Colin’s #metoo…

At first the man seemed innocuous.

“Hey! I like your red shoes!” he called from across the aisle, quiet enough that Colin didn’t even hear.

“Colin?” I asked and he turned. “The man says he likes your shoes.”

“Thank you,” Colin said dutifully.

“I like your green coat,” the man continued. “It’s very bright”. Colin simply nodded. “And your hair,” he added. At that point Colin put in his earbuds.

“I really like your shoes,” the man continued then repeated it again as Colin stayed silent. I wondered when he was going to get the hint that Colin did not want to talk.

“He’s wearing headphones, he can’t hear you,” I pointed out, hoping that would be the end. It wasn’t.

“He can hear me just fine,” the man said with a chuckle. “See?” he added as Colin took out the buds.

The bus stopped. I hoped the man was leaving but it was just a woman getting on. She took a seat nearby.

“Are they Converse?” he asked once the bus started again.

“No,” I replied. Colin stayed silent.

“They look like really bouncy shoes. I bet you’re bouncy too.”

With that he got up and walked across the aisle, rubbing Colin’s arm before sitting down beside him. The lady looked at them and moved farther down the bus.

“I really like your hair,” he said softly as he stroked Colin’s hair. Colin looked as stunned as I felt.

“I think you’re so pretty.”

His hand moved to Colin’s arm again and the stroking continued.

Colin snapped, “Stop that! I don’t like that!” while I said, “Hey! Leave my son alone.”

“I want you to go back to your own seat,” Colin said forcefully. The man laughed.

“No,” he said simply. It was clear Colin had no idea what to do.

I was sitting in a section with only three seats so I moved to the middle seat.

“Colin, come sit beside me,” I said. He stood up and came over immediately.

“Thanks,” he whispered once he was settled.

The harassment didn’t end there. The man had been on the phone that whole time, pretty much ignoring whoever was on the other side. Now he gave them his full attention, detailing how gorgeous Colin was while flipping between referring to him as male and female.

“There’s two pretty girls,” the man continued. “The other one has blue hair and it looks really good on her. Matches her big blue eyes.”

At least we were almost to our stop. I tried to ignore the man but he was speaking loud enough for us to hear his every word. I knew it was on purpose.

“Can you skip going to Marshalls?” Colin asked earnestly, studiously looking everywhere except at the man seated across from us.

The plan was for me to take a peek at Marshalls and see if there was something there for Colin’s birthday in June while he bought snacks at Dollar Tree.

“Why don’t you wander around Marshalls while I look and then we can both go to Dollar Tree?”

“That’s fine,” he said with relief.

We got to the shopping centre and went to climb off the bus. Colin made a brief stop to tell the bus driver what happened. She looked bewildered, as if she had no idea what to do with that information. The man remained seated the whole time and stayed on board as the bus pulled away. Colin gave a visible sigh of relief.

“Where do you want to meet?” he asked.

“Umm… how about in the food section?” I asked, trying to picture a place in Marshalls that he could find easily.

“There’s a food section at Home Depot?” he asked in bewilderment. Then I clued in. Now that the man was gone, Colin felt fine to go on his own.

“How about at the key cutting place,” I said and he agreed.

It wasn’t until we’d paid for the keys and were on the way to the grocery store that Colin brought up the bus incident.

“I don’t like what that man did to me,” Colin blurted.

I doubled checked for cars and kept walking beside him, “I bet you don’t,” I agreed.

“He made me feel uncomfortable,” he continued. “Some women wouldn’t think that was sexual assault because it only happens to women.”

“Except you’re a woman,” I pointed out.

“The man didn’t know that,” Colin retaliated. I shrugged, even though he couldn’t see me.

“He called you a girl too.”

Colin didn’t have a response for that. We walked in silence a few more feet.

“I don’t like what that woman did,” Colin said, confusing the heck out of me.

“What woman?” I asked.

“The woman on the bus,” Colin explained. “He started touching my arm and she just got up and walked away.”

I nodded. “A lot of people are like that. They don’t know what to do or they don’t want to get involved so they ignore the situation.”

“I really didn’t like that,” Colin murmured under his breath. We stayed silent until we got to the grocery store. He hasn’t brought up the incidence since. Although I doubt he’s forgotten. I don’t think he ever will.

By some luck of the draw, Colin is a very feminine looking man, despite his height. Maybe that’s what attracted the man? It would make sense considering that he kept alternating genders for Colin.

Colin’s not an innocent in many ways. He’s taken a comprehensive sex education programme and is quite knowledgeable about politics, war, and how they combine. But today he lost that bit of innocence and gained the realization that some people will look at him just as an object to use and not a person. It’s a lesson I wish neither of my kids had ever learned.

