In October I posted a page to my blog and titled it “#me too.” I hesitated to take it any further than that, not knowing how much I actually wanted to share, but have finally decided if we don’t share our stories, sexual harassment will just continue.
And I wanted to encourage our girls and young women, our boys and young men, to report any such happenings so the perpetrator would be stopped. If you’re not believed, tell someone else until someone finally believes you!
I want them to know that they did nothing wrong. They didn’t dress in the “wrong” way, comb their hair or put on makeup in an alluring fashion, walk in a way that would attract a predator. The predator is the one who did wrong. He or she was looking for anyone who came along, using criteria only he or she knew. And the girl or young woman, boy or young man, just happened to be there.
One question I’ve heard asked was, “Does this count?” My answer: If someone makes you uncomfortable by his or her behavior toward you, by an explicit comment, message, text or any form of communication or action, then yes, it counts! I don’t know if YouTube still shows “Tea and Consent,” but it’s worth watching.
As a young child something happened that made me feel creepy. It must have been a comment, a suggestion. It wasn’t physical and for the most part I blocked it.
The first experience that I clearly recall happened in sixth-grade, when we still lived in Kansas. I “developed” early and boys that age are quick to notice. There were rude comments and I tried to hide to avoid them. Fortunately for me, other girls caught up and I was no longer the center of attention.
My high school yearbook described me as having “a cute face and a funny smile.” At the time I wondered why must girls be described by their appearance? I’d have liked to be remembered for my writing skills, my sense of humor. Guys got comments on their sports acumen, skills, clubs they belonged to. Not how they smiled or what they looked like.
The following year, a good neighbor lost his wife to cancer. I was a freshman in college at that time and on one occasion when we happened to be in the same place he hugged me suggestively and told me he wished he were younger. Again that creepy feeling. I told my parents but they refused to believe me, told me I must have imagined it, and I kept quiet.
Working at the phone company brought me in contact (yes I meant to say that) with the touchy-feely boss; he even spread a rumor that I was pregnant when I got married (I wasn’t), a big “no-no” in 1964! I reported him to his superior who said I’d be welcome to work for him. I don’t know how that turned out because my new husband wanted me to quit work and I did.
Even in my 60s, after going through cancer and double knee replacement, I still wasn’t immune apparently — the only difference was that I couldn’t run.
A 90-year-old man whom I knew grabbed me unexpectedly and started making motions that told me clearly what he wanted. I was shocked and upset; I shoved him away and told a friend of his who thankfully believed me. And I realized that no woman is immune, no man is immune, to this treatment, no matter what their age may be.
I learned to speak out. I wasn’t always believed but I continued to speak out and was believed more often than not.
We need to continue speaking out. Don’t let it stop with one Facebook post. Talk to your family, your friends, your employer, his or her employer. We’ve put up with this too long. Silence kept it going. Speaking may help bring about an end.
Susan Campbell is a resident of Kalaheo.