It’s an unfortunate truth that by the age of 18, most women will have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 44 percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, and 15 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12. Aside from rape, many young girls face instances of sexual intimidation, harassment, and general sexism.
And today women are using the hashtag #WhenIWas to speak about their experiences.
The hashtag has been popularized by The Everyday Sexism Project—which calls itself a “place to record stories of sexism faced on a daily basis, by ordinary women, in ordinary places”—spotlighting how early sexual abuse can begin.
Many people are shocked and unaware that sexual harassment, violence, discrimination and abuse start from an extremely young age— EverydaySexism (@EverydaySexism) April 19, 2016
Help us raise awareness of how early the problem can start by tweeting about your early experiences using the hashtag #WhenIWas— EverydaySexism (@EverydaySexism) April 19, 2016
All day, Everyday Sexism has been retweeting stories of sexual abuse, ranging from women being catcalled at a young age to being raped by family members. There are now over 20,000 tweets using the hashtag, cataloging these instances of sexism.
#WhenIWas 16, on a school trip to Europe a man slapped my ass. My teacher continued to blame it on me for "walking behind the group."— acid bath princess of the darkness (@RoseEmmalee) April 19, 2016
#WhenIwas at secondary school, a female teacher told us girls that it was our own fault for being harassed if we wore skimpy outfits.— Jessica Wood (@JWoodWrites) April 19, 2016
#WhenIWas 8, a family friend threatened to hit me if I didn't take off my clothes in front of him. when the adults found out, I was scolded.— how about no (@warriorzataree) April 19, 2016
Most of the stories are coming from women, as 82 percent of all juvenile sexual assault victims are female. But men have also been getting in on the conversation, speaking out about their own instances of early abuse.
What the hashtag brings to light is how this sort of behavior is often normalized. As a woman reading through these stories, I have my own versions of nearly all of them: how I was encouraged to think of my body not as my own but as a “distraction” for others; how I was told to think of catcalls as a “compliment”; how it’d be safer if I just ignored the man grinding his erection against my thigh on the subway than to try to make him stop.
Many women also have stories of attempting to come forward, only to be discouraged by family, friends, and the police.
#wheniwas 19 I was raped and denied it because I was never taught about Consent. I only found out after a bunch of YouTube scandals— Mac ❤️ (@Lefty31) April 19, 2016
With tens of thousands of victims—and counting—sharing their accounts, “everyday sexism” becomes hard to ignore.