Sexual Harrasment: Me too

Written and Narrated by: Fozia Tahir

The recent #metoo campaign against sexual harassment was an eye opening social campaign for me. Nearly 80% of the women in my friend list reached out to the world by saying they have been sexually harassed at work on in closely knit family and community setups. While a couple of my male friends showed their support not a single one of them said they had been affected by sexual harassment too. This shows that violence against women is worth all the feminist debates that ever existed.
What was also super inspirational about these young ladies in my friend list is that they have grown up to become stronger women and better people and are contributing towards several gender and world development orientated goals. Some of the stories narrated by my friends gave me Goosebumps. So here I take off my shoes, put my feet in the shoe of sexually harassed and assaulted women and scribble a poem in the first half of the article. In the next half I have tried to academically explain the issue of sexual harassment to inform myself and others about the topic.

I am sending you love, because me too

An old man I respected once cracked a dirty joke,
Day in and day out I received anonymous calls,
I ignored all of this and kept looking away,
Has any of this emotional abuse happened to you?
I am sending you love, because me too

Were you young and naïve playing alone in the wild?
Were you brave enough to stay out late in the dark?
In a family event full of people, did it happen to you?
‘The world is not a safe place’ do you now believe it’s true?
I am sending you love, because me too

How wise, and respected was your molester?
How filthy did you feel with every touch of that monster?
Did you dare protest or in silence choke back?
How guilty, how helpless, how shocked did it leave you?
I am sending you love, because me too

Did you come back home and throw those clothes away?
Did you have anyone to turn to and seek support?
Or were you clueless about how or where to report?
were you worried about how small they would make you feel?
I am sending you love, because me too

Did they ask you, ‘what were you wearing’?
Did they start the victim blaming?
‘You shouldn’t have been there on your own’ did they say?
There is no point in putting pebbles in the mud, stay away!
Is this what happened to you?
I am sending you love, because me too

Do you know of a local authority you could go to?
Or a national law that might support you?
any helpline, number your school or college shared with you?
Or did you survive those days without an idea of what to do?
I am sending you love, because me too

through it all, have you become a stronger person?
Are you worried for the future of your children?
Have you decided to take a stand and speak up?
do you believe in empowerment of men and women’?
I am sending you love because me too.

Sexual harassment is a serious social problem. The strategies most commonly used by women to cope with harassment range from avoiding or ignoring the harasser to reporting the incident.
There isn’t a single agreed upon definition for sexual harassment. Most researchers define it as “a psychological experience based on a sexually unwanted, offensive, and threatening behaviour at work”. Several authors have defined three types of sexual harassment,
Gender harassment
Unwanted sexual attention
Sexual coercion
Gender harassment (hostile, offensive, intimidating, and degrading verbal and nonverbal behaviour against women) is a type of subtle sexual harassment aimed at deterring women from transgressing male domains rather than being an expression of sexual attraction.
Unwanted sexual attention: Most evident types include verbal and nonverbal behaviour, such as persistent nonreciprocal requests for dates, letters, phone calls, deliberate touching, grabbing, sexual advances and propositions, and assault). This behaviour is perceived by the target as unwelcome, unreciprocated, and offensive acts of sexual interest.
Sexual coercion, also known as quid pro quo or sexual blackmail, is the most explicit and recognizable type of sexual harassment, where the harasser, a person in power, demands sexual favours from a subordinate worker in exchange for organizational rewards and benefits or threats of reprisal related to job prospects and conditions (e.g., job security and promotion)
Though both men and women may be exposed to sexual harassment, the literature on harassment is consistent in reporting that an overwhelming number of victims are women, and harassers are men. Thus, one out of every two to three women have experienced some type of sexual harassment or have been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour.
The strategies most frequently used by women to cope with harassment range from avoiding or ignoring the harasser to reporting the offence. Unfortunately, none of these strategies has proven to be clearly effective in combating harassment at work, nor in raising the confidence of workers (i.e., potential victims) regarding their expectations towards their current employers. Studies have shown that women who report incidents of harassment are often threatened with reprisals for reporting the incident or making it public. A further strategy employed by women in coping with sexual harassment is confronting the harasser. Some studies have found that active confrontation benefited victims by empowering women, and by helping them to expose social inequality. The tendency to respond negatively to any woman who attempt to draw limits as to the behaviours of men, particularly if these infringe traditional gender roles, is enshrined and perpetuated by the sexist ideology. A good example is a study where women who challenged traditional gender roles and undermined male authority were found to be negatively evaluated by men.
Sexism has a role to play in it. The fact that men and women are different and certain acts by men are acceptable because of their gender fuels the issue of harassment. In general, sexism is associated to attitudes legitimizing violence against women, and would explain the nexus between hostile sexism and blaming the victim. Myths of sexual harassment, including beliefs such as self-victimization, that women enjoy acts of violence, these acts are only committed by mentally deranged men, or that women exaggerate their reports are common to all women.

Impact of Sexual Violence:
The impact of sexual violence goes way beyond physical injuries e.g.
The world may not feel like a safe place anymore
You no longer trust others, you don’t even trust yourself
You may question your judgement, your self-worth and even your sanity
You may blame yourself for what happened or believe you are ‘dirty’ or ‘damaged goods’.
You may struggle with anxiety or depression.
It is worth remembering that you are experiencing a normal reaction to trauma. Dispelling the toxic victim blaming myths about sexual violence can help you start healing. Remember that you are not to be blamed for what happened to you and you can regain your sense of safety and trust.
Sexual assault especially rape victims should not be blamed as rape is a crime of opportunity. Rapists choose victims based on their vulnerability and not on how sexy they appear or how flirtatious they are.
Recovery from sexual trauma takes time and healing can be a very painful, but with the right strategies and support, you can move past the trauma, rebuild your sense of control and self-worth and even come out the other side feeling stronger and more resistant.

No matter how hard life is on you, speak up, seek help, heal and help others heal too

 

P.s. A big shout out to Peter Bickerton for reading the poem and encouraging its publication.

Questions:
1. Could a woman asking a man for coffee be categorised a sexual harassment, specifically if the man is obliged to say yes to a lady?
2. Do men understand what rape does/means to a woman? Is it more than violence for them as it is for women?

References:

Herrera, M. C., Herrera,A., Expósito, F. 2017. To confront versus not to confront: Women’s perception of sexual harassment. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context. In press

http://www.helpguide.org

Sapac.umich.edu

http://www.sexualharrasmenttraining.biz

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