Unalome Chronicles: Mattie Larson, Former US National Team Gymnast & Sexual Assault Prevention Activist

Mattie Larson was a consistent star in the world of gymnastics over the course of her athletic career, qualifying and competing for the most prestigious teams around the world at the highest levels. In 2018, along with 156 other women, Mattie courageously testified against Larry Nassar, her former US National Team Gymnastics doctor and serial sexual assaulter. As a result of this trial, which was one of the largest sexual assault investigations in US history, Nassar was sent to prison on account of hundreds of sex crimes. After the trial, Mattie went on to pass and amend bills with the US Congress in Washington, DC, to increase the protections of children from sexual assault. Testifying face-to-face with her abuser in court was one of the most difficult things Mattie has had to face, however, speaking her truth re-instilled her sense of self-worth and confidence that had been lacking for so long.

Facts & Backstory…

Mattie’s Gymnastics Career History:
In 2006, at age 14, Mattie qualified for the Junior International Elite Team, and in 2007 she became a member the US National Team, where she would remain competing through 2011. At the international elite competition, she made a name for herself as she won the gold in the Vault exercise and bronze in the All-Around (all four exercises combined). In 2007, she also competed on the international stage at the Pan American Games, where she won gold on the Floor exercise, with a show-stopping performance, as well as won the gold in the All-Around. After this competition, she was named the United States Olympic Committee Athlete of the Month. In 2008, still on the National Team, Mattie joined the US Olympic training squad, but due to a severe leg injury, she could not join the team. Competing with a double-sprained ankle at the Gymnix World Cup in 2009, Mattie still took home gold medals on both the Floor and Beam exercises. In 2009, Mattie had to sit out the World Championships due to injuries, but came back in 2010 to win the all-around title at the Cover Girl Classic, still competing on the National Team. That same year, she won the gold on Floor, the bronze on the Uneven Bars and the silver in the All-Around at the US National Championships and was selected to be a member of the US Team for the World Championships. In 2012, Mattie joined the UCLA gymnastics team where she competed through 2014 and received her BA degree in Psychology.

Sexual Assault Case & Bills Passed in Washington, DC: 
On January 24th, 2018, Larry Nassar, the former physician for the US National Gymnastics Team, was sentenced to 40–175 years in prison for hundreds of sex crimes that he committed with impunity over the course of decades. 156 brave women, including Mattie Larson, testified against the serial child molester for the sexual assault crimes committed against them. After the trial, Mattie went on to speak publicly about her experience, being interviewed on Good Morning America, Vice News, Megyn Kelly NBC News, CNN with Michaela Pereira, and Sports Illustrated. Mattie also, along with a small group of women who shared the same abuser, passed a new bill in Washington DC, with Senator Dianne Feinstein, called “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017” and amended the “Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act,” further protecting young athletes from sexual abuse.

Let’s hear from Mattie about speaking her truth…

It took an incredible amount of courage and strength to speak your truth about your sexual assault story and to confront your assaulter face-to-face in court. Describe your journey coming to this place within yourself to be able to accomplish something so courageous, not just for yourself, but for the other victims.
It’s been a very windy journey. Growing up, I was a kid who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. However, as I started spending more time in the gym than anywhere else, I started to lose my sense of voice. I was often verbally punished by my coaches and was often not believed if I had a serious physical injury. Gymnastics is a sport where the average peak point for athletes is pretty young, especially for females — most female gymnasts retire between the ages of 18 and 21. I first starting competing at the age of 5 and at 10, I was leaving school early to train. In middle school, I was spending more time with my coaches than with my parents, so they inevitably had a huge influence on my character at that time. Unfortunately, this influence was a negative one. It wasn’t until I left for college at 19 that I realized how quiet and closed off I had become, as a result of being silenced by my coaches for so many years. Testifying against my abuser in court and talking about my past to people who make positive changes in the world, has really made me feel like I have my power back. I am no longer that little girl who’s afraid to ask my coaches to even use the restroom. I thought that if I could find the courage within myself to speak up for what is right, it may inspire others to do the same for themselves.

