#MeToo: What Needs to be Understood

It was an ordinary workday for me and I got out at 5. I took a van home instead of booking a cab — it’s cheaper that way and I was assuming it wasn’t that traffic yet, anyway.

I was right. It wasn’t traffic. The whole trip to my subdivision took only 15 minutes instead of the usual 45. I gathered my things and opened the van door to get off.

Only two seconds after, a guy intentionally crashed himself on to me. The next thing I knew was that his hand was trying to touch my crotch.

I immediately pushed his hand away, but he was too strong that he got a good grip on my crotch before walking away from me.

It all happened very fast.

I looked at what I was wearing: a semi-loose polo shirt, denim jeans that aren’t slim fit, and rubber shoes. My fly wasn’t open. My jeans weren’t ripped, and my shirt wasn’t showing a cleavage, or whatever you call it. In my opinion, there was nothing wrong with what I was wearing.

I stood there for 5 seconds and tried to shrug the whole thing off. I passed by the footbridge and walked 200 meters more to reach my apartment. Once I got there, I sat down on my bed, very shaken.That’s how I realized that I was sexually harassed.I know after reading my story, many of you will say, “But you even did nothing about it! You didn’t fight it! You should’ve screamed for help!”

WHAT EVERYONE DOESN’T KNOW

I used to think I can handle those things. When I was 14, I took up Arnis training. My father even trained me basic self-defense. Growing up, I thought I already know what to do when certain things like that happen. I thought I was equipped. I thought it was THAT easy.

It’s different when you’re there on the spot. You know how to fight but you can’t even move — not because you don’t want to, but because you don’t even realize that you were harassed and you needed to fight. I was in shock.

Or maybe I just didn’t realize that a small thing like that already counts as harassment. I didn’t, until I sat down and replayed everything on my head. I almost blamed myself. Why didn’t I fight back? Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t I called someone or report him? Was it because of what I was wearing?

The thing is, we live in a society that’s too judgmental. If you were groped at, they will blame you for what you were wearing. If you get raped, they will say you wanted it because you didn’t scream for help. Because of this, people tend to just brush off small indecent incidences like this, for they are afraid of being embarassed by the public. “Sus, ikaw kasi hindi ka sumigaw.” “Naku, as if ‘di ka rin nasarapan.”

No. Big no.

Victim-blaming is never gonna help us. This is also why most victims prefer to stay silent — instead of helping them, people tend to shame them instead. You might think that what happened to me was just a small thing. Compared to rape, it might be nothing to you. However, no matter how “small” you think this is, it’s still not right.Unpermittedly touching someone else’s crotch, especially people you don’t really know, is still wrong, and still is considered as harassment.

THE NEED TO BE AWARE

People, when you hear the word sexual harassment, it doesn’t just mean rape. You can be sexually harassed by just being touched, groped at or even maliciously talked to, without your consent or unconscious knowing.A lot of people, especially women, are unaware that they are already being harassed. If we would like this to be addressed, then the world needs to be aware.

Social activist Tarana Burke was the very first one to use the phrase “Me too” on MySpace last 2006. October this year, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged the use of the hashtag. For those of you that didn’t know, if you search #MeToo in Facebook and Twitter, you will see thousands of posts about how people all over the world were sexually assaulted. These are the brave folks who chose to speak out and expose how these disgusting things are very rampant.

#MeToo is a way of letting all kinds of sexual harassment out in the open — to stir awareness that these horrible things happen to people regardless of age, gender and race, anytime and anywhere.

It’s more than just a hashtag.

I was able to have a short chat with one of those Filipinas who posted their #MeToo encounters on Twitter. One sunny afternoon, she was passing by the deserted Quezon Avenue MRT station footbridge. A guy who was walking across her direction suddenly groped her breasts, and then walked away quickly. She was too shocked she couldn’t move or say anything. She stood there and started to cry because she was just so afraid. She never passed that footbridge again on her way to work. (She was a courtside reporter before in a major network near the place where the incident happened.)

She responded to me #MeToo tweets and told me she was sorry it had to happen, but thanked me for speaking up. I told her I felt the same way when the same thing happened to me right after I got off a van.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE UNDERSTOOD

I heard somewhere that women deserve safe streets. While it’s true, I believe it’s not only us women who needs to be protected.

Everybody deserves safe streets to walk on. It’s evident that women are more prone to harassment, but the world needs to know that THIS HAPPENS TO MEN AND THE LGBT FOLKS TOO. We’re not just talking about women’s rights here. It is our right as a human to walk on streets not constantly worrying that someone might just pop out of nowhere to grab your boobs or to stroke your crotch.

And to think that it’s the victim’s fault to experience these things? It’s evil.

If we truly want this to stop, then we also need to stop the victim-blaming mentality. It doesn’t solve the whole thing. Victim-blaming hinders people to speak out about it. If we won’t speak out, how do we create awareness? And if we are not aware how rampant this is, will we find ways to solve it?

If you’re reading this and you think you were sexually harassed, whether it was a forced sexual intercourse or even just a touch somewhere that you didn’t say yes to, we’re with you.

It’s not your fault that you weren’t able to scream for help.
It’s not your fault that you were too scared to move or say anything about it.
Most of all, what you wear does not dictate what rights you should have.

You are valuable.
Your value does not come from what you wear, or from those people who wouldn’t understand.

Your value comes from the One up there who created you.

So if you need to let it all out, please talk to a family or anyone whom you really trust. (If you want, you can message me, too!) You’re not alone. My experience may be nothing compared to what you experienced, but #MeToo was once afraid, just like you.

That’s right. It’s not just you.
You’re not alone. Me too.

And to everyone else, it’s time to start changing this society’s ways. Let’s start raising kids with proper manners, so they will grow up knowing how to respect each one’s value and rights. Michael Jackson’s damn right when he said that the change starts in us. Let’s start now.

I look forward to those days when we can all walk on safe streets and stop the victim-blaming mentality. It’s a lot of work, but sure we can work our way there.

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