#metoo | Let's Talk About Sexual Assault

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*I originally shared this on my personal Facebook account but I thought it warranted some space here as well. Warning: This post is about sexual assault and may be emotionally triggering.

I’ve been thinking about sharing my #metoo story lately and honestly, it scared me. I was scared to be embarrassed, I was scared to make people that I love (and happen to be Facebook friends with) sad for me, I was scared to offend and then it occurred to me, THAT’S why this is important

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are things that I’ve been pretty publicly vocal about denouncing but I’ve never shared my personal experiences with most of the people in my life (even a few of those closest to me). When I came across #metoo this weekend I was shocked to see the swell of stories from women I know, women I admire, and women I respect flood the internet. While I have always known the scope of sexual violence and how it has touched most of the women in my life, there is something about seeing the numbers that is downright overwhelming. As this trend of sharing spreads, you may see similar posts, tweets or news stories pile up and I urge you to pay close attention. Keep a mental tally of all the women YOU know and love and respect and admire whose lives have been rocked by sexual assault. It will confront you. And it should. Giving a voice to pain and wrong-doing is how we start to change things. Acts of bravery will be the way we move forward.

While this may not be the best avenue for sharing these things, I thought I’d lay bare a few (but nowhere close to all) of my personal experiences with sexual harassment and assault in the hopes that they might arm you with a little truth.

I was once approached by a very aggressive man whilst pumping gas. My daughter was in the car, with the window rolled down, no more than a foot away from me. It was daytime and there were policemen parked at the next pump over. The man came up, tried to initiate an inappropriate conversation and when I refused to engage he exposed his penis to me, in front of my toddler. The police men laughed and did nothing to help as I drove away shaking.

In a foreign country, with my husband walking directly in front of me, a man I hadn’t so much as made eye contact with passed by me in a crowded nightclub and inserted his fingers into my body without my consent.

At a very young age an equally small boy forcibly “played house” with me.

After denying their propositions, I have been tirelessly asked by strange men “You’re not allowed to have friends? Your boyfriend doesn’t let you have friends?” as if the presence of a man in my life is the only thing that would stop their advances.

I have been approached to inquire about my pricing for the night.

I’ve been pressured into doing things I was uncomfortable doing by boys who prey on teenage girls at a time when they’re still learning to exist in their bodies and still figuring out their worth.

I am uncomfortable going most places alone and my pace quickens when I am in a room with men I do not know. Sometimes I call my husband or sister as a precaution to say, “I am here. They are also here. We are alone.” Sometimes I make them stay on the phone. Sometimes I say things out loud like, “You’re outside? Awesome! See you in a minute,” even though it’s not true.

As you read stories like mine from women woven into all aspects of your life, please think about the ways you act out against and speak up for our safety. I hope that it’s often and loudly. I hope that it’s unwavering.

Stop defending predatory language and repackaging it as “locker room” talk. It’s unacceptable.

Stop defending us as your mothers or your sisters or your daughters but protect us as human beings with the same right to safety as you instead.

Stop yelling overtly sexual things at us as we walk down the street like it’s a compliment and we should be grateful to be lusted after by you.

Stop chalking it all up to something that’s normal and banal. The fact that harassment and assault feel normal is the root of the problem.

To all of the women (and men) sharing stories of sexual assault, I see you. I value you. You are brave.

To all of the women (and men) that aren’t yet ready to share their stories, I see you too. You are no less brave. #metoo

LifestyleChelsea Tubbs