Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why We Need Conversations About Sexual Harassment

I was groped. The setting is simple - I had gone out to buy a reference book I needed. It was a little past Eight and one of the streets I took was fairly dark. However, being a residential area, I presumed it to be safe. Of course, as it turns out, it wasn't. And really, that is what it boils down to. 

I was walking in one direction and he came in through the opposite on a bicycle. After my brain registered what happened, I immediately hit him with my book; I only wish I had a heavier one. I should’ve knocked down his cycle or yelled or kicked him or something, but I didn’t. Instead I chased him down half the road and immediately lost him for he was on a cycle and soon far out reach. If you asked me to recognise him I wouldn’t be able to. But I couldn’t stop shaking for the next half hour and I can still feel his touch, or should I say the gross violation of privacy. 

As dehumanised as I feel, I know that I am safe (for now). I know that the statistics were never in my favour, that there are worse things that can happen to a girl on a dark, empty road. But that knowledge is meaningless.  Statistics are numbers on a paper and this is sadly, the reality. 

With the recent blacklisting of social justice and feminism, rape culture has been dismissed as something women make up. In this age where anger is the norm; where venting on the internet is easy, we forget that these discussions we have are about humans.Conversations about social issues didn’t begin because someone wanted to be a social justice warrior; they stemmed from real life. When you say ‘take a joke’ or ‘political correctness gone mad’ you are dismissing the scary reality of thousands upon thousands of people. And by no means, should this discourse be limited to women. Men are just as likely to get raped and have their story fall on deaf ears. I am not trying to be progressive. This is the simple case of of creating safer worlds for the people who reside in them.

If what happened today is anything to go by, sexual harassment, physical violation and rape are real. It isn’t a story in the papers or a number in a string of records, but a fear that is as real as the constricting of your throat and the clenching of your fists. No one should walk down the street clutching their umbrella for safety. This is real people and real experiences we are talking about, not something for your debate class. It isn't going to be easy, or fun but this discussion is important. And the simplest first step you can take is by listening, and believing. So please, for the sake of all that you hold dear, don't shut down this discussion because 'it's a mood killer'.

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