After This Woman Was Groped, Remaining Silent Was No Longer An Option
"C'mon love don't be shy..."
"Eventually, he started stroking my leg. I told him to stop..."
"Then he started masturbating in front of me and my friend..."
"It scared me so much that I didn't want to trouble anyone about it. I didn't get up. I didn't say anything."
"It wasn't until I got to work that I found semen down the back of my legs..."
The women in this video have been silenced through their daily experiences of sexual harassment, but now they refuse to remain quiet.
EverydaySexism, an online community that aims to bring together stories of women experiencing sexual harassment and abuse in their daily life, has just released a riveting mini-documentary highlighting the increasing speed at which their international campaign is growing. Laura Bates, the founder of the project, was also one of the women behind the successful #fbrape campaign asking Facebook to stop promoting gender-based hate speech by allowing pages encouraging violence against women. In the video, she tells her own story of sexual harassment, despair, shame, and silence. She decided to speak out about it and create an online platform for other women to do the same. She expected a couple dozen of her close friends to participate. To her surprise, thousands across the globe were desperately seeking to share their stories too.
The women showcased in the short film reveal that they first experienced sexual harassment when they were very young ... some as young as 11. Although many people still think of street harassment as a phenomenon affecting adult women who choose to dress "inappropriately," it reality, unwanted sexual attention begins when most of us are still young girls.
The first time I was touched against my will I was on the bus coming back from school. I was only nine years old. The second time I was 13 when a stranger masturbated in front of me at a bus stop. What was I wearing? A god damn parka, that's what. It was -25 degrees. You know, typical Canadian weather. The only skin I was showing was my nose and it probably has frostbite. Regardless of what I was wearing, nothing warrants that. There is no justification for abuse of harassment. Ever.
Asking women and girls what they were wearing or doing when they were abused is no longer acceptable. These questions are not only unhelpful, they're harmful. Why are we scrutinizing the victim's behavior rather than the perpetuator's? What message does that send? If we went up to men to ask them why they harass, rather than go up to women and ask them why they were harassed, we'd be a hell of a lot closer to fixing the systematic sexual assault of women.
Thanks to organizations like EverydaySexism, women are standing up speaking out. They are no longer tolerating being silenced. As Laura Bates puts it, "They are shouting back and people are listening. [...] You can't silence somebody when they have 25 000 voices saying I believe you and it happened to me too."
You can follow EverydaySexism on Twitter and share your own story. Don't forget to use the hashtag #EverydaySexism and #ShoutingBack too. You can also donate to their crowd-funding project #ChimeForChange here.
For more on combating sexual harassment, follow me on Twitter: @feministabulous