by Karole Passmore, co- founder GWC
With the hashtag movement “Me Too” growing worldwide, giving voice to the lifelong struggle of women enduring sexual harassment and assault, it’s time to have a real discussion about what some are calling an epidemic.
What is sexual harassment defined? Many women struggle with harassment and what it looks like, “was my experience as bad as others?”….is it me…did I provoke this? … Was it my fault? According to the EEOC, sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as:
(EEOC) “Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex….The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”
Sadly, according to this definition, nearly every woman in America can say that they have been sexually harassed. Women are now saying… ‘oh wait yeah that wasn’t okay’- every single time it happened— it wasn’t okay.
It seems absurd to be having this conversation in 2017 doesn’t it? Just like with issues of racism, people want to believe that this is all behind us. People want to believe that we are better than this, wiser than this, and that we have all grown to a level of understanding such that sexual harassment and gender inequality is a sad part of history- but no longer a part of our culture.
But it is a gross reality that many women live with daily as they walk through life. Women like Sam Purcell, a local shop owner, who recently shared on Facebook the hashtag “Me Too” and told the story of the regular threats she faces in her place of business by a young man who walks by her shop spewing sexually harassing and insulting words to her. This is not happening in 1950, this is happening right now. Today. A woman in business having to bear this undeniable burden in her life. She assures her Friends on Facebook that she is okay – she is handling it. However, why should she have to? Why should any of the millions of women who have typed “Me Too” on their Facebook and Twitter pages?
In my mind I see a group of women (and men) coming to Sam’s defense and the defense of all women by standing outside her shop window in unity. No more. That is the message. We will tolerate this abuse- no more.
The stories of sexual abuse and assault are even more harrowing. And sadly, abundant. Until we deal with the underlying cultural “norm” of objectifying women, we will continue to see the numbers of sexual assault victims remain steady.
Sexual assault and abuse is a power issue for the perpetrator. Sexual assault and abuse is defined by RAINN as:
“Sexual assault can take many different forms, but one thing remains the same: it’s never the victim’s fault. …The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime defines sexual assault as:
“Sexual assault takes many forms including attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person’s consent.”
Clearly, sexual assault does not happen just within the realms of the movie production world in Hollywood. It happens every day in all walks of life. It can be a co worker, stranger, parent, family member, or a presumed friend. Sadly, until the value of women as humans is raised to the same level afforded their male counterparts, we will continue to hear the horrifyingly sad stories of women and girls around the world who have been assaulted, preyed upon and abused.
Let us no longer be silent about this issue. It is time for a real conversation among all people who value women and girls. Women and men of all backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities need to work together to raise awareness, to educate, and to brainstorm real solutions to this epidemic that has gone on hundreds of years too long.
We can hope for a world where not one more young woman or girl has to share the hashtag “Me Too.” Let us also hope that this world begins soon and that we all play a part by voicing our experiences and speaking out when harassment takes place in our own lives or in the lives of our sisters (and yes brothers).
For information on resources for abuse locally and nationally you can contact:
RAINN – national sexual assault hotline
Karole Passmore is a freelance writer who enjoys writing articles and short stories, interviewing local people, and researching non-fiction subject matter– preferably historical. Graduate of RHS, Ivy Tech Richmond, and Earlham College– with a major in History, Karole has spent most of her life in Wayne County and enjoys the quaint atmosphere of a small town.
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