12 Disturbing Tweets That Prove How Common Sexual Abuse Is for Kids
From a stranger’s catcalls, to abuse from a family friend, to unwanted advances from their peers, thousands of women across the globe are sharing their experiences of childhood sexual harassment on Twitter under the hashtag #WhenIWas.
The hashtag stems from British writer Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project, which catalogs instances of discrimination and harssment at every stage of a woman’s life. On Tuesday morning, the group tweeted out the hashtag #WhenIWas to give a voice to women who experienced sexism before they reached the age of 18.
The vast majority of the resulting tweets detail disturbing instances of harassment and abuse, some of which happened when the women were as young as five. With more than 30,000 posts under the hashtag at publishing time, this Twitter conversation reveals the prevalence of childhood abuse.
It Starts Young
As many as one in four girls and one in six boys will be victims sexual abuse before they turn 18. Roughly 15 percent of sexual assault victims are children under 12, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
#WhenIWas 7, I was sexually assaulted by an older boy and my school tried to suspend me for taking it to court— cail (@caileyisdead) April 19, 2016
It Hits Close to Home
Nearly 90 percent of child abuse comes at the hands of an adult the child knows and trusts, such as a family friend or a teacher. These abusers often use manipulative tactics—like threatening harm to family members or saying the child will be removed from the home—that can make it difficult for children to speak up.
#WhenIWas 5, I was sexually assaulted till I was 8, by a close family member. Still overcoming it and trying to be okay.— Leeah the Spoonie (@POTSiePrincess_) April 19, 2016
#wheniwas about 9, an older man (50+) at a family gathering told me to greet my elder with a kiss, he then forced his tongue into my mouth.— Gadi (@AfroMatriarch) April 19, 2016
Nowhere Is Safe
Upwards of 99 percent of women across the globe have experienced catcalling at some point in their life, according to an international study from antiharassment group HollaBack! The majority of women and girls first experience street harassment between the ages of 11 and 17, which can range from verbal to physical abuse. While some women can brush off unwanted attention from strangers, it often leads to feelings of insecurity, anger, and fear.
#whenIwas 13 i was catcalled n had sexual comments thrown at me but couldn't be mad bc it was seen as "normal" & "a compliment"— avery (@ANOBRAINJOSEPH) April 19, 2016
#WhenIWas 13, the catcalls started. Catcalls from grown men. I was a child.— Karla (@koverflowers) April 19, 2016
Sexism Is Taught
While the U.S. Department of Education prohibits discrimination based on gender under Title IX protections, women shared stories that show how school administrators can perpetuate sexist attitudes and prioritize boys’ learning over girls’ education.
#WhenIwas 15 my math teacher told me feminism is stupid and that God purposefully made men superior to women— Rama Farid (@IIdramaaII) April 19, 2016
#Wheniwas in HS, I was sexually harassed. Counsellor told me to show school spirit: if offenders were suspended, the hockey team wld lose.— Permanent Side Eye (@sarahkerr81) April 19, 2016
#WhenIWas ten i was sent to the office for wearing shorts that were "distracting" to boys. TEN.— brie (@carouseIdoll) April 19, 2016
Victims are Blamed
Fear of not being believed or being revictimized when coming forward is one of the main reasons women and girls do not report sexual abuse. An estimated 68 percent of sexual assault crimes are not reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. While some women recalled instances of being blamed for their own harassment or assault, others admitted they still weren’t able to come forward with their own stories.
#WhenIWas 16 on a school trip I was drugged by a man at a hostel. He attempted to rape me. Police said I was old enough to know better.— Lydia Hulme (@EllesieBean) April 19, 2016
I wonder how many times women have written and deleted a tweet for the #WhenIWas hashtag. I'm on three times and I still can't do it.— Freya (@freyadowson) April 19, 2016