Disclaimer: this is long, and very personal. Here goes.
Yesterday, a post of a fellow-Atenean and theater actor went viral detailing his younger sister's experiences with sexual harassment and the crude and unjust way her university, specifically a CATHOLIC university dealt with it.
After reading and hearing so many similar stories, I felt compelled to write about my own—not to take away from their experiences and make it about me, but just to show that this is what we, girls, go through every single day.
I've been catcalled, and harassed more times than I can remember. It's even gotten to a point that I've grown so desensitized to it. Instead of fighting back, I've learned to adjust. I wear jeans more often now. I wear a cap. Apply my make-up when I get to my destination. I don't commute as much. I've gone out of my way several times just so I don't end up in a situation where I'd get harassed.
I wrote this for myself, original, but I decided to post it in hopes that it would encourage other women to speak up, about their experiences or just speak up against it. If you know someone who's experienced something like this, or if you experienced it yourself, speak up. Maybe the more we point it out, the more we talk about it, the less afraid victims will become. And the less "normalized" this behavior will be too.
2013: I was wearing a black crop top shirt, and high waisted shorts. I was commuting home from Shaw blvd. Loads of women lining up in the girls only compartment, so I changed lanes to the nearest mixed compartment because I was in a rush to get home. Because there is never enough space in the MRT, our bodies were pressed against each other. I clutched my bag to my chest, which pressed my boobs together, making them look bigger than they really are. Next thing I know, I hear a camera shutter go off, and a flash went off directed towards my now squished together boobs. I look up and a guy, much taller than me, was holding his phone to my chest, a sheepish smile on his face. I never said anything, even if I knew he had just taken a photo of my cleavage.
June 2014: My first couple of days as working girl. I was walking home from work towards the Ortigas MRT station. I changed into a pair of loose shorts (I think I was wearing a skirt for work, and I changed to be comfortable). I walk fast, and I clutch an umbrella with my right hand (I have a strong swing) in case anyone ever tries to attack me (yeah, being a woman means you're paranoid at all times). On the side walk near Poveda, beside EDSA, while walking, I felt someone grab my ass. I stop. Bump into an older woman walking my way (because I stopped out of nowhere), and looked around. A couple of paces back, a guy (walking the other way) is walking slowly. He looks back and he laughs when he sees me look at him. I remember wanting to run after him. And hit him with my umbrella. Punch him on the face. But I don’t. I don’t even open my mouth to say anything. I pull at my shorts to make them lower, to cover more skin. And I continue walking, in silence, defeated, even if I was sure he was the one who had literally just grabbed my ass.
December 2014: My officemates and I were walking towards SM to eat dinner. We just came from work, so I was wearing a jacket, a skirt, and was carrying all my bags. On the way to SM, in front of El Pueblo, a group of boys (kids??) started to swarm our way. They held their hands out and the first thing I thought was I’m going to get robbed. I transferred my bag to my chest, and mid movement, I felt hands on my boobs, and in between my legs. I look up, push the boy off me, and scream obscenities while he and his friends ran away, laughing. My friends asked me, are you okay? I wasn’t sure. I was shaking while we walked. A cold sweat came over me. While they sat to eat at the Korean restaurant, I went to the bathroom to wash off the grease from their hands from between my legs. I didn’t cry. I couldn't even process what happened. If it really did happen. None of it felt real. They must’ve been 12, 13, 14 years old. I told my dad a couple of months later. Out of frustration at all the victim blaming and sexual harassment going on in the streets. But what could we have done then? I couldn't even remember their faces.
And before anyone asks, "Well, what were you wearing that day?” Yes, all these times I was wearing shorts or a skirt. No, it’s not my fault for not deciding to wear jeans that day. No, it’s not my fault for showing off too much skin. No, it’s not my fault for wanting to be comfortable. No, it’s not my fault for walking alone. Or walking at night. No, it’s not my fault for entering a mixed compartment instead of waiting another two, three train rides to get into the girls only compartment. No, it’s not my fault for deciding to commute instead of spending hundreds on a cab/grab/uber ride home.
When I hear or read about women who get sexually harassed, and the men who get away with it, I always catch myself wondering. If I had just called the guy out, and asked to see his phone instead of keeping quiet, then maybe he would’ve learned his lesson and not done it again. Maybe the people in the train would’ve been shocked and stood up for me. Or maybe they’ll learn vicariously that you can fight back and not take in stride. If I had just run after the guy and hit him with my umbrella, maybe he won’t do it again? If I dragged those kids to the nearest police station, or told them na masama yun instead of just screaming obscenities at nothing, maybe they’ll learn that it’s not okay to just stick their hands up some girl’s skirt. But then it hits me after, what if I did that, and I ended up hurt, or dead? Ended up being called a liar, and a slut for wearing shorts and skirts? What if, even if I was the victim, they’d say it was my fault?
I know my experiences are insignificant compared to women who have been through much worse, but all I want to say with this is THIS IS WHAT WOMEN HAVE TO GO THROUGH. EVERY SINGLE DAY. On the streets. At work. At home. In places we thought were safe. We want to fight back, but we can’t. We’re afraid. And those of us who do fight back, we get called LIARS. OR WE’RE TOLD (TRUE STORY!!!) HAYAAN MO NA. PATAWARIN MO NA. Instead of hating on the man who masturbated in a jeepney, people (some were women!!!) commented that the photo was edited. Instead of listening to a young girl who said she was molested in a UV by an upperclassman, a catholic university calls her a liar, and then asks her to apologize. When a young girl told her mother she was molested, the mother said, hayaan mo na. Patawarin mo na. Let it go. Just forgive him.
HOW ABOUT NO. Let's not stay silent. Let's not allow them to get away with it. Let's not walk away and do nothing. Let's raise our voices against this violence against women. Enough is enough.
#speakup #notovictimblaming #notovictimshaming #noitsnotmyfault