If you’re unaware of the #Metoo hashtag and the meaning behind it, actress Alyssa Milano started the hashtag in response to the breakout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Her hope was that the hashtag would blow up with women who had ever been victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and it did. Women all over the world spoke up and the number is astounding and disappointing. Women of all ages and backgrounds have experienced some form of sexual harassment to some extent, regardless of the severity of it, all of these incidents are important. You may not even fully understand that an incident is a violation or a true offense until you look back on it later in life. In my situation, the Netflix Series ’13 Reasons Why’ surfaced some feelings I seemed to have blocked out. I watched the entire season completely enthralled in it. I watched as Hannah Baker was assaulted and harassed by her peers and I was disgusted. I would yell at my tv screen “Don’t let this happen to you! Stand up for yourself!” and I continued to watch in disbelief. During the finale of the show after that awful, incredibly real and disturbing scene of Hannah taking her own life (spoiler alert?) I sat in my computer chair and stared off into the door of my closet for I don’t even know how long thinking about what felt like absolutely everything. I was thinking about how she allowed these awful things to be done to her and I was disappointed in her. I couldn’t understand how someone could allow themselves to be molested physically and emotionally in that way and not stand up for themselves. Then I remembered the home period in my high school and what happened to me on almost a daily basis and I was humbled.
I graduated high school eight years ago, and every day we had a home period after our first class of the day. The home period was 15 minutes long and I honestly don’t know what the point of it was. There was a teacher but he just sat in the front of the class grading papers or sitting on his phone, not paying any kind of attention to us. The students in your homeroom were the same people you saw every day, and in homeroom was someone we will call George. George was an okay person, I never had anything against him personally. He was smart and knew it, but didn’t really care about the classes, seemed to be a nice guy in general. On almost a daily basis, he would come up and talk to me a little. It was mostly him flirting and asking me out jokingly and it was harmless at first. Then eventually he got a little more aggressive, he would get really annoyed when he asked me to hang out and I’d say no and would storm off without talking to me the rest of the day, which I was totally fine with. He started saying things to me about how he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore and he was looking for one and I would be a really good one because I had some really nice “DSL’s”. Unlike most of the other kids in my class, I was a very good girl. I’m not being sarcastic or trying to be funny here, I did not play around. I was terrified of my father growing up and I would never think to do anything that could possibly get me in trouble with him. This included having a serious boyfriend or messing around with anyone. So when George told me I had DSL’s I was really confused. What the heck are DSL’s? I asked him. He laughed at me and said “Do you really not know what that is?” as he walked away, leaving me confused and somewhat flattered even though I had no idea what was going on. Later on that day, I approached a guy friend of mine that I had a bit of a crush on and I asked him what DSL meant. He did the same thing as George did, laughed and walked away leaving me confused. When I saw the two of them together later on that day I stopped them and made them tell me. “DSL means you have D*ck Sucking Lips” I froze and felt myself get really hot and red in the face as they stood there talking to each other about how nice my lips would feel around them. Once I pulled myself together enough to realize what was happening, I walked away completely mortified. That was when I realized that George was not a good guy and I needed to cut him out of my life. When I saw him in homeroom again he started making a habit out of grinding his groin against my leg on a daily basis regardless of my insisting he stop and leave me alone. Of course, the homeroom teacher was doing his own thing and not noticing the harassment I was regularly having to deal with. He made the assumption that because George and I joked around and spoke sometimes that I was just joking with him when I told him to stop and he didn’t have to do anything about it. I don’t know how long this when on for before George took a second to stop and ask me out to prom. I laughed in his faced the second it came out of his mouth. “What’s so funny? You’re really not going to go with me? We’re friends.” I looked him dead in the face and replied “No, I genuinely would not feel comfortable being alone with you. I think that you could rape me and not think anything of it.” Maybe that was incredibly harsh, maybe it was stupid to say but it was my truth. I really hurt his feelings and he completely cut me out from then on, pretending I didn’t exist anymore. If my story were in the show ’13 Reasons Why’ I would probably sit at my tv and yell at Hannah Baker to tell George to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Do something Hannah Baker. In reality, I dealt with the harassment for months on end before doing something about it. Watching something awful happen to someone else is so much different than actually being in the situation yourself. George is not the only harassment I’ve ever had to deal with and I imagine there will always be more. The difference is that now I believe in my ability to stand up for myself and other women around me. There isn’t always someone who cares what is happening to you, someone who will fight to help you get your own personal justice. In those times when you can’t rely on someone to fight your battles for you, you have to find the strength to fight them for yourself because you are worth the effort. Regardless of how you may be feeling now I urge you to hold on because life gets so much better when you let it and not everything that cuts you will bleed forever.
My story is in no way as scary and awful as many other stories out there but what is important is that I told it. My goal in life as a friend, boss or coworker to any woman is to be the person they can talk to and trust to get help from when they need it most. I hope that all women have a person like this in their lives that they can confide in. If you don’t know of a person in your life like that, maybe it should be you.