I was a new reporter covering county government, the police department, the county courts, ambulance service, and many other things. I was young and in my early 20s. Many of the men who I interacted with were the age of my father or grandfather.
Most of them were fine and I learned a lot from them and am thankful to have developed some friendships. They treated me with respect and professionalism and kept everything on the up and up. However, there was one man who made inappropriate comments, suggestive comments, and always wanted hugs.
Being the naïve woman I was, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I thought to myself, well this is a dirty old man but he is harmless. I laughed it off and noticed that is how he often dealt with many women. Now, looking back, I should have realized that this was not okay and not appropriate.
I have since learned from this. I have realized that “boys being boys” is not okay. I have learned that dirty old men can be harmful. And, I have learned that I control how I am treated and what respect I want to have. At least I like to think I have a say in it.
I just wish I could go back and tell my younger self to be more wary of this type of man. Thankfully nothing physical happened to me and for that I am relieved.
According to RAINN statistics, every 98 seconds someone is the victim of sexual assault. This stat gave me chills and truly disgusted me. That is a lot of assaults each day on women, men, and children.
What are we going to do about it? I say we take self-defense classes and learn to fight back. I say we think about who we are with and where we go. I know that these assaults are not the victim’s fault, but I do want to stay away from those who could cause me harm.
On a national level, I think we really must do something to change our mindset that men can do whatever they want to women. That is just not true. They cannot and should not be grabbing, fondling, or groping any part of a woman’s body without permission. Or a man’s body for that matter.
Also, men and women in places of authority, such as a boss, a pastor, a teacher, a doctor, a judge or attorney, a colleague or a co-worker don’t get a pass on this and should treat all women and men with respect. And yet, they get by with terrible and awful things. I don’t want that to keep happening.
A woman or man should be the one who decides who to touch, when to touch, and how to touch. Also how and when he or she wants to be touched. A woman’s decision or permission should not be taken away by someone who cannot control himself or herself. A man’s decision shouldn’t be either.
I wonder if these men who think they can do whatever they want would still do so if their mother was watching them or their daughter. Or their grandmother, or the church member who has known them since childhood, or a trusted friend? If not, then they should not do it in the first place.
I now hope that we can come together and change the mindset of our men, young men, and boys as well as women, young women, and girls. I want the attitude of men doing anything they want to stop.
My husband and I are teaching Ian how to respect both men and women — how to treat them, how to act around people he doesn’t know, what to say, what touch is appropriate, and so much more.
Sadly, there are not as many role models as I would like to help us with that. That breaks my heart and concerns me for our country’s future. We have to treat teach other with respect, without threats of any kind, and with honor. This goes for both men and women.
Another thing that concerns me about all of this is that victims are often not believed. I know in some cases people are up to something when this happens. But often, they aren’t.
Often, they were raped, were assaulted, were threatened and are too scared to report it. Or they are ashamed. Or they think no one will believe them and take them seriously. Or they know they will be blamed.
I have a friend who was raped. Hearing about her experience made me so sad and mad and heartbroken. But I was also proud of her. You see, she was able to share what someone did to her, she was able to talk about it and not be ashamed of it. She was able to help others by speaking out.
I wept on and off for days after hearing about this since I have known her since she was a child. It never should have happened to my friend or to anyone else. And, it shouldn’t continue to happen. May we work together so it doesn’t. That is my hope and prayer. Blessings to you and yours.