Posts Tagged ‘sexual assault


Our daily truth

“We are meant to put an end to sexual assault.” Sterling Reithman from her statement to the court at Dr. Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing in front of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.


Each day seems to bring more and more to the fore of the truths women and girls live with day after day.

And yet to read it in print, on social media, or watch it all unfold in a myriad of visual images whether in news accounts, the meaning of the colors women wear to events, in video clips from the courtroom—it would seem as if this is the first time we ever knew about it. I liken it to Captain Renault’s line in Casablanca when ordering the closure of Rick’s Place: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling’s going on in here.”



My first encounter with the fact of life all women live with was when I was seven. There was hole in wall in the bedroom my brother and I shared. A plasterer came to our house to fix it early one morning. My mother went back to bed. My brother and I played in the living room, but after a while, I went into the bedroom to watch the plasterer work. The man was fairly short and stockily built with dark, slicked back hair that fell into his eyes and a swarthy complexion. I was standing there for some time when he turned around quite suddenly. In doing so, he whipped out his penis and started to jerk off. I stood stunned for some time before I could even consider reacting—when I did it was to run out of the room. I stood at the threshold of my mother’s tiny bedroom, but saw she was sleeping. I was loathe to wake her up and frankly frightened because she had admonished me to “let the man work in peace.” I was also not certain what I would even tell her, and so I remained frozen in inaction. Shortly thereafter the plasterer left.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Season 15, Detective Benson and a serial rapist

In the scheme of things, I guess I was lucky. He didn’t sexually assault me or physically molest me—so what was a mere “jerk off” complete with grunts and licking lips. Besides, assault and molestation are usually the provenance of trusted figures in young girls (and frankly young boys) lives: parents, step parents, family members, trusted friends, teachers, coaches, Boy Scout troop leaders, babysitters, priests, pastors and rabbis, doctors, and on and on. It’s usually only later that we become fair game to the sexual predators in the outside world who manipulate, cajole, blackmail and betray their positions of trust to get in our pants one way or another—and that’s only the people we know. Then there are the rapists who grab, molest, rape, abduct, torture, murder and everything in between.  It is so much a fact of our daily lives it is the fodder of our nightly doses of police procedurals on television–and yet we remain shocked and surprised.

My particular litany of woe that includes a myriad of events from childhood well into adulthood is inordinately important to me. Those experiences perpetrated on me by people close to me as well as strangers shaped my life and my choices, my sense of self and my being, and has informed my sense of safety across a lifetime. This latter is of particular import because it defines my womanness as much as anything else. Just as the choices I’ve made to overcome those experiences informs who I have become today.

The point is, yes, absolutely #MeToo, but this is also so much bigger—and we stand at a pivotal point in the conversation where victimization by male sexual aggression and the pass they seem to get from the dominate culture is perhaps, finally being called out for what it truly is: a crime. However, while there are and have been many laws on the books, if women are not believed, their victimizers will not be prosecuted. Nor will these experiences suddenly stop–because they will not. They are perpetrated daily in large ways and small ways and until the culture changes to understand the concept of “no,” this will continue unabated.

When I was researching for A History Of Women’s Boxing, I teased out an interesting phenomenon in the early 1900s. At that time it became acceptable for women to practice boxing and other martial sports. When figuring out the strands in popular culture that would allow this sea change, I discovered in some instances it was to allow women the opportunity to learn self-defense. So there we have it–a problem identified, and a means of resolving it by allowing a variance in the strict gender binary. Would it were so simple.

Ask yourselves this: How is it that a 12-year-old girl complaining about a doctor sticking his fingers into her vagina is not believed?

If our lives are informed by our choices, our lives are also informed by the experiences heaped upon us of which some we control and some we do not. Next time you see me in the gym working out a 7:00 AM, understand that while I am there for many positive reasons such as a love of boxing and a desire to remain fit, I am also there because ensuring I can defend myself is the only way I know of to make myself feel safe: protect yourself at all times.



The thing about groping

The thing about “groping”


I’ve had men grope me or attempt to grope from the age of nine on—all sorts of men, from strangers, to trusted male adults (camp director, camp counselor, and a few high school teachers), to my stepfather, to my boss who chased me around a desk (yep all those Doris Day memes were actually true), to purported “friends,” including a really “lovely” time of it when I was “roofied,” not to mention the low-life swine who lifted me off my feet in a strangle hold while telling me if I moved, I would die.

