Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I was sexually assaulted. Now, I am a big girl, and I’ve had my share of mishaps when I was younger, and don’t consider myself to get shaken up too easily. I doubt today’s event left me with any kind of permanent trauma or is something I will keep going back to in my mind – but it did bother me. And it made me mad. And it made me frustrated.
All of us New Yorkers know those “crowded train is no excuse for sexual harassment” -announcements that we can vaguely hear penetrating through the music we listen to on our way to work, school, home, wherever we are heading to. All of us know how common it is for women to get groped and grabbed in crowded trains. Knowing it has always made me mad, but until today I had not yet experienced it myself. Today, however, as I was fading into my own thoughts, leaning my side against a door in a jam-packed 5-train during the worst holiday rush hour, I suddenly felt something wrapping around me from behind. An arm. Someone’s arm was wrapping around my waist, while this person’s body was leaning heavily against my back. Now, the weirdest part was that for a second, it felt familiar. Like someone I know – my husband – wrapping his arm around my waist to hold me up in a shaking train. This, however, was not my husbands arm. It also wasn’t my husband’s hand that suddenly grabbed my ass so hard it hurt. In a split second I turned around while shouting out several curse words, in several languages, and was prepared to smack/slap/hit the person behind me – but as I turned around, I realized the train had reached the next station, and all I saw was the back of that man, quickly moving away from me as he stepped out of the train. I stood still, shaking – mainly out of shock and anger – as the doors closed. He never turned around, and the train headed towards its next stop.
It has been a while since anyone has grabbed me. This certainly wasn’t the first time, but it is the first in years. Women get grabbed, touched, and groped as well as listen to insulting and degrading remarks while walking on the street, sitting in a bar, dancing in a night club, shopping in a super market, traveling in public transit or doing pretty much anything and everything that women, and girls, do, on daily basis. Sexual harassment happens everywhere, all the time. Whether it is on the level of grabbing someone’s ass in a train, or making derogatory comments, or worse – on the level of rape and other forms of sexual violence – it is not a joke. It is not funny. It is not something “we secretly want”, something women “ask for”, something we “deserve”. It is absolutely not acceptable, and I am getting sick of seeing it everywhere, all the time.
I was not injured, hurt or traumatized by today’s event, but it did push me to a higher level of anger. During the last months, the news have been filled with sexual harassment scandals: Dominique Strauss-Khan, Herman Cain and Jerry Sandusky are only the tip of the ice berg, the ones who made the headlines and stayed there for weeks, but not because of the nature of their crimes or the victims, but due to the fact that in these cases the accused defendants were all public figures. For every Strauss-Khan, Cain or Sandunsky -level sexual harassment case, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases that go unreported, unnoticed and unpublished every day. Women and girls all over the world are constantly harassed, touched without permission,insulted verbally, forced to situations and acts against their will – violated, assaulted, humiliated, degraded. And we, as a global society, let this happen. And I am getting sick of it.
Women and girls are getting harassed and raped in millions. These are not isolated incidences that happen here and there, or only take place during extreme circumstances like war. This happens all around us, all the time, every day. It is so normal, that at some point our societies stopped paying attention to it. We think it is okay for men to yell degrading things to women as they pass by. We think it is okay for men to grab women’s asses in a bar. We think it is okay for men to expect that a woman is willing to have sex with him when she is wearing sexy and revealing clothes. It is NOT okay. None of it is. And under no circumstances should we condole it, understand it, make excuses for it, or allow it to happen.
Women’s and girls’ right to their own bodies, and privacy, belongs to all of us equally. No one, not another woman, or a man, has the right to touch us in any way that we are not comfortable with and did not give permission to. My body is MY body, and I choose who gets to see it, touch it, lie next to it or on top of it. I do not care if I am walking in the middle of Broadway butt naked – that is not an invitation to harass me. It is not an invitation to touch me, and it most certainly is not an invitation to rape me. Women and girls NEVER ask for it. Women and girls NEVER want it. Raping a woman wearing a mini skirt and a sequin top is just as wrong as it is raping a woman in the middle of a conflict zone – and both acts should be condemned equally. Women have the right NOT to be sexually assaulted – and we should not stand for it in any situation, anywhere.
You asshole in 5 train during rush hour – who the F*** are you to think you have the right to grab me? You think it’s not a big deal? That women like it? That we ask for it? How about you grow a pair and look me in the eye next time you want to grab any particular part of my body without my permission, and give me a fair chance to return the favor.
My butt will recover from today’s event, as will my pride, eventually. But I will remain angry – and I think all of us should. I don’t think we are angry enough about these things, and we have every reason, and right to be. Our bodies are OUR bodies, and no one has the right to touch us unless we give them permission to do so. There are no excuses.
Enough is enough.