Being a Girl
Jenny’s thrilled to be playing in the jungle gym at pre-school. It’s a special treat! Her pigtails jiggle as she jumps and plays. She begged her mother to put them in that morning even though her hair isn’t really long enough. Jimmy’s playing right next to her and as he can’t resist, he pulls on Jenny’s pigtail. It springs back, he laughs, delighted with the movement of Jenny’s hair. It’s so cool! Jenny cries, scrambles to her feet and runs to her teacher standing next to the classroom door.
“Miss Sally, Miss Sally, Jimmy pulled my hair and it hurt…” Jenny exclaims.
Miss Sally interrupts kindly, “It’s okay Jenny, Jimmy didn’t mean to hurt you. Do you want to come inside and help me set up our after-recess snack?”
Miss Sally looks at Jimmy, who’s gone off to play on the swings with his friends and decides it’s not the right time to speak with him. She takes Jenny’s hand and engages her by asking the little girl what she’d like to serve for snack. Jenny smiles and thinks, ‘Wow, I get to pick the snack!’ She feels so grown up.
Jenny’s starting first grade and she’s so excited about wearing her new dress on her first day. She feels so big today as she walks to school with her older brothers. She’s carrying her new lunchbox with the sparkles on it and she skips alongside one of her brothers, chatting happily all the way.
When she gets to school, Jenny notices Jimmy. She’s happy to see him. He’s one of her friends and she doesn’t know many of the other first graders. She’s filled with exuberance as she loves her big brothers and gets to walk with them every day now.
“Hi, Jimmy,” Jenny says as she approaches him and a couple of other boys. Jimmy’s happy to see Jenny as he doesn’t know many first graders either. Jenny shyly clutches her lunchbox to her chest. She hasn’t seen Jimmy for the whole summer and that’s a long time for a 6-year old.
Jimmy’s shy too, but the other boys are watching. He looks around and grabs Jenny’s dress and lifts it up. He’s seen older boys do this and everyone always laughs. Sure enough, the other boys laugh and Jimmy giggles too. Jenny turns away quietly and walks into the school as the bell rings. One of Jimmy’s new friends grabs his hand to drag him into the school. Jimmy feels happy – he’s made a new friend!
Jenny loves grammar school. She loves learning new things and her teachers are very attentive. She has plenty of friends, both boys and girls, and it’s fun to play on the playground.
Now, she’s headed to middle school as a 5th grader. At the bus stop, Jenny gathers with several other children. She’s excited as this is her first bus ride to school. She has her bus pass and her new backpack. She doesn’t know the older girls at the bus stop and she feels shy, but then she sees her best friend, Michaela, and runs toward her. Jenny’s relieved as Michaela shrieks in delight at Jenny’s new backpack. Thankfully, she’s chosen exactly right.
Now in 7th grade, Jenny fits right in and likes being known as one of the smart kids. She walks into her new Spanish class and sees Jimmy in the seat beside her. She hasn’t had a class with him since grammar school. Spanish is new for everyone this year, so seeing Jimmy again isn’t too surprising. Jimmy smiles at Jenny, he hasn’t seen his friend in a long time either.
Jenny and Michaela are walking to lunch and Jenny quietly says, “Do you think Jimmy’s cute?”
“Why, do you like him?” Michaela slows her pace and looks curiously at Jenny.
“I don’t know,” Jenny continues doubtfully, “I’ve known him forever and now he’s on the same basketball and baseball teams as one of my brothers. I see him a lot now. I think…oh, I don’t know.” Jenny’s flustered and changes the subject quickly.
The years continues and Jenny does grow a little crush on Jimmy. In Spanish class, Jenny knows she can shine. Apparently, she has an affinity for language too. She raises her hand repeatedly and one day in February, Jenny unsurprisingly raises her hand once again and hears Jimmy mutter, “Oh, there she goes again – showing off.”
It’s now the summer before high school and all of Jenny’s friends are going to a birthday party. Jenny wants to join them desperately as Jimmy’s going to be there with his friends too. Her crush has grown throughout middle school.
“Mom, Michaela’s Dad is driving us and Shelly’s Mom will bring us back. Please, please, please can I go?” Jenny pleads with her mother, who’s usually strict about boys being involved. Jenny pushes until her mother acquiesces with an exasperated sigh. Raising 3 boys and a girl, all teenagers, takes a tremendous amount of energy and Jenny’s worn her down with her pleas.
Jenny happily gets into Michaela’s car and knows this will be the best night of her life! Jimmy doesn’t necessarily pay special attention to her, but she notices him noticing her. Couples start pairing off and Mark, one of Jimmy’s friends, approaches her. She knows him from her classes as he’s really smart too. Mark asks her if she wants a beer and she declines. He then asks her to go look at the stars outside. Jenny glances at Jimmy and sees him taking the hand of another girl. Jenny feels a little crushed. She knows she shouldn’t, really, but she does.