How has speaking your truth changed you internally?
Testifying a year ago was the first time I was proud of myself in a reeeeally long time. Being a professional athlete my whole life, I have always based my self-worth on my outward achievements — I was proud of myself if I learned a new gymnastics skill or if I won a competition. When I stopped competing about five years ago, that sense of self-worth was stripped away. Testifying in front of my abuser was one of the first times since I retired from gymnastics that I was genuinely so proud of myself and it had nothing to do with winning a medal. That was huge for me.

Talk about what speaking your truth has accomplished on a larger scale and about the bill you were instrumental in passing in Washington?
Around January of 2017 I, along with a small group of women who shared the same abuser, met with Senator Dianne Feinstein in Washington, DC. We shared our sexual assault stories with her and about two months later, a group of fifteen Senators introduced a bipartisan bill after hearing our stories. The bill was passed and requires amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department. (It’s insane how that wasn’t already a law, right?!) The bill also amends the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, which governs amateur athletics governing bodies, to make it safe and easy for victims to report abuse, and also mandates oversight of member gymnasiums, to ensure that strong sexual-abuse prevention policies are implemented. For example, USA Gymnastics would implement and enforce policies to ensure hired coaches and personnel are trained in sexual abuse prevention. It was a really incredible feeling to not only be listened to and believed, but to work with people in a position of power make concrete changes to prevent what happened to me, happening to other young athletes.

What can a girl who has suffered similar trauma do to feel more empowered and in control of her future?
Everyone’s experience with trauma and sexual assault is different and I can only speak from my own experience. In my case, I felt dirty, disposable, and less-than after my traumas. I started to heal slowly by setting small goals for myself, working alongside a therapist that I trusted. And when I say I started out slowly, I mean it! Things such as simply leaving my apartment, turning to healthier outlets such as exercise or art instead of booze when I felt down, and the biggest one for me…reaching out for help when I needed it. I had to get out of the mindset that I was a burden to my friends and family if I reached out for help. That’s why our loved ones are here for us — to be with us through the good and bad. Sometimes I think, “Shit, if I made it through those traumatic experiences, I can make it through (insert challenge at hand).” I remind myself that however horrific those experiences were, I have had and will continue to have so many more positive experiences in my life. We can always find small ways to empower ourselves every day. Although I felt so much stronger after confronting my abuser in court, it doesn’t have to take something that big to make you feel powerful. Unalome hit the nail on the head…authentic self-expression really IS a superpower. I think it’s important for women to share stories of their tribulations and accomplishments because I know from my own experience, other women’s stories have inspired me to keep pushing forward. I love how Unalome inspires female artisans and entrepreneurs to work with one another to create something beautiful. After all, us gals gotta stick together! 🙂

Connect with Mattie: @MATTLARZ

Photos 1 by @CAMBRIA_FODEN

March 7, 2019

(Original article from UNALOME)

The Child That Does Not Exist

A child is not a thing. It has emotions and a sensory perception. There is no right way to use a child.

You can abuse power, but you cannot abuse a human being. Because human beings are not things. If you can use someone the wrong way, than there must be a right way too. How to use sexual violence the right way?

If a child is raped, this is torture. If you talk of abused children and what to to and how to act you will always miss the ones who had been tortured.

Maybe they don’t exist. If they existed, it would be said. There would be words which enclose respect and dignity for children as human beings which reference what had been done and what is real. No? It’s not real. It’s just some kind of bad tale that children are raped. It’s only told to frighten you a bit.

If a structure of a state of a society enables torture…welcomes torturers…make them have a better life…it will never admit to it. It will fight the ones who survive. It will preserve itself. People think they live in a normal society. There is no torture within the normal. That does not exist.

Sorry, not sorry

Yeah, yeah. I’m still here. Life gets in the way of me trying to do all of the things. I wanted to write a post about doing all of the things, but I’m angry.

Let me tell you why.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the #MeToo movement. With everything going on in the world today, my phone has now become some sort of sexual predator device, notifying me every single time someone’s been accused of sexual misconduct. There’s also been a ton of backlash against the movement with lots of opinions, good and bad, left and right. Let me explain something to you — people who are part of this movement don’t want to be.

I was sexually assaulted. This is my story.


