I have wanted to write this piece for a while now but I felt that I needed to do it properly and choose the right words and find the right message. I will say that if you are triggered by mentions of sexual harassment, it is discussed but not in detail. But if you know something wrong or unsafe is happening to someone, please tell someone. Nothing can be stopped if no one knows.
There is something really important that I have learned this year. It’s a very small thing, only just one sentence, but it can change the lives of all the people around you. I discovered that not everywhere we go is safe. We all know this, not surprising. Simple moments like walking home in the dark or being alone are fears that sit constantly at the back of our brains forcing our ears to listen with suspicion. But for me, the normal daytime got scary too. I began to hear and see uncomfortable situations happen to my friends and acquaintances. They seemed to all be uncovered at once and all the moments that were ignored became a problem. I heard of men leaving suggestive notes on study desks in libraries, unwanted hands touching shoulders in empty spaces, and inappropriate pictures being sent without responsibility or consequences.
Thankfully, none of my friends experienced the extremes of sexual harassment but still I noticed how deeply the events had effected them. Just because it was not obvious or illegal didn’t mean it wasn’t wrong and needed to be stopped. That was the hardest part for everyone, them experiencing the problem and me wanting to help my friend. Telling a person that you trust is a huge step for someone but a change did not begin when my response was ‘You should tell someone or report it.’ That response didn’t help any of my friends.
Girls and women have grown learning to never make a fuss or not to ruin the reputation of someone older than you. But we deserve better. Women deserve respect no matter what. The person who made you uncomfortable, upset or feeling hateful towards yourself does not deserve to walk around oblivious to what they did. They will just do it again. I have repeatedly asked the girls I know to tell someone and they never did. But one day I changed my response. I was mad that I didn’t think of saying it before. I said ‘ I will come with you to tell someone.’, ‘I will help you write the complaint/ email.’, ‘ I will support any decision you make.’ It changed everything.
I didn’t realise how lonely doing the right thing could be, there is so much doubt that comes with it. I’m glad that my friend reported it and it stopped. She told her family and she sorted the problem by herself but I made sure to stand beside her. I helped her think what to write, to say, and to keep a small record so she wouldn’t forget. I only said one sentence and created a huge difference. It created confidence and reassurance in her. I wish I had said the same message to other girls that needed to hear it too. I didn’t know how much that sentence was needed in our dialogues.
If the people you care about are struggling with anything and are ready to improve their mental health, address their physical health, tell their truths to their family, leave a toxic relationship, or come out as part of the lgbtq+ community, just say
I will go with you.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had someone who took our big steps, with us. x
If you are, or have been affected by the types of actions/behaviours mentioned in this article, and you’re ready to speak up, either by yourself or with a friend or family member, The National 24 Hour Helpline 1800 77 88 88 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, to listen, provide information or direct you to your nearest rape crisis centre where they can organise counselling if that’s what you want.