I was 6 the first time I saw a penis other than my father’s.

My grandmother’s neighbor had a son, Bobby, about my age. He pulled the line on me, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” I didn’t even know what he meant until he pulled my shirt up and then pulled his pants down. I remember his room being dark and kind of messy and I also remember running downstairs and out of the house, maybe through a kitchen. I’m not sure I ever went back there. I still see him once in a while and it throttles me every time. I’ve seen his penis. I never asked to see his penis.

When I was in high school, I started talking to a boy named Jason and we were friendly and then we “liked” each other. I was in maybe 10th grade when he invited me to his house. It was fine. We were friends. Our parents were friends. We didn’t go to the same school, but his parents were nice enough. Actually, come to think of it, I only remember him having a dad. I think maybe the parents were divorced. Either way, I went to his house. My parents dropped me off. They trusted this was an OK idea. I went in and realized immediately that there were no adults in the house. It was only minutes before he was on top of me and was forcing himself on me. Jamming tongue. Hands all over. I tried to push him off and he seemed to be joking when he said something about how everything was fine. It was not fine. I got away and sat in his house shaking for who knows how long before I used their phone to call my parents to come get me immediately. No questions were asked. I got in the car and left. It was years before I shared this story. My parents loved him. They thought he was the best. I had to call an ex boyfriend, someone I still to this day adore as a brother (Greg … we “dated” in 7th grade), to get him to tell Jason just where he could shove his wandering hands. Jason never messed with me again. I don’t think any adults ever had any conversation about this. Swept aside. Not because I think nobody cared … it was just too far removed. Too far gone. I have no idea where Jason is now. I don’t care.

When I was a junior in high school, my boyfriend of a couple years had gone off to college and had no time or desire to take his high school girlfriend to her prom. I wasn’t going to go. I was devastated. But … I was part of the group that was in charge of decorating the event space, so I was thrust into promland. At this event space, which was inside a Holiday Inn situated right next to an adult bookstore, I met a man whose name I don’t even remember. He worked at the hotel and was helping all of us with setting things up in the room. He was on ladders and gathering and moving things. He was “a man,” but since I was 16 or so, who the hell knows how old he really was. He could’ve been 21. Not sure, but I suspect he was late 20s/early 30s. He was very good looking. Very. And he apparently thought I was as well. He asked for my phone number and I didn’t give it to him. Then he called my house. I have no idea to this day how he got my number. I swear. My dad found me in the basement, hiding behind the bar, talking to him. He kept telling me how he really thought I was beautiful and we should hang out at the prom and after the prom. I was freaking out. Nothing happened, but looking back on it, it scares the hell out of me. Innocent? Maybe. Creepy? Absolutely.

My senior year was majorly fucked up because a dude named Shawn, an older kid who went to my high school but had graduated two years prior, started coming to football games to watch his brother play. Totally normal. Until he started to stand at the fence right where the cheerleaders were cheering. I was one of those cheerleaders. He seemed to fixate on me suddenly, after having never spoken a word to him. He started to just stare, and this went on for a few weeks. Then one day after a football game, or maybe it was just after school one day … it’s a blur now, honestly … I had to stop at a convenience store called Tick-Tock (spelling may be wrong) near my high school because I needed gas to get home. He pulled in after me. He followed me into the store and kept saying we should go out. I knew of his questionable past from others at school. He was a known girlfriend abuser. I wasn’t interested. I told him this over and over. My house was and still is in the woods in western Pennsylvania, out of earshot of any neighbors. My parents owned a business that left us somewhat latchkey kids. I always came home to an empty house. One day, I was home alone and we NEVER locked our doors. Dog started barking and I looked out of our bathroom window. There he was. In my driveway. I RAN to lock the doors and as I was doing so, he started to open the door I was holding. There was a brief exchange of me telling him I am still not interested in him and that he needed to leave. NOW. He grabbed the back of my head and jammed his tongue down my throat. He pulled away and laughed and said it wouldn’t be the last time we kissed. He left, gloating. I ran into the bathroom (after locking the doors) and spit in the sink. I was shaking and freaked out. He seemed so proud of himself. Then he left me alone after I again sent an ex boyfriend (the same one who dumped me for prom … but thanks for the good guys!) to tell him to leave me the hell alone. Surprisingly he did. And thankfully. Because today he sits in a jail cell for killing one or two people in a jealous rage. I don’t even remember the story, but I know there was a small child involved. I don’t know anything else about what happened. It haunts me sometimes if I think about it. I kissed a murderer. Against my wishes.

