In discussing the #MeToo movement in the office, we realized that every single one of us has at least one, if not multiple stories to tell. What this movement demonstrates is the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault. It’s not a symptom of just one industry; it’s everywhere. Despite considering only sharing one blog post, we soon realized we had too much to say. This blog post is one in a series of our stories, all of which can be read here.
Us too. Too much.
I’ve been reluctant to add to this conversation, for fear that my own stories, which seem insignificant in comparison, would take away from the more serious and traumatic experiences of other women I know and have read about. But upon further reflection, I realized the only reason I consider my stories to be unworthy of telling is because we have normalized ‘every day’ harassment, like catcalling or aggressive come ons, as inherently part of a woman’s experience.
I have this knack for repressing anything unfortunate or uncomfortable that happens to me (I know, I should probably work on that…) It was only in sitting down to write this that I started remembering incidents like the time a boy touched me in the pool when I was 9, the time a boy in grade 7 pushed me against a wall and kissed me aggressively without my consent… and so many more.
It was only in talking with my partner that this particular memory even came back to me, though it’s just one of many I could share. It was first year university and we were attending a dorm party at his residence. Without any provocation whatsoever, an older student who I had barely met before this slapped my butt. Immediately, I reacted. My boyfriend had a jealous stint in our early years, so you can imagine he couldn’t have been too pleased, and the guy apologized.
What infuriates me most then and now is not only the disrespect demonstrated by the slap. But to make matters worse, he apologized to my boyfriend first. Remembering that and reading other reports of similar incidents, it is upsetting to think that some men seem likelier to respect us more for ‘belonging’ to another man, than as human beings ourselves.
This further reinforces the role and responsibility of men in this movement and others. Call out inappropriate behaviour, jokes and comments when you see or hear them. Offer to walk your girl friends home at night or have them text or call you in their Uber. Offer to listen and help, without any ulterior motives or judgement, when a woman you know is in distress. Ask for consent always and ensure the consent is enthusiastic and repeated throughout.
Despite having a witness and us discussing it now, almost 10 years later, a lot of the details are very blurry to me. Granted, it was a brief moment, but it made me consider how much we expect from victims. We expect them to essentially be perfect: remember every single detail, react the “right” way, tell someone immediately, fight back, have a virginal sexual history, be wearing something modest, be completely sober, etc.
And while this Me Too movement is extremely powerful, it is yet again expecting more from women, from survivors, from victims. To tell their truths, recount horrific moments and lay their souls bare, publicly, all so someone, everyone can believe even one of us. But I hope everyone reading this and every other story can help to change our culture by believing more victims more often, and taking every incident of sexual harassment and assault seriously, no matter how “minor” we consider it to be.