I’m not writing this post to garner any sympathy or advice, but in light of the recent sexual harassment revelations in Hollywood it’s so important to highlight that sexual harassment or abuse happens everyday. The majority (if not all) women will experience sexual harassment or abuse more than once in their life. Here’s a list of a handful of times that I have been sexually harassed to illustrate this.
- The time a man walked past me on the street in broad daylight and grabbed both of my breasts and squeezed them.
- The time a colleague in a meeting told all the other men in that meeting (our clients) that a video of me being “ragged” was available on YouTube for them to watch (I’ve seriously no idea what he was trying to achieve here, but it left an awful atmosphere in the room).
- The time I was eating my lunch at my desk and that same colleague told me he loved seeing my mouth wrap round a sausage and then continued to sit and stare.
- The time he said something suggestive to me when we were alone in a lift.
- The time he whispered something suggestive again in my ear, so no one else could hear.
- The time I finally complained to my male supervisor about this colleague and I was told that he was sure it was just a bit of “banter” and nothing else was done about it.
- The time a group of men much larger than me tried to intimidate me on the street in broad daylight, in the middle of a city and I had to literally jump into the road to avoid them and they all walked off laughing.
- The numerous times I’ve had sexual insults shouted at me by groups of men in cars or vans.
- The time a man I did not know called me a slut as I walked past him in the street, minding my own business for no apparent reason.
- The time when I was 19 years old and worked in a sandwich shop and my boss called me a “slapper” in front of a shop full of customers and colleagues. Later, when the deputy manager pulled him up on it he said that “I loved it”. Readers, I did not.
- The time a man that I did not know, shouted out of a window that I was slag. I was walking with my boyfriend at the time.
- The time I was forced against a wall at a tube station and had my sexuality questioned. This man then proceeded to follow me on the tube telling me everything that he would do with my body.
- The time when I was 15 years old and I was flashed at by an older man masturbating on the street.
- The time a man came up to be on the street, again in broad daylight and rubbed his crotch against me and when I turned around he showed me his erection.
- And not forgetting the times that I have lost count of, when I have been groped in a nightclub or bar when walking past a group of men and the assailant would be safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have a clue who did it as the place would be so crowded.
Interestingly, only one of these assaults happened at night time. All the rest were done during the day and usually in busy places.
Here’s the most shocking thing of all. My story is not unique. I don’t just happen to be “unlucky”. In every case I was not flaunting myself or my body (though even if I was it still would not excuse or welcome an attack). My story is like so many other women’s stories. I know there will be women reading this and nodding along, thinking “Yep, me too, sister. Me too”.
Here’s how these sexual assaults made me feel:
- so fucking scared
- it made me feel that these men are trying to put me in my place
- that these men are trying to make me feel like I am nothing but a sexual toy
- that these men are trying to make me feel worthless
And in all honesty, after some of these incidences they have made me feel a bit worthless, but in the long term, luckily for me it has not worked. Sadly, that can’t be said for every woman who has been sexually harassed or abused.
The reality is that sexual harassment prevails throughout society. It does not discriminate against background, race, age, sexuality, size and so on. Your daughter, mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, friends, colleagues, that really nice woman that just served you in a shop, that lovely nurse who helped you heal, that fantastic teacher who is great with your child- ALL have been sexually harassed. Women have been sexually harassed and may not even realise they have. It is a huge problem within society.
I don’t have any clever or innovative solutions, but I do know we all need to stand up and stand against it as a society. I disagree with some people saying we don’t need men to speak up for us. We really do. It is something we should ALL be doing. Together. As PEOPLE we should be shocked and disgusted and unapologetically vocal about it.
Incidentally, my post hasn’t talked about the times I’ve experienced general sexism, but then we’d be here all bloody night if I listed those times.
I only reported two of the above incidents to the police. I probably should have reported more, but it was the incident with the man rubbing his crotch against me that I thought “no more”. I wouldn’t hesitate to report an incident again.
I’ll leave you with this thought. As I said, most of the assaults I experienced happened during the day with people surrounding me. If anyone had noticed what happened to me and vocally stood by me, how much would this help society combat sexual harassment? I’m not blaming anyone who noticed and didn’t say anything, the blame heavily lands on the assaulter, but would it make the assaulter think twice about doing it if he was bombarded by people speaking up and not putting up? We do also need to look at why people feel the need to harass at all. It would be nice (understatement of the year) if sexual harassment wasn’t a problem in the first place.
I actually really struggled to find basic information on the internet about sexual harassment and how to deal with it (which is a worry and a reflection of how much it is just generally accepted), but Rape Crisis have given some excellent advice here.