Peter Corbett CC
My cellphone buzzes.
“I’m gonna need you to be brave at 10:00,” the text says.
I know what happens next. I’ve heard enough stories from other former students. After getting our phone numbers during our time in the musicals he directed or a trip performing in Disney World with his choir, he reaches out for other reasons. Maybe I’ll have options. Do I want a photo of him that’s rated G, PG, PG-13, or R? Maybe I won’t get any options at all. Maybe he’ll just send a dick pic outright.
We should report him to someone. The principal at our Catholic high school wouldn’t be happy. Nor would his wife and the superintendent of Catholic schools. And even though he almost always waits to target girls after they graduate, he’s still crossing a line. It’s still inappropriate. It’s still sexual harassment, even if we’re young and hesitant to call it that.
As young women—just barely so at 18—this is just the beginning. We have years of more sexual harassment ahead of us, years before the #MeToo movement happens. Some of us will get lewd messages from former co-workers, some of us will be groped in bars, some of us will be raped, but for now, we don’t know what to do. We treat it like a dirty secret that bonds us, and that’s probably how he hasn’t lost his job, despite a rumor that this exact conduct got him fired from the public school nearby. We’d rather keep quiet than feel responsible for destroying his career and marriage, even though the fault would be his. I warn my younger friends still in the school not to stay in contact with him after graduation, and I don’t tell any current students so the stories don’t spread throughout the school. I don’t want faculty and students to know it came from me. I don’t realize it yet, but I’m protecting him. We all are, and we think we’re protecting ourselves.
My cellphone buzzes again at 10:00, right on time.
“Are you ready to be brave?” he asks.
I ignore him.
Janelle Sheetz lives with her husband and their son in the Pittsburgh area. Most recently, her work has been featured in Discretionary Love, Motherwell, and Atta Girl. Her writing can also be found in Paste, HerStry, Ms. magazine, and more.
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