We’ve all been there. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the last time it happened; we all remember. How can one forget? We’re not speaking of rude words being jeered at you by a street urchin; this isn’t about an “accidental” brush of the hand on your behind by a random passerby seeking cheap thrills.
This kind of harassment does not discriminate between genders. A bully does not make calculated guesses. A bully is hungry for weakness; they will grab at anything they see is imperfect enough to be picked apart and degraded.
It can be just a glance or one carelessly worded sentence that hits the mark and leaves us bleeding. Or it can be a raging, snapping storm of abuses that tear us down no matter how hard we try to tell ourselves it doesn’t matter.
We are left chanting to ourselves in the aftermath, trying to make ourselves believe things no one else is kind enough to tell us. “I am not a mistake. I am not ugly, boring, dull, dumb, or stupid. I am not worthless. I am not a blank wall to be spray painted on; I am my own canvas, I am my own being.”
And the next time it happens, we have to start all over again. “You cannot control me, you cannot reduce me. No, it is not your job to tell me what I am and am not. I don’t remember asking for your opinion. I don’t remember asking for you to tell me what you think of me, friend, teacher, cousin, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt.”
Our confidante tells us: “The next time, say it. You’ll get slapped around a little, so what?”
“So what” becomes just another taunt, another cruel mockery.
What do you think it’s like for victims of harassment who have been living this life for years now? Do you think they even like themselves anymore when they look in the mirror? Do you think they even want to look anymore? Do you think they have it in them anymore to say no, not anymore?
But maybe it is time. Because silence has gotten us nothing up till now, not one single thing. And do you know what happens when someone is put through the same thing again and again and forced to submit in the face of it?
One day, they wake up. One day, they realize what they have to do. And that is the day harassment has to change sides. Because the victims are no longer the victims and the harassers no longer the bullies.
One day, the helpless wake up as something different. And you know what they say?
“I’ll be the bully, you be my victim.”
Do us all a favour, and don’t start the cycle.