On Thursday, September 7, 2017, I went downstairs to smoke a cigarette. As usual, I had my headphones on and was scrolling through my Instagram feed tagging my friends in memes. Nothing out of the ordinary. I saw a man approach me out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t hear what he said, but he signaled that he needed a lighter, so I let him borrow mine. He gave it back, and I went back to my Instagram feed… but he didn’t leave. He continued to try to talk to me, so I figured, OK, I can be friendly. The conversation was fairly casual — until it wasn’t. He told me that I was “fucking gorgeous.” I thanked him for the compliment, put my cigarette out, and started to head back upstairs.

Except he grabbed me by the arm and asked me for my number. In the split second that it took me to process this strange situation, he kissed me. On the mouth. On a busy sidewalk. Right in front of my office. He wasn’t drunk or homeless — this IS New York City, after all. He was just a normal guy who kissed me in public on a busy sidewalk. And, since this apparently matters, I was wearing yoga pants, a button down flannel shirt (because Brooklyn), and a jacket. Glasses, minimal makeup, hair that was 99% dry shampoo.

Now let me just say this — it stopped there. I’m not here for attention or to one-up anyone else’s story. I have learned about much much worse situations. However, this is clearly inappropriate and uncalled for behavior. If you care to disagree with me (Oh, it was just a stupid kiss), think about how you would feel if someone did that to your child or your partner — because this does go both ways. Women can and have done bad things too.

I’ve written about this before. I was picked on all the time for being different. For being a minority. For being a woman. I am pretty. I take care of myself. I take pride in doing my makeup every morning and wearing flattering clothes because I can. It makes me feel good about myself. I deal with catcalls and stares that are so intense and disgusting that it literally makes me feel slimy. I’m not the only one. It’s not OK. I’m not asking for this.

It is not OK.

It is never OK.

We need to talk about this. We need to be angry. We need to stay angry. We need to have marches on our cities. We need to remind people that this is not OK. I will continue to talk about this until it stops. If it annoys you, then I question your moral character. This isn’t about politics or feminism. This is about human decency. Right vs. Wrong.

We are scared.

Sometimes we can’t share our stories because we’re terrified of the backlash. We currently live in a world where “she was asking for it,” or “she shouldn’t have worn that short skirt.” You know what? Fucking wear the short skirt because girl — you look amazing and confident in it. Women continue to be underpaid and undervalued. Women are raised to believe that they should find a nice husband and have children. Women are raised to support their husbands as the caretakers and heads of their families. Fear has been instilled in us to believe that if something happens to our partners, what will we do? How will we survive alone? We put everything on the back burner, but some of us don’t know any better. We’re told to slow down with our careers so that we can start a family. We’re told not to wait until it’s too late.

Why?

I have never considered myself a feminist. That word has always seemed to have a negative connotation to me, and honestly the first things I think of when I hear that word are burning bras and not wearing makeup. You never hear anything good about feminism. You only hear about angry women trying to make a statement.

Well, here I am, an angry woman trying to make a statement. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made a statement about feminism in her essay We Should All Be Feminists that really resonates with me, and I hope that it resonates with you too.

Chimamanda writes, “My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Do better.


Isn’t it Obvious (to men)? #MeToo

Me, too.

If all the women I know who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “me too” as a status… and all the women they know… we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

Stop the silence. Stop the violence.

Feel free to copy and paste.

#MeToo is going viral, and I am so moved by everyone finding their voices and speaking up. Enough is enough.

The second-most common sentiment after #MeToo, is, “Isn’t it obvious (to men)?” and “now that they see, they can do something about it.”

I would like an opportunity to illuminate why Sexual Harassment and Assault has been going on for eons, yet it seems like (most) Men don’t know the depth of the, and propose actionable solutions for Men being our allies for our experience of safety.

(Side note: I say “most” Men, because I acknowledge that a) many men are preyed upon, especially as children, and we don’t talk about it either, and b) many Men do know, and haven’t taken action (also probably because they aren’t empowered with tools to take action that doesn’t make the situation worse, or didn’t know they needed to (see below)).)

The answer is this: Safety.

Men experience Safety differently than Women. The presence of Testosterone physically builds their muscles, bones, ability to see speed, and experience of pain differently then Women.

When the Tiger (danger) comes, Zachary or Severin will kick it’s ass.

When the Tiger (danger) comes, I have to run and hide, or have a group of people to fight.

But it never occurs to Zachary or Severin that my experience of Safety is different than theirs.

I offer you that NOT SEEING MY DANGER this is NOT a failure of MEN — it a symptom of being human.

