You’re never really ready to hear your child tell you that they feel violated.
On Friday Bob and I took Arianna to her first EDM show ever, which just so happened to be her favorite (and mine); Kaskade at The Armory. She has been waiting for about 4 years to make it to a show, always blocked by the age restriction. Months ago, I saw that Kaskade was slotted to play the first night of the X-Games and we squealed and jumped up and down together when we saw that it was all ages.
She spent the months between counting down the days, planning her outfit, agonizing about what to wear, how to do her hair, what kind of makeup and how much glitter. (Gallons, obviously).
We went with all of our friends, and, thanks to one particular person she got to have her name on the VIP list and hang out in the VIP section. She LIVED for that night. She never stopped dancing or jumping up and down, screaming the words to every song as she squeezed my hand tight. It was magic.
I turned my back to tell Bob something, and when I turned back around she was crying-sobbing actually- with her head bent down and her face covered. I wrapped my arms around her thinking she was overwhelmed by the moment and she yanked herself away from me. Put off I backed up and said “whoa. . . what’s the issue?” She looked up at me and said “he grabbed me.” As her face twisted up and she cried harder.
After some effort to calm her down, I came to find out that a man had come through our group of people and on his way by Ari he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him, then slid his hand down her side (my guess was he was attempting to dance with her). She shoved him away and before she could say anything he disappeared into the crowd.
I hate that the first thing I thought to say to her was “yeah, that happens sometimes.”
I was at a complete loss as to how to explain this to her. The only things I could say were “I’m sorry”, “That wasn’t okay.” And “What can I do?”
As she tried to pull herself together the other moms and I stood around sharing knowing looks as she talked about how icky it made her feel. How angry she was that he had grabbed her like that. We did our best to make her feel safe again while the men in our group stood scanning the crowd for someone who fit the description of “Tall and thin with dark hair and a drink in his hand.” Each of us planning our personal form of justice should the fool show his face near her again.
We fumed over the entitlement of this guy. We balked at the disgusting fact that a grown man had groped a 15-year-old girl and we discussed his demise in detail amongst ourselves.
We blamed the event coordinator for not assigning underage wristbands to identify the teens/kids from the adults. We wondered if maybe the guy was just passing through and she misunderstood his intentions. We blamed ourselves for not watching her every single second.
All of these things were only ways to lessen the blow or assign blame anywhere but where it belonged. Solely on the guy who grabbed her.
For the rest of the night, she kept her hands at her sides, her arms wrapped around her body. Gone was that bright smile and big eyes that just minutes ago were taking in all the energy around her. She guarded herself against anyone touching her, and she cried off and on for the rest of the night.
On the way home my husband and I discussed the event and how to best arm her for future incidents. Because the awful truth is that it will happen again and we have to find the words to teach her that in this world when she is out in a crowd, her body will be treated as if it weren’t her own.
People of all genders will grab her hand, her arm, or her waist to stop her and tell her she is beautiful. They will touch her hair and her clothes and tell her how much they love her style. The more aggressive people will grab her from behind while she is dancing, or slap her butt as she walks by because “it’s just so nice.”
Some will say PG-rated things to her that feel like compliments and there will be those who will say things that make her skin crawl. Men will roam her body with their eyes as we walk passed them on the street, or in a crowded room.
They will stand in a line that feels more like a wall from the dance floor to the bar so that women have to squeeze past them to get to either. The will graze a breast, or quickly slide their hand between her legs as she moves passed them in the crowd. It will make her feel dirty, angry and sad and she will want to scrub herself off in the shower when she gets home. And not a single one of them will realize that what took two seconds to do will take years to forget.
I wish I could write something like “when did it become okay for someone to grab a perfect stranger on the dance floor”” But this has always been something that we have accepted as part of being a woman. Especially in the bar and nightclub scene where men grab up on women when they’re dancing.
This has to stop people. We have to stop this. A 15-year-old girl lost a piece of her innocents when all she wanted to do was spend a night out with her family. That guy probably doesn’t even remember doing it; that’s how commonplace this behavior is. But Arianna will remember it for years to come.
The solution here is real simple: Keep your hands to yourself.
I don’t really know what else to say.