Earlier this afternoon I walked to the downtown bank to deposit some checks. It’s about a 10-minute walk there and back from Ciudad Nueva. After seeing a few “me too” posts throughout the day, I couldn’t help but be more aware of my surroundings as I walked through the streets. I decided to wear sunglasses, not only because it is always sunny in El Paso, but because for some reason, wearing something over my eyes makes me feel more confident. It’s a false sense of security. It’s a shield from the sun and reality. (Have you ever noticed that more people are likely to stare/look at you when you’re wearing sunglasses? Perhaps it’s because they can’t tell you’re looking back at them.)
On my walk, I was whistled at once and counted 25 men of various ages who actively turned their heads to stare at me as they drove past. 25. And I mean really turned their heads and stared for a few seconds after already driving past me. Those were just the noticeable ones.
It was extremely uncomfortable to see the many pairs of eyes examining me up and down. It always is, but today was even worse since sexual assault, sexual harassment and any kind of aggressive behavior were at the front of my mind.
“Me too” has forced me to reflect on the many times I’ve felt invaded, intruded, and unsafe in my own body. The memories flooded and surfaced –
- Two guys, who at the time I considered friends, decided to grab my butt because they thought it was funny. I was too embarrassed to tell them to stop because I thought, “These are my friends. They’re just joking. It means nothing.” I was in middle school.
- I decided to go for a run this past spring break around Harrisonburg. Since it was spring break, a lot of people were at home or on vacation. As I ran through downtown, I heard a car rumble behind me, but it never passed by. After a few seconds of hearing it, I turned my head to look back and saw a middle-aged man glaring at me. His eyes didn’t blink as I made eye contact with him. I sped up and sprinted down the road. His car accelerated to keep up with me. I ended up running through someone’s yard and cut through a few backyards to escape this man. I hid behind a bush for a few moments and saw his car slowly drive down the street. I assume he was probably looking for me. I waited a few more seconds before once again, sprinting back to my apartment. It was 4:00PM on a Thursday, and I couldn’t have been more relieved to arrive back safely inside of my apartment and spend the rest of the night inside.
- When I was in Spain as a sophomore in high school, my friends and I were trying to avoid the rain and madness of Madrid since it was the night of the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona soccer game. We found temporary shelter in a bar, sat down and ordered fries and water. We were approached by a guy who gestured to himself, then to us, and said, “Queréis f***?” We screamed no and ran away. I don’t even think we paid for our food. We ran through the crowded streets, almost losing each other many times. The people we ran past yelled, “Corre! Corre!” It was one of the most terrifying things I experienced as a 16-year-old girl – running through unfamiliar streets in a foreign country away from a creepy guy.
- I went on a “date” with a guy when I was a sophomore in high school. It was with a guy from church, and I was super excited because I had liked him for a long time. I remember squealing to my mom in excitement about it and hoping I’d have good news to share once I got back home. He picked me up and said, “So uh…want to go to McDonald’s?” I was slightly shocked since I thought it was going to be a nice dinner date, but regardless, I was excited to be with him so I went with the flow. We got McFlurrys, and then he drove me to a soccer field that’s less than 5 minutes away from my house. He parked away from the street lights and in a secluded part of the parking lot, crawled into the back of his car (he had carefully planned this ahead of time, as his back seats were taken out to make it flat and roomier). He proceeded to unbuckle me, drag and pull me out of the passenger side and said something like, “C’mon. Let’s have some fun.” He pushed me down to my back and tried to hold me. I resisted and slapped him, appalled and mortified. He thankfully backed away and didn’t say anything except to pull out his phone and text another girl right in front of me. “What the hell?!” I yelled. I could feel my anger, confusion, and terror bursting within me. He shrugged, and said, “Well…if we’re not going to have fun, what’s the point?” I immediately got out of the car and started to walk back home. He pulled up next to me and stated, “I can take you home.” I should’ve just said no thanks and called my mom, but I didn’t. I got back into his car and he dropped me off. I was livid, but also felt very rejected. The boy I had liked for so long finally wanted me but wanted me for all the wrong reasons.
These are not fun stories to share, especially since I know my parents read my posts and it is embarrassing for me to be vulnerable about this, even when I know that (unfortunately) a lot of people can relate. It shouldn’t be embarrassing! Yet, that’s how a lot of women AND men feel when things like this happen – embarrassed, ashamed, isolated, invisible, lost, unwanted, undesired, used. Yes, it happens to men as well. I hope we don’t forget that. Most of the “me too” posts I’ve seen have been made by women, but I can almost guarantee that there are men who have stories of their own about sexual assault and harassment.
I think “me too” is a great way to spread awareness, but it’s also a sad realization of how we are living in a broken humanity. We are broken people. Sin sucks. We can’t keep ignoring this! We need to teach both boys AND girls to treat each with kindness, to see each other as people who are worthy of dignity and respect, and to not be seen as objects. We need to teach ourselves how to listen better and be available to our fellow neighbors. We can be so wrapped up in our own lives that we can easily forget about someone else’s pain. You may or may not agree with me, but I believe the porn industry has a significant negative impact on the way we treat and view others – porn views sex as an immediate pleasure for the individual. Yes, there are humans involved, but it easy to see them as tools/objects to be used to “get off.” It is not about love – it is about lust. This is not the way God intended human relationships to look like.
May we not shame those who have experienced grief, embarrassment, and guilt. May we open our arms with a loving embrace, but also be understanding and aware if physical touch is not the correct way to love in the present moment. May our ears be bigger than our mouths, and when words are appropriate to let our tongues be encouragers to our brothers and sisters who are mourning.
My heart and soul are with you. You are not alone.