It’s human to not understand or see something outside of your paradigm.

It’s human because before I had Lanaea, I forgot how long it took moms with kids to return a phone call (even though I was already a Mom, and did it before #momnesia), and judged plenty of Moms for “not having it together.”

Female Company President: 'I am sorry to all the mothers I used to work with'

PowerToFly Co-Founder and President Katharine Zaleski: "I didn't realize how horrible I'd been – until I had a child of…

fortune.com

We all do it.

I offer you that NOT SEEING MY DANGER this is NOT a failure of MEN — it a symptom of being human AND I want MEN to see and respect what I experience as Danger.

In this Episode of Blue Bloods (I ❤ Blue Bloods! I can never decide who is my favorite.), we see Detective Baker being sexually harassed by a Sheriff, witnessed by a roomful of men, while her boss, Commissioner Frank Reagan, looks on with disapproval, but doesn’t say anything.)

In Fantasy Land, she is empowered to stand up for herself, and being a police officer, has tools to stand in her power (Note: Being a Police Officer does not except a Woman from Harassment. To be clear, I am talking about Fantasy Land.)

WOMEN: In real life, something like that makes us terrified. Our adrenaline starts pumping. Our blood is booming loud in our ears. We have to do everything to keep breathing because it is now shallow.

In this moment: Women know we have limited options — Fight with sarcasm or yelling, Flight — run out crying and lose the respect we’ve worked so hard to earn, and Freeze — doing nothing, and just letting it happen.

In this moment MEN have violated our SAFETY. Bottom line: If a Man gets upset with a Woman = HE wins.


Let’s go back to Fantasy Land — Why didn’t Commissioner Reagan say anything? (A) It didn’t occur to him as not safe (see above) and (B) It looked like she already had it handled, and stepping in would be insulting.

MEN: What you don’t know is that this kind of incident is mellow in comparison to when we are touched, asked out (over and over and over), given gifts when we barely know each other, or violated in even worse ways that I am not going to describe here.

MEN: I’m sorry you didn’t know. I’m sorry about the your news feed is flooded with #MeToo and that your whole life has gone by and you had no idea.

I’m sorry that you didn’t know and I need you to be our Hero.

This begins with asking, listening, and believing. There are already plenty of articles online like this one, this one, this one, and this one.

But do your own research.
Ask us. Listen. Believe.
“When was the last time you were worried about your physical safety?” *
“Is there anything I do that creeps you out?”
“Do you ever wish I stood up for you?”
“What makes you feel safe?”
“How can I help?”

WOMEN: Speak up, tell them. Find your voice.


Women — This is a love letter for you:

I assert that most of the Women reading this article have an experience of MOST or ALL men being dangerous.

It certainly used to be true for me. I didn’t trust men for very good and valid reasons.

What I know is that MOST Men are Heroes. Most Men are Sheepdogs protecting the Herd (Especially Frank, Danny, and Jamie Reagan). There are only a few Wolves, and the Wolves ruin it for everyone.

I am so sorry about the Unhealthy Men, and Unhealthy People who attack your innocence. It happens. It is real. It is valid. I am so sorry.

And, If you are walking around the world feeling anything less than safe around Men, I offer you The Queen’s Code curriculum. It is possible to empower yourself, empower your voice, and get what you need.

I started my journey as an adult as a Battered Wife, continually choosing Men who are dangerous Wolves. I figured when I started studying Men that I would have to lower my standards, pretzel myself, and change who I am.

What I have found to be true is my standards are HIGHER, I demand more, tolerate less, and I do it in a way that empowers both of us.

Safety is possible, and you deserve to feel safe.


Men — I am sorry you didn’t know. I’m sorry you’ve been treated like a Wolf when you are a Sheepdog. Please forgive yourself for all of the times when you were an accidental Wolf. Please forgive yourself for not knowing how to solve the problem, so you took no action.

And, I need you to step up your game.

+ forgive yourself for not knowing better and not already doing better.

You are already compelled to protect us — just do it out loud.

The solution can be something simple as, “Dudes, this is not cool. Let’s cherish women,” a statement that you have ready at the moment you witness something like what happened to Detective Baker (or worse).

Thank you for being a Sheepdog.

Thank you for being our Hero.

Love, Christine


*Footnote: Scroll Down to “Connection and Safety.” Listen the whole way.

