30 Oct, 2014
I’ve already written about the issue of creepy guys before. Yet here I am again. You know why? Because the issue of the creepy guys will never go away, and it depresses the crap out of me.
Mark asked me whether I thought it was true that someone in authority could laugh at and/or be dismissive of a young woman’s story of sexual harassment or abuse.
When I was in university I worked at the Rideau Centre. I worked in retail, in menswear for the most part. The days were mostly fun, but long, and to decompress when I had a break I’d buy a pop and a chocolate bar and head up on the roof of the mall. There was a small stretch of lawn and some flower beds there. The entrance was near where the old movie theatres used to be, a publicly accessible spot that few people used or knew about because it was tucked away.
It was a warm summer day, and the rooftop garden was a welcome escape from the windowless box of recycled air we were working in. I took off my shoes, balled my sweater under my head, and stretched out on the grass to enjoy a few rays of sunshine and fresh air. The heat of the day made me drowsy, and I eventually nodded off. I woke with a start, thinking I’d overslept. Or maybe it was the feeling that someone was watching me, but someone WAS watching me. Some dude on a bench right across the lawn had his pants down and was pointedly masterb@ting in my direction. At me. Looking at me. I felt nauseous. I pretended that I didn’t see him and slowly reached for my shoes and put them on. Later on I wish I’d confronted him, but I didn’t. I was disgusted, shocked, horrified. I carefully made my way back into the cool shelter of the mall, as calmly as I could. I was shaking. I had time before my shift started and went to find a security guard. The one I spotted happened to be a fellow I knew. It’s been so long I don’t even remember his name. He often came by the store, or would give us a friendly wave when he walked by. Sometimes he’d walk with one of us to do the bank deposits. This was the guy I told. I expected he’d run and try to find this creep, or at the very least, walkie-talkie his security guard friends. Maybe he did that later, I don’t know. What I do know is that he looked down at me carefully, with concern in his eyes. “So was he using his left hand or right,” he asked. I didn’t get the joke at first. My panic was clouding my response and I struggled to remember – was it left or right – and then I realized he was kidding. He thought the whole thing was funny. And then he told me to take it as a compliment.
About a month ago the girls and I were at the shoe store. The eldest was trying on a black pair of Doc Martens, which we eventually bought. During the trying on process I snapped this photo and posted it along with a “we’ve come full circle” line, since I was a Doc-wearing youth back in the day as well and was kind of enjoying the moment.
I had her permission to post it, which is something I always try to do.
A couple of weeks later I received a notification via Flickr that someone had favourited that photo. I normally don’t take much notice when this happens, but the user name was strange and it got my attention. I clicked to see this person’s photo stream. There were no photos uploaded to this account. I clicked around a bit more and found this person’s favourites (basically, other people’s photos that were highlighted). Mine was at the top of the pile. And then I noticed all of the photos were similar in some way. The photos were all of young girls in various undress, some more titillating so than others, and they were all wearing more or less the same thing. Clearly I had stumbled across the favourites of a flannel or plaid fet!shist. (I wish I was kidding.)
You can imagine the conversation I had with our eldest. (“You see, there are some men who see women as THINGS and …”)
And here we are today, with the Jian story. So the question here is this: how do we talk to our daughters about it? To be honest, I was secretly hoping it wouldn’t come up, but there we were. Talking about it.
I decided to frame it as abuse and assault, and leave the bulk of the details out of it for the time being. A well-known and respected Canadian celebrity is being accused of assaulting women in a violent way, and he was fired from his job. We don’t know the whole story, and there’s a lot of speculation, but evidence is mounting as more people come forward. What we DO know is that the behaviour he is being accused of is awful.
I think this is a very good opportunity to talk to our children about sexual abuse in general.
There are some good tips on this website. I’m no expert, but I think that if we as parents start talking to our kids about this stuff early, we’re (hopefully) giving them the strength and knowledge they may need later on. As they say in the article, “Educating children on sexual abuse won’t reduce the number of child assaults but hopefully will make your child less likely to become a victim …. because predators are looking for kids who will keep their secret.”
This is not just about talking to little girls about protecting themselves, but little boys too. It’s important for all kids to understand what a healthy relationship looks like, and how we all need to treat each other with respect, no matter how old we are.