How To Stand Up To Sexual Harassment
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I have to say that I love twitter, it’s an easy way to open discussion on any subject. One discussion that I took part of was on the hashtag #balancetonporc which was used by women to share their stories about sexual harassment.
Pretty harmless right?
How wrong I was. I started to share stories that happened to me and right away men started to respond to them in disbelief with tweets like:
- This sounds tempting
- I must not take the same metro
I was outraged and blocked them to avoid getting upset and help me ignore these people, so I can’t share the tweets with you because I can’t see them anymore (GOOD FOR ME).
But it made me realized how hard it is to open up about sexual harassment because you will be judged for it.
I am not saying that all men are like that, actually, none of my friends are like that or they wouldn’t be my friends obviously. But unfortunately, the stupidest ones are the loudest ones.
So let’s make things straight, sexual harassment is real.
Why some men don’t believe in sexual harassment
1.They don’t see it
Most of the times I was sexually harassed, I was alone or with a girlfriend. Yep, it never happened when I was out with male friends.
It’s like sexual predators are scared of males.
So odds are they never witness an act of sexual harassment. This is why it’s important to open a dialogue and share your experiences with the men in your life.
2. It became the norm
We’ve all heard the quote “boys will be boys” but this needs to change. Boys need to be held accountable for their behavior.
If you see someone making another person feel uncomfortable, man or woman, speak up and go help them. Don’t ignore it and hope that someone else will do something about it.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the more people are around, the less likely someone will stop it. So be the hero and help anybody in distress.
A few sexual harassment stories
Now I am going to share a few stories that happened to me when I was younger. Some of them might be shocking, so skip this part if you need to.
My goal with this post is to bring awareness to this problem.
I invite you to share your stories in the comment and connect with each other. However, I will not allow comments of people who are here to troll.
The disappointed street caller
This is a classic in Paris, especially when you are young.
Men hanging out with friends who are usually in a small group. They can be on a busy street and don’t care about the people around because they have strength in numbers and most people are walking alone or in very small groups.
They see a lovely lady, and scream “Hey lady, do you have a phone number?”
You ignore them.
So they scream louder. “Hey, you with the jeans and white sweaters.”
You ignore them.
Yep, I don’t know how many times this has happened to me. Just because you don’t want to waste your time talking to people you don’t want to know, they call you a bitch.
How I ended this situation
I usually walk faster to crowded areas. They are usually just trying to show off in front of their friends.
If you find a military man or a policeman, go stand next to them, or walk toward the police station.
You can also enter a store.
Anyway, in this situation, the best is just to ignore them and get away from them.
The midnight stalker
I was 17 or 18 and still living with my parents in France. We moved a few months before so my friends lived in a different town. We usually hung out at their place during the weekend so I had to take the train for a couple of stops. I didn’t have my driving license at the time.
One night, I was walking home from the train station, it’s only a 10-15 minute walk, and passed by a group of men in their 20s.
Nothing special, I just walked by, head down, and minding my own business.
Of course one of them started to talk to me, I first ignored him but he was becoming insistent and started to follow me.
Then, I politely declined his offer by saying that I wasn’t interested.
So he started to tell me all of the sexual things that he would do to me, it was supposed to convince me I think.
I told him that I was still not interested and, anyway, I was living with my parents and they were home so I couldn’t invite anybody.
So then he offered me to stop at the kids ride that was at the city court and he would give me pleasure …
This lasted for about 10 minutes of me politely declining his disgusting offers.
How I ended this situation
People who know me are aware that I can get easily mad. So yes, for 10 minutes I nicely declined his offers but inside of me, rage was building up.
You have to understand that I was a 17 year old girl walking home alone at night.
He was a man, stronger than I was, and his friends were not far away.
But then came the moment where I couldn’t take it anymore.
So I screamed in the middle of the street:
“I am not a slut, I am not a woman you fuck!”
The guy blinked at me and was shocked by the words I used. It must have destroyed the image he had of me, or he got scared that someone heard me. I honestly don’t know and don’t want to know.
But then he just stopped following me, and I got home safe and alone.
The metro pervert
This story happened when I was in college.
A couple of months after the midnight stalker, I was mugged in front of my house when I was walking to the train station. It was only 7 pm but it was winter time, so the night had already came. I screamed, fought back, ran after them calling them names, but still lost my purse and felt powerless.
It took me years to get over it and I would not walk to the train station alone. Even today I find it hard to walk alone in the streets at night. I would feel like someone is behind me and need to look back to make sure that it’s just in my mind.
So lucky for me, I was with a friend in the metro that day.
We met up with other friends in a club in Paris, and she was sleeping at my place.
