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#yesallwomen

By Melonie Cannon

If you have not seen the #yesallwomen stories going around this week on social media, please go and find them. There are many posted on www.feministmormonhousewives.org. They will open your eyes.

My thoughts about violence and harrassment toward women have largely been global. If had responded to the #yesallwomen hashtag before this week, based on my previous thoughts, it would have looked something like this:

#yesallwomen
Because I wonder of what the Pakistani woman’s last thoughts were as she looked at her father throw the stone toward her head because she married a man she loved.

Because I think about the about the 15-year old girls in India who were gang raped this week and their young bodies hung on trees for their families to find.

Because I worry about the pre-pubescent girls in Thailand who are trafficked and raped by men all day long on dirty mattresses.

Because I pray for of the kidnapped Nigerian girls and wonder where they are and what they are enduring night after night.

Because I ache for the families in California who lost daughters this week due to a man’s violence.

However, as I read story after story of many Mormon women who have been victimized in America, my thoughts turned inward. I started scanning my own life and for the first time I saw experiences for what they really were. Year after year, the things that happened to me I had blown off. Things for me could have been horrific many times, but I was somehow protected from much worse.

#yesallwomen
Because in third grade a boy walked up behind me and stuck his finger through my thin clothes and in my vulva. Because later that day he wagged his finger at me and grinned. Because I was too ashamed to tell anyone.

Because in fourth grade, my grandfather groped my breasts and said, “you are developing nicely.”

Because I was constantly called “Dolly Parton’s daughter” in elementary school.

Because at summer camp, two boys grabbed my arms and spun me around to face other boys and asked them what they would rate my body.

Because of all the school dances and the multiple times where a boy would hold me so tight during slow dances that I could feel his erection.

Because at my first job, the owner’s son was constantly sexually harassing me when we worked together and I didn’t know what to do. I needed the job.

Because at seventeen, my married Sunday School teacher would flirt with my every Sunday and talk to me alone in places all over the church. Because he said that his wife wouldn’t have oral sex with him and he would really like to and if we were married would I be willing to.

Because I went out on a date with a friend’s “RM” brother and we kissed in the car in my driveway and he said, “Let’s go behind that house where your parents can’t see us.” and I did and he was really, really strong and he held me down and humped my leg until he came and then got up and left.

Because in foreign countries, on buses and in crowds, men have pushed themselves up against me and tried to feel me up.

Because at twenty, a hotel desk worker asked me out and I went to his home for dinner and he started kissing me hard on my neck and then pulled me into his bedroom and groped me everywhere and I kept telling him to stop and finally started bawling so hard that he took me back to the hotel and I thank the Lord for getting me away.

Because at twenty-one, I got sick at my friend’s family’s home and she asked her cousin to take me to the pharmacy to get medicine. He stopped the car on the way back and unzipped his pants and grabbed my hand and held it on his penis and forced me to masturbate him. I didn’t tell my friend or his family when we got back.

Because on that same trip, I was sleeping and woke up to find a hand in my underwear and was silent because it was my friend’s cousin again and she was sleeping in the bunk above me.

Because of the man in Las Vegas who followed me around for hours begging for me to come to his room and “do anything…just touch his dick” and that he would pay me whatever I wanted.

Because of the popular, handsome RM on the single’s ward camping trip who came into my tent and into my sleeping bag at three o clock in the morning and wouldn’t leave even after I told him to go a hundred times. He said he would leave if I would give him a rub. Luckily, I told him I would scream if he didn’t leave…and he did, but I got a lot of stares the next day.

Because of the many Mormon girlfriends I have who have been raped and we don’t talk about it.

Because of all the parking garages I’ve had to walk through alone.

Because of all the times I have been followed.

Because of the time a man was masturbating in the chair across from me and we were the only ones on the bus and I had to get off at my stop at night, alone. I had to beg the male bus driver to make sure he didn’t get off at the stop with me.