Most of the experiences happened between the ages of nine and twenty-five, but that’s not to say that I haven’t been on the receiving end of some pretty lewd and awful comments walking around in broad daylight, never mind in the evening, with the sense that if I were not in a constant state of readiness—bad stuff would happen. And frankly, if you ask me what the most dangerous thing in the world is, my answer is a group of rowdy men coming towards me—something I have literally experienced around the world as a sense of fear and foreboding in as varied places as the corner of 100th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, on a backstreet in Old San Juan, waiting at a ferry terminal in Sumatra, and on the beach at Eilat, Israel among other places.

What disgusts, saddens, and angers me about Donald Trump’s “groping” comments from the leaked 2005 Access Hollywood tape, is not the crudeness of his language, or his posturing swagger about how being a “star” means women will “let you…do anything,” but how he and Billy Bush, objectified the young woman, Arianne Zucker, waiting to escort Trump to his soap opera “gig.” In doing so, he gave the implication that he could assault her at will, and more so, Billy Bush, emboldened by the older Trump’s, explicit sexual discussion of trying to bed the married “Nancy,” put Arianne in Trump’s way by saying, “How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.”

Unfortunately, it keeps with my life long wariness of rowdy “groups of men,” even if in this case it only took two—and imagine, if you will, that Arianne was escorting them into a darkened club and that they had all sat together at a table. Would they have both “stolen” kisses as if they were bashful little 12-year-old-boys with a first crush by their sides? Or would it have been more sinister, with a kiss and a grab at Arianne’s breast or vagina or backside? After all, Trump stated, “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

And Billy, a “host” on Access Hollywood—emboldened by the notion of not having to be bound by the norms of civil behavior, began to enact the notion that “stars” have no rules, what with his teacher, “the Donald” having given him permission through his pernicious example.

The point is sex and one’s desire for sex should never overwhelm one’s decorum. Moreover, as a way of life, it enables the worst in human behavior and most importantly swamps the right of the other person to be left alone, such that in the final analysis, it has nothing to do with sex—but is instead all about power.

By objectifying a woman as merely a set of body parts, Trump, devoid of human feeling or consideration, asserts power in the same way as any garden-variety sexual predator. And at the age of 70, this man, running for President of the United States, who has lived a lifetime enacting and reenacting such scenarios—along with the likely thousands of plastic boxes of Tic Tacs he’s purchased over the years—remains an accomplished masher, “fooling” women into giving “it up.”  What is pathetic is that it is clearly not even for pleasure, but fuels a need to brag about it, such that even on a bus with a random group of men he happened to find himself with, he felt the need to discuss his sexual exploits, just as he felt quite compelled to discuss his penis size during one of the primary debates.

Talk about an “ew” moment … and what, no one figured out what a low life sleaze he was from hearing him talk about it on national television while running for the right to represent the party of Lincoln in a presidential race?

That my experiences, which were primarily in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s are still so much a normative “thing” in 2016 is a terrible and sad indictment on how our culture continues to essentially condone that kind of behavior. Is it any wonder that sex trafficking, child sexual abuse, and the assorted and related continuing prospect of sexual assault and rape are front and center, always, for women in America?


“asking for it” and other conundrums … hmmm

“Asking for it” and other conundrums … hmmm

She Tried To Be Good

I may be a little late to the party … but the issues surrounding how we think about women as objects versus as living, breathing persons that are more than sexualized gender constructions is not something that just flares up with a headline. Nor should we consider a young woman attending college an object of derision because she doesn’t cotton to waking up after a party in her sorority having been date-raped by her chem lab partner. Oh- but that would belie that swinging “co-ed” meme that still seems to underlie our dismissal of college women whose plaintive pleas for action are met with a wink and the consternation of college administrators who might actually have to take some responsibility for the conduct of students on campus.

College GirlsThe horror show that was the “Santa Barbara” mass murder outrage a couple of months ago, in that instance, the targeting of women and a few men who happened to be in the way, renewed all sorts of conversations in the popular media and elsewhere about a wide range of topics spanning from gun control to treatment of the mentally ill to the divide between men and women.

