Hey, I’m Stephi and I’ve been sexually harassed.
Scary, right? Hearing those words seems so harsh. It is probably one of the reasons why girls shy away from getting help – because claiming they’ve been sexually harassed is a big deal, right? Right. It should be a big deal, but for different reasons than it currently is.
Let me break this down.
Harassment is defined as “aggressive pressure or intimidation”. Pressure and intimidation. What does this look like? For me it looked like my boyfriend pressuring me to send him sexy pictures of myself, otherwise I’d be letting him down. I’d be a failure to the guy I was sharing my life with if I didn’t oblige and, despite my own personal standards and comfort zones, send naked pictures of myself. That’s not love. That’s harassment.
How about when a young man Snapchats a girl unwanted photos of his genitalia and demands photos in return. How about when your friend, or neighbor, or boss puts intense pressure on you to “sext” him and begs you to come over and have sex with him – after he has made it clear that the last thing he wants is a relationship with you.
We live in a society where hiding behind your cell phone and social media platform is “normal.” It’s “normal” to Snapchat inappropriate photos of yourself and think it’s completely acceptable to expect one in return. It’s “normal” to comment on Instagram posts about what someone’s body looks like. This is “normal.” Is this the normal you want to live in? I don’t know about you, but I want to break this “normal”, because frankly; this “normal” sucks.
It starts with a conversation. Harassment IS a big deal. Let’s call it what it is! A close friend making crude, unwanted comments on the way your body looks is not okay. A boyfriend demanding texts and photos that you don’t feel comfortable sending is not okay. This is harassment, and it’s important that we recognize this. It may be scary to come forward regarding harassment today because we live in a cruel society where – you guessed it – people are hiding behind their screens. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong, or mistaken, or brought this on yourself. Just because you wore a skirt above the knees; just because you’re nice to boys or smile in their direction does not give any one reason to harass you or tell you that you’re overreacting.
There’s a certain level of shame we feel as women when coming forward with harassment. Those doubts that enter your mind; “What if they judge me?”, “What if I’m the one who suffers the consequences?”. Why do these thoughts take control? Why are we the ones who feel ashamed? Harassment is only a big deal in today’s society because women are being shamed because of it. It saddens me to think that so many women are suffering every day in silence because of the fears and doubts that hinder them from speaking up.
I’ve devoted myself to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice. The time has come when we can’t sit back and take the abuse anymore. I want to teach my sisters, my nieces, my daughters; this is not going to be “normal” anymore. Harassment is not okay. You are brave and strong for speaking up and getting help. Just because it happens from someone you may know very closely does not make the harassment any less. Do not be afraid of the truth. I urge you to stand up for your body and for what you believe in. More so, stand up for how you know you ought to be treated.
Every time I’ve been harassed, I often questioned my worth. “Well, is this all I’m good for? ” No, a thousand times no. Your worth is not defined by the comments made on your body. Your worth is not jeopardized when you are pressured for sex. Your worth is not found in all the fleeting feelings and opinions of who others say you are. Don’t for a second think that sexual harassment lowers your value. For you are of more value than you realize right now.
You want to know what I think the new “normal” is? The new normal is women standing up for what they believe, and standing up for each other. It’s men asking permission before they make sexual advances. It’s pressure-free relationships, where intimidation doesn’t exist. It means no one will be making inappropriate comments on your body because it belongs to you. Doesn’t this new “normal” sound inviting? I pledge to speak up, and I will not be silenced; as so many before me have been.
So, hey, I’m Stephi, and I’m starting a movement. #thenewnormal
Stephi VanEe is an artist of many forms. She loves to express creativity in everything she does. Follow her journey and join the movement atwww.instagram.com/STPHofficial