“Oh give me a [expletive] break. Women are so quick to scream sexual assault for any little thing now that it has desensitized us all and takes away from the women who have actually been assaulted.”
That’s a Facebook post from an acquaintance of mine, one of those people I went to high school with, haven’t talked to in well over 15 years but we’re still “friends” on Facebook for some reason. I was intrigued by her post because sexual harassment and sexual assault have dominated national news media for the past couple of weeks. It’s something I applaud not only because I’m a victim of both, but because it takes courage to speak out.
The Facebook message was posted along with a link to an article about an actress alleging George H.W. Bush touched her inappropriately while he was sitting in his wheelchair during a photo op. Bush apologized for the incident.
The former president’s spokesman Jim McGrath issued a statement on Wednesday about the allegation.
“President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind.”
“At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures,” McGrath said. “To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
Now as far as addressing alleged sexual assault, Bush is on the right track by apologizing. As we’ve often seen, most men deny it and the women bringing forth the allegations are cast aside by the public as attention-seeking, lying, lost individuals with nothing better to do with their time. Even I wanted to believe Bill Cosby.
Bush’s apology comes with an admission, and a loaded justification — “on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.”
My rear has been patted, grabbed and groped, and on some of those occasions, the gestures classify as sexual assault. It’s a difficult admission, in part because people like my Facebook friend would roll her eyes. However, these personal experiences precisely match the definition — any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. While fondling may not carry the same trauma as rape, both are sexual assault.
As women, we are encouraged to minimize these actions. Afterall, it’s just my butt, right? He was being playful! Boys will be boys! It’s not like he meant anything by it! Well hey, he’s 93 and intended it in a good-natured manner, so no big deal!
It’s thoughts and beliefs like these that make it easier for women to keep their mouths shut — to not talk about it, report it, leave an abusive partner or otherwise make a fuss.
It also becomes easier to blame yourself — my dress/jeans/shorts/skirt/yoga pants are awfully tight. My butt does look good in these jeans, so of course he was tempted. I was probably flirting too much. I invited this gesture by standing too close.
When the “small stuff” like having your rear groped is minimized, it’s easier to keep your mouth shut about more aggressive sexual assaults. The thoughts and beliefs are already ingrained. That was my experience.
So when women “scream out sexual assault for any little thing now” it’s a step forward in accepting it as a problem — one which needs attention.
And as a woman who has “actually been assaulted” you can give me a [expletive] break.
Contact Abigail Pelzer at firstname.lastname@example.org