The Type of Sexual Harassment That No One Talks About.
4th April 2017
Hey guys, it’s Ellen.
As most of you know, I’m pretty active online and do spend a lot of time dedicating myself to social media and reaching out to others. For me, social media is an outlet as well as a community – an essential part of my daily life and interactions with others, whether that’s friends, followers, and yes, even strangers.
Me telling you the internet isn’t always a safe place would be nothing new, and yet I do hope some of you guys are surprised by this post, featuring a piece my good friend Aly wrote and wanted me to share regarding the often overlooked form sexual assault takes online, and how even behind a screen, the effects and trauma is still the same.
I’ve been sexually harassed both in person and online, yet Aly’s piece still took me by shock. Even though the group chats she mentions I had once been a part of and the people she refers to have given me my own share of uncomfortable conversations and inappropriate media, it wasn’t until I read what Aly wrote that I realized for the first time that sexual harassment is still sexual harassment even when it’s in the form of text messages instead of catcalling or unseeable images instead of awkward touching.
I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the post. Not only do I wish for you to learn something from her experience, but also act, especially since April happens to sexual assault awareness month.
As always, I love you all & if you ever need to talk to someone about anything, you know where to find me. I’ve also included Aly’s links at the end of this post as well 🙂 Remember: you’re not alone in this or whatever you’re struggling with. I’m here for you, we’re here for you, there’s always someone there for you, no matter where you are. All you have to do is reach out.
What is sexual harassment? The exact definition is “harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.” This definition doesn’t particularly do justice to the People don’t believe you when you explain it, especially if the circumstances are out of the norm. Here’s my personal experience with sexual harassment, specifically online.
When I was 11 years old, I joined an online community of coders and graphic designers. The group originated on an actual coding site, but then moved to Google Hangouts. They were a bit older than me; I was the youngest person out of everyone there. To start off, there were about 50 to 100 people in these group chats, and most of them hated me. For what reason, I don’t know. This was a shot to the heart as I truly looked up to these people, and I felt a sense of betrayal. In these group chats, there were a lot of sexual stories, explicit pictures, and sexual messages directed at me. Seeing these things was unavoidable, and inevitably I was terrified at a very young age.
For years, I thought this was normal, but the situation is not. It was cyber sexual harassment. I never really told anyone, though. The thought of telling someone was terrifying, because there were only so many outcomes, most negative. The person I told wouldn’t believe me, because the concept is really abnormal for most people. Cyber sexual harassment isn’t something that you hear about a lot. Nonetheless, even if they did believe me, they would blame me because I didn’t sign off. It’s not like I was a perfect angel either, I retaliated at certain comments. It didn’t feel right not fighting back.
In so many senses, I felt alone. No one in my life off the internet knew, and there were 2 to 3 people that were willing to help me, but they could only do so much. It was a battle against the uncontrollable, and I was losing. I thought I would be able to handle the harassment on my own, and I was strong enough to take it. By going through this alone and never talking about what was happening, I began to develop depression and anxiety. A small lesson, compared to the many others I have learned throughout this experience, is that it’s not healthy to go through situations like this alone.
I was able to get out of the situation, but it has stuck with me. I’ve been told to move on, that it’s in the past, and I wish letting go was that simple. When certain events happen, they leave scars that sometimes won’t go away. Letting it go would mean trusting people, and it’s not simple trusting people. Even so, I still have hope for the future. Just because it’s hard moving on does not mean that I won’t be able to move on. It won’t be today, and probably not tomorrow, but there is a day that I’ll be able to stand up stronger than before.
For those going through a similar situation, talking helps. It’s scary to talk about it, but if we do not at least begin to talk, it will just continue happening. Although I know very few people personally that have gone through this situation, it’s very real and very serious. And even though it did happen, and it’s horrible, you will persevere.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (USA)