A Personal Plea, Part 2
CC image courtesy of Flickr, duffyemma92
CW: Sexual Harassment and molestation
Edited by Wende Benner, HA Editorial Staff
Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kit’s blog, Dauntless in Denver. Kit is a homeschool and ATI survivor. It was originally published on November 13, 2016. Not every part of the series explicitly mentions homeschool, but each part ties to her homeschool experience.
Over the next days and weeks, the comments continued, and got increasingly more graphic in nature. It spread from the initial two boys, to three others, as well. I don’t remember exactly when I told my parents, who were already aware of the fairly extreme bullying, but when I did, my mom, especially, was livid. That was the first time I heard the phrase, “sexual harassment.” I didn’t even really understand what that meant. But I did start to understand why this felt worse than the other bullying. Quite simply, it was.
I started being greeted with “jiggle, jiggle” during gym class, while walking up the stairs, while walking down the hall. If I bent over, I was faced with other comments about “spillage,” or a “leaking dam.” Though there were only five boys who participated, there were several other boys- and girls- who would laugh at it, and egg it on. I even had girls at school who would pretend to be my friend, and then put their arm around me or link arms with me, awkwardly holding me in place while the boys would continue with their harassment. I didn’t know how to make it stop. Nothing I would do worked. Eventually, I just gave in. I just started standing there and letting them.
My mom had called the school about the bullying many, many times, but the school wouldn’t really do much. Finally, when my mom called them, yelling, about my sexual harassment, they did something. Not much. They called in the parents of the boys involved for a conference. Apparently, the boys got detention or something, I’m a bit hazy on the details. But not much happened, beyond a few repeated meetings. I remember the only encounters I ever had with a fairly well-known baseball player had to do with his son being one of the perpetrators. It’s hard to get justice when you’re at an elite, expensive school, and your parents can only afford tuition, and nothing else, and your abusers are the sons of bank presidents, prominent doctors, and professional athletes.
Yes, money matters. So does gender.
To some extent, it was my fault, because I didn’t just keep my mouth shut, and I had the audacity to be in the 6th grade with a bra size far larger than my mother and some of my teachers. It was partly my fault, because I let it bother me, when boy were just being boys. It was partly my fault because I wouldn’t defend myself. But really, my only offenses while at that school were being “poor” (we were solidly Middle Class, and I know that, but merely Middle Class was poor there), being Autistic, being big for my age, and being female. After a while, the school just stopped dealing with things. I don’t know why my parents left me there a whole school year. I don’t know why they didn’t pull me out before June. I don’t know why they didn’t do everything in their power to protect me. They didn’t mean to let me down, but they did. And I’m still paying for that.
That Spring, the touching started. I remember how it started. I don’t remember much else. I have an unusually good memory. But things got so traumatic for me that spring, I have huge blank spots in my memory. I can tell you where I got just about every piece of clothing and toy and accessory in every picture I’m in from about the age of 4 on. I can tell you what kind of soap we used when I was a kid, and when we switched from Zest to Dial. I can tell you when my dad switched from Prell shampoo to Head and Shoulders. My point is, I have a freakishly good memory. So the fact that I can’t remember very significant chunks of time and very significant events from that Spring, is monumental.
It started between classes during my afternoon rotation. I think it was between Bible and history. I was in the school atrium, after coming down the steps from Bible class. The boy who had started it all, we’ll call him “E,” approached me with one of the other five boys, we’ll call him “M.” E told me that M wanted to be my boyfriend. I had no idea what was going on, and I had zero skills in dealing with these things. I just wanted it to go away. I didn’t know if they were serious or not.
What might seem obvious to the Neurotypical child is not at all obvious to the Autistic child.
So I went with it. I said okay. They started laughing at me. M came up beside me, put his arm around me, and said, “No, Kathleen, you’ll never be anyone’s girlfriend. God obviously made you to be a hooker, otherwise he would never have made your boobs so big.” As he pulled his arm away, his hand drifted down and briefly- but clearly intentionally- brushed my butt. All I remember is wanting to throw up and wanting to die, in that moment. I don’t remember anything from the rest of the day. I remember feeling incredibly worthless. Incredibly violated.
I know that throughout the year, my mom would ask me if the boys were touching me. Once they started, I kept telling her no. Things were already bad enough with the plain bullying, and the harassment. If she knew they were molesting me- which is legally classified as sexual assault- things would get so much worse. I could barely survive things the way they were, and I was more of a problem to the school than anything else. This is why I never reported my sexual assault. And until now, very, very few people have even known about it. Some of my closest friends haven’t even heard about it. My parents knew nothing about it until this week. Had I reported it, maybe my parents would have pulled me out. I can see that as an adult. But I honestly don’t know if they would have. Had they not, I knew then- and still know now- that I would have been nothing more than a further burden to the school. A lot of the teachers didn’t even know how bad it was. The kids didn’t do it around them. The teachers and administration thought I was exaggerating. I wasn’t.
Reporting would have caused way more problems, and solved none.
So I kept my mouth shut, which is probably exactly what they wanted.