It's an unfortunate rite of passage for young women to experience sexually motivated harassment before they reach adulthood. Sexual harassment can be anything from a stranger shouting comments about your breasts from their car, to being physically touched without ever having given consent.
We know it's an epidemic because we have the stats:
In 2011, a representative survey found that 56% of girls said that they had been harassed over the course of their school year.
In 2014, one in five girls said their harassment took place at school.
Strangely enough, this widespread experience is rarely addressed in social discourse. We talk about everything else across the spectrum of women's safety issues, but rarely address the ubiquity of sexual harassment from an early age. That may be the reason why feminist campaigners, Everyday Sexism, started the hashtag #WhenIWas.
We're using the #WhenIwas hashtag to raise awareness of sexual violence and how early it starts Victimization at young age --> normalization— EverydaySexism (@EverydaySexism) April 19, 2016
A quick glance a Everyday Sexism's twitter account and you won't be able to stop scrolling. The account is retweeting dozens of stories that will make you completely positive that intelligent design is a myth. Stories of young girls who had to endure terrible experiences at the hands of strangers, their peers, and authority figures.
#WhenIWas from the age of 11 upwards, men would whistle or beep their cars at me. I was a child and being told to take it as 'a compliment'— becky (@fuckubecky) April 19, 2016
#wheniwas 12 a man at least 40 years old grabbed my ass and called me sexy while I was waiting in line at the movie theater— Very Gay Eva™ (@queerbirdy) April 19, 2016
#WhenIwas 8, a boy in class kept touching my crotch. I told the teacher, his reply was "It's one of those things".— WhiteTrashSophie (@SophieA7X) April 19, 2016
Notice sheer number of women on #WhenIwas who were dismissed, ignored, disbelieved, silenced at the time.Society doesn't accept the problem— EverydaySexism (@EverydaySexism) April 19, 2016
#wheniwas 12-15, "slap ass Friday" and "titty grab Tuesday's" we're a tradition in my school. fighting back lead to name calling & bullying.— Tulip (@JESSEXCUSTER) April 19, 2016
Hashtags and trends like #WhenIWas are so important because they highlight how similar these experiences are. They paint an important picture about not normalizing abusive behaviour and believing/supporting women when they say they have been harassed.
The sheer number of stories that have been told is dizzying and mind boggling considering the fact that we claim to live in a civilized society. Major claps for Everyday Sexism for using negative experiences to teach solidarity.