Jean Abshire – “Everyday” sexual assault: Non-consensual groping and grabbing
January 21, 2017
Abshire said minimizing any account of sexual assault has become a part of the issue.
It does not have to be full-on sexual penetration to be considered sexual assault. She said it does not have to go that far to leave a lasting imprint on someone. She called many of her encounters of sexual assault over the past four decades everyday sexual assault.
“I have been groped by complete strangers. I have been kissed against my will by complete strangers. I have been sexually harassed at my workplace,” Abshire said.
With many encounters over the years, Abshire said she has felt a wide variety of emotions.
“Shock is always there. I always feel like this should not be happening,” Abshire said. “Sometimes there is fear, sometimes alarm, sometimes fury, and typically at some point there is a sense of feeling very vulnerable.”
Abshire was in her late 30s visiting another country. While standing on subway platform, a man came at her and attempted to grab her breasts.
“I smacked his hands away, and he hit me back. We faced off on a subway platform, and I yelled at that point,” Abshire said. “Nobody did anything. So, the guy and I faced off. He did not back off despite being hit and even though I yelled.”
Abshire said she backed off and put some other people between them, but he wound up getting on the same subway car as her.
“I was debating about whether I should get off because if I stayed on, he was on, and I would be trapped in a subway car with him,” Abshire said. “If I got off, he might jump off at the last minute. Then I would be alone on an empty subway platform with this guy who just tried to grab me and hit me.”
The standoff occurred on the platform just outside of Abshire’s hotel. She said that it put a dark mark on the rest of her trip.
“You bet I was looking over my shoulder,” Abshire said. “I was on high alert anytime I walked near that subway station.”
Abshire said for years she had a mental block about returning to that country because of this experience.
What some might brush off as insignificant could be traumatic for another person. Abshire said unwanted touching is too common in society.
“That meets the legal definition of sexual assault, and it is not OK,” Abshire said.“I think we need to raise awareness of what sexual assault actually is, how it impacts people, and that it is absolutely happening to women that everyone knows.”
She said if we do not tell people what is happening to us, then they don’t know. If only a couple of bad people are sexually assaulting the occasional women, it becomes too easy to dismiss.
“It’s much more common than that,” Abshire said. “Too many women have had these experiences. Clearly there is a lot of people doing this stuff. It’s something we need to look at in our society and address.”
She said we need a broader conversation within society to address these issues because we have a rape culture.
“To do better, we have to confront it and talk about it and figure out how to move forward,” Abshire said.