Because of the CONSTANT brushing, grazing, looking at, and crude comments I have gotten my entire life about my very large breasts. Because I am CONSTANTLY trying to cover them up. because I feel it is my duty.

Because my 11-year old daughter is asleep down the hall and I fear for her future.

Because I’m scared to post this under my real name and be judged.

Because I read every one of these #yesallwomen stories and for the first time in my life (at 45-years old!) realize that these incidents were NOT MY FAULT. Because, although they were not tragic or horrific, I have blamed myself for every one of them until today.

About Melonie Cannon

Melonie has surrounded herself with beautiful words for as long as she can remember. This led her to find a home with Segullah after writing an essay published in the May 2006 Segullah issue. She was invited to join the staff and has been a part of Segullah in various capacities since, including being the creator of the “Words Fall In” podcast.  She received her M.Ed from the University of Utah and was a certified Secondary English teacher before becoming a Mom of four. Over the years, her focus has been on natural healing modalities and becoming a sacred sound healing practitioner with a focus on the drum, rhythm, voice, and vibration. She is finishing her PH.D. in theology and metaphysics to further these studies and help women to connect to the divine within themselves.

29 thoughts on “#yesallwomen”

  1. I found your experiences to be both tragic and horrific. I am so sorry for the degradation you've suffered and am so glad for the freedom and release that you and others are finding in sharing.

    In reading stories like this, I can't help but hope desperately that my daughters will inherit my woefully flat chest. All women are entitled to respect regardless of body type, but I feel I was spared some (though not all) of this ugliness by being a scrawny late developer. It isn't fair and it isn't right, and I'm embarrassed I even just said that, but there it is.

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  2. Thank you for being brave enough to share this. It makes me sad that anyone should have to go through these experiences. My own life feels remarkably sheltered in contrast. The question this raises for me is: how do I raise my sons so they won't perpetuate this kind of misogyny?

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  3. Because a kid in 5th grade called me a b**** every day, and I thought there was something wrong with me, not him.

    Because the boys in my 7th grade gifted & talented class asked me every day if I was still a virgin, and laughed at me when I said I was (they probably were too). Because they also made fun of my flat chest and my clothes.

    Because my 10th grade social studies teacher made me sit in the front row so he could stare at my legs. He creeped all the girls out, but none of us knew what we could or should do about it.

    Because I didn't know that part of the sister missionary experience is being verbally harrassed on the street by drunken youths whose only English word is the F word, and being felt up by dirty old men who ask if all the young women in your church are virgin.

    Because I spent most of my adolescence confused by the fact that at church and home I learned that men only think about sex and that all relations between the sexes have sexual undertones, but I knew that my flat chest and limp hair weren't desirable, so I thought I didn't have anything to offer or any hope of attracting someone. I didn't want sexual harassment, but I wanted to be attractive and have guys notice me. I was terrified of men while at the same time wanting to have a relationship with one someday. Now I wonder if the guys were getting similar types of lessons and if they were just as confused about how we should interact.

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  4. And because I never talked to my parents or anyone else about these experiences because I thought they were just part of life or that they were somehow my fault. I hope I can teach my daughters to speak up and to understand that harassment and intimidation aren't their fault and are never OK.

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  5. I was tormented as a teenager constantly about my large chest. Two boys even made a comedy routine about my breasts. I still feel mortified and humiliated by that moment. Even now as an adult, while most men don't make comments, the leers I get are frightening and frustrating.

    Two family members were sexually abused by relatives and the majority of my extended family stood by the abusers.

    I lived in a country where failing to cover your hair was a signal to men that you were an immoral woman and deserved to be harassed at best and assaulted at worst.

    My heart hurts for all the things so many women have experienced and continue to experience.

    If nothing else, we woman need to be having conversations with our sons teaching them how to behave toward women, to respect boundaries, and to be chaste in all their dealings with girls.

