Some of you may have seen this all over social media today: “If all the women (and men) who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. #MeToo ”
I felt the need to speak up on this topic in this safe space. I think when you start to finally stand up for yourself in any aspect of your life, it becomes easier to see the other times where you wish you would have.
- My freshman year of high school, a junior guy came to the house I was babysitting at. We were making out and he kept asking me to have sex with him, but I was a virgin at the time and was not interested. When I said no he attempted to pressure me for probably 20 minutes saying things like “c’mon, you’ll love it” and “don’t be scared, I’ll go easy on you” and “you’re not really going to be such a tease are you?!” When he finally realized it wasn’t going to happen, he got mad at me and left. From that day forward he bullied me in school. He would call me fat, throw dodge balls at my head in gym class and nearly every interaction with him resulted in me crying until he graduated.
- At 16 years old, I was at a party in High School and had too much to drink. I went to bed with my best friend (a female) to sleep it off in a home full of “friends” where I thought I was safe. I woke up the next day and had been moved into a different bed while I was asleep. The reason I woke up was because the 28 year old guy that I was apparently placed into bed with was grabbing my ass while masturbating in the bed next to me. I was horrified and didn’t know what to do, so I froze and pretended to be asleep until he stopped. Eventually when I thought he was asleep I got up and left the bed.
- When I was a freshman in college I went to my first major league baseball game with my female roommate. When we left the game a stranger on the street ran up behind me and grabbed my ass so hard it lifted me up off the ground and then he ran away while hysterically laughing with his friends. (I was wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt for those “she was asking for it” types.) We awkwardly turned the encounter into a joke but we both went home with a sad sense that we just didn’t feel safe anymore.
- When I was 22, a man twice my age grabbed my breast at a work event in a public bar while several other people were standing around watching. He made a joke out of it and said “oops that wasn’t a balloon!” and laughed it off like it was nothing. I was mortified and horrified and somehow felt like it was my fault… my fault for being there… my fault for joking around with these people… like I somehow made that man feel like it was okay for him to do that to me. While he was reported to HR, I had to sit in a room with him the next day while he cried hysterically and apologized to me and said that he was under a lot of stress because his mom was dying. The company never fired him and eventually I left that job because I was no longer comfortable working there.
- At 32, my male boss (and head of Human Resources) shifted from acting like a trusted adviser and friend to trying to date me. You can read about it in my post Beware of Vultures. This was a situation where someone in power, someone who should have been looking out for me was hoping to have sex with me instead. When I did the right thing and set boundaries and told him that I was not interested in dating him and only wanted a work relationship, he acted like a jerk to me and made my work life a living hell. Eventually, I was even retaliated right out of my job as a result of the entire situation.
Sexual harassment and assault are far more common than we realize. These types of things happen daily and are usually brushed off as “boys being boys” or “girls asking for it” or some other inappropriate justification. I am proud to be in a place today where I am a strong enough person mentally and emotionally to recognize these things and take action against them, but that is not the case for everyone. The power dynamic is real and no matter how much you prepare for something, you never know how you are going to actually handle a situation until you are presented with it.
My hope is that this social media conversation helps others realize the magnitude of what is happening out there in the world today. Thank you to Alyssa Milano and all of the women who have come forward against Harvey Weinstein. This is not an outdated problem and it is high time that we all stop being ashamed of these situations and start doing something about it.