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.