As I am sure most of you know, we have seen a steep incline in news reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by well-known men in a few different industries: movie producers, actors, politicians, journalists, and I’m sure there are some that I am missing. Which, brings me to a major issue that I want to point out, in light of these reports and stories coming out. First off, I must say that I am so incredibly proud of all of these women who are speaking out about their abusers. This conversation is extremely important, especially with today’s culture. These abusers deserve to be punished for their actions.
However I must make a point to say that while I am incredibly empowered by these women to keep taking action against sexual harassment and sexual assault, I am very much aware of the fact that there are so many other women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by people who are as not as well-known like everyone in Hollywood or the media. These women who are suffering everyday with what they have had to go through, do not get automatic relief when they speak up about their abusers, if they ever choose to do so. Their abusers don’t get shamed like these famous men are starting to. We have to remember that there is so much injustice that women are faced with everyday, in relation to their assailants. There are women who have never spoken up, and some never will. It is important to recognize that is okay, too. I have heard SO MANY people say to me in response to these allegations, that these women shouldn’t have waited this long. Here’s the thing though: It doesn’t matter. Unless you have been through it, you don’t, and you never will understand what it is like to go through such a traumatic event(s). Most times, these men tend to be in a position of power over the victim. So, therefore, it would make it that much harder for someone to come forward at the time of the event. It takes SO much courage to speak up about such a sensitive topic as this. Abusers can and often do, instill so much fear into the victim based on their position, in order to prevent them from coming forward. It happens all the time.
Speaking from a personal standpoint, I completely understand where these women are coming from. When I was sexually harassed as a freshman in high school, I didn’t report it at the time of the incident. The student that was sexually harassing me, was an integral part of the football team. He was also known by a lot of other students. Those were my reasons for keeping my mouth shut about it. He was a great football player, and a lot of people from what I knew, liked him both as an athlete and a friend. I learned it was best not to speak up about sexual harassment the year prior, in eighth grade where I encountered sexual harassment for the first time. I decided to report it, only to be ridiculed for it by my peers. After that, I thought that it wasn’t worth it to speak up. However, I decided to bring the issue to light two years later, as a junior during a meeting with my vice principal. At the time of disclosing the incident, this student was no longer in the school district, I therefore felt safe bringing it to surface because I wouldn’t face any shame for it. This is exactly my point; I knew nothing would come out of it as far as disciplinary action. I knew I wasn’t going to gain anything at that point for reporting it. Shifting back to these women who are speaking out; they are powerfully using their voices to shed light on an issue that needs more attention than it has received in the past.
A movement has started, and it has to continue. We must continue to bring stories and experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault to light. It does not end here. It is my hope that this movement will bring about some much needed change in our society. I promise to do everything in my power as an advocate and an educator on sexual harassment to keep talking to students about these issues, and to try my very best to make sure that change happens.