Today Colin earned his #metoo

Colin's amarylis

Colin and the amaryllis he grew

Me too…

CW: sexual assault

My grade eight teacher was particularly strict. We had rules for how to line our paper and we had rules for how to line up before class (in order of height). There was always a bit of a jumble as kids found their spaces in line. This day I was standing a bit away from the other kids when it happened. Lloyd reached over and grabbed my breast in front of everyone.

The teacher came out with the resulting noise and asked what happened. So I told him. He immediately got Lloyd and I then took us down the hall. My stop was first. I got put into the little room beside the science room. It was probably designed as a photo lab but all it had was a stool, which I perched on.

The teacher told me to stay in there and wait until he came back. Then he left. I had no idea what was going on or why I’d been put there. I felt like I’d done something wrong. I sat there, staring at the blacked out window, and wondered what was going to happen to me. All the while I could feel Lloyd’s hand touching me.

Eventually the teacher came and led me back to class. No adults asked me any questions or even mentioned the incident to me. I sat in silence, trying not to look at any other kids.

When I got home, my Mom sat me down and explained how Lloyd was having a hard time. His Dad had died recently, crushed under the car he was repairing. Lloyd was the one to find him. I should have some sympathy for him. He had a lot on his plate.

I didn’t want to here this. I wanted “I love you”, “I’m sorry this happened to you”, “It wasn’t your fault”.

Lloyd was back several days later. I noticed him in French class and made sure to sit as far away from him as possible. The teacher told us to put our finished work on the back table. I placed mine down then a body pushed and ground himself against me. Lloyd whispered harshly, “If you tell on me ever again I will fuck you up the ass.” I’d learned my lesson. No one would do anything. I didn’t tell.

Soon after he invented a song, “Ah Kath-a-leen, ah Kath-a-leen. She’s my honey, my Playboy Bunny. Ah Kath-a-leen”. The song made me feel horrible inside but there was noone to tell. Yard supervisors ignored it and I didn’t think anyone else would care. This went on for months.

I also figured they wouldn’t care about the lies the boys were loudly telling. Claims of what I’d done to them the night before. Some things went right over my head. The rest were horribly embarrassing.

I have face blindness and struggle to recognize people. Which made the next stage of abuse even harder. Boys would walk up to me and touch me somewhere, usually my shoulder but sometimes my backside, and tell me what I was going to do to them that night. Then they’d slip away into the crowd. I didn’t know who I could trust because I didn’t know which boys were involved.

As we all aged the form of abuse changed. Now they had cars. I’d be walking home from school, or just around the neighbourhood, when someone would scream my name and what I’d supposedly done that night with him. I still jump if someone yells from a car and that happened in the 1980’s.

The day before yesterday I watched as my Facebook newsfeed filled with statuses and comments reading “me too”. I’d held this secret for so long, only my ex-boyfriend Lenny knew. But I wasn’t the only one assaulted, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Remember, if you were sexually assaulted, you have value, meaning, self-worth, and dignity. They took nothing from you. You matter so very much and people care about you. I care about you.

They didn’t take anything from you. You are still you. You are still whole. You will recover. We are phoenixes. We will burn into ashes and rise again even stronger.

I take it back!

I joked half a year ago (double checks the date, yes, it was exactly half a year ago today) that sex ed talks could be renamed “Why Mommy Wants to Drink”. I take it back. Plain, basic explanations on what people do together in private (you know, beyond sleeping and surfing the net) are easy.

I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when Jeremy walked in. He leaned against the fridge and eyed me seriously.

“Mom. Some people say men can’t get raped.”

I put the knife down and stared at him, momentarily speechless, my thoughts colliding with each other as they went from organizing food prep to serious conversation.

“They say that men have to, umm, be interested in order to have sex.”

Really? I’d rather just go back to explaining anal sex. Talk about needing a deep breath. I was tired, hungry, and in no way ready for a conversation like this.

“Okay,” I said slowly, trying to corral my thoughts. “Something you have to remember is that nature has only one goal and that’s to reproduce. That’s it for every single plant and animal and that includes us. Nature doesn’t care what you think, feel, or want; it tries its utmost for a baby regardless. Men can have erections and women can have orgasms even if they don’t want to have sex at all.”

He nodded then added, “And women have it a lot easier because they get believed and men don’t. They get more help too.”

Jeremy rattled off a statistic which I promptly lost. Under ten rape clinics that worked with men and clinics numbering in the thousands for women. He had exact numbers, presumably from a video he’d watched.

“They said there’s more clinics for women because men get raped less but how would anyone know that if they’re not believed?”

Another deep breath. My doctor offered me Ativan last month and I turned him down. Which was probably a good choice because this was not a conversation to have while looped.

“In one way that’s true,” I agreed. “Men don’t get believed and often don’t report assaults. Plus there’s a whole different mentality. If a grown man has sex with a 14 year old girl, that’s rape. But if a grown woman has sex with a 14 year old boy, he’s considered a stud. And that’s not right.”

