When Was Your First Time … Being Sexually Assaulted?

The first time someone attempted to sexually assault me, I was nine. I knew that I could not tell my parents about it because they would not let me go out and ride my bike around the neighborhood. And I never told them because I knew that it would always be a lever to diminish my freedom. And it was the beginning of not telling my parents anything that would impede my ability to live freely. And I understood that I was part of a family and society that excused men’s bad behavior. I had to decide between my independence and my safety – and I chose independence; a sad choice for a nine year old.

Of course, sexual and non-sexual assaults are an un or under-discussed reality in our lives. I am sure that many times, I did not even recognize intra-personal violence as sexual assault—but I responded. Sadly, to the horror of my family. In junior high school, when clogs were in fashion and it was one of the rare periods of my life that I had long hair. Whenever someone pulled my ponytail, I would turn around and kick them in the shins with my clogs. Hard. One day the principal, Mr. Wilson, did it. I still smile at the pain in his face and abject surprise at my response to his boundary breaking. I remember sitting in his office absolutely fuming that I could do nothing, and I lost a week of recess. I could fill this page with stories. We all could.

Globally, the circumstances and consequences seem much worse. In a different place, my move with the principal could have had me beaten and expelled from school – if I were able to attend at all. This is why ESD skills are so important. That women can learn verbal and non physical skills as first steps against assault. But there is more that we can do.

As ESD Global is developing and piloting a men’s curriculum, I am already tweaking it. We must be sure to teach men that it is not simply enough that they know how to defend themselves, or that they do not demonstrate violence toward women. Men need to understand how they, their health, their wealth, their freedom comes at the cost of women’s o