I was 18. My then boyfriend’s best friend grabbed my ass in the kitchen and told me I could do better.
I was 21. A group of executives at the ad agency I was working at were talking in the break room, rating the female employees based on “fuckability.”
I was 29. Walking out to my car after work, a man forced himself on me, called me “sweat cheeks”, and grabbed my arm, refusing to let go until I gave him a hug.
I am one of the many women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed. I am one of the many women who were at one point too afraid to speak out. But I am also one of the many women who are now sharing their stories in hopes of bringing attention to this problem, to give strength to those who may be going through something similar, to stand in solidarity of the victims who believe they don’t have a voice.
There is movement on social media right now urging those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write two words on Facebook and/or Twitter to show the magnitude of this problem: Me Too.
As I was going through all of the #MeToo posts out there last night, my heart broke. So many women (and men) have been sexually assaulted, a good number in their youth. When I sat down to write this, I actually shrugged off my experiences at first as something normal; it’s not a big deal, right? This happens all of the time. Par for the course for being a woman. Hearing so many other stories from so many incredible people, I didn’t think being ass-grabbed or degraded as just something to “fuck” was worth mentioning.
That was my mentality then, and it was almost my mentality now. To brush it under the rug. To not draw attention. To not make myself a victim. I was young, I was impressionable and I didn’t know if was okay to stand up for myself, to intervene, to shut that shit down and shut it down hard. Isn’t that awful? I think many survivors of sexual assault or harassment feel the same way, which is why this movement has been so powerful.
The truth is, it absolutely does matter. Every time you have felt unsafe, degraded, uncomfortable or forced to do something you didn’t want to do, it matters. We shouldn’t have to out ourselves as survivors in order for people to grasp the magnitude of how systemic assault and harassment are. This is not what women around the world should have in common and this is not what girls should grow up expecting. I say women because while this has absolutely happened to men as well, the overwhelming majority are women, young girls who have walked down the street and been catcalled, who fear for their safety and sanctity of space.
I know some damn incredible men who would never, ever even contemplate acting in such a way, who have some of the biggest hearts that you ever did see. I think most are. But to those out there who aren’t, don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter…say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better.
I want to live in a world where my future daughter is respected, is acknowledged for her intelligence and bravery and heart and not her body. To all of the women (and men) sharing stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment, thank you for your bravery, your honesty and your courage.
Thank you for speaking up.
You are not alone.