Me Fucking Too.

Cw: sexual assault

Sophia Akiko is a queer POC writer and educator based in Seattle, Washington.

This is not going to be a kind post.

When I see a social media “movement” started by rich white women who have systematically devalued and dehumanized trans/mentally ill/poor/black/undocumented immigrants/sex workers/PoC/LGBT/genderfluid/gender non-conforming folks, who have spoken over the most vulnerable, who have done nothing in the face of rampant and unforgiving racism, transphobia, xenophobia, genocide,who are abusers themselves and get lauded as the face(s) of (WHITE) feminism, who still get money, who still get a voice, who are, yet again, taking the voices of others to supplement their “movements” while doing nothing, while coating themselves in money and luxuries most will never have, I don’t see myself.

I know many don’t either.

I have told my story so many times, sobbed, screamed, begged for help at hospitals, university, in public, in private — to be stonewalled by well-meaning white people who asked me what I “could have done differently” at the hospital after my assault, or “nice” white fraternity boys who “politely decline” free seminars on sexual assault awareness and then wear tank-tops that promote reproductive violence as a “joke” at parties, at the university where men who commit rape and sexual assault can intimidate survivors in broad daylight and have nothing be done about it.

As a queer survivor, as a survivor of color, one of the hardest things I have learned is that there is no solution in answering to an institution — because they are innately governed by whiteness, power, the binary.

This dialogue does not represent me nor what I went through.

I have answered before and I will answer again.

Now is not my time to answer, but I have never been silent — speaking of which —

Your being alive is a testimony of the utmost perseverance and survival. Your being alive is an act of bravery. Your being alive is enough.


To share/amplify something you’ve seen on facebook, just email nonwhiteworks@gmail.com (subject: found on facebook) after getting the Original Poster’s permission.

How to Listen to Women When They Share Their Stories of Sexual Assault

More on sexual assault:

Men: Our Silence Will Not Save Us

We must decide how to deal with the predators in our midst too

melmagazine.com

“If You’re A Good Guy, You Can’t Possibly Be A Rapist”

Two sociologists on why that idea is dangerous — and lets men pretend they haven’t committed a crime

melmagazine.com

Empathy is not enough: Thoughts on #MeToo

A really sad and frustrating thing about all the #MeToo posts is that inevitably, the perpetrators remain silent and anonymous. Even when, in many cases, we ALL know their names.

Today I’ve seen people calling for abusers, harassers and rapists to out themselves. I’ve seen suggestions that men ask questions like “did I?” to open up discussion about consent. I have my own views on outing known abusers, and this is something I’ve thought about a lot.

While all of these approaches have some merit, the elephant in the room remains: Consent, and the lack of respect, understanding or even awareness of what consent means to some (perhaps even most?) men. Full understanding of consent is not taught; or at the very least, we have not taught it effectively.

In the minds of men and boys who are failed in this way, consent becomes another porous border in a world characterised by them. Disrespect or disregard for consent is absolutely commonplace — it is the subject of cheap jokes and toxic folk wisdom; its routine violation produces only the smallest of cultural gestures in response. The merest of shrugs. “Locker room talk.” “Boys will be boys.” This normalization of abuse is so harmful. The tide of #MeToo hashtags appearing in my feed today — from nearly every woman I know — feels shameful. A heavy thing to admit, to even think about. But think about it we must.

Men are first introduced to the concept of consent at the height of their teenage years, raging with hormonal impulses, enmeshed in a hideously Darwinian race to sexual ‘maturity’ with other, equally confused young men. Mistakes made and lessons left unlearned in this horrible context are almost impossible to fix. How do you redeem a rapist? It’s too late. And the consequences for their victims are life-shattering. We are failing our young men and our young women, and the results are brutalising — literally.

Which is not to transfer blame to the parents, educators and mass media — men make a choice to rape, or lie to themselves about having made that choice. Both are reprehensible. But to pretend the problem is unsolvable is not good enough.

This day of #MeToo posts has me questioning myself, too — asking if I have ever been the one who tore up that fragile contract between two people… consent, denoting mutual respect, denoting empathy, denoting acknowledged and shared humanity.

