“I am not your dog that you whistle for; I’m not a stray animal you call over, and I am not, I never have been, nor will I ever be, your baby!” -Joy Jennings. In today’s society, sexual harassment against women seems to be a common thing, and this quote only touches the surface of the outrage we feel towards it and why it needs to end. However, the only way sexual harassment can cease is if we as a society make the world welcoming enough for victims to step forward, listen to the victims, and stop the perpetrators rather than protect them.
Although many individuals have emphasized how damaging sexual harassment is, it seems as though society still does not get the issues at hand. Imagine being out with your girls celebrating a birthday, dancing and having fun, when a man begins to grope your butt. You immediately yell at him to stop, but he then shouts, “it was just an accident.” Therefore the first time it happens you simply let it go because maybe it was an accident and you think for a few minutes everything is fine. However, five minutes later he comes back groping once again, this time it for sure was not an accident. You tell him to stop and proceed to tell a staff member because you are quite uncomfortable now. This is surely sexual harassment, right?
Now, imagine going to tell the bouncer, and he responds that “you must have wanted it,” as a result of the way “you” are dressed and laughs. Did the bouncer’s response give any solutions to the issue or any compassion to the fact that you were just harassed? No. This same club situation happens to a plethora of women every week and the circumstances sadly all end the same. Even with the victim having the courage to speak up, that does little in the way of having the perpetrator held accountable for his or her actions. That is because the excuse that victims welcome their harasser is sadly still very much used in today’s society.
This kind of behaviour doesn’t stay at the club. Sexual harassment is everywhere, even at work. And at work the fear to speak up is magnified because many women don’t want to lose their job or upset the status quo. “Many sexually harassed employees never report their harassment due to fear – fear of blame, disbelief, inaction, retaliation, humiliation, ostracism, or damage to their careers and reputations.”(EEOC).
Again, this statement does not surprise me because in many “workplace” related cases HR loves to blame the victim. Summer of 2016 I had a job at an amusement park, and I was sexually harassed. While I was cleaning around the premises of the park, a man approached me, grabbed my arm; and proceed to show me pornographic pictures of himself, and who I would assume to be his significant other. When I told him to let go of my arm, he continued to pull on it until I pushed him with all my might and ran away. Being that I was only 17 at the time I ran to my supervisors crying, but when I told them what had happened, I was met with jokes and laughter then told to “just go to HR.”
In addition to my supervisors taking the situation as a joke, HR did the same thing their response very insensitive, which I could not believe considering she was a woman herself. She then proceeded to tell me I could report the situation; however, by that time my self-worth was at an all-time low and I just wanted to go home and cry. I honestly did not have the energy to escalate the incident.
Since we know that this is happening in all spheres then how do we work to end it? Taking the situation seriously is the first step; since statistics show that many women choose not even to report their harassment because they feel it will only slap them in their face. Can we expect anyone to step forward when we view their assaults as a joke?
It is also important to remember that when a woman does step forward and report her harasser, we listen. Situations like those I have mentioned are why as a society we need to hear, not just see the victims when they step forward so that no women or girl ever feels the way I did after their harassment. In too many cases it seems as if society looks for answers as to why the perpetrator harassed their victim, rather than the fact that they attacked someone. It is time for change asap! Because the saying strength works in numbers should not be a thing when it comes to harassment no one should have to gather other victims for their voice to be heard.
Written by Raven Reaves