Sexual Harassment: What It Does to You

Op-ed

Sexual harassment is an issue that many people have and are experiencing globally. Truth is, when you think about sexual harassment you may support the victims, but you never know how much it affects you mentally; that is until you experience it yourself.

What is it exactly ー sexual harassment? Simply put, it’s a type of harassment involving the use of either explicit or implicit sexual overtones that ranges from verbal attacks to sexual assault. Some examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to offensive sexual remarks or jokes, unwelcome touching, demands of sexual favors, inappropriate sexual gestures, etc.

The Start of Everything

Based on experience, it’s always the smallest actions that have the biggest effect but at the same time, you wouldn't know to acknowledge what’s going on until you reflect on it. I expected him to be far from what he really was. But that’s the thing about society, it makes us have these unrealistic expectations until reality itself stands in front of you.

He and I were close in a way that made me feel special, and that’s how it all started. Then he got too comfortable and kept asking whether we could do it. At first, I panicked and said yes, until I got myself together and turned him down.

Angry and upset, that I dismissed him, he ignored me for 3 months. I thought that my dismissing him was just a minor issue, but I was wrong. He took it very seriously and that was when it hit me; he always wanted more.

During the 3 Months

In these 3 months, I had spiraled up to hitting rock bottom. I would have these anxiety attacks and random times of the day, I would starve because I was not happy with my body, and I just liked hurting myself. All of these, just because I thought that this was my fault that I was wrong to turn him down. I really needed to talk to someone, so I told this girl and made her promise not to tell anyone.

At this time, I didn't really have anyone to talk to, not even my parents. They didn't understand the cause of my mood swings and thought I was just being me.

Why did I not tell them? From experiences, I knew that they would not be able to comprehend the events that took place. I bottled up my feelings which really made me more of an angry person. The worst part was that I had to go to school and see his face 5 days a week just to pretend as nothing happened. Moreover, he moved on so fast; within a few weeks he had a new girl.

After the 3 months

He got into another relationship, and that’s when he started talking to me again. For some reason, I was happy that we were talking. After which he started getting too close, and he would brush his hands on me.

I did not think much of it as I immediately assumed that it was just an accident. Then he started sleeping and sitting on my lap, and it didn't occur to me at that time that it was wrong.

A few months into this and the entire school realized that this guy had some problems; he cheated on a girl and owed some people money. I then started distancing myself from him and months later he left the school. Part of me was happy, another part was relieved. I started to recover from my breakdowns and things started to go back to normal.

A year later

Now the thing is, that girl I unfolded the events about the boy to — we’ve started to have problems. It was clear that she didn't like me; my mom and I felt the same towards this girl. In this particular situation, my mom and I found out that the girl had spread rumors about me saying that I was dating boys from my school. This was based on an assumption that since I was close with some boys in my school we were dating.

And remember that secret I told her not to tell anyone? I found out that she actually told a few people to spite me. My mom questioned me on this but I still felt that I could not tell her everything. So I left out the part where he asked me about doing it and just told her that we were talking for a while.

As I started reflecting about every moment I had with the boy, I realized that everything he did to me wasn't consensual but I just brushed it off. Every time he brushed my hand or sat on my lap, he just laughed it off. Then I remembered the times that I was uncomfortable but did not say anything because I knew he would not budge.

That was when it hit me. The entire time I was sexually harassed and I did not even know it. Then I got angrier that this girl whom I entrusted my secret with, went out of her way to tell people my story and that she had no right to do that.

Takeaway Point

Teenagers today have high expectations of each other. Sometimes when you experience this you wouldn't even know that you’re being harassed because the person makes you feel special.

Effects

1. Anxiety attacks

2. Need to isolate themselves from society

3. Low-self esteem

4. Weight fluctuations

5. Trauma

6. Self-blame

If you are or have been sexually harassed, talk to someone who you trust. Someone who is mature like your teachers or a counselor. Sometimes you’d feel that you can’t talk to anyone because you’re afraid that they’d blame you. This is exactly why I did not tell my parents. Whichever country you’re in has a number that you could call if you’re in need of someone to talk to. The people who pick up the phone for these numbers would never judge you and only try to help. Most importantly, be aware of how close you get with someone and how so.

If you know someone

If you have a friend or anybody who approaches you talking about these problems, NEVER tell anybody else without their consent. If you want to help, refer them to someone with professional expertise and maturity to understand how to help. People who approach you for these problems trust you. Never take advantage of that. Again, though you may understand the concept of sexual harassment, you never know that it does to someone until you experience it.

Click here to view the list of resources for sexual harassment and more.

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Lavanyaa Shrii Kumar

Lavanyaa is an aspiring journalist who loves the idea of clouds or stargazing. Though she may be an introvert, she promises that she is a very nice and fun person when you get to know her. During her free time, she prefers to Netflix; in other words free time, also refers to every time she decides to procrastinate.


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