I love being a story-teller and I have this idea that it would be rad to share some of the significant experiences I’ve had using a narrative format. I want to tell stories about things that connect with the purpose of head/strong—abuse, mental health, life, love… I want to engage people in conversations about these things in creative ways, so settle in everyone; it’s story time.
P.S. Obviously privacy is important, so names will always be changed, but the stories are otherwise true.
I’m 15-years-old and, along with 30 or so other kids, I’m sitting in a cold and musty portable for my Grade 10 English class with Miss Lee. This week we’re studying media literacy and today we’re starting a group assignment looking at the messages and imagery advertisers use to promote their products. We’re a few minutes into the class, groups have been assigned, and we’ve be given most of the period to work on our presentations.
My group is gathered close to the front of the portable. I remember seeing the chalkboard directly ahead of me—it was filled with our teacher’s neat, curly, cursive writing. I stand up to retrieve the package of assignment guidelines, printed on blue copier paper, from the teacher’s desk at the front of the class.
As I return to my group and begin to sit down on my chair, something jabs me between my legs. Shocked, I look behind me and I see, grinning up at me, the face of a boy in my group. In his hand is a blue, Bic pen, poised vertically on the seat of my chair.
I sort of register what’s happened, but I don’t know what to say… So I blush, I hold back embarrassed and confused tears, and I force myself to start the work with my group. But, through my thin, Jockey underwear and the jeans I stole from my older sister, I feel bruised and tingly. In fact, my shock makes it impossible for me to feel anything else until the bell rings and I’m shaken into the present moment.
As my classmates file out of the portable, I decide that I’m going to say something to my teacher. I wait for the classroom to empty and then I head over to Miss Lee’s desk.
I am so embarrassed and I can barely get the words out, but Miss Lee is young and friendly, she has a kind and approachable face.
“Brian stuck his pen up between my legs at the beginning of class.”
She asks me to repeat what I just told her, so I do. My cheeks burn with embarrassment and shame for not understanding what happened and for not just ignoring it like I’m sure most other girls would. Miss Lee asks me a few more questions, which I do my best to answer before stumbling out of the portable.
Later that day, my parents get a phone call from my school. Miss Lee has talked to the administrators, and Brian and his parents have had a meeting with them; Brian denied everything. I tell my parents what I know happened and I resolve to face Brian at school the next day. Where this courage comes from, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t last, because when I show up at Miss Lee’s portable for my second-period English class I’m met with nasty taunts from Brian and his friends, who are standing outside the portable’s door. They call me a liar and a slut. They say I just want attention. They make me cry.
I uncharacteristically skip Miss Lee’s class that day.
Time passes and the incident quickly blows over. I mean, it’s not really that big of a deal, right? Boys will be boys? Maybe it didn’t even happen…did I make it all up?
No, I didn’t.
In Miss Lee’s grade 10 English class, I learned that advertisers use women’s bodies to sell everything from cigarettes to shoes. I also learned that boys can shove Bic pens between girls’ legs and it’s not called sexual assault. I learned that I should feel shame for something that made me feel violated and that I should just get over it, because most people don’t think it’s a big deal, especially not Brian.
But I don’t ever really get over it, and the truth is, I still feel that pen sometimes.
I still feel that pen.