. Being followed around, when I was just trying to work. Having my phone taken out of my hands just so they could put their number in it. The random touching that I never invited them to do. It is like danger has lurked around every corner of every job and every aspect of my life, and there is nothing that I can do to stop it. Every time, I have to find a way out of the danger. Every time, I wonder if this will be the time that I finally can’t break free, if this time my luck will finally run out. Every time, I cannot help but wonder why.
Why did I have to learn how to run so young when someone could have just taught them how to stop?