About a month ago, I was harassed along with my volleyball team at a game. We were excited all day, because we really thought we had a chance at winning if we played as a team and watched out for each other on the court.
As we were warming up, there was a group of boys sitting on the sidelines watching us. They were pointing and laughing and making comments that we couldn’t quite hear. As I got closer, I heard that they were pointing out which of us they’d have sex with, in the order of most to least likely. This continued after the game started. We could see them taking videos of our butts as we played; when we went up to serve, they yelled derogatory comments and catcalls.
I was absolutely disgusted. Not because it was personal. Not because what they were saying was “mean.” Not because I have a history with domestic violence and sexual assault (though I do). But because I am a human being, and I deserve to be respected. Because my team went to this school as athletes who wanted to play a volleyball game, not spend our time dodging sexual comments from strangers.
Adults were present, including the school principal, two referees, the other team’s coach, and a handful of parents. It wasn’t until the third set that one referee finally stepped in. “If you don’t stop bothering these girls, I’ll kick you out,” she said to the boys. But it didn’t stop, and they didn’t get kicked out.
This is just one brief example of how sexual harassment plays out in our daily lives. There’s a reason that victims so rarely speak up, and if they do, it’s usually years later. I didn’t say anything about what happened to me previously for almost three years; when I did, no one encouraged me to do anything about it.
Instead, people told me that it was too long ago, or that there was no proof. So I decided to stay silent and not involve the justice system, but speak out wherever else I could. Sometimes I regret it, but my time to seek justice has run out. I’m not sure that I even want to anymore.
We need safe spaces where anyone (of any gender identification!) who has been hurt can talk about it, if they are ready, and try to seek justice and make a change.
The prevalence of gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ+ victims showcases the realities that many in marginalized positions face. As a result, these victims of sexual assault lose a sense of comfort inside their bodies; they also lose their power to speak up about these important issues, resulting in an assault on both a personal and systemic level.
Trends such as #metoo have given assault victims opportunities to reclaim their voices. But still, systemic changes about the way we prevent sexual assault, the way we discuss women’s rights in the judicial system, and the way we socialize our children to think about gender, are crucial.
Sexual harassment doesn’t just affect that one girl you heard about from three towns over, or someone far away in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere all the time, and you should care. This is 1 in 4 women that you know. Let that sink in, and then let’s do something about it.
Mae Krell via CloverLetter