“Me too…” she said, half chuckling nervously, half confused as to whether she should have just pledged a “sorority” she wasn’t sure she was ready to pay the dues for. In the split second following her admission, she decided it’s always better to be included. After all, it was the sixth grade, she was tall and lanky with awkward braces and big ears, and boobs that had just sprouted on her otherwise stick-thin body, somehow at the exact point of her body that was equal to the height of every boy in her grade. The other girls in this new group were the popular girls, so this had to be a good sign, right?
She checked her baby-G watch to realize that advisory period (or homeroom in a less, achem, “preppy” school) started in four minutes.
“Four til,” she announced. “So what do we do?”
She was always the thinker. The over-analyzer. Twelve-going-on-forty her mother and her friends would always joke.
“Well, I guess we need to tell someone, right?” Another one of this chosen group of six young girls blurted out. Her already size DD chest bounced as she shrugged her shoulders.
The girls huddled and ultimately decided that between advisory and first period, they’d meet with Mrs. B about it. The girls never went to first period.
Years later, she couldn’t remember the details of the meeting, whether it was actually six girls, or five. She couldn’t remember if she was the one who started the conversation with Mrs. B or if it was another girl appointed for the task. But, she could remember this – she figured the meeting with Mrs. B would be the start and end of it. Well, maybe it would require her talking a little bit more about it with the headmaster or worst case scenario, her parents, but certainly, it wouldn’t follow her past the sixth grade.
Years later, her memory recalls that day going something like this. Certainly, parts of her memory are incorrect, but we all remember inconsequential-turned-consequential events differently, right?
After advisory, the girls, minus a couple who “chickened out”, went to Mrs. B to tell their tale. She didn’t think that any of them thought it was that serious, but they did think that what they had all discovered was odd, and at least worth mentioning. At the very least, she’d tell them, in true Mrs. B fashion, that they were being dramatic, and then they’d go on with their day. Instead, what they told them that Mr. S, the computer teacher, turned Mrs. B into a ghostly shade of white as she told them to stay in the room and that’d she’d be right back.
Presumably, Mrs. B returned with the headmaster and the head of the middle school. She asked the girls to repeat what they had told her. Nervously, one of the girls recanted how just that morning, one of the girls mentioned how it was strange that Mr. S had, on multiple occasions, reached his hand under her skirt while checking up on her computer work, and done some sort of rubbing thing on her chest a few times, too. How, when she mentioned it to one girl, that girl grabbed another, who said it had happened to her too, and she grabbed two others. Ultimately, a group had formed that realized that they were all sitting in the back row of the classroom and that it was happening to them. And, it turns out, much more to at least one of them, but she didn’t want to discuss that. They all thought it was weird when it happened, but had brushed it off. Now that they knew that it wasn’t just them, they figured it probably wasn’t an accident and they should tell someone. Upon hearing the story, the two male heads of school turned that same ghostly white. If she had a mental curse word vocabulary at that point in her life, this would probably be her “oh shit” moment.
The two men told them all to stay right there, and they did, as Mrs. B followed them outside. None of the girls spoke. What had they done? Were they in trouble? Would other people find out? What was going on?
Mrs. B returned a few minutes later and told them first off, that they had done the right thing by coming forward. And secondly, that the police had been called.
“WHAT!?” One of the girls blurted out.
“This is an awful thing that Mr. S has been doing to all of you. We had no idea. When the police arrive we will confront him and have the police escort him off of campus and he’ll probably be put in jail. Don’t worry girls, you did the right thing. I’m not sure, but there will probably be an assembly about it. It will all be fine.”
That ghostly shade of white took over six more faces.
The girls were told to stay put as this all went down. They did. She doesn’t really remember what they did in the meantime. She does know that it wasn’t that long, because the assembly Mrs. B had mentioned took place in the morning. Turns out, the assembly felt like more abuse than an unwelcome leathery hand inside of her pre-teen thigh had ever felt like.
At the assembly, the headmaster and head of middle school gave some sort of run-down about what had occurred that morning. They stated that Mr. S would never be allowed back on campus, and if anyone sees him, to notify the faculty immediately. They commended those who came forward and offered counseling for any that would need it. They also asked for anyone else to come forward should they share the same experience.
