Saturday, June 2, 2018


Way back in my younger years, someone started stalking me. There was this guy who would just pop up wherever I was. Sometimes he’d stand behind me in line but not actually need to be there. Or sit beside me waiting for someone who would never arrive. I knew he was doing something. I could feel it. I could feel his eyes. I could see the expression on his face, taunting me as if daring me to react. It affected me to the point where I lost my sense of confidence. I began to wonder if it was because of what I wore or if it was something I said or did. It made me paranoid to think about it because I could not complain about something I could not prove.

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This was a time when we had no cameras on our phones. I could not do anything. Plus, this was a guy who most people generally liked…how do I prove to people that this was happening? In the end, I didn’t. Thankfully, however, he moved on to other interests. I was lucky it ended that way but that hasn’t stopped me from changing. I used to be more open, more carefree. After that, I started dressing sloppily. The more I blended with the background, the better. The more I hid my body, the more I felt safe. Even eating to gain weight became a security blanket for me. I didn’t want to get any attention from the way I looked after that.

Through the years I’ve experienced sexual harassment in my life. Have any of you seen the first episode of Ally McBeal where her co-worker asked her to reach for something and he went behind her to pinch her butt? Something similar happened to me once, only in my case, the co-worker asked me to reach for something to get a better view of my breasts (which, in hindsight, I should have realized before I actually reached for that work thing). 

There was also the time when I was planning to purchase something in an appliance store and the salesperson (who probably thought he was attractive) stepped too close and whispered my name in my ear in a manner that made me jump out of my skin. I know the first thing to do should have been to complain to the manager, but the creepiness of the moment made me leave the store and never come back.

I felt grateful to read about the #MeToo movement and how women are speaking up about the abuse that they have experienced around men. I appreciate that now, during the time of my niece, women are given a voice to say “No, this is not OK, and I will not let you do this.” That even with abuse, it is not the woman’s fault, no matter how much men say that it is because of what women wear or act around them. When a woman says no, it means no. The whole “boys will be boys” thing is not an excuse and we should not let them use and abuse that. 

I appreciate the awareness that this movement has raised but as its founder has said, it is no longer the time for words but the time for action. I hope that as my niece grows up, she will be able to live in a world where there would be no need for this movement at all and that the sexual harassment, violence, and abuse of women can be eliminated. There’s still a long way to go but the fact that women and standing up to be heard, the fact that women (along with some enlightened men) are supporting each other through this is a big achievement in itself. 

What can we do for this change to happen? We need to speak up. Both men and women need to speak up when they see sexual harassment or abuse. We need to let people know that the time for letting this happen is over. We need to raise our children right. We should teach our girls not to hide out of fear and that they should speak up when this happens to them. We should teach our boys to respect women and to defend them from this type of abuse. We should teach our boys to be men – not the type who thinks that rules should different for men and women, but the type who believes that we should all respect each other as human beings. It really makes me wonder where the women are in the lives of these abusive men when they were growing up. How could they have become the kind of people that they are if they had been brought up right? What man would abuse women when they have mothers, sisters, daughters, and grandmothers in their lives? It really should all start from the home. It should start with all of us.

Change will be difficult; some men already accuse women of lying about abuse. These men try to make the women the villain in the story when it is the other way around. They try to discredit these women to make their complaints invalid, they try to cause trouble in their lives to make them feel that speaking up is not worth it.  

It’s still a long and challenging path, but I hope that one day this movement can be the change that women need.


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