Someone Holding Your Hand Isn't Sexual Harassment, It's Time To Define What Is

Someone Holding Your Hand Isn't Sexual Harassment, It's Time To Define What Is

The "gray area" needs to be cleared up.

To set the record straight, anyone who has suffered abuse, regardless of form, deserves to have their case dealt with fairly, urgently, and seriously.

But, what exactly counts as abuse?

With the rapid increase of sexual assault/harassment/abuse claims in the mainstream media, the discussion needs to be held to clarify what abuse actually is.

While I will never discredit a claim until the facts are clear, many of the initial claims confuse me, as well as the majority of Americans.

The line needs to be drawn between actions that make someone uncomfortable or that are socially inappropriate and actions that are invasive, damaging, and harmful.

I was born and raised in southern Georgia. Here, we hug. You hug strangers, old friends, people you’ve just met, and people who you don’t even like. It’s a cultural thing that differentiates the south from the rest of the country. We’re touchy-feely down here, and sometimes I hate that.

I don’t necessarily want to hug the stranger in the middle of the grocery store that supposedly knew me since I was “only THIS big” and went to preschool with my ex-step-twice-removed cousin that I have never met. However, those things do not make me feel as if I was assaulted. Those things aren’t fun, either. But they don’t count as abuse.

I fully understand that the common assumption of rape is that a helpless woman is attacked at midnight in a dark alley in New York, only wearing a skimpy dress, and it was her fault. I fully understand that this is the worst assumption ever.

Rape, harassment, and assault occur in places that you would never expect something bad to happen. These gruesome events happen in offices, homes, cars, etc. Women who are dressed “appropriately” (I hate this word) get raped more often than those wearing “revealing outfits”. Rape doesn’t have a set of guidelines that it has to follow. It can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere. Age, dress, occupation, salary…none of it matters. Evil doesn’t discriminate.

Someone holding your hand isn’t sexual assault.

Someone asking you on a date isn’t harassment. Someone holding a door for you isn’t rape.

Have you ever had a man tell you that you look nice? #METOO. And that’s not assault.

With the #MeToo movement and the popularity of the sexual assault discussion, women are coming out of the woodwork to accuse men of crimes, while some are very true and serious allegations, many are either 1) fake, 2) exaggerations or 3) overreactions.

Story time: I was walking through a grocery store once, and a man told me that I looked “fine as could be” wearing “those tight pants”. That comment didn’t sit well with me at all. I was offended and kinda mad, but instead of being weak and crying assault over something trivial, I threw my hand up as to say “bye”, shook my head, and walked away.

Offensive, sure. Rape? No. If this man would have touched me, followed me to my car, or persisted to annoy me, the story may have a different meaning. This is inappropriate, but not a crime, however. I could have overreacted and freaked out, screaming for help when I did not need it. I could have lied or exaggerated to get the nasty guy off the streets.

But I took it with a grain of salt because there was no crime.

Another point that needs to be discussed is the lack of confidence women have to make a change in these harassment cases. Women who claim that a man harassed them for 15 years, relentlessly, make me roll my eyes.

If you allow someone to make unwanted physical contact and advances on you for 15 YEARS, I do not accept your claim.

You don’t need a man/cop/bodyguard to follow you around to protect you from these problems. You don’t have to be submissive and “just deal with it”. Stand your ground. If the guy puts his hand in places that it shouldn’t be, break his wrist. While this cannot fix all harassment cases (notice I’m speaking of harassment in this bit, not rape or assault, because that is different), it will change many.

In some harassment cases, the problem is that the man does not have a clear message of whether the woman is accepting the advances or not.

Make your stance clear and never let up. Send a clear “no” and then the problem will be solved in many cases. Responses such as “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” or “I’ll have to think about it” or “not here” or “not now” do not mean no.

Saying “no” and only that, is the only statement that will communicate that you are not interested.

Stop being reluctant to turn down an unwanted advance because it may hurt feelings, lower your chance of getting a job/promotion/raise, or make you seem like a prude. Stay true to yourself. Don’t be weak.

Now, there are many cases where the man does not care about your “no”, as well. Harassment that continues after the message is made clear is a crime. There are two ways to handle this: 1) as I said before, break his hand (this is self-defense at this point) 2) call the police. Or, preferably, do both.

If someone seriously harasses you after you made it clear that the attention is unwanted, YOU NEED TO STOP IT. If you allow the harassment to continue for saving-face/feelings/your job, you become part of the problem. If you allow this man to gain ego by getting over on you, he may try the same things with other women, or worse. You empower a bad person, and you weaken yourself.

Help yourself, your peers, and the world by nipping sexual harassment in the bud. If someone broke into your house and stole your coffee pot every single morning (or every other morning, or once a month), would you just say “okay, that’s fine” or “I don’t want any attention from this” or “maybe it’ll just stop” or “I can’t get the negative attention for doing something about this”? Of course not! That’s your coffee pot. If they feel comfortable stealing your coffee pot, they might come back to steal your car, or someone else’s laptop. Compare this to a harassment case, would you accept treating your coffee point to a higher standard than your own body? I hope the answer is no.

Sexual assault is terrible. I know this. The “break-his-hand solution” will not work here, and I do not suggest it. This isn’t a case of unclear messages or confusion, this is intentional harm. Treat it as such, and do not claim that your friend that put his arm around you assaulted you because he did not. This is a case of physical altercations, emotional and physical pain, and life-changing events.

Effects of assault are severely damaging to victims. This can happen to anyone, at any time. Typically, this happens between people who know each other well, usually with alcohol/drugs involved. This is depressing, but this is not typically a crime that can be prevented before it happens because it is unexpected.

Women, take a stand here, too. Just because your assaulter is your best friend, boyfriend, husband, family member, or etc., means nothing. This is a crime, treat it as such. If you “let it slide”, it may happen to you again, or someone else. In my personal opinion, rape and sexual assault are the exact same thing. While some people believe this is different, I do not. What I said here goes for rape as well.

Now, what if you feel uncomfortable with a situation/relationship in the workforce/school/at home, but no crime has been committed? Seek help, raise your concerns. Tell your boss or coworker. Tell a “higher-up” at school. Consult other family members. If nothing changes, alert police.

The people who are hurt the most by false claims/exaggerations/overreactions are people who have been victims of real crimes.

The #MeToo movement has given many women a platform to spew lies and stupid comments about things that are nothing even close to a serious, damaging, harmful event such as assault.

Those people are normalizing sexual crimes to the point that we just say, “there’s another one” and move on. The word rape used to have a strong meaning, to the point that just the word alone would make people shift in their seat. Now it is a common word that has a confusing, weak meaning. We must take these crimes seriously to protect people. If you keep crying wolf and making the definition of assault and harassment become grey, it will eventually become as white as the screen that this article is typed on. It will lose all meaning, and people who are being hurt and abused will no longer be taken seriously.

Stop crying wolf. Stop hashtagging “Me too” for trivial things. Stop allowing bad things to happen to save face. Stop blaming victims.

Start treating assault and harassment seriously.

This isn’t an opportunity to hop on an invisible soapbox to get some attention. This is an opportunity to change the course we are on and fix the way we handle these serious issues that are destroying lives and society as a whole.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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