Trigger warning: sexual assault and harassment.
“It was so painful that I blocked it from my memory. I honestly did not remember any of it until something triggered the memory,” a dear friend of mine explained. We sat in the middle of the cafe, and although my heart ached for her, I was not surprised.
Followed home by three men and sexually assaulted by all of them. I had multiple friends that had stories similar - at a party, in an alley, with their boyfriend. Every girl I know, every single one, has at least been sexually harassed at some point in their life.
Since the Weinstein scandal, so many stories have been brought up and powerful men - for the first time in history - are flailing. It’s beautiful to watch.
After years of being sexually harassed and having my best friends be sexually assaulted, people are finally paying for it. The hope we lost because of Brock Turner is now being restored in the forms of Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and more. We don’t have to be hurt with no consequence anymore.
The #MeToo movement was created by Tarana Burke, a black feminist, and is the senior director of programs at Girls for Gender Equality. It has now spread virally. People who have been sexually harassed or assaulted have been hurt in silence for years, and now they are no longer in the dark.
Sexual harassment and assault are so normalized in our culture that we often do not realize that it even happened to us. From being pressured to hook up with someone to being catcalled on the street, we are trained to think that these are complementary and we should be happy with what happened to us.
How old were you when you were first sexually harassed? I was fourteen.
I have never been sexually assaulted, for which I am extremely grateful. I have been sexually harassed, and when I recall the experiences, they honestly scare me. In my sophomore year math class I stood up to turn a paper in and I was spanked. On a school trip to Istanbul, my friends and I were followed by a group of men through five stores. Catcalled, made comments at, felt powerless while alone with some men, pressure to be with some men, been yelled at by men, made to feel like an object.
Of course, I look back on each situation and wish I just stood up to the harasser. But how? If I told a man to stop in front of people, I would look bad. If I slapped him, I would look aggressive. And of course I am mad at myself for thinking that way, but how couldn’t I?
As women, we are trained to think like that. So many powerful women are coming out with their stories, and we are proud of every single one of them - but how many women who do not hold high-publicized positions can also say #MeToo?
According to RAINN.org, “on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year”. That’s just in the United States. What about the world? What about women in third world countries who have no one to stand up for them? If we are just getting to the point in the United States where we can openly talk about our experiences, what about women that don’t have a platform?
We are extremely lucky that we have a platform to share our stories in our country. Our country that is led by a sexual aggressor.
Still, we are turning a blind-eye to a select few. Woody Allen, Lena Dunham, Casey Affleck, and Ben Affleck have all had allegations against them, but for some reason, we are ignoring. If not ignored, then we at least are not putting enough pressure on. Ben Affleck literally broke out into hives when asked one question about it on Colbert. Sexual harassers and assaulters everywhere should be scared - women and men alike. After all, “1 out of every 10 rape victims are male” (RAINN.org). Sexual assault and harassment will no longer be tolerated.
I hope to God that everyone who sexually harasses/assaults someone else will no longer be employed, I hope they are shunned, I hope the behavior changes. Sexual assault isn’t about attraction. It’s about power.
Can you name a woman that can’t say #MeToo? I can’t.