This status as been seen all over Facebook for the last couple of days from women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. I posted it myself even though it is a triggering sight to see. But for as long has I can remember I have been triggered.
In person. Online. At work. At school. On the way home. In my home.
Sexual assault and harassment has never been OK but it has always been normal for me. Being born and raised in NYC, getting “Hollered at” is embedded in our culture. Young women are groomed early on to look for ways to prevent and deal with being sexually harassed. As a defense mechanism, friends and I turned to humor by trying to reverse the roles as teenagers. We would sit on a stoop and yell out “Yo shorty in the _______” to the boys that would walk by or ride pass on their bikes. They were always shocked but never offended because it was cool. But imagine having to go through this every day. I live in the suburbs now so driving has shielded me from uncomfortable situations. But for an urban woman who may have to walk a lot, avoiding certain times, blocks, groups of people, clothing and wearing earphones are all things we have to do just to be left alone. What is worse than that?
I tend to laugh at my a pain because no one, other than women seem to care. Just last week I found sick humor in this meme with a friend.
In hindsight, this isn’t funny. The meme actually shows just how serious this issue is for women. Why is walking pass a group of men considered a dare?
Because some of them have no respect or self-control.
One Summer, when I was 14, I was walking down Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn with my friend after work. As we passed a few guys by the corner store, my friend was “hollered at” pretty rudely. She ignored this behavior but “the calls” were so distracting that I made contact with one of the guys. To which he said: ” I know you heard me if your friend did”. As a consequence, the guy proceeded to wet us down with a “Super Soaker” water gun and his friends laughed. Then my friend and I had to ride the train home wet all because we chose not to entertain this behavior. This was only one of the many violations I have experienced in my life. One that will stick with me forever.
Being shot by a water gun was extreme. In my opinion, more extreme than being called an “ugly bitch” or saying “That’s why your friend looks better than you anyway”. These are ever day responses when things don’t go a sexual offender’s way. It honestly seems like no response (other than the one they want) is ever enough. Even making a conscious effort to tip-toe around a delicate male ego works because being pretend gay or spoken for is just as bad as being uninterested. These men want to “be your friend” anyway.
A H.S. friend of mine, Tabitha made an interesting statement on my status today:
On the other hand I will say that this whole thing is kind of triggering me. I wish we didn’t have to re-label ourselves for people to understand the scale of the issue (that, really tho, if we don’t know the scale of the issue by now I’m like…???) and I wish we didn’t have to create direct relations with the issue in order to to activate humanity in people. We talk about how many women have been assaulted but not how many men assault. I’d really much rather continuing the call out of the offenders and holding them accountable.”
This same friend had an incident just recently with a man taking pictures of her on the subway. Instead of coming to her defense, she was advised by another man to “just move”. Somehow in our society it is always our fault. Thee disgusting situations are seen as something women have control over when it’s simply and issue of self-control on the offenders behalf.
Shortly after, an old friend inboxed me to remind me of the time I asked him to stay by my side so that our co-worker would leave me alone. It was my first permanent job out of college so I wasn’t trying to make this a “thing”. I can’t remember exactly what this man use to say to me but I vividly remember being uncomfortable. His name still gives me the creeps. He always hovered over my cubical in the morning…and we were far from friends. But the fact that I had to be reminded of this experience goes to show you how often this happens to me. I normally just block it out until the next incident.
Although I was quiet my work encounter, I have been vocal everywhere else. However there is still little accountability when the offenders are people we know and trusted. Our society has a habit of turning a blind eye. Not me. I speak up and have sacrificed many relationships in doing so. I will gladly be the enemy when it comes to protecting my peace.
Now as a mother of a young boy, I am working on getting him to understand personal space, how to deal with rejection from his peers and certainly how to treat young girls. I refuse to have my son grow up to be the reason another woman says “Me too”.
And no… there will be NO SLEEPOVERS allowed. Me and mine will see you tomorrow.
There are just too many of y’all are walking around with issues that have been excused and unaddressed.
Click HERE to see how this all started.