Let me share three stories from my travels with you:
I was 19 and single when I decided to travel to Israel to work on a kibbutz. Why I had the courage, I don’t know. It was nearing the end of the trip. I was in the marketplace in Jerusalem bargaining my way to a new hoodie when the owner of the store asked me this: do you have a boyfriend?
“Yes,” I said. It wasn’t true, but I was not about to give him any reason to seize an opportunity. He had been enjoying our bartering more than I was comfortable with.
“Good,” he replied, “just make sure you let him do whatever he wants to you.”
I had just arrived in Vietnam, Hanoi City. Tired and hungry, I was seated at a bar with a guy friend getting a beer before we went to our hostel. A young Vietnamese guy sidled in next to me and sat down.
“You foreign? I show you Hanoi city,” he offered.
“No, thanks. Not now, we’re tired.”
I remember noticing at the time that his nails were long and dirty. I wasn’t used to boys with long fingernails.
“Don’t be tired, it will be good time!”
Under the table the boy started to put his hand on my leg. I pushed it away and moved further down the bench. Three minutes later the hand was back. This time, he pushed his hand further along my leg and into my crotch.
I stood up.
“We need to leave.”
“No, no don’t leave, I have a sister. Very pretty. You want to boom boom?”
I work in one of the so called “up and coming” areas of Cape Town. Our offices are around the corner from a Shebeen (this is what we call a small informal liquor seller). If I walk from my office to meet a friend at a cafe 200m down the road I pass by the Shebeen. Every time I have to pass that part of the road, I avert my gaze. I hold onto my bag and I walk really fast.
“Hey Sisi, where you going?” A drunk guy wonders into the road and starts to meander towards me. “Come here!”
I walk faster. I cross the road. I decide to take Uber next time.
It frightens me that I live in a world where I can’t work 100m down the road on my lunch break because I’m not safe. It’s a small example but it means that I don’t feel safe in my everyday world.
If you haven’t seen #metoo scattered across the Facebook walls of the women in your world, I’m going to have to assume that you are one of the rare souls who aren’t on Facebook or ignores it because you have better things to do with your time (you do!).
The #metoo movement began on social media in response to the countless allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Alyssa Milano who initiated the hashtag wrote: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
I find it hard to believe that any women is exempt from the #metoo campaign. We have all been harassed in some way shape or form. Every women in the world could put #metoo up as a Facebook status.
Unfortunately, a lack of respect is ingrained our culture and we have let it prevail. We’ve said “they are boys, that’s the way they are.” We’ve said, “she wore a short dress, she was looking for it.”
We’ve said, “She shouldn’t have been in his room,” or “she led him on,” or “why are you overreacting, it’s just a comment.”
If you have been like I was, a victim of sexual assault in any way shape or form, even small, know this – nobody deserves this treatment.
How we treat each other matters. How a man treats a woman and a woman treats a man matter. It’s time to stand up against sexual assault and to stand up against manipulation. As it states in the Bible, we are to love another as we love ourselves. We were all created in the image of God and are precious because of it. In a world where abuse like this is so wide spread it’s easy to see that our society is on some levels broken. We need to get back to the way God intended for us to treat each other. Valuing each other and showing respect regardless of gender, race or age. It is only then that true healing can take place.
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