There’s an online campaign, if you will, happening right now where women who have been victims of sexual harassment, assault, and even rape put “Me too” as their status, to give a glimpse into the epidemic of this behavior.
And well, me too. I’ve had many unwanted advances, unwelcome comments about my body and sexuality. I’ve felt fear, rage, helplessness, and awkward. I’ve filed a sexual harassment against a man who spoke incredibly unprofessional things to me while in the workplace (such as, “Man, she’s a sexy little thing, isn’t she? I’d take her home, but I don’t know if my wife would be okay with that.”) This man was a professor, and he said more than just that. I was simply making copies for him for one of his classes. When meeting with HR, I felt a constant need, no matter how understanding and welcoming the individual I was speaking to was, to justify myself with, “I’m really not trying to be dramatic.” Or “I don’t want to stir up any trouble.”
But dammit, he was using his power and his seniority to put me in an incredibly uncomfortable situation. One that actually made me feel unsafe and dehumanized.
I have also witnessed a sexual assault firsthand. I woke up to two people having sex, and at first, that would be funny or awkward. Until you hear a girl sobbing, and whispering stop.
I didn’t move at first. All those times I said that I would never let something like that happen to anyone. All those times I claimed to be a badass — and I was frozen in the bed next to them. Me and another person finally got up, hoping to make them stop and they did.
I witnessed the assault firsthand, and yet, I still felt a need to try and justify his behavior.
“There were drugs involved.”
“She was flirting with him the entire week.”
And while I knew, what she went through was not deserved by anyone, it is so ingrained in us to question victims of sexual brutality. It comes natural. A girl sobbed in my lap, asking me if I protected you. She cried and cried, and all I could do was hold her.
In my mind, I sucker punched the dude in the kidneys, called the cops, and had him arrested. But in real life, I did not live up to the type of bystander I would ever want to be, or want for me, or you.
I am nowhere near as brave as I would hope to be, but ever since that experience, I’ve taken it upon myself to slowly pull away layers of misogyny around me. And sometimes, it’s out of rage, and sometimes it’s in whispers. Sometimes, it comes out of people simply saying, “Me too.” And while I commend the effort and thought behind the idea of “me too.” My next task is to ask, “Now what?”