I was in junior high the first time a guy masturbated in front of me.
There were 5 or 6 of us students waiting in classroom. I don’t remember the circumstances of why we were waiting there, but I remember the classroom. We had tables, arranged in 3 rows facing the whiteboard. I was sitting in the middle of the second row. At least one other student was to my left. A couple more were in the first row.
One classmate was being silly, singing, dancing, and jumping up on the tables. The rest of us laughed at first, then lost interest and stopped paying attention to him. That’s when he danced over and stopped in right in front of me. While singing softly, he pleasured himself.
My memory is a bit fuzzy. I admit. This happened more than 20 years ago. I was in 8th or 9th grade. I was about 14. I never told anyone about this until yesterday when I told Nick. We talking about Louis C.K.’s admission of sexual misconduct and the allegations against Rep. Ray Moore.
I didn’t wait 20+ years to tell anyone for any reason other than that it happened when I was 14 — the same age as one of Moore’s accusers. I didn’t tell anyone then because I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what was happening or that it was a crime. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to just laugh off my classmate’s actions.
So when I hear that Moore said it was “unbelievable” that a “grown woman would come forward” about 40 later, my heart sinks because I don’t find that unbelievable at all. That doesn’t make her any less reputable. That doesn’t make his (alleged) actions any more acceptable.
My junior high memory has popped into my head a few times in my life, but it’s not something that haunts me every day. If I heard that guy was making a run for Congress now or in a future decade, would I speak up? I don’t know, maybe. I certainly would be enraged that he thinks he deserves to represent the state of Minnesota. I think the difference is he was also 14. Moore was 32.
I wish I could say that was the only time in my life that I was subjected to sexual misconduct, but it wasn’t. And regrettably, I handled it about the same at age 30 as I did at age 14.
The problem was that I didn’t feel equipped or empowered at 14 or at 30 to handle it. It felt like some inconvenience I had to endure. I know many women — perhaps my former junior high classmates — have their own version of this story. I hope we keep talking about it, and telling our kids and one another that it’s not O.K.