Let me tell you a story or two...
One time I was 10 years old and there was this kid in my class called Liam. He was my friend, and we played together a lot. People used to pick on us, saying we were boyfriend and girlfriend. One day I gave him a kiss, and after that he changed. He started to hurt me, to hit me. I would spend all my lunchtime running and hiding from him, hoping he didn’t find me, and if he did, I had to run again. I used to spend all my time in the school library coz I knew he couldn’t hurt me there with all those people around. He would pick up things on the ground when we were in line and throw them at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. He made my life hell until I told my mom who is the incarnation of the fear of God. She went after him and made him so scared he wouldn’t go near me again, but I was still afraid of him.
Another time when I was 11 there was this boy in my class called Jordan. He had a crush on me but I didn’t like him so he got mad and started picking on me, but I was used to it by then, it didn’t affect me. He tried to tell my friends that I flashed him when in actual fact he had been trying to stare down my shirt, but they listened to me. When that didn’t work, he got a bunch of his buddies to ambush my 8 year old sister who didn’t even know them. They attacked her while she was playing tag with her friends and they made her black out. I didn’t find out until we all got called into the office by the principal. When I got there I was crying coz I was so worried, and the guy who knocked my sister out claimed he did it out of peer pressure. I kept trying to give my side of the story but I was sobbing too hard for my sister who kinda just sat there a bit confused.
Another time I was 13 and there was a guy called Diarmud. He was pretty popular in school, and he didn’t speak to me at all, and neither did I to him. One evening he came to my neighbourhood to the tree we all played at with a bunch of his friends from football. He seemed slightly drunk, as were his friends, and they kept calling to me and my friends. I felt uneasy but I still stayed to play. Diarmud kept calling to me, but I ignored him, and then all of a sudden, he walked up to me. He came right up and raised his fist to punch me. I put my arms up in defence and he stopped. He laughed, and then he sauntered back to his friends who were all laughing & applauding. I was so upset my sister had to take me home, shaking and in tears. I hadn’t stopped when I got home and I had to explain to my dad, who found him hanging around outside our house the next day. My dad went out to “speak” to him and he never even so much as looked at me again.
Each of these stories ended with the boy being in trouble, but they changed how I looked at boys. After the first boy, I started to believe that people didn’t care what boys did to me. After the second boy, I started to attack boys who I thought would be a possible threat to me; on my first day of school at 12 I dragged a boy around the class by his ear because he seemed like he was going to be a problem in the future. He was, but for different reasons than I anticipated. After the third boy, I believed that all boys wanted to hurt me, that they would attack me if I didn’t do as they told me. I know now that in most cases these are untrue, but I also know something else.
Telling me that boys hurt me because they like me is not okay. Telling them it’s okay to hurt me when I don’t return their “affection” is not okay.
For every encounter a girl has with one of these jerks, it shapes her to despise men, to lack empathy for them. It can totally distort her idea of love, it can breed hatred towards the entire male sex, like it did for me. She won’t see a human, all she will see is a creature, a creature to be distrusted, one she must hurt to keep it away from her. It is very easy to stop seeing men as people after an encounter like this.
Please, keep girls like I was safe. Help us keep our empathy, our happiness, our ability to see men as equals, not as monsters.