Trigger warnings: sexual harassment, sexual assault.
It seems like everyone is talking about it recently. From the Harvey Weinstein scandal to the #MeToo trend, there has been a dialogue about sexual harassment and assault going on that has been making me think. Everywhere I look, it is there. All I have to do is go on social media to see my friends use #MeToo in order to open up about their experience. I did a bit of research (read this, this, this , and this if you like statistics and definitions like me) and later on talked to my sister about it. She pointed out “if we were going to try to completely avoid sexual harassment, then we would never leave the house.” As a woman, I have grown up in that shadow of threat. There is no doubt in my mind that these are real and important issues that we should address.
However, they are important because they are not always addressed. These are a few attitudes that usually pop up when these issues come up. Ah well boys will be boys, but look at what she was wearing, and she was asking for it. People have said this to me sincerely, in public spaces, in church, and as guests in my house. They say this and I flinch inside.
These attitudes do not solve anything or prove any arguments, but they are there, toning down any consequences and avoiding the real issue. We should not shrug harassment off as boys will be boys as if people have no control and no responsibility over their actions. We cannot point fingers at the victim. No one wants harassment or assault. When we do these things, we are effectively justifying what is wrong (harassment or assault) and demonize what is right (speaking out against harassment or assault). By our attitudes and by our actions, we are silencing a vast number of men and women who won’t speak out in shame or who aren’t taken seriously.
I know because I was silent. I was a young teenager, enjoying wedding celebrations from afar for a moment. Then I felt someone grope me from behind. I turn around and recognised someone that I knew. I hissed at him to let go. He chuckled. He did not take me seriously. My shock was beginning to turn into panic. I told him to stop once more in a slightly louder voice. He hissed at me “shut up, you’re gonna to cause a scene”. Then he went away and I stood there shaking.
I’m not sure how I can convey the anger and shame I felt. I felt dirty; and somehow it felt like it was my fault. You’re gonna to cause a scene. I went into the bathroom, composed myself, and I did not tell anyone.
Please continue to listen. It is not a joking matter. Please continue to speak up. We are often told to shut up and to not make a scene, but we won’t see change unless we speak out the change that we want to see. So far, I am wowed and honoured to see your honesty and bravery in speaking up about your experiences.
No more silence, go ahead and make a scene.