In response to the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct a copy and paste trend has risen on Facebook where if you have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault you share the status ‘Me Too’ in the hopes that the gravity of the situation can be demonstrated and it’s not okay.
It’s not okay that there are countless women AND men who are victims of this. In the last two days I have seen ‘Me Too’ statuses from more friends and family members than I can count and that doesn’t include the people who will be too scared to post. It’s not okay that any of us have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault at all.
At 16 years old I was raped by an older man I knew through my job and whom I trusted. I was a virgin. Yes, I had a schoolgirls crush on this man. Yes, I agreed to go to his house to watch movies. Did I consent to have sex with him? No. Did he give me a choice? No.
I told a friend about it the next day and she dragged me to the local police station, where I had to relive everything over and over in statements and examinations. A few months later they told me that despite at least two other women who had been victims of the same man (one too scared to make a statement) there was nothing they could do as the man’s flatmate had been home at the time, which meant that I could have called out for help. The policeman was sympathetic towards me and didn’t doubt my integrity, but his hands were tied.
What was worse than this was the backlash. My so called friend went straight from taking me to the police station to my workplace and told anyone who would listen. For months afterwards I endured conversations ending abruptly as I entered a room. People would stare at me and call me a skank as I walked past. Plenty of people thought I had made the whole thing up and someone really close to me even said to my face that they thought something like that would happen to me.
The torment I put myself through was the hardest part to deal with. For months afterwards I had a recurring dream that I had fallen pregnant from the rape and would wake up petrified that it was true, despite knowing it wasn’t. Then I started to doubt myself. Had I even said no? Was it my fault for spending time with him? Did I ask for it? Sometimes to this day I still doubt whether it can be classed as rape or was I just a silly little girl who got what she deserved.
Over the years I have received plenty more unwanted attention. I’ve had men pinch my bottom at clubs, wolf whistle and yell obscenities at me from their cars and had men get angry at me and call me names when I’ve turned them down. I’ve had men and women grab me and try to kiss me against my will and endured countless hours of people talking about me in a sexual manner when I could hear them.
A much older married man spent months pursuing me, sending me dirty text messages and trying to guilt trip me the countless times I turned him down and I even had my drink spiked while out one night by another man I trusted and have a blank patch of several hours where I somehow ended up in my bed at home with a couple of friends knocking frantically on my door to check I was okay. Apparently I had left the bar with that man although I have no recollection nor have I seen him since. Thankfully I woke up fully clothed in this situation but it scares me to think what could have happened had my friends not followed.
I am afraid to publish this post. I am afraid that I will get victim shamed again, that people will not believe me or that friends will look at me differently.
But I also do not want sympathy for this. I want this to stop happening to men and women period. Our bodies are our own and no one has the right to touch them without our consent. If a man or woman turns someone down it does not make them a bitch or an asshole, it means they have respect for themselves. I want victim shaming to stop as well. What a person is wearing or how drunk they are does not indicate consent, consent can only be given by the person and them alone. If they are too drunk to know what is happening or passed out, they cannot consent, no matter where they are or what is going on. No one deserves to be touched against their will or harrased.
But most of all I want all victims of sexual harassment and assault to stand up and say ‘Me Too’ without fear of consequences. I did not want to go to the police after my incident and I rarely talk about it, but despite my friends betrayal I’m glad she made me report it as more assaults and harrasmemt cases need to be reported. No one deserves to be violated ever and I hope that one day these situations will be history.