Me, too. Me, too. Me, too.
For the past few days, this phrase has been echoed time and time again as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. The meaning? I (the poster), too, have been sexually harassed or assaulted by a man.
I thought about posting it myself. But I fall into the harassed category, not the assaulted category. And because of that, I had this little voice in my head telling me that my experiences weren’t as valid, that I didn’t want to minimize the experiences of those who had really, truly been sexually assaulted. I convinced myself that a little harassment was nothing in comparison to what some women had gone through.
But you know what? Harassment is where assault is rooted. By writing off my experiences with harassment, maybe even border-line assault at times, I’m just contributing to the idea that sexualizing comments or passes aren’t a big deal, that it’s just part of being a woman. And that’s not OK.
So here is my “Me, too.”
To the boy I briefly dated long ago: I wrote off your sexual pressure as part of dating. I tried to laugh it off, even tried to convince myself it was flattering. It wasn’t. You crossed the line when you pushed your penis against my naked body time and time again, saying, “Just this once,” when I’d made it clear I wasn’t ready to take our relationship to that level. I tried to laugh about it, kept kissing you and holding you. But something changed that day. I didn’t feel respected. I felt dirty and objectified. Our relationship ended soon after, but it should have ended then and there.
To the men on the streets in Chile, and here in the U.S., too: Each time I was alone and had to walk by you, I felt myself stiffen. I waited for the comments, praying I wouldn’t be able to understand the Spanish because then it wouldn’t be as uncomfortable. Sometimes that was the case. But unfortunately in my country, I can understand it all. Most recently, I vividly recall walking down the street in Brooklyn with a suitcase at 1 a.m., hearing “Oh, come over here baby, I’ll wife you up.” I kept walking, trying to pretend it wasn’t happening, letting the voice fade as my feet carried me away, ready to fight back if he followed. He didn’t. But next time he could.
To the guy in college who took me home even though I was completely drunk and blacked out: I woke up in your bed and looked at you, with absolutely no recollection of ever meeting you before. You were a stranger. You were kind and you smiled, pulling me close. But I wanted out. I didn’t know you, didn’t know what had happened the night before. I didn’t ask because I was afraid to know. To this day, I still don’t know. It doesn’t matter that you were kind to me that morning. Knowing I was in such a bad state physically and mentally, having my friends tell you so, you shouldn’t have brought me home at all. To this day I can’t see you without feeling myself shrivel up inside, filled with shame and confusion about that night.
To the man who blocked his number to harass me by telephone: When the phone read “anonymous caller,” I answered, thinking nothing of it. I heard your heavy breathing, followed by, a mumble of “Oh, come on.” I hung up. The phone rang again a few minutes later. This time, you said, “Damn, that’s a nice pussy.” That day, whenever I walked outside alone, I held my key in my fist. That night, I put pepper spray in my purse. You continued to call for the next week. I didn’t pick up the phone, but you still got to me. I felt unsafe walking to my own car. I checked the basement and closets in my own home. At first I had tried laughing it off, but as it continued I became genuinely afraid to take part in my day-to-day routine. You took my sense of safety away.
Sadly, I could go on. I’m sure any woman I know could list off instances of sexual harassment or assault. It happens to all of us, and it happens often. It becomes normalized, expected. And there are so many things wrong with that.
I don’t know what the solution is to this culture of harassment and assault. I don’t know how to make it stop. I don’t know how to end it completely.
But I do know that we, as women, cannot keep minimizing our own experiences, writing them off as “just a cat call,” or “just copping a feel.” We deserve to feel safe when walking alone, safe in our own bodies, safe in our own homes. When you think about it, that’s not asking that much.
So if you’re reading this, share your “me, too.” Because it matters.