The thought that my actions could have been experienced as abuse by another person is almost too horrific to contemplate — but the fact I have to ask the question of myself shows how utterly precarious and complicated any man’s understanding of consent can be. It is something we must all understand better. It is also something about which anyone with any ethics cannot continue to lie to themselves, and something which anyone who claims to be an ally to their wives, mothers, friends, sisters and daughters cannot afford to ignore.

As men, we all need to ask ourselves these questions, and try to better teach our sons. We have a duty to believe those brave enough to come forward. The system, the law, the procedures for justice around rape and abuse are woefully inefficient. We HAVE to be on the side of the victim when this happens, no matter who the alleged perpetrator is. There is no other option that isn’t inhumane and irresponsible.

31% of young women aged 18–24 report having experienced sexual abuse in childhood. That’s a third of the women you know — your mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, friends.

Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police. Because they know the outcomes are pathetically inadequate.

Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence. It’s not a problem of a few bad apples — rape is commonplace, it is utterly normalised in our culture.

Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. So the percentage of false accusations brought to police is 3% of 15%, That’s absolutely minuscule. (Source: Rape Crisis)

The system is statistically stacked in favour of the rapist or abuser. So ethically, you give the accuser the benefit of the doubt. Every time. It’s the very least you can do — along with carefully examining your own attitudes and behaviour.

Extending love to every single person posting today, and those too angry or bitter or hurt to speak.

You are believed. You are loved. We are listening.

Bram E. Gieben, Glasgow, October 2017

My Me Too

Author’s note: This is what I posted on Facebook.


I’ve been trying to avoid Facebook and posting through my emo moodswing of the century, and get back to posting memes and hilarious shit for posterity (I’m starting to feel more like “me” again) but today I had to wait at the rental car place so I scrolled down the ol’ newsfeed and saw something awesome.

#metoo

I will be the first person to advocate for sharing your story. Having the ability to make others feel the way you did in a moment, having others willing to listen to you because you’ve piqued their curiousity, storytelling is a strong platform for ideology changes, so use it as much as you can (if you want to). People only know what they’ve lived through. By just listening, you can live a million lives and you soon become a shell of your former self in the best way possible, understanding that you know very little about the world. Keep sharing and letting people live your life for a moment. And listen to others so you can understand the same.

With that, I’ll share two of my more memorable situations, just for contrast:

When I was 16, I had a summer job. I gave a ride to a 45 year old male coworker who had a daughter a little bit older than me (he lived close to me, his wife had the car that day, something or other). As I was dropping him off at work, he said he had to confess something to me. I gave him the “sure go ahead” nod. His smile widened and his eyes gazed up at the ceiling. He told me how pretty I was. He told me how much he daydreamed about fingering me. He asked if I had ever been eaten out. And if I ever gave him a chance, how much he would make sure his time with me was special. There was a silence. A long, long silence. I had never been so brazenly hit on in my life, and still to this day no one has ever been so verbally forward. I ended up trying to laugh it off and do my best to let him know I wasn’t interested. Luckily, he understood my discomfort and asked me to please never tell anyone he said this. He got out of the car and we never spoke of it again.

They don’t teach “how to reject a man who could be your dad from sexual advances” in high schools.

____

When I was 21 (I’m 27 now), I went to a picnic with a large group of people, got decently drunk and decided to take a nap in the park in the middle of the field right next to where we were all eating. It was still daylight, I put down a blanket and closed my eyes. I was woken up about an hour or two later by a guy (someone from the party that I didn’t know) on top of me touching me “down there” outside of my clothes. I was frozen. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. I literally couldn’t yell for help because my entire body locked up in fear. This went on for another minute with him touching other parts, working to unbutton my pants before some stranger ran up to the guy and threw him off of me. He told him to get the fuck out of here, he helped me up and made sure I got home okay by driving me back home with a friend. To whoever that stranger was, I think of him often.

I walked away from that thinking “At least I didn’t get raped. At least I’m still alive.” Because that’s what you become grateful for after being sexually assaulted.

____

It’s a strange feeling to be paralyzed by fear. To not have any control to even just raise your hand to signal “no”, let alone have the strength to fight back. Couldn’t speak, couldn’t make any sort of noise. I couldn’t do anything but lay there and let it happen, not knowing what the guy would do next.

Afterward, I told myself it was my fault for getting drunk in the first place. Drank a lot after to get the thought of being violated out of my head. How fucked up is that?

