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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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My First Political Debate Experience Only Revealed The Messed-Up Reality Of American Partisan Pandering

More sinister than fake news, more timeless than Trump and Kavanaugh, the deceit and radicalization of modern politics is poisoning America.


Given my age (almost 16 and a half!) and my nonpartisan perspective on most issues, it's rare that I attend any politically motivated function (much less in person). Unfortunately, my first taste of official political discourse only encapsulated everything I dislike about American politics.

Upon learning that my high school was hosting a debate between two candidates for the district's representative position, I was immediately intrigued. Admittedly, I had my expectations set high. I had jotted down "House Rep. Debate" on my calendar a week in advance and marked off the days the event neared. I would finally get to learn firsthand about the issues affecting my community and about the people with plans to fix them.

To a certain extent I got what I had hoped for, but certainly not in the environment I had anticipated.

When the student moderators introduced the candidates, Democrat Angelika Kausche and Republican Kelly Stewart, to the stage, it was already abundantly clear how ideologically distinct the two opponents would be.

The first question, which asked each candidate to describe how their views aligned with their party's platform, revealed just how cut-and-dry the candidates were at representing their respective factions. On the left, an unwavering conservative with a keen avoidance of overspending and socialist policies. On the right, an equally grounded liberal with a passion for tackling humanitarian injustices and enforcing moral correctness.

This circumstance certainly isn't unprecedented, but the rest of the night only proved how their narrow-minded partisan loyalty served as barriers to productive discourse.

Right off the bat, Kausche avoided the clearly stated question by taking the time to thank the John's Creek Community Association for hosting the event.

Stewart, however, dove right into her response, which turned out to be a fine-tuned diatribe about Georgia's budgetary deficit and Kausche's supposed lack of budgetary experience and the budgetary concerns and the budget. Finally, Stewart concluded that perhaps the most important thing to consider is, you guessed it, the budget. She even printed out budget sheets for attendees, which I found extraordinarily useful as a handy notepad.

My head perked up when I heard a question regarding Georgia's healthcare policies. Admittedly, I know less than I should about the subject and was curious to know what each candidate thought.

Shockingly, Republican Kelly Stewart opposed the expansion of Medicaid while Democrat Angelika Kausche vehemently supported it. I start to wonder what the point of having candidates' names on the ballot is when their political stances just as much could be conveyed with the letters "D" and "R" to the tee.

Neither candidate veered from their party platform for the rest of the night, with only a few moments of forced agreement (always around the fact that an issue exists, never about how to solve it). On a few occasions, a candidate would utter an especially radical idea (i.e. Obamacare is at blame for the opioid crisis. Medicaid should be for all people. Teachers should be armed.) and was almost always met with either overwhelming applause or a sea of groans.

The room's reaction was so powerful in either candidate's favor that I was genuinely confused who was the more favored of the two.

To be abundantly clear, I wholeheartedly support voter efficacy and staying informed, and I understand that debates inform voters of their representative's ideals. I also don't mean to criticize Kausche or Stewart or even the policies they endorse. I only question the point of debate when it's anchored in stiff, unrelenting party platforms. This is symptomatic of the larger trend at work in American politics: the exploitation of party differences by politicians to entice a demographic of their constituents.

If you're wondering what that means or demand evidence, just take President Trump. Back in 2016, his presidential campaign threatened to run as independent when he felt he wasn't getting enough support from the GOP. Now, he champions radicalized views of the right and has emboldened members of the far-right (along with alt-right neo-Nazis and racists) with his entirely anti-PC attitude.

Similarly, it's rare to find a democratic politician that deviates from the extensive list of liberal ideas that are expected of them. Consider Trump's opponent Hilary Clinton, who originally made it clear in 2014 that she was against nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Isn't it suspicious that in 2015, without explaining why her stance changed, her presidential campaign later advocated for this right, thus garnering support from the LGBT community?

There's so much more wrong with the state of American politics than your opposed party controlling political office.

The effect of the American people allowing this pandering and doublespeak is political inaction among policymakers, who can preach a set of ideals independent of their actual intentions.

The other result is voter apathy among constituents, who therefore feel their vote holds little weight.

With such deceitful rhetorical tactics dominating the political sphere, it's easy to believe that we've all been given a voice. But when that voice only ever tells us what we want to hear, it's important that we stop to question whether we're really being heard.

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