I’m breaking my silence about pussy grabbing.

I’m breaking my silence about pussy grabbing.

Hi, I’m Corielle Laaspere, and I’m the President and Co-founder of liftUPlift Worldwide. In this post, I’m breaking my silence about pussy grabbing, and I regret not doing it sooner.

*Possible trigger warnings*

The first time I can remember my vagina being invaded without my permission was when I was 13-years-old. I was groped by a boy the same age, who I considered my friend, while were in a hot tub with a bunch of other friends. He started grabbing at my vagina under the water, where no one could see. I remember feeling shocked and embarrassed for some reason, so I didn’t say anything to the others. I just kept pushing his hands away, and he kept trying to get his hands inside my swim suit. He finally managed to stick a finger inside me, and without saying anything to anyone, I just got up and walked home. I was sick with feelings of guilt over it, for reasons I still can’t fully explain.

It wasn’t until a decade later that I finally realized this was my first experience of sexual assault.

I wish I could say it was an isolated incident among teens too young to understand consent, but as I got to high school and college, deflecting groping became an almost routine part of social life. I can’t even count all the times I was groped in crowds and crotch-grabbed at bars and nightclubs. I got much better at shutting it down and vocalizing dissent, after the first time, and the guilt I wrestled with evolved into a fierce protectiveness of myself and other women.

When I was 17-years-old and in high school, I went with friends to a nightclub. By that age, I had fully embraced my role as protector of all pussies, so to speak, so I was actively watching out for each of my friends as they danced with strange men. Not too long into the evening, I spotted my friend with a man who kept trying to put his hands up her skirt, while she kept trying to push his hands away.

As I pushed through the crowd toward them, I heard her saying, “Stop,” and I watched him ignore her.

“HEY!” I shouted over the music, then I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him off her. I remember trembling with rage as I looked up at him and shouted, “SHE SAID STOP. NO MEANS NO.” He looked shocked, and then he apologized to us both before walking away into the crowd.

That was my first opportunity for bystander intervention.

It made a huge impression on me, because my friend was so grateful afterward. She thanked me, and then she said, “Most people wouldn’t have done that for me.” I assured her that many people would have done the same thing that I did, and she said, “No. I’ve been in this situation a lot of times, and no one has ever done that for me.”

I couldn’t believe it. Even though our country just elected a sex offender to the office of President, I still can’t fully believe that people could see a woman being sexually assaulted and not intervene to help. Maybe they just don’t know how. (That’s why liftUPlift Worldwide is offering bystander intervention trainings at no cost. More details at the end of this post.)

The most recent time a man grabbed my vagina without permission was this April, in San Fransisco. We were just passing on the street during rush hour, and he went in for a quick grab. Without thinking, I immediately reached around and grabbed his hand. I only caught one of his fingers, but it was enough to stop him in his tracks. There were people bustling past us on the sidewalk, and I was so blindingly furious that all I could say was, “NO.”

There was a frozen moment when we looked each other in the eye, and he was smirking. Then he tried to jerk his hand away, and I held on as tightly as possible, and I heard a crack and felt his finger pop. He yelped, and I dropped his hand and rushed away, heart pounding.

I’m breaking my silence about pussy grabbing because I am afraid of the message we’ve sent our young people by electing Donald Trump.

This election has emboldened intolerant people and made it seem like we are collectively willing to tolerate deplorable behavior. Some men are already bold enough to grab a woman by the vagina on a busy street in a major city, and already, one in three women experiences sexual assault in her lifetime.

Now, we must work harder than ever to eliminate rape culture.

We must be more proactive than ever in watching out for one another. We must be willing and prepared to take action to intervene and prevent sexual assault.

When I was a student at Lehigh University, I became a trained sexual violence prevention educator through an amazing program called “Break The Silence.” I have adapted that training program for the general public, because I think it’s crucial to share my knowledge and teach more people how to recognize signs of assault and take effective steps to intervene or get help.

PLEASE leave a comment if you are interested in participating in the training (there’s no cost). If you indicate your interest, I’ll make sure to update you once we’ve found a location and set a date for the first training.