This week, we have been barraged by news of sexual assault and rape. Harvey Weinstein has been accused by several Hollywood actresses of inappropriate contact. Audio was released by The New Yorker of a very uncomfortable confrontation between the media mogul and an undercover investigator. Rapper Nelly was also accused by a young woman of rape. The charges were dropped, but then video emerged of the rapper getting close to a teenage girl onstage in a way that appeared overtly sexual. These two incidents occur after Bill O’Reilly was let go from Fox News for multiple incidents of sexual harassment and after a Bill Cosby went through a grueling trial where 60 women came forward and accused him of drugging and raping them.
But, that’s Hollywood. Let’s bring it closer in.
This morning, an email was sent to students on the UGA campus about an incident where a freshman female student was waiting for an Uber at 2:30 a.m. A car pulled up. The young woman asked if the man driving was her Uber driver. He said no, but offered her a ride. She got in the car and he drove her to her dormitory. But, before he let her out of the car, “he reached and touched the inner portion of her thigh and demanded she give him a kiss before he would let her out as he locked the doors to the vehicle.”
I was in a meeting and one of my colleagues brought up the incident. She said she couldn’t believe how stupid the girl was to get in the car with a stranger at 2:30 a.m. She went on and on about how the girl was irresponsible and that she should have used common sense. In my mind, I thought to myself ‘don’t be that person in the meeting.’ Then I thought, ‘we all need to be that person.’ So, I said something. This is how that conversation went:
Me: How was she, as a 17 or 18-year old supposed to know that he would do that?
Colleague: Common sense. She was taught from the time that she was little not to get in the car with strangers.
Me: How do you know? You were taught that. You don’t know what she was taught.
Colleague: She got into this school. She’s smart enough to know.
Me: That has nothing to do with anything. She’s a teenager–
Colleague: Who was probably drunk–
Me: It doesn’t matter. That doesn’t give someone the right to hurt her
Colleague: You are responsible for your own body. You wouldn’t stand in the middle of a median and blame a car for hitting you.
Me: He should not be driving around picking up teenage girls and luring them into his car. There’s no excuse for that.
I was appalled. Of course I shouldn’t have been, because this same colleague once said that stay-at-home moms were not successful in their own right. Her brand of feminism comes from a place of oppression, and she is not alone. Wendy Williams apologized (or apolo-lied) on ther talkshow this week for saying that women who go backstage or get on tour buses following musicians put themselves in a compromising situation. I call bull. Sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, molestation– these are not things that can be invited. These behaviors are the result of hurt people hurting other people and it is unacceptable.
As women, it is not our responsibility to temper who we are to make men less-likely to hurt us. It is not on us to be perfect all the time, never get drunk, never stay out late, so as to not invite perversion. We are humans and our only job is to show up as our best selves everyday. I would like to see more women make advocating for each other a part of their way of showing up. Be that person who says no, you’re wrong. She didn’t deserve that. Risk being unpopular in order to grab hold of your own freedom, because the statistics are one in three women, which means that in broad daylight, fully sober, it could still be you.