On the Courage of Speaking Out Against Sexual Harassment

Sometimes my mind has too much swirling around in it for me to write very fluidly or concisely. When issues and trauma are complex, the story isn’t summarizable….so I’ll write and hope y’all can see the threads of connection here. Thank god my therapist can.

I published a story on my blog three years ago about a date I had been on with a man that went south. The post was humorous (because I am hilarious) and many women laughed and cringed with me as they read. It was small potatoes in the way of experiences I’ve had. I forgot about the post (as I tend to do once I hit “publish”) and went on with my life. And then I got a message from a man I had previously had a relationship with:

“Careful, your readers are going to think you hate men.”

“What do you mean? I think the fact I most definitely DO NOT hate men is one of my problems lol.”

“You write like one of those females who hate men, and you are alienating half of your readers. I want you to do well, and you aren’t going to get anywhere by how you’re writing.”

I was irritated by his words…but there suddenly was a new sensation I felt when I wrote: doubt.

Here is another layer to the story: the man sending me these messages about how I spoke about men had raped me in 2013 in Okinawa, Japan on the roof of a building he owned a restaurant in. That was the night I told him I did NOT want to have sex, I said no over and over again, and he kept saying “you know you want it, I can tell you want it”.

And here he was telling me that I should be careful about what I wrote, four years after he pushed me down and ignored me as I said “I don’t want this” over and over until I stopped speaking.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen something shocking unfold on my page. I am a pretty outgoing person. I do not hold my personality back on social media (in fact, I am way more social on social media than my introverted self EVER is in person). With that kind of personality comes sexual harassment. It occurs about once a week, and I usually ignore it or laugh it off. But this week, I was fed up. I received a message from a man who is well-known and respected in the small town I grew up in. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in 15 years (and I am not even sure I spoke to him when I was a teenager). The conversation went from polite to sexually harassing in a matter of minutes.

I knew what I *wanted* to do: post it and tag him publicly denouncing his behavior. But I was terrified. Doubt entered my mind again and my rapist’s voice became louder and louder. Was this just me being a female man-hater? What good was me publicly blasting creepy behavior that happens all of the time? Can’t I just ignore it like I usually do? This was a family man, a pillar in the community…was I being sensitive? Was I making a scene? Was I in the wrong for how I speak or the pictures I put up on social media? Did I ask for this in some way? Isn’t this just how women get hit on with the advent of the Internet?

All of these questions swirled through my head as I texted my best friend and asked what I should do. It wasn’t even that bad in the grand scheme of sexual harassment. It was probing and suggestive, but not HORRIFIC. Ultimately, however, it was inappropriate enough to make me uncomfortable. This man did not know me and I owed him nothing. I was tired of sacrificing my comfort, of acquiescing to behavior I’ve been told to accept.

I posted the picture and tagged him in it. And shit blew up.

It turns out his behavior towards me wasn’t atypical. He had been messaging young women in the community for years, waiting until they were legal to begin sending suggestive messages that CREEPED WOMEN OUT. I received a lot of messages of screenshots from other women (and GIRLS) who had been subject to his harassment. Because of his behavior, he was fired from his position at a private Christian school where he taught Bible Study.

So it was a good thing I went public. I did a good thing, as proven by the messages I continue to get from underage women thanking me for standing up to him and getting him fired.

And yet, that doubt is still there. I heard my rapist’s voice…saying I shouldn’t speak up about this behavior. I worry that I am becoming an unapproachable and frigid bitch…something else he said. I think about the comments I have read by men who say “How are we supposed to speak to women? Everyone freaks out if they get a freaking compliment. I refuse to speak to women now because they will just cry rape.” How are people supposed to show interest these days? RESPECTFULLY, OBVIOUSLY, but with the invention of social media, decorum has exited the chat.

I am worried that I am shutting the door on behavior that is the some of the only attention I get (trust me, I know how horrible that sounds). Why would I want to have this kind of behavior at all? Shouldn’t I be grateful I will (hopefully) receive less DMs requesting boob pics? Yes, of course. It’s just….I am so uncomfortable with my actions and the long-term effects (on me) for speaking out. I am fucking GLAD for the young girls who don’t have to deal with that predator anymore; don’t get me wrong.

I spoke with one of my friends about this doubt of mine and how me speaking up is shutting doors (albeit doors that should be shut). He said, “You’ve been a good victim. Predators know this.” Yikes. The doubt I have comes from those who have tried to keep me quiet for years. I don’t want to be complicit anymore…but this shit is scary and I worry about what I have done. I don’t feel courageous. I feel uncomfortable. I feel terrified.

Leave a Reply