I was walking around a outdoor mall near my campus with my headphones on. I don’t normally shop by myself but all of my friends were busy and I needed to get out of the library for a few hours. And it was incredibly peaceful at the time as it was early morning and not many people were out and about. The cool autumn breeze felt electric on my skin as I made my way from shop to shop, unaware how fast my world was about to crumble. I was moving towards the restrooms which were down an inclosed hall that was off to the side. You would miss it if you were just passing by. When I exited the restroom, I was about to put my headphones back on when I thought I heard something behind me. I hastened my steps and I didn’t turn around. But before I could make it even halfway to the door, there was a hand wrapped around my chest from behind me and a hand trying to remove my belt to get into my pants. His breath was hot and smelled a mix of cigarettes and hot garbage. Everything about him made me feel sick as his hands gropped any exposed patch of skin they could find. He pressed me up against the wall, so that I couldn’t see his face, but before he could get any farther, one of my hands was loose enough to grab the mace on my keychain, spray him and run. Run as fast as my feet would take me. When I reported it, because they couldn’t find any evidence on me - as he didn’t “actually rape” me - and there was no angle on the bathroom with the security system, the guy who hurt me is probably still out there.
And this was just one of the times I was groped in public. In broad daylight. And I am not the only one. When #MeToo flashed across my computer screen for the first time, I felt my heart stop in my chest. I thought, finally maybe something is finally going to change and men will finally be held accountable.
The Days After…
However, in the days after, though the public ridicule of celebrities and public figures alike was loud and rampant, as someone drenched in reality, the effects weren’t as loud. Shortly before this firestorm on the internet occured, I was groped by a high schooler here for a tour in the line for food at my university’s dining hall. Due it being a university and security being everywhere, this incident did not end the same way my first did.
Despite this change in outcome, many around me - close friends and family even - failed to see what the big deal was. Despite all of the information in the world about how it doesn’t matter what a person looks like, wears, or does, there are still so many people who would blame the victim before the attacker.
As this became a hotly debated talking point in my family, I decided to divulge what had happened to me - at this point the only people I had told were my roommate, my mother and my little sister. What I was told by my family were some of what I consider to be the worst things to say to anyone who has been through a traumatic experience:
“Well, at least you weren’t raped.”
“Why are you making such a big deal out of this?”
“There are people who have it worse than you.”
“Stop crying and just get over it already.”
“Well what did you expect with that body?”
“Why don’t you just get a reduction if you don’t want that kind of attention?”
“Why are you surprised?”
“If you don’t want that attention, why do you dress like that?”
“You should be grateful anyone is even looking at you.”
This infuriated me. I expected this from certain friends of mine and from outsiders who didn’t know me or care about who I am other than as an object. But from my own family? And I am not the only one. Many of my friends and other survivors I speak to have similar stories of close friends and family who still immediately jump to victim blaming in situations of sexual harassment or abuse. No matter what you wear, how you act, who you are, or anything else about who you are as a person gives another the right to defile you in such an intimate way that will leave you permanently scarred.
Why I Still Support the #MeToo Movement
Now after reading my story, you may think that I am against this campaign because the effects aren’t reaching me, but this situation is more complex than that.
For years, women who want to get ahead and work were faced with two choices, stay where they are and never get ahead or let men get away with unspeakable deeds because they felt that there was no one who could help them and that there is no one there who will believe them. Though society is still very much a patriarchy, women have more power than we ever used to. This campaign wasn’t just a political stunt, this campaign was built upon the foundations strong women have been laying for years not so that women can be on the same playing field as men; but so that women will have a change to be heard, understood, respected, and ultimately, believed. And though many don’t want to give it as much validity, this campaign also gave a platform to the men in society who have been in the same situations as women and told them that it wasn’t their fault and that their masculinity hasn’t been stripped away simply because they were attacked.
#MeToo gave women and men everywhere a chance to speak up and get the satisfaction of not only being believed, but it let women know that there is a community of women and men who are changing the narrative; going from being a victim to a survivor. This simple change of how we talked about those who have been sexually harassed or abused is the reason those Hollywood stars and other public figures are finally being held accountable, and I believe that once they are held accountable, the dominos will fall and the hammer of justice will fall unilaterally to give all survivors the justice and peace they have wanted for so long.
Sexual assault is no joke, and this campaign finally gave everyone a platform and a safe place to share their story. It also allowed these survivors to know that what they went through wasn’t right, and there is nothing weak about being emotional about what happened.
So, will we be seeing any immediate results? No. However, this is certainly a giant step in the right direction to giving survivors the peace of mind they are so desperately reaching for.