On Saturday February 6th, 2016, I was part of a cast of women for the book release of Angy Abreu’s No Room For The Broken. Ironically, this is a book discussing abuse in many forms and ultimately encouraging the rebellious act of self-love.
After the show I was approached by a man who, after complimenting my performance, then looked me up and down, mentioned how big my legs were and then loudly said in front of two people that the size of my legs must mean that my p*ssy was fat.
This man did not know me. This man did not know if I had any history of sexual abuse or trauma that his words could trigger or incite a relapse into that trauma.
I decided after a night of tossing and turning and thinking about this man and his mouth, and how many women have died inside of it, to have a conversation privately with him, in hopes of bringing him some awareness. When a conversation like this happens in private on multiple occasions by multiple women with a perpetrator and is met with denial, disdain, and brushed off, then a larger conversation needs to be had which is the conversation that is being had now.
I decided to go public with my experience with this man in hopes to bring awareness to women who often experience similar harassment, but are part of a culture that normalizes the hyper-sexualization of women.
My initial thoughts were that this is not about the man, this is about the behavior. However, the fact remains that the behavior will always be attached to a name.
It is almost impossible to call out a behavior without calling out a perpetrator.
People who exhibit dangerous behaviors need to know that their actions are perceived as dangerous in the general community. They need to be made aware that their behavior is not okay. If they do not know, how can we expect them to change?
Often times, this behavior is not addressed with the perpetrator because of fear of retaliation, or lack of support from the community of the victimized.
We cannot be champions for change and champions for silence simultaneously. We cannot ask women to speak loudly about the abuse they have endured and when they do then ask them to whisper.
I began to witness a crucifixion theory permeating my threads in regards to the man whose behavior I have outed. I want to make it clear that I am not out to destroy any one man’s life. I am instead out to save the lives of countless women who are dealing with this silently, or in therapy because of verbal, physical, emotional and sexual harassment/abuse.
These are women who are in abusive relationships, women who walk down the street, and get touched without permission, who get followed, who get told they are bitches for not responding to a wink, a hello, a “you sexy,” a “God bless you.”
These are the women who are one “your p*ssy must be fat” comment away from physical sexual assault.
Over the past week, I have heard comments from people saying: What of the man who made a mistake, what of his life, what of his children, what of him? Neither I, nor any of the women he has victimized, owe him our politeness, our smiles, our energy, our love, our space, our bodies and certainly not our apologies for our anger.
He owes it to himself, to his daughters, his sisters, his mother and all of the women he claims to love and to protect, to be introspective and accountable for his actions as well as to accept the repercussions that have occurred because of them. He should blame no one for those repercussions but himself.
We must be clear in our stand against all types of abuse. We are loud in saying we will no longer tolerate all of the subcultures that live under the Rape Culture Umbrella. We will stand united against misogyny, sexism, machismo, sexual harassment, patriarchy, chauvinism, or any other form of predatory behavior.
The conversations being held on social media are necessary. The women who have come out of their silence are many. These women are brave, they are coming out of the shadows, they are coming out of the dark, they are turning on the lights to expose the monsters that society has provided a permit to terrorize our women.
To the women who have been victims: We see you. We thank you for your honesty. We thank you for your bravery. We are behind you. We are next to you. We are you. We got you.
Change is the purpose here. Let us not be deterred or distracted. We are actively seeking to organize in order to educate our boys in order to prevent them from exercising predatory behavior. We are actively seeking to organize to educate our men who may be unwillingly, or unknowingly engaging in inappropriate behavior. Our women are rallying. Our women are loud. We will not be silenced. We are a moving army. We welcome you to join us in these discussions. To engage in healthy discourse that is devoid of victim blaming. We urge you to talk to the men in your life about predatory behavior. Please feel free to talk to your peers about solutions.
I look forward to a world where a woman’s body is no longer the most dangerous space she occupies.
Author: Elisabet Velasquez
Editor: Travis May
Photos: Flickr/Reinhard Kuchenbacker