“Sure,” she says to Mark, “let’s go look at the stars.”
Over the next few months, Mark and Jenny become a couple. Mark’s really nice, intelligent and plays sports on the same teams as Jimmy. Jenny feels a little sneaky still harboring a crush on Jimmy. Since he’s dating someone else and Mark’s a really good guy, Jenny continues to see Mark.
Months become years and Mark and Jenny are a full-fledged couple now entering their senior year of high school. They’re sexually engaged and Jenny couldn’t have asked for a better first time. Mark’s kind, caring and he really loves her.
College begins and Jenny and Mark break up. He’s going to a west coast school and she an east coast one. They try to stay close, but the distance is too much. Jenny does well in college. She’s smart, attractive and interesting. She makes lots of friends and has the typical freshman and sophomore college years.
The summer before her junior year abroad, Jenny makes a special point to see her old high school friends as she’s sentimental about going away for a full year.
At a beach party with Michaela, Jenny notices Jimmy noticing her. She feels a little rush. He’s still so cute. Her middle school crush comes back to her.
“Hey, Jenny. You look great! How are you?” Jimmy asks as he walks toward her, carrying an extra beer. Jenny takes the beer although she’s not a big drinker. She’s never acquired the taste for it.
Jimmy and Jenny go toward the big rocks at the edge of the dunes to catch up. Jenny feels great as Jimmy’s gorgeous, funny and knows just how to entertain her for a few hours. Jimmy makes a few moves on Jenny and she goes along. As she’s kissing him, she feels lucky. This is Jimmy, who she’s had a crush for years. As Jimmy makes a few more moves, Jenny feels a little uncomfortable, but hey, this is Jimmy. As Jimmy pins Jenny’s arms down to have sex with her, Jenny puts up a fight.
Jimmy laughs, “Seriously, you’ve like had a crush on me forever.”
Jenny fights a little more, but as tears run down her face, she thinks, “Oh well, this is Jimmy.” Afterward, she grabs her clothes and runs past her friends on the beach to get to the safety of her home. A few weeks later, Jenny leaves for her junior-year abroad. She doesn’t hear from Jimmy again.
So, Jenny is date raped by a boy she’s known for years.
You may be surprised or not. You may be asking yourself; How could Jenny be raped?
But, that isn’t the right question.
The question isn’t; HOW COULD JENNY BE RAPED?
The question is; WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG?
You see, at the beach with Jimmy, Jenny does protest, just not very forcefully. She gets confused by her past feelings for him and the present circumstances. The next morning, she tells Michaela, her best friend and Michaela says, “Really Jenny? Jimmy can have any girl he wants and you’ve had a crush on him forever. I don’t think Jimmy needs to take advantage of anyone.” Jenny doesn’t say another word to anyone, she silently waits until her junior year abroad begins.
With her high school boyfriend, Mark, Jenny isn’t ready to have sex in her junior year of high school, but everyone else’s doing it and they’ve been dating for so long. Jenny pushes away her own feelings of uneasiness and agrees. After all, she and Mark are a great couple.
In Spanish class in middle school, Jenny stops raising her hand in Spanish class due to Jimmy’s utterance about being a show off. In fact, she seldom raises her hand in any of her classes.
At the bus stop, Jenny’s relief is monumental as Michaela likes her new lunchbox. Jenny feels insecure about picking out new things.
After Jimmy lifts her dress in first grade, Jenny runs to the bathroom and cries in one of the stalls. Everyone has seen her underwear and she’s hysterical. The best day has turned into the worst one! As Jenny continues to cry, she decides not to tell her new teacher. It doesn’t matter anyway as she knows a teacher will just say, “Jimmy didn’t mean it.” But, Jenny never wears another dress to school.
In pre-school, no one notices as Jenny pulls her pigtails out of her hair and never asks her mother to put them in again.
You see, Jenny’s a typical girl. She adjusts to her surroundings to feel safe. The pigtails and dresses have to go and her clothing and accessory decisions need to be approved by her friends. She goes silent in class, then with her boyfriend, on the beach with a former crush and finally with her best friend. Her silence continues into her junior year of college and beyond.
It’s really no wonder Jenny gets raped and then goes silent. She’s been questioning herself since pre-school and she’s been shown that no one will support her view of events.
Sexual assault and rape isn’t just a one-moment event. It happens over the course of a lifetime due to indecision, lack of support and silence.
Jenny’s a typical girl.
Jenny’s a typical girl – 1 in 5 women who are raped and 1 in 3 who experience sexual violence.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
We need to change our culture as typical girls shouldn’t be getting raped or sexually assaulted. No matter our age or gender, here’s what we can do:
- Have lots of conversations.
- Watch our words to both girls and boys.
- Review our own biases.
- Redefine masculinity.
- Get enthusiastic about enthusiastic consent.
- Tell our stories. Stop the silence.
- Reject rape culture.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
Who’s with me?