It has dawned on me that I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been harassed by a man at some point in her life.
My first conscious experiences of harassment were at school.
Age 12. A guy—who I would’ve classed as a friend—grabbing my ass and feeling me up in the corridor in front of a bunch of other people.
Age 13. A teacher circling the room, coming up behind me and pinching my ass while the lights were all down and we watched a video in a class.
Aged 14. Walking from my friends house to school on the sidewalk of a main road (because the bus didn’t turn up), and being beeped and whistled at by grown men in cars several times as they zipped by.
At the time, I wasn’t even aware I was being harassed. And I was too embarrassed to speak up about any of it.
The years went on, and the incidents racked up.
Having my ass grabbed by a stranger in a club.
A group of guys driving by in a car, stopping next to me, and asking me where the nearest hotel was.
Trying to enjoy a solo walk on the beach while travelling in Sri Lanka, and being followed by a man the entire way, even when I asked him to stop.
Taking the bins out, and being leered at by a strange man as he walked by on the other side of the street.
And I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Because it has never been more than that. Despite putting myself in dangerous situations; like being close to unconscious from alcohol, and going home with guys I only just met on a dance floor a few hours earlier, my story has always ended here.
I’ve never been sexually abused. I’ve never been raped. And it’s sad that I feel like one of the lucky ones.
Since beginning my journey of working closely with women—as an empowerment leader, on retreats, and through She Rose Revolution—I’ve heard countless stories of the misogyny, harassment, and abuse they have faced their entire lives.
And each time I hear another woman’s story, I feel an unlikely mix of both rage and gratitude.
Rage for the pain this woman has had to endure, and now carry with her for a lifetime. And in the back of my mind, gratitude; because I’m aware how lucky I am to have been relatively safe in my thirty years of life.
We have learned to expect it. To expect the harassment in the street, in the club, and even in the workplace. To expect, at the very least, harassment.
If that’s all we experience, we feel lucky. We think we’ve escaped with relative ease. Because the truth is, we have.
How fucked up is that?
And when is it going to end?
When will the violence and oppression against women slow down to a stop?
When will it become shocking to hear that a woman was assaulted; instead of nodding our heads, and continuing to eat the cheese sandwich in our hand, without batting an eyelid?
Why are we not shocked and appalled today?
I know we each have our own part to play; both men and women.
As women, we need to stop defaulting to the toxic feminine, reconnect with our inner power, and rise.
While men must also stop defaulting to the toxic masculine, and start to honour the feminine they have cast out; both within themselves, the women around them, and the wider planet.
This is how we will all rise.
But if you’re a woman and you witness harassment, directed at you or anyone else, please, speak up.
If you’re a man and you witness harassment, directed by guys you know or don’t know, please, speak up.
Because we are doing nobody any favours when we stay silent. When we witness a woman being whistled at, and we think at least it’s not me. Or we see a man leering at a woman, and we pass it off as, well, that’s just what guys do.
You see, playing your part doesn’t stop at you.
Playing your part is about how you show up in this world.
It’s about what you do, and don’t do. It’s about what you say, and don’t say. Sometimes, when you do something, or you do nothing, it’s just as bad.
All of it matters.