And yep, in the mind of our shooter, his lack of attractiveness to women was not *his* fault, but theirs, thus in his twisted mindset, it became a killing offense. If the headlines published in the NY Daily News were to be believed, it all stemmed from the perception of a snarky comment from a friend stated off handedly at the age of ten — and that young woman has been in fear for her life ever since.


What is going on here?

As a mother of a fourteen-year-old, I’ve gotten to know the bit about “slut-shaming” and other lovelies inflicted on tweens and teens by boys *and* girls for offenses as deeply embarrassing as a perceived inopportune smile, but shooting???

Oh and the sexualization of tween and teen girls is another lovely that parents and their kids contend with daily as in the, “But Mom, those are the only shorts they sell,” argument. You know the ones– they’re basically nothing more than butt flashing snippets of “distressed” denim material, and the prideful “good” Moms and Dads (myself among them), create havoc in our homes peeling our daughters out of their shorts and back into “appropriate” clothing.

Still … what is that all about. It’s okay to wear short-shorts for running (same style for men and women), but not for walking? Why not wear short-shorts on a ridiculously hot day without the expectation of some idiot somewhere saying something so wildly offensive and disgusting that one’s own mind needs an ablative scraping just to remove the memory it.

Scratch the surface, however, and that clothing argument gets to the heart of that old canard … “she is just asking for it.”

You Asked For ItA million years ago in 1970, I used to walk home from  Julia Richmond High School on East 68th Street, through Manhattan’s famed Central Park to our apartment on the Upper West Side. My favorite route was up the East Side park drive, then around the running track at the Reservoir until I reached the West Side before the last part of my trek home.

On a lovely Spring afternoon somewhere along the northern edge of the Reservoir, a man grabbed me from behind by placing me in a choke hold that lifted me off the ground. He proceeded to wheel me around and carry me several yards, my body still suspended in the air as I struggled to breathe. He then threw me into the underbrush off the main path. After sexually assaulting me, he ran away and I somehow made it out of the park, disheveled and emotionally shattered, into my mother’s arms.

While I’m not here to “testify” per se, the interesting part was me shaking my head and saying over and over through convulsions of tears, “but Mom, I’m wearing a lumber shirt over loose wide-leg jeans…” a nod to my hippy-girl style complete with long, long hair.

And there we were … my mother and I in this moment, sharing my insistence that I wasn’t “asking for it.” Or, was just being alone with my thoughts enjoying a lovely day the “signal” — much as our young “Santa Barbara Killer” figured he was right to murder women because they were at fault for not liking him.

What I find astounding is the meme of “asking for it” is as current today as it was 44 years ago. And then as now we are still buying it hook, line and sinker.

It is also incredulous to me that people actually believe a woman walking home from school, the movies, work, the grocery store, a night out with friends or the myriad of other places that mark her point of departure … is actually asking for it.

I mean, let’s get real, assault against women whether sexual or otherwise, continues on and on as a 24/7 activity in every corner of the world — including our much vaulted enlightened society. Are we really saying all these women are asking for it too?

And with the exception of a few folks (men and women alike) who explore sexual pain and suffering, trust me, women aren’t waking up and saying, “Gee, I’m going for a walk in the park, come rape me,” or “I’m going to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, kill me if it isn’t al dente.”

I mean, pahleeze, women are continuously on the receiving end of hits, punches, slaps, broken bones, acid thrown in their faces, being set on fire, infanticide, kidnapping, sexual assault, rape and murder precisely because they are women — and if not in real life than as a daily diet of our popular culture.

Something truly has to give.

From the personal side, it is truly alarming to realize that yet another generation of young women in America does not feel safe at home, driving to work, at school, at work or just going for a stroll — not to mention women in uniform who live in fear not from the “enemy,” but from their fellow soldiers, sailors, and officers. (Yes, tell me please how a woman in uniform is “asking for it.”)

I could go on for a while, and wish I had a solution, other than to say, we all, men and women alike, have to shout-out enough and be done with it.

Suffice it to say, my biggest fear remains walking down the street after dark with a group of young men 14 – 23 moving towards me.

March 2018
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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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