In the past couple of days social media have been taken by a wave of posts with the hashtag #MeToo. In an essence it is meant for people who have encountered sexual harassment to speak out so that we can have an idea of how large this often-unspoken issue is.
I also hashtagged it, but I didn’t share the story because I didn’t want the spotlight to shine on me, instead it should be on the magnitude of the problem itself. It is rare to find a woman who has never experienced indecency regarding her gender, from catcalling and unwanted touching to even sexual assault. In this post I don’t want to play the victim, or to pinpoint any name, what I want to share is how differently I would react to the situation had I could turn back in time.
Without going into details, I’d just say the offender was someone I had greatly admired at the time and the inappropriate touching happened at a group gathering. To be frank, I was stupid. As I say, he was one of the very very few that I looked up to so I did want to have his favour, that’s why I didn’t protest it at the beginning. After that it was awkward to make a reaction in front of so many people there, so I didn’t do anything. I now feel more ashamed of myself for not doing anything than for the actual harassment, and in fact if I had done something there wouldn’t have been the harassment. The experience didn’t scar or traumatise me, I think I’m better than it, but if there’s anything I learn from it that would be these two things:
- Talented and high profile do not equal virtuous. Do not be naïve like me and make that assumption.
- I totally could have stood up for myself in that situation. And you could too. Protect yourself comes before saving your or anyone’s face.
I am in no position to give advice to those in situations of sexual assault or harassment involving violence or a power imbalance, I’m only speaking for myself. I think more often than not I could stand up for myself instead of just being the victim.