Anna-Alexia Kotsakis recalls her own experiences of sexual harassment and is grateful that the #MeToo movement is finally bringing the issue to the forefront.
No, I haven’t been sexually assaulted but I have been harassed plenty of times. The first time, I was barely 14 when a man driving down the street shouted at me what he’d like to do to me if he had the chance. Talk about descriptive catcalling.
The second time, I was power walking in the park when a jogging man stared at me, smiled and didn’t let go of my gaze when I smiled back. Throughout the rest of my walk, the man kept following me, appearing and disappearing but always following me until he slowed down his jog and walked beside me. He said hello, even though I was wearing headphones, I removed them, said hello back politely and he asked me how I was. My senses were telling me to stay calm, he was simply talking to me. I replied once more, keeping a tempered voice, and then put my headphones back on to signal the end of the conversation.
However, it wasn’t the end. As I jogged away, talking on the phone with my brother and father, I felt like I was being followed. I was nearing the end of my walk when I turned back and, low and behold, there he was. He caught my eye, smiled and nodded. I now knew that this guy wasn’t going let it go so I snuck into the nearest cafe where the staff informed me that they were closing down.
“Is a guy in a grey hoodie walking by right now?” I cut them off.
“Uh, yeah” one of the waitresses replied.
“Can I just stay here for a second? He has been following me for the past hour”. In the end, one of the delivery boys walked me home to ensure that I would get there safely. The incident got me thinking about how society has laid out pitfalls that inevitably most women will find themselves in; it now seems we are getting the attention we need.
For the past two years, incidents of sexual harassment and assault have been prominent in the news cycle. From the Bill Cosby to Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Donald Trump and now Harvey Weinstein. For all these people, the moment one woman spoke up, it was a catalyst sparking more to come forward. Because of this, you can assume countless victims haven’t told their respective story because they’re afraid of the repercussions or are simply ashamed of something they had no choice on.
The recent #MeToo movement is giving power to the victims to highlight their stories and share it with others – both men and women. The simple hashtag is creating an avalanche in which thousands of people are participating and creating a domino effect tumbling on the predators. Sexual harassment is finally being treated with the importance it has always required, hopefully leading to the biggest social shift we have seen in years.
Image – Pixabay