That night, we took the first metro of the morning at 5 am. You have to know that there’s no train between 1:30 am and 5 am in Paris.
Honestly, I was drunk, so I was a bit out of it.
We sit in the metro and then a guy sits in front of us.
I was half asleep and first didn’t notice what was going on. The guy was touching himself. He was staring at us and rubbed his pants between his legs.
My friend pointed it at me, and honestly, I was too out of it to understand what was going on.
But then, the guy opens his zipper, take his penis out and starts masturbating while staring at us.
How I got out of this situation
My friend grabbed me and scream “OMG THIS IS DISGUSTING! ARE YOU CRAZY TO MASTURBATE HERE” and then we sat further away.
And guess what we were not alone in the wagon, there were other people but nobody did anything.
I have to admit that I had a drinking problem when I was in college and I was very lucky to have friends who took care of me and let nothing happen to me while I was out of it.
THANK YOU AMAZING FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE, you know who you are!
The creepy boss
All of the previous stories happened in France but this one is from an internship I did in the USA.
After months of looking for a paid internship in the USA to be closer to my (now) husband, I finally found a product manager position in Florida. It paid $1200 a month which was really good for an internship.
I was so excited about this job and kept telling my husband that if they offer me a permanent job at the end of the internship maybe he should move to Florida.
So I packed my stuff and crossed the ocean Atlantic to move to Fort Lauderdale where I was supposed to stay for a year.
Here are a few things you need to know:
- You need a J1 visa to do an internship in the USA
- You need to pay an agency to sponsor you for the visa
- Your visa is only for a limited amount of time and one specific company, you cannot switch companies in the middle of it
- You need to do internships at specific times to get credits to graduate from college, so for whatever reason you need to quit your internship, you might have to graduate one year later
Basically, when you have your J1 visa, you are stuck to this internship. Which I was fine with because I had several experiences with internships abroad and never had any problems before.
But when I started my internship, it all started with my introduction meeting with the boss. At the end of it, he held the door for me to go first, something “gallant” you would say, right? But since I was talking with him, I turned around to talk face to face and saw him staring at my ass with a creepy smile.
I was feeling so uncomfortable but didn’t say anything. Because I thought it was all in my head.
A few hours later, I saw the boss grabbing the butt of one of the other intern. I was shocked and talked about it with the two other French interns, one boy, and one girl.
They told me that he was doing that with all of the girl interns, but if you stop him the first time he grabs your butt he won’t do it again.
So basically I had to wait for him to grab my butt and then do what? What is the correct behavior when your boss grab your ass and you are stuck with this job because of your visa?
This is when I realized why there were only interns in this company, that way they could do anything that they wanted.
How I got out of my internship
I called my husband and he was coming to Florida within a few days so we could finally see each other after 10 months.
We talked about it and he convinced me to contact the agency who was taking care of my visa, to ask to change of internship.
First, they told me that I could stop the internship and go back to France. Which wasn’t what I wanted to do because I paid a lot of money for the visa, and I didn’t want to move away from my boyfriend.
After several exchanges of emails, I explained to them the reason why I wanted to stop this internship.
None of the previous interns said anything about it before because they just dealt with it. But I wasn’t feeling comfortable knowing what was coming and not knowing what to do about. I wasn’t feeling comfortable walking in the office knowing that the creepy boss may be staring at my butt.
So it was hard, we talked on the phone and they asked very hard questions they made me feel bad about it. It was like they didn’t believe me. So I finally convinced one of the interns, the guy, to testify.
By the end of the week, the agency gave me a month to find a different internship or I would have to go back to France.
And I moved to Seattle with my boyfriend because I had a good network over there from my previous internship. I actually found one right at the end of the deadline thanks to one of my friends who organized a networking event.
A few words from my husband
I think that the instances of sexual harassment that Julie, and countless other women, have experienced highlight an important lesson for men: listen to the women in your life.
Given that we are far less likely to be the victims of sexual harassment, and are less likely to see it when accompanying the women in our lives, it is no surprise that a naive man will assume it rarely happens.
It’s this I-don’t-see-it-so-it-doesn’t-happen sort of mentality that, unfortunately, permeates other realms of discrimination in our society (the white man who “just doesn’t see” white privilege, for example).
Fortunately, there is a straightforward path to destroying this bias toward women, and it begins with listening.
By simply offering your undivided attention and curiosity, you will gain insights about their experiences and – perhaps – even more importantly, you will begin to see your own bias for what it is: a pile of lazy assumptions that you had never truly given much thought.
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OVER TO YOU
Share your stories in the comments and be kind to each other.