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  6. I feel so bad for you specifically and for girls and women generally that this problem of sexual violence (overt and micro-aggressions) is so systemic / pervasive. I hope that more people will acknowledge the problem and work to address it. It's so destructive and unjust.

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  7. Hopefully the future will be a world where personal comments about one's body (be it a man's body or a woman's body) are off limits. Decent people would never act the way described and indecency needs to be quickly reported to someone who is trusted and can help. The victim should not have to be the one who is ashamed or living in fear. All should be taught, at a young age, never to be afraid to speak out!

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  8. I keep coming back here to remove my name and then I read your comments and I leave it on there. I don't feel courageous. I wish I would have been more so in the past. Thanks for supporting each other, sisters. love to us all.

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  9. Because when I was thirteen a boy in class kept making fun of me and calling me pretty and it was kind of flattering but then he wouldn't stop.

    Because when I was fifteen I was told I had "thunder thighs".

    Because in my late teens people hollered at me when I walked by.

    Because guys in my ward would stare at me. Or touch and stroke my hair, as if I were an animal. Or hug me for far too long.

    Because when I was standing outside a temple as a bridesmaid, the groom's brother kept his hand on my shoulder even though he was married to someone else and I asked him not too.

    Because when a man older than my father asked me out and I said I had a boyfriend the man asked if my boyfriend was in town.

    Because a guy told me he was glad I "dressed modestly" and after unfriending him on facebook he kept adding me and sending me creepy messages.

    Because walking down the street I have been told, "I love you", "you're pretty" that I was "beautiful", and "sexy", been whistled at, and other items I don't care to repeat.

    Because I want to run at night but don't feel safe.

    Because I have friends who have been raped.

    Because people assumed I slept my way to my job.

    Because I have to worry about giving the wrong idea when I talk to men.

    Because people don't believe us when we say #yesallwomen.

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  10. Because a whole list of similar incidents happened to me growing up and have happened to my special needs daughter.

    Sometimes it is hard not to hate men, but then I remember my loving, amazing brothers and father and gain restored hope.

    Women with boys…raise them to respect and protect girls and women the world over!

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  11. Mel, thank you for sharing this honest and powerful recounting of these experiences. Love you. We are all in this together.

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  12. Melonie, of course you are courageous! It takes courage to share your story, your pains, your realisations and to put your name to it so people know that #yesallwomen have names, and a life of experiences to go with it.

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  13. Thank you for your bravery. You have opened my eyes to the fact that harrassment and even assault goes on in the LDS church (having not experienced it or heard much about it–I guess I was naive). The minor envy I had of beautiful women with shapely bodies is now gone as well. My approach to chastity FHE lessons will be very different from now on. Thank you again.

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  14. Thank you Melonie. Truly.

    Because before kindergarten some older kids dared a boy my age and me to kiss, which we did. My brother told, and my dad punished me.

    Because the summer after first grade an older neighbor boy explicitly described the sex act to me. I was emotionally traumatized.

    Because a few months before I was baptized I was shown pictures of naked women in the garage of my brother's friend. I remember being grateful that it happened before my baptism so that my sin would be washed away.

    Because in fourth grade I was so upset when given a Valentine by a boy that I started shaking and eventually vomiting. I didn't want anyone to like me.

    Because in high school I was walking through a parking lot during the day and heard a car behind me start to slow. I started walking faster and faster, my heart rate skyrocketing, praying God please help me. The car turned out to be my YW leader who wanted to say hi. I almost started crying with relief.

    Because I am nervous to go to the grocery store at night. Dark parking lots.

    And the most devastating–because now I am the mother of a son who is struggling and I am terrified for him and full of regret for my shortcomings as a parent and fighting to get the help he needs and I hate this. I hate it with my whole soul.

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  15. I am very thankful that I can't come up with one experience where I feel violated for being female. But my heart aches for those who do have those experiences, and frankly it terrifies me for my daughter. It makes we want to wrap her in bubble wrap and keep her home where she is safe. And then I start thinking about what happened at my neighbors house where a safe harbor was anything but, and I just want to cry.

