By Myla Andrews
“Little girl, I think I’ve lost my puppy—want to hop in my car and help me find it?”
Those words unfurled from the lips of a ragged older man driving a beat up Volkswagen in a strip-mall parking lot. I, being four years old at the time, knew better than to talk to strangers and retreated into the back seat of my parents' car, shutting the door behind me. I didn’t understand the implications of the interaction in which I had just unwillingly partaken.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment involving the likes of catcalling, unsolicited sexual advances, and the like, are commonplace for many women in America and elsewhere. For many, being treated like an object of pleasure is a violating and disturbing experience that can become deeply ingrained in the female psyche. We asked UCLA students to recount the first time they felt sexually violated by a man.
When I was in 7th grade, I went to Thanksgiving at my mom's friend's house. Her son (who was a sophomore in high school) took me to another house where he was "pet-sitting" and gave me my first drink. Once I was intoxicated he proceeded to try to make out with me even though I was clearly too drunk. His friend came up and took him off of me and helped me away from him and apologized.
I was at a movie with my mom and aunt when I was around 16 and an older man sat to the right of me. I was wearing a skirt and had a jacket over my legs to keep them warm. For the first half of the movie, I kept on feeling a super subtle feeling across my leg but it was soooo subtle that I was convinced that it was just my jacket rubbing across my leg or just the air. After about 20 minutes of this, I got a bit suspicious so I stole a quick glance at the man next to me but I could clearly see his hand so I again was convinced that he wasn't doing anything. Finally, I knew that something or someone was touching my leg. I waited a few moments and then moved my jacket. Suddenly, the man jerked his hand away and we both sat in the awkward, dark silence as the movie continued playing. I realized that he had hid his left arm under his own jacket and been faintly rubbing my leg (so faintly that I didn't even realize he was touching me for a good 40 minutes). He continued sitting for the next five minutes and then left before the movie was even close to finishing. I don't even remember what the movie was or what it was about. I felt disgusting and never told anybody, but now I wish I had run after him.
I hit puberty pretty early, so my above-average height always made me a target for jeers and catcalls at a young age. The first time I felt truly uncomfortable around a man though was when I was 12, and just trying to enjoy myself in an ice skating rink. This man came up to me, who looked about 20, and struck up an invasive conversation while I politely answered his questions. At one point he asked me how old I was, and I said 12, and he looked me up and down and said "oh, like grade 12?" I clarified and stood up to leave, and he grabbed my wrist and said "You really shouldn't walk around like that at this age" and then stormed off. I was wearing a t-shirt and leggings, and I think that's the first time I felt ashamed of just being in my own body because of a man.
I was at a party, very obviously drunk to most people around me. A friend guy had seen me vomiting and knew I wasn’t okay. I was with my roommate and was safe at this point. Next thing I knew however, I was sitting in the laundry room of a frat with this guy from before and he was shirtless and kissing me. I remember thinking “what the fuck is happening right now” and not wanting any part of it to continue but also not knowing what to do. My roommate sent a friend to look for me, and he found me and pulled me out of the room. The worst part is that the guy who took advantage of me was someone I truly saw as a friend. You never know who will be the one to violate you.
I was about a month into high school and was on my way to my bus. All of a sudden I feel a hand cup my butt. When I turn around I see a junior boy walking away in the opposite direction. I talked to other girls and they experienced very similar problems with this boy. He had a sister in my grade--I really wonder how he would feel about someone doing that to her.
He was the best friend of a guy I dated in the past. I ran into him one night at a party and he kept on finding me more alcohol to drink. He followed me and my housemates from party to party, each stop finding me more alcohol to drink. Finally, at the end of the night, he followed us back to our apartment and followed me into my bed. My judgement was so clouded that night so I didn’t think much into it at the time but even though I remember telling him no, the next morning I woke up naked in my own bed.
The first time I truly understood that I had been violated by a man was when my Lyft driver grabbed my inner thigh as I got out of his car. It was completely out of nowhere and shook me in a way that I had never experienced.
The first time I felt violated by a man was by my own father in my childhood home. My father took a drunken pass at my mother, throwing her across the room in my dining room; too drunk and angry over some words my mom said. I was upstairs when this was happening, hearing the events taking place, but not seeing them actually happen. I remember feeling scared of the boys in my classes in third grade through high school, worried that every boy was an aggressor, not a sympathizer.