She’s not sure how, but somehow during that assembly, or before, everyone knew. Everyone knew that she had said “me too.” Perhaps, the headmaster had mentioned that Mr. S was doing this to those girls sitting in the back row. Maybe, they knew because she had developed early and it was obvious. Or instead, maybe one of the girls “let it slip”. Either way, suddenly, a firing squad of pre-pubescent boys were whispering in her ear as the headmaster explained that they might be seeing police on campus in the coming weeks.
“You like em older, huh?” One said.
“Hahaha, can’t believe you let that old man touch you,” another whispered in her ear.
“You guys are so stupid. Why’d you make such a big deal about this?” said another.
“You guys are liars.” Another hissed.
She buried her head and tried not to cry. When she lifted it again, she had a fake smile plastered across her face. She wanted to be in on the joke, not a part of it.
“I don’t know,” she said, “it was just like, annoying, you know? Plus, he was not cool at all.”
She knew then, that “me too” were the worst two words she could have ever said. Why did she do that!? She’s always doing stupid things. It wasn’t that big of a deal that he did those things to her. Sure, each time his hand got closer and closer to being inside of her, but she could’ve devised a plan to shift her body as she did it. Why did she need to feel included? She was telling the truth, but she should have known better. This was probably the type of thing her mom had warned her about. About not falling into the wrong crowd. Why did she let herself get lumped into this crowd?
She somehow managed to get through the rest of the day. She doesn’t remember now, at 27, what exactly happened, but it was a variation of this. Things at school calmed down, but there were still several jokes made about the “Mr. S thing”. Her parents were notified and her mom was alarmed, but, aside from talking about it right after it happened, it was not discussed. Rumors circulated at school that Mr. S ran a booth at the rodeo and to be on the lookout, because he would come after them. She was terrified at as she went on the carousel that year. But, she luckily didn’t see him there.
A few weeks later, her mother took her to the police station to give her statement. She wasn’t prepped for what they would ask, and nothing was really talked about on the way there or the way back. She gave her statement to the police and despite her looks trying to signal the detective, she had to answer the questions in front of her mom. She was not comfortable and she didn’t tell them everything. Besides, at that point, she had convinced herself that the little bits that she had told the detective were the whole truth, not the partial truth. To this day, she doesn’t know what parts she carved out of her memory. Funny how that happens, isn’t it.
While Mr. S didn’t follow her to 7th grade, the story of him and the girls did. The boys and even some other girls, continued to taunt the girls for claiming the story and telling Mrs. B. Even before their balls had dropped, the boys somehow knew how to victim shame. It was like it was in their DNA. It was bad enough that one girl left the school for the local public school and never looked back.
She tried to forget it had ever happened. For the most part, it worked. When she was sent to therapy in seventh grade for whatever reason a seventh grader without any severe problems is sent to therapy, it wasn’t mentioned. It was never discussed at home. Once, when she was 15 and a freshman in high school, a new detective called her home. He informed her mother that the detective in charge of the case had really messed up and it was never completed. Mr. S was still out there and they wanted her to come in and give testimony. Her mom asked her if she wanted to and she quickly stated that no, she doesn’t even really remember it anyways and it’s just not a big deal anymore. Her mother was quick to accept and relayed the information to the detective. The detective never called about it again. She didn’t think about it anymore. It didn’t happen.
It wasn’t until some sort of drug was slipped into her drink in college and no one believed her that she had vivid flashbacks to the Mr. S thing. Thankfully, with the drugging, nothing had happened besides becoming violently ill and terrified as her body felt paralyzed, she couldn’t talk and she vomited everywhere with her close friends freaking out around her. That, and you know, the losing “friends” thing that followed afterwards because they said she “claimed” drugging when she had just had too much to drink. She began having panic attacks, remembering that she had done this before, been dumb enough to tell people about something that she should have known they wouldn’t believe, and created a label for herself. She was in college, she should know better.
The next two times something happened to her, they weren’t just a hand up the skirt, a slight brush of the breast, or a drugging without the sexual assault kind of incidents. One violent, one not. Both during law school. Both at inconvenient times. Both assaults by people she knew.
Thanks to the first time I said “me too”, just in the sixth grade, I know better than to tell those stories. I’ll just relay those stories through a hashtag. After all, that seems to be the actual popular thing to do.
Oh- we both know she is me right? Figured we had cleared that up.
This story is told to the best of my ability. If there are errors, as I’m sure there are, they are not intentional. On the record, I believe those involved – the school, parents, police (aside from the one detective) did the best that they could, at the time. But clearly, so much more could have been done.