I’m not done.

As a freshman at Kent State University, I lived in the dorms they called “Small Group,” a cluster of brick buildings that all look alike and sit out in a field way the hell out away from everyone else. Not sure why, but it was so secluded and strange to be so far away from everyone else. I lived in the basement. There was drama surrounding me from DAY ONE at that place. I kid you not. I had a group of women harassing me and calling me racist and bullying me and I still to this day have no idea why. I had had a black roommate, a sweet girl named Trina who moved out to be with some friends on the third floor. I was alone. In the basement. I had made friends with a couple of girls on the floor and we were close. We ended up living together for a lot of the rest of college. But while I was alone in that room one day, this really cute surfer boy who lived in the dorm across from my building came into my room and forced himself on me. Literally pushed me against the wall and started fondling me. I kicked his ass. Right there, I kneed him and punched him and got him the hell out of there. Remember that 7th grade boyfriend from back home? Well, he was now a 6-foot-5 beast of an athlete. And he, too, went to Kent State. My big brother. Greg came to Small Group and “had a talkin’ with” this surfer boy. And guess what? Surfer boy never fucked with me again. And also, I don’t remember his name. I have no idea what his name was. I can see him. He is in my head. He had great surfer hair, almost white. He was tiny. Shorter than me. To think of how scared he must’ve been not only when I kicked his ass, but then Greg shows up? I almost laugh thinking about it. But holy shit. That was not OK. Horrible experience.

I’ve been taken advantage of by other men. Some said they loved me, even. I believed it.

I don’t share this to make anyone feel sorry for me. I share this to show you that the woman sitting next to you likely has a story. She may have several, like I do. And this doesn’t even touch upon all the catcalling and inappropriate talk.

Oh, and as an adult, there was the one time at work in the newsroom at The Indianapolis Star when a man came up to me and started to rub my shoulders because he wanted me to make a headline smaller so his fantastic words would fit the space. For a split second, I thought it was my husband. Then I realized my husband and I barely even spoke to each other at work (kind of a professional thing we had going for a while, I guess. We weren’t fighting … just making a point to not be gross and in love while at work. We were newlyweds.). So I turned really quickly and said, “DO NOT TOUCH ME.” He laughed. I can still hear him and see him and how he stood there. “Can you bump that headline down to 40 point and see if it fits for me?” This is the same dude who often searched “slutfest.com” on work computers. I know this because when I’d sit down at the computer the day after him for my shift, I’d start to type in “starnews.com” and as soon as I hit the S, there it was. Sluts.

I guess I know why I share this, even though I know some will roll their eyes and blow it off as nothing. But it was something to me. I remember every single one of these situations quite well, give or take a few details. Some of those details were insignificant. Some I suppose I put out of my memory because I needed to.

The one thing I take away from all of that is that I have three sons. I have three sons and those boys will grow up and hopefully not be little prick assholes because I’m their mom. I’m their mom and I am working on making this world a little better by raising three boys to become men who love women. Adore women. Love men. Adore men. Love and adore life. And three humans who will not hurt just to hurt. They will not throw meanness out into the world. They will not devalue and inflict pain. They will not become Brock Turners and they will not become Donald Trumps. They will be decent human beings who care about everyone and hopefully remember mom and their dad and how they were raised and how in this world, love is the way forward. Not pain. Not power. Not sex. Not money. LOVE.

I’m raising three boys. This is exactly why I tell my story.

(EDIT: I looked it up. Shawn shot and killed a 3-year-old boy and wounded the boy’s grandfather. I believe these were family members of a woman he either dated or wanted to date or something … the news items are under lock and key and I’m not about to pay money to read that haunting bit from the past.)

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