Jeremy nodded and stayed silent. So I continued.

“Sadly, women don’t have it much better. I read a story recently where a judge reduced the sentence on a sexual assault case because the 14 year old girl was too mature for her age and must have been willing. And the first things people ask when a woman’s raped are what she’s wearing, how late it was, and if she was drinking. You know, to figure out how much was her fault. Women might be doing a bit better when it comes to being believed but everyone’s getting the short end of the stick.”

Then a thought occurred to me.

“Jeremy? Has anyone ever touched you or done anything…” I had no idea how to finish that sentence. Luckily I didn’t need to.

“No,” he replied simply in a voice full of surprise. His expression was baffled as if he couldn’t comprehend that anyone would try to hurt him like that. I think everyone feels like that, until something happens at least, and I hope he keeps that feeling forever.

Jeremy has a girlfriend…

When Jeremy got home yesterday he immediately wanted me to see his bedroom. He’s been working on cleaning up for several days now and spent an hour working on it that morning after I left for work.

It looked really good but he hadn’t cleaned under his bed. I got the broom and began sweeping.

“I’m in a relationship,” he blurted.

I reached the broom into the far corner beneath the bed. “Does The Doctor know?” I asked.

“Mom!” he retorted. He was probably trying to sound shocked but was laughing too much to manage. “It’s not The Doctor.”

I put the broom down. “Okay, so who is it?”

“It’s Hannah,” he replied, which wasn’t a surprise. He’s been frustrated with Hannah since late last year. She keeps picking boyfriends who have her marked as an easy lay then inappropriate behaviour ensues.

“I wouldn’t treat her like that,” he told me last spring. “I don’t know why she keeps picking assholes to date.”

This was shortly after the bus incident; one where Hannah was caught giving her boyfriend sexual favours on the bus ride home. Jeremy is in a special class and he’s quite easily the most high functioning child in the room. Hannah would be more accurately described as sweet and pliable and the boyfriend as developmentally delayed.

This incident is what prompted the school to finally offer their classes a sex ed program. Until then I’m pretty sure Jeremy was the only teen in his class who’d attended one and that’s because I sent him to the OWL program offered through our Unitarian Universalist congregation.

As an aside, I highly recommend this program to anyone with children, especially if they are or you suspect they might be LGBTQ. It’s not a religious program, Canadian Unitarian Universalists aren’t considered Christian and I’m sure a third of our congregation is atheist. It’s a comprehensive program and one which treats all sexual orientations and gender identities equal. When Emma took the program, they role played asking people out so they’d know how hard it is and be gentle with someone who’s made the effort (even if they weren’t interested). They didn’t pair the kids by gender, they drew names out of hats. Emma was paired with a girl for her turn.

Obviously sex ed for Jeremy’s classmates had come a bit too late.

Last month a friend of Jeremy, one of Hannah’s ex-boyfriends, decided to touch her inappropriately at school. She complained to one of the teachers. At first Jeremy was mad because he felt his friend hadn’t done anything and they were blaming him over nothing. Then the friend confessed. Neither teen wanted to go any further with charges so the issue was dropped. However, the school and Hannah’s parents decided it would be better if Hannah didn’t date at all anymore. Jeremy was livid.

“She wasn’t dating him and didn’t want to be touched. They’re punishing her for doing the right thing and telling someone in authority. That’s not fair.” He shook his head in disgust. “She keeps picking guys who only want her for sex and I’m not going to be like that.”

He said the last part emphatically and I believe him. That’s why he broke up with his last girlfriend. She wanted sex and he didn’t, at least not with her. And I was dancing inside because he was only 15 years old at the time. You can be sure I praised him to the sky for his decision.

Of course this is a relationship in name only. They can’t go out anywhere because she’s not allowed to date. They can’t say anything at school. I’d be surprised if they’re even able to hold hands, let alone kiss. But he can tell people outside of school that he’s dating her and I guess that’s good enough for him. As Lenny pointed out, it’s a safe relationship.

Shortly after I sat down at the computer, Jeremy appeared at my door, a huge grin on his face.

“Did you know The Doctor’s bisexual?” he asked. “There’s this guy he likes and they flirt back and forth and talk about sex. The guy can’t die either.”

“Is it Captain Jack?” I asked. I’ve only seen four episodes but Jeremy’s watched everything available on Netflix. He nodded.

“Yes, Captain Jack and the second doctor in the new seasons,” he replied.

He came back a short time later. “Mom! Mom! The Doctor went to a gay strip club,” he blurted excitedly.

One of these days I’ll have to sit down and watch the rest of the shows with him. Four episodes and some disjointed descriptions aren’t enough to know what’s going on.