Updated: Apr 21, 2020
"Have you ever been sexually harassed?"
Unfortunately, this question has been made light. Whenever my answer was "no", I was told "You will be". What kind of world do we live in that this is okay? We normalize sexual misconduct daily. We can blame media, parenting, clothing, education, and the list continues, but why is this okay?
Sure, grown men probably noticed me in ways that grown men should only acknowledge grown women while I was still an adolescent. I say probably because I can't say I paid much attention to subtle inappropriateness at the time but I also just know because I know. I also don't have a single memory that stands out but I know. It's sad really. People have looked at my curves, lumps, and rump instead of my eyes. I've heard crass and crude comments. I've picked up on whispers, gestures, and subtleties. I'm not saying I've been victimized in anyway other than what's the be expected. Yes, I realize I just said what's the be expected in the same piece regarding sexual harassment. I've never considered myself in imminent danger but this goes beyond where you live, what you do, how you dress, and how you were raised. I, like most people, get a gut feeling when something isn't right. I credit that to the gift of discernment. That reminds to pray for more of it.
There was an instance that began so normal like many scenarios of the nature do. I had an inkling that something was off, but it was a camp and we were coaches. He even was old classmates with another coach who happened to be one of my mentors. I was 19. It hadn't been that far removed since I was a camper. I ignored the uneasy feeling and charged it to maybe being uncomfortable with the little attention he was showing and the possibility that it wasn't like that. I was 19 and he was older by more than 10 years. I'm thinking more like 15. I had no interest in him whatsoever. I thought we were just fellow coaches. He was nice enough and I wanted to get through the weekend. It was my first time back as an assistant coach. What I thought to be an innocent conversation, though weird but innocent enough was a ploy.
Admittedly, my guards were down because my mind was on the team, the kids, the reason I was there in the first place. Next thing you know, he's at my dorm for a movie. Mm that wasn't what we talked about and I said I'm tired. We had to get up early as in FOR THE CAMP AKA REASON WE'RE HERE. At that point I was panicking. Nothing would happen but he wasn't supposed to be there at all. He knew he shouln't have either. How did that happen? I had to go get somebody, but what if they thought I did something wrong? I went to go grab this girl I was cool with, she was a fellow coach and we were both alumae of this enrichment program. I got him to leave, but I wasn't straight forward.
I'm a shoot-from-the-hip type chick. I don't sugarcoat. I give it to you straight no chaser, but I was in a setting with mentors, people who've seen me through high school, who write recommendation letters, who've had conversations with my parents, who've only seen me in colliegate, community enrichment, professional lights not the 7 Mile Betta Mile part of me in all its glory. I had a reputation to protect. I wasn't out there in them streets, being fast as some might say, and any other go-to allegations people commonly place on women regardless of the truth when unsavory situations arise. Nothing inappropriate occurred, but the blanket of possibility haunted me.
The funny thing is that he tried to connect with me on a ministerial level because it was months before I was to be licensed as a minister and he was ordained. He was charming, though I was only nice to him because of our locale. If this was in my daily life where he had randomly approached me while I was with friends or even by myself, no awkward, uneasy conversation would have been had. This starter-pack would not have been assembled.
There are few take-aways that I got from this almost nasty situation.
1. Nothing had occurred and it was still easy to place blame on myself which is asinine. Though legally grown, 19 vs 30 something should be a dead ringer.
2. I was not stupid or naive, but because of where we were it was easy to have my guard down even though I'm the kind of person to stay guarded. "Be vigilant and pay attention folks. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:"1 Peter 5:8 KJV
3. Always listen to your gut. Discernment is a gift that must be utilized!
4. Manipulative behavior is subtle, so you must pay attention.
5. I didn't go about it the right way, but I did succeed in getting him to leave and I told someone else. Speak up. It ended in the most awkward conversation with a beloved mentor, but it was necessary.
6. Sexual harassment can start like this. Thinking about your career, feeling insecure because of your age, not wanting to cause a scene, and so much more. 'Cause honey, I know how to cause a scene.
If you're uncomfortable, there's a greater chance that there's a reason to be than not, so don't ignore it. It's a shame that in 2019 we're still telling girls that they will be sexually harrassed if they have not yet. I'd be remiss not to acknowledge the boys and men who have experienced sexual harassment, but the assault of women is highly normalized. Whoever you are -man, woman, or child, you are not an object to be taken and mistreated. You are a human being deserving human decency and compassion. For those of you not fortunate to come out unscathed, I pray that you heal totally. I pray that you become a beacon of light who helps dismantle the primitive mindset that perpetualizes this plague of humanity. I pray that you do not become filled with bitterness and hate. I pray you allow love to soften your heart while you stay vigilant. If no one has shown you today, I love you but God loves you better.