How many of you have been in a caught in a situation that caused you some displeasure and you wonder if you should stand up and make yourself heard or bite your tongue and let it slide? I want to explain this double-entendre titled post and at the same time voice out my views on something close to my heart.
In a recent interview, I was posed with a question about “How to get out of a date fast?” I jokingly said, “Do not run away!” and followed with the advice to see the date through as a courtesy to your date. However, if you absolutely feel uncomfortable, then you should excuse yourself politely, even if it means telling a little white lie (come on, don’t tell me you haven’t told a white lie to get out of a situation before!) I moved on to tell a story about how my friend was on a date, and at first it started out fine, but as the night went on, she started to feel uncomfortable as the guy was acting presumptuous and arrogant. On top of that, he started to get a little touchy. Having some liquid courage, she took the chance to run away from the date when the guy went to the bar to order more drinks. I don’t necessarily think her escape plan was the most ideal but we both had a good laugh about it.
After that interview was published, I was made aware that the way the story was crafted, it may have unintentionally reflected anti-feminist views on how women should behave and react when they are caught in a vulnerable situation, and ultimately did not paint me in a good light. To dispel this misinterpretation, I feel a need to clarify and to speak up on this issue. My friend in the story is a confident lady who is well capable of fending for herself if she had been taken advantage off. She shared with me that her date did not touch her inappropriately, but had placed his hand on her shoulders a few times enough to make her feel uncomfortable. In that situation, she was put in any compromising or vulnerable position. Having said that, as a woman, I strongly believe that we must take necessary action if we are being physically and sexually violated or know of someone who is a victim of it.
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual attention of a verbal or physical conduct. It comes in many forms: Stalking, catcalling, inappropriate staring, “accidental” brushing of sexual parts, making lewd and sexual comments or behavior, displaying of sexually suggestive visuals, unwelcome touching or groping, direct or indirect bribes or threats to instigate sexual activity. These sexual attacks is a form of abuse and must not be treated lightly. Everyone has to be educated on what sexual harassment is so they will not fall prey to it and most importantly know to speak up when they are caught in such a situation. Men should not get away with disrespecting, undermining and controlling women. As women, we must develop the skills and confidence to be able to stand up for ourselves. If you encounter any sort of sexual harassment you MUST:
- Speak Up. Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to call him out on it. Tell your harasser that you won’t tolerate his speech or behavior. If he continues with the harassment, make it known to him that you will report him.
- Seek Help. If the harassment escalates and you feel your safety and wellbeing is in danger, talk to someone about it. It could be someone you can trust like a close friend, a relative, or a superior. If you need immediate help, don’t be afraid to approach a trusted adult closeby that can help you.
- Seek Protection. Inform the police if you feel the harasser needs some form of disciplinary action taken against him.
Looking back, in that particular interview, my story was featured under the “What They Never Taught You in School” column. I sincerely hope that our society and government will raise more awareness in educating and preventing sexual harassment in Singapore.