If you have been on social media, you have probably noticed the flurry of posts under the hashtag “me too.” People from every gender, race, and sexual identity told their stories of the sexual harassment and abuse they have experienced in their lifetime in the tag, while other simply posted “me too” as a Facebook status or tweet. The movement sparked the conversation of how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse are in our society while also showing those who have experienced abuse that they are not alone. As a survivor of sexual harassment and abuse, I am very moved by the trend and believe it is important to open this conversation especially in a society that tries to silence and shame victims.
While we begin this conversation about abuse and rape culture, I cannot help but to think about my experiences and realize that there are other forms of abuse.
One I would like to talk about specifically is romantic abuse.
What I mean, specifically, is when a person is pressured by another person who has unwanted romantic intentions. It is a type of harassment that is not discussed enough, yet is prevalent in our society.
For example, if one were to perform a grandiose romantic gesture for a person who was not interested, people observing it may think it is beautiful and adorable, but they do not understand how awkward or even terrifying it can be for the person receiving the unwanted attention. When someone performs a romantic gesture and seems to just, “really, really care about you,” one can feel pressured to accept this or perhaps give them a chance.
In the past, I have been on the receiving end of actions like this; someone really wanted to date me, but I had no interest whatsoever, so when they would do something they thought was romantic to “win me over,” all it really did was make me feel worse because I received unwanted attention.
I felt terrified to reject them; I felt guilty for saying, “No,” even though I had every right to reject them.
Furthermore, I have recently been on the receiving end of harassment from an ex of mine; he has claimed he is still in love with me and felt it was justified to contact me because he is a “hopeless romantic” that “doesn’t take no for an answer.” I have already blocked him on several social media websites, as well as the gaming program, "Steam". Despite this, I still managed to receive an e-mail from him the other day that, while he probably felt was romantic, was unwanted and creepy to me.
I feel plenty of people have not only received this kind of harassment but have also felt guilty for not wanting it. I see things like this happen everywhere, from the woman who felt pressure to say, “Yes,” when her boyfriend proposed to her in public even though she was not one hundred percent sure, to the girl who feels awful because her best friend will not stop making unwanted romantic advances because he cannot handle being just friends. I realize my language discussed only women as being the victims, but this is not true at all; men are victims of this too. As a society, we accept the stereotype that women cannot handle their emotions; consequently, we internalized the idea that it is okay if a woman makes unwanted romantic gestures to a guy. The stereotype does not hold any actual factual value, though, just as the stereotype that men cannot control their sexual urges is not valid either. Sadly, people still use the stereotypes as a way to justify harassment, regardless of its level of truth.
As we continue this public dialogue about harassment and those who are victims and, more importantly, perpetrators, perhaps we can more often notice the many kinds of abuse in our society, and make greater efforts to shut it down. I hate being a victim of any form of harassment, but it has certainly opened my eyes to issues our society faces. If you have ever been a victim of harassment, sexual or not, know that you are not alone. Just like in the case of sexual assault, you have every right to reject their advances, without feeling guilt or shame. Never forget: you are a strong person, and you deserve to be happy and comfortable too.