I suppose I understand how guys don’t think this happens very often, because no one likes to talk about it. There is a lot of shame that goes with it. For me, it’s not so much because I’m embarrassed, but because I have to relive the thought of not being able to fight back. Everyone’s different, though.

On the other side, I get really upset when I hear of/from (the very few) girls who consentingly hook up with someone, and then say (jokingly or not) that they were taken advantage of because they regret what they had done in the morning. Claiming that after a consensual act waters down the severity of actual sexual assaults and can destroy someone’s reputation.

I ask from either side to please be cautious in what you do or say, especially when there’s alcohol involved. There is a very huge line between choice and not choice. Drinking dwindles that. If you are so lucky [read: priveleged] to get a choice, then own your actions.

People are gonna feel how they feel, say what they’re gonna say, and there will always be unseen victims. Unconvicted perpetrators. Unheard stories. And fabricated lies. Such is life.

I hope everyone does their best to be a good person, I know we slip up from time to time, we’re only human, but really sometimes it’s as easy as not violating someone else. Or not making false claims.

If you are someone who has committed a sexual assault, we all deserve second chances. I know I’ve been given about 17 just in the last year. Take it as lesson and strive to change your ways. I understand the guilt and pain we go through having to live with a mistake like that every single day. We feel like monsters, but we’re not. Know that I’ll forgive you if you’re willing to better yourself for the rest of your life.

Feel free to DM me if you need to talk about anything.

Thanks for reading.

With love & awareness,
~Jess

France looks into on-the-spot fines for sexual harassment

Adapted from a story by The Washington Post’s Rick Noack.

Two European countries are pushing ahead or have already passed laws that give police officers more leeway to punish harassers immediately.

  • Finland introduced on-the-spot fines last year.
  • France is considering passing similar legislation next year, although the level of penalties there is still unclear. The fines would be one component of a broader crackdown on sexual violence and harassment, proposed by the country’s equality minister, Marlène Schiappa.

However, this new option for victims of sexual harassment has people wondering:

Such fines could ensure swift punishment, but would they also relegate sexual harassment to the status of a mundane violation like speeding or illegal parking, as some critics argue?

Spurred by the Weinstein scandal

Schiappa’s proposals had already been discussed for weeks but gained new momentum after sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein resulted in the global #MeToo social media campaign over the weekend. Victims of sexual harassment from across the globe shared their experiences with other users online, and a similar hashtag quickly gained traction in France.

“It’s completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law,” Schiappa said in an interview on Monday with RTL, a French radio station.

Legislators are expected to debate her proposals, which are currently being written by five MPs and include on-the-spot fines. A law could be passed next year. French President Emmanuel Macron has indicated that he is willing to mobilize additional community police officers to enforce the policy.

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Questions and critics

Whereas on-the-spot fines could send a message to perpetrators that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, critics wonder how police officers would draw a line between flirting and harassment in cases that are less clear.

“We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street,” the minister said.

If a stranger talked to a woman “10, 20 centimeters from your face” or asked “for your number 17 times,” then a fine would be appropriate, Schiappa said.

How it works in Finland

Johanna Niemi, a law and gender studies professor at Finland’s University of Turku, emphasized that there was support for the policy in Finland.

“It works the same way as ticketing for traffic violations — the police gives the perpetrator a ticket and he pays it. If he does not pay, we have an efficient enforcement system that picks up the fine from your salary,” Niemi said.

Suspects can reportedly both be fined on the scene — for instance if officers witnessed the sexual harassment — or later on, if an officer finds a witness account to be trustworthy.

If suspects believe they were unfairly fined, they can challenge the decisions in a court. Victims of sexual harassment are also still able to press criminal charges, even if suspects were already fined.

“It is better than nothing,” Niemi said.

So far, it is unclear to what extent the proposed French law will borrow from the Finnish approach.

#MeToo, #balancetonporc, #yotambien: women around the world fight back at harassment

#QuellaVoltaChe: Asia Argento launched an Italian version of #MeToo. Image: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Beatrice Di Caro


The allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have prompted women around the world to share experiences of sexual harassment and assault on social media to end a culture of silence.

It began when the actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet on the 15th of October with the hashtag #MeToo.

That initial tweet has motivated thousands of women to share their stