In the beginning of 2007, women began to share their experience with sexual harassment and assaults with the hashtag #metoo being the unifying bond. In over a decade, the #metoo movement continues to run as more women and men still share their stories.
But is there is going to be a time where women can stop saying #metoo?
The news of Andrew Cuomo is not new news, but one that I’m shelving away to be burdened with many others. Stories of the all too familiar tales of men who got away with everything are just too common — Donald J, Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Cosby, to name a few.
Why didn’t you say anything?
In 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony on Brett Kavanaugh and instead of preventing a sexual predator from obtaining a seat on the Supreme Court, Dr. Ford was simply thanked for her time.
Our society believes our stories are worth listening to, but our stories seem to fall short from the need to act to pure entertainment.
When I was 20, I was a hostess at a restaurant where I was sexualized and fetishized as an Asian woman. Being quiet and shy, my boss took advantage of me. In my time there, he verbally abused me in front of other workers and I often was afraid of coming to work. One day, he was drunk and apologized for always screaming at me. It was the only time he displayed kindness, but he did it all while caressing my back.
With my boss leading the way, many coworkers followed his lead. I was touched too many times without my consent, and I found myself being undressed by the wandering eyes of my male colleagues.
But the trauma didn’t start then and it didn’t end there.
In middle school, my friend had rubbed his hands over his chest as he stared at me to simply tell me I was flat chested. My best friend had called me a slut without a reason and I was scared to find out why.
In high school, a schoolmate snuck up behind me and asked how I would feel if he slammed me against the lockers and touched me. Once during our math class, he “helped” me eat a banana by placing it right in front of my mouth.
On my first night at university, I was given a ride to a frat party, courtesy of one of their brothers. When I wanted to go home, I could not find my driver again and realized there was no intention for me to get a ride back. In a time that was pre-Uber/ Lyft, I chose to walk home alone that night.
It was only in high school when I took action. My counselor was a woman who had spent the last three years building a relationship with me, and she gained my trust. When I told her about the incidents, she immediately contacted the school dean, a kick-ass woman, where action was taken within days. I was thanked for my bravery in coming forward and granted my request for the student to remain a safe distance from me.
At college and the workplace, however, I found neither the same effectiveness nor urgency. With their businesses on the line, there seemed to be more effort in protecting the reputation of the institutes involved and more often than not, stories were dismissed, women were paid for their silence and life carried on — for the men, at least.
Donald J. Trump became the President of the U.S., despite 26 accusers.
Bill Cosby walked free, despite 60 accusers.
Brett Kavanaugh became a Supreme Court justice with the entire U.S. watching.
The danger in not taking stronger action is the pervasiveness of these incidents to continue to occur. Out of 1000 sexual assaults, only 3% of perpetrators will go to jail or prison.
My friend was stalked for several years. He knew where she worked, where she went to school, her close friends and her social media accounts. He blackmailed her with her own photos, and demanded money. After years of harassment, she decided to file a police report where she was then told her situation was not urgent enough.
To tell our stories publicly takes a tremendous amount of courage, and it takes time to build that up. It is not that we are afraid to tell our stories, but rather, we are afraid to be told we overreacted. In our world, it only takes one denial, one person to second guess our stories to make us feel uncomfortable in confiding in someone again.
As women, we simply lost trust in the institutions that failed to protect us. Because we are the victims, yet in this twisted reality that we live in, we are also the culprit.