A poem by Ananda Gervais
Content Note: sexual assault, street harassment
I am 13 and I’m walking to my friends house and you honk your horn and role down the window as you pass me, pursing your lips to send me kisses, I don’t understand so I look down and avoid eye contact. I ask myself what I did, what did I do to get such attention, what did I do to deserve this disrespect, I am 13.
I am 14 and I’m walking through the school hallways, and you think it is appropriate to smack your hand against my ass, I do not know you, this is not welcome. So when I turn round I intend to yell at this intruder of my personal space of my body but before I can say anything you get on the defensive. ‘it was just a joke’ you say. No it was not just a joke it was assault.
I am 15 and walking home with my friend, it is 9 oclock and the sky is black when you start to follow us. There are two of you and we are scared and reminding each other that we just aim for the nuts. You call after us, ‘hey hot things, wanna play.’ No I most certainly do not want to play so we carry on walking. You call again ‘hey, white girls, stop for a minute, I want to look at you’ I turn around and tell you to stop and my friend tells you to ‘fuck off.’ You step forward and I am genuinely scared for my life, but you retreat calling us whores and bitches as you get into your car. When I later tell one of my friends, she asks me what I was wearing.
I am 16 and you push me up against the wall and tell me to kiss you, I refuse and you push me harder, trying to grope me. I struggle out of your grasp, you call me a prude I tell you to bite me. I tell you if I ever saw you try that again I would break your arm. An hour later I see you do the same thing to my very drunk friend, she tells you to stop, you don’t. So I push you off her and you stumble to the floor, your friend tells me to relax. I should of broken your arm.
I am 17 and am walking in the darkness with my best friend as we had decided to be fun and spontaneous and surprise another friend of ours when you drive up to us, there are 4, maybe 5 of you in that car and as you yell at us I assure my friend that everything will be okay. I’m not sure what words of abuse you hurled at us but when we stayed silent and walked on you yelled at us to at least be polite and have a conversation with you. Are you actually telling us to be polite, because to me that’s the greatest irony of all.
I am 18 and my bus stops, I get off, noticing you, who had been staring at me for the last 8 stops are also getting off the bus. I clench my fists and speed walk through the dark streets, my house seeming further away than usual. You follow me at my first turn and then the second, I immediately accept my fate. Dialling my mother’s number and leaving her a message to tell her I love her. As I hang up you turn a corner away from me and I let out a breath of relief.
I like being a girl, its fun and slightly complicated and I would never wish to not be me, not for an instant. But in instances like these and many like it, I do not want to be a girl. For a flighting second I wish to be you, I wish to not have to walk alone in fear and to not have to worry about how my choices in clothing might be interpreted, but sadly, wishes rarely come true.