In September 1970, I was on a trip to New York City with my family. Vince Lombardi, the famed NFL coach, had died a few days earlier and his funeral Mass was being said on this particular Monday in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Lombardi was a hero to my father, so Dad wanted to stand outside to watch the proceedings. Perhaps you have to be Catholic to understand this kind of thing, but there it is.

We were on a bus headed for the cathedral. It was packed, and we were standing. I became aware of someone behind me pressing up against me. I knew from the smell of aftershave it was a man. Something swung against my leg, perhaps a briefcase. Several people stood between me and my parents. I tried to move away, but there was nowhere to go. I was afraid to cause a scene.

I was 14 years old.

I was the same age as the youngest woman Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is accused of touching inappropriately. I have absolutely no problem believing it took her, and her fellow accusers, 40 years to come forward.

I wasn’t in danger. I was going to be getting off the bus in a few minutes. My unseen attacker didn’t try to do anything else but continually press against me. But I felt helpless and, yes, unclean, though I was the victim, not the perp. What kind of a creep presses up against a high school freshman on a bus?

Later I would learn there is actually a slang term for this behavior. I was stunned to discover it was a known “thing.”

Back then in school, no one talked to kids about “stranger danger.” A few years before the New York trip, I was out playing every evening with a pack of neighborhood kids until it was nearly dark, with no adult supervision. Since we lived in a small town in Massachusetts, my parents did teach me how to behave in the city (such as avoiding eye contact with strangers). But one of my father’s brothers lived in Manhattan and the other outside of Washington, D.C. We visited them often when I was young. I knew the ropes. I just didn’t know what a sexual predator was.

After that incident, I became wary. I didn’t often find myself in situations where I could be preyed upon, because my parents were overprotective. Silver lining.

In the upper grades of my high school, students were offered a range of options to fulfill the physical education requirement. A friend and I, who were philosophically opposed to team sports, thought the martial arts class was a terrific idea. However, on the first day, we noticed the teacher was a little “touchy” — not just with us, but also with other students. We decided to switch to fencing, where our bodies would be totally protected.

I do believe most men are good at heart. But I haven’t worked in environments where power goes to men’s heads, such as entertainment and politics. I was once the only woman in a newsroom of men and never had a problem with impropriety. That is where I met my husband, Paul, so I guess I would have to admit love was in the air — but not sex.

I suppose the conversations there could have turned salty at times, it being a newsroom, but I don’t remember that happening. I recall working with a team of decent men.

Now I’m in education, a female-dominated field. Male teachers have to be caring types — the pay’s not great, so we have to like working with children and young adults. That’s not to say I haven’t encountered some sexism and inappropriateness over the years. But perhaps it helps that, at least in my school district, we all have to read and sign sexual harassment policies annually.

In 1976 I was in college in Providence, Rhode Island. Classes were canceled because of a storm. People were partying all over campus. The drinking age was 18, so when I say party, I mean party. My roommate and her boyfriend took me to one of these dos, hosted by boys I didn’t know. They were making screwdrivers in a big bowl. Tasty! I drank two and nearly hit the floor.

But my friends were with me. They took care of me and got me home. I was so sick I sat in a lounge where all the reading material consisted of religious tracts, Providence College being a Catholic school.

I did learn my lesson, and to this day thank God for not having left me on a floor somewhere — where a predator might have found me.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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