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  16. Because when I was a brand-new convert and he started touching my breasts, he knew it was wrong, and he knew that when I learned the rules about LDS morality, it would bring me grief and shame. Because I carried that grief and shame around and felt unworthy for years afterwards.

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  17. Melonie- Bold, Brave woman. You are stronger than you realize just by voicing this and opening acknowledging you are not to blame. No one should have to carry the burden of shame that they didn't cause or create. It is hard to know how to bolster my children for the world ahead of them, but the wave of change in the last few weeks can only help. I continue to hope for and work for better. I know I am in good company with this group.

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  18. #yesallwomen because my mother should not be afraid for her physical well-being, afraid that my 'dad' means her physical harm, because she is a woman and somehow made evil by that fact alone. Because I am an adult and my decisions are made by me and the decisions of others are not, no matter how manipulating the presentation. Because I run to my car after work with my finger on the panic button and feel afraid somebody might come up from behind.

    And Melonie – every single one of those incidents are absolutely tragic and horrific. You were violated and afraid when you had every right to feel safe. Men have control over themselves and their actions, and I'll not stand by and allow my boys to be taught otherwise by anybody.

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  19. Because I learned that derogatory c-word for a woman's vagina at early morning seminary–where I could expect that at 6:35 am male classmates would be calling me that. And no adult would do much to stop them, lest it offend the males they were hoping to turn into missionaries. At least they didn't put their hands on me, like the group two years older constantly did to the girl in that group, though I was in regular fear they would. Yes, seminary.

    They were an atypical set of mormon male adolescents. But harassment by ward members is are not atypical for mormon girls. #yesallwomen #YesEvenMormonWomen

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  20. Thank you for your courage. It is something that needs to be talked about, and I'm so glad you're doing it.

    Because I fell asleep on a temple trip bus and woke up to find myself being groped by a YM in my ward.

    Because he spread rumors about us having a hot time on the bus, and I wound up with a bad reputation as a result.

    Because I was sure it was my fault it happened – maybe my bra wasn't padded enough to be modest? Maybe if I hadn't been sitting next to a boy when I was tired?

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  21. Because when I was five years old, my much older second cousin took me into the woods and made me touch him. Then he said if I told anyone, he would kill my brother.

    Because a few months later on a camping trip, this same cousin came into the camper where I was sleeping with my mother and put his hand under the blankets and into my panties while carrying on a conversation with my mother.

    Because I was asked over and over again in Jr. High if I "stuffed" my bra.

    Because my body was rated, loudly, by the boys in the hallway. Every time I walked by.

    Because a group of boys paid a girl to take a picture of me naked in the girls locker room.

    Because I grew to hate my large breasts and was never, ever able to appreciate the wonder and beauty of my developing body.

    Because I developed a permanent slouch in an attempt to make my breasts look smaller.

    Because when I graduated from high school and moved to Provo to attend BYU, I spent the night with my great aunt while waiting for my own apartment to become available. I stayed in a spare bedroom in her basement next to the small apartment that she rented to the conditioning coach of the BYU football team. He came home while she was showing me to my room and introduced us. I caught him staring at my breasts. After my great aunt went back upstairs, Mr. Coach knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to see his motorcycle. I was 18, inexperienced, and not sure of what to say. So I said, okay, and let him lead me into his apartment. (He said the motorcycle was outside of the sliding glass doors in his apartment.) I never did see the motorcycle. He had me on the floor before I could do anything. I didn't even realize what he was doing until several years later when I got married. I always considered myself to be fit and strong, but I was absolutely powerless beneath his bulk. After he had had his way with me, he got up and begged me not to say anything to my "grandma." I was furious and still unsure of what had happened. He tried to calm me down and kept insisting that he hadn't done anything wrong because no clothing had been removed. I didn't tell my "grandma" or anyone else because I felt confused and ashamed and was pretty sure that it must have happened because my shirt was too tight.

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