I'm sure a lot of you saw on Facebook and other social media the #MeToo campaign. Usually, I'm not one to do social media trends or almost "chain letter" type posts. But, I felt this one was important. I think it's important as women to support one another and have a strong voice together in our culture. It was empowering for me to hear other's women's courage in sharing their stories and feeling like I am not alone. I would be surprised if there is even one woman who has not experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, or sexism. It's a shame that we even have to speak up to say that this type of behavior is wrong, but we do. Let us use our voice and find strength with each other to change the world around us. As women, we are powerful and worthy to be treated with respect, dignity and kindness.
With all of this discussion taking place and a focus on calling out those who have wronged women for many years, I felt like I needed to share my story. I don't share it to make this about me but in hopes that it will help women identify when sexual misconduct is taking place and to stop it. For most women, I don't think they are even aware of when it happens because we have been taught by society to just deal with it. That is not acceptable. If someone is doing something to you that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you do not want to happen to you, please speak up and protect yourself. My hope is that with one story at a time and the courage to share it, we can change our culture.
When I think back on it, I can recall many instances when I was touched without my consent. However, one instance stands out to me that at the time, I didn't even realize was sexual assault. As any young woman typically does, I frequently went out with friends for drinks on the weekends in my early to mid 20's. I love to dance, so if a throwback jam came on, you could find me on the dance floor! I was having fun dancing, and I was approached by a guy. I was single at the time and was open to dancing with him. Very quickly, he began to inappropriately touch me. It had escalated from just dancing to a situation that made me very uncomfortable. Before I knew it, his hand was under my dress and underwear touching my genitals. I immediately withdrew and ran out of the bar. I called my friend, and we left to go home. Sadly, my male friend did not believe what I told him and said I was overreacting by calling the event "sexual assault". The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as "any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient." This includes fondling. Every time I called that event sexual assault, my male friend would try to tell me that's not what happened. Ladies, a man fondling you without your consent is sexual assault. Do not let someone make excuses for that behavior. It is not "boys will be boys" or "oh he didn't mean anything by it" type excuses that will protect women. For the longest time, I put that story out of my mind, and I was honestly ashamed. It wasn't until I heard other women courageously sharing their stories that I thought back on that night and truly feel that I was right to call it sexual assault.
Unfortunately, there are other events I can think of that were inappropriate behavior by a man toward me, but this one made me feel so ashamed. Here, I had a male friend, someone I was close to, trying to make me feel like a liar or exaggerating about what happened. It made me feel helpless and small. Like I had no voice about something I was so upset about. It made me question my own experience of something that was so horrible. I felt violated, and no one acted like it was a big deal. I'm here to stand up and say, these acts are a big deal. I'm here to listen and support you and other women who have shared these experiences as well.
If you need support for a past or current experience with sexual misconduct toward you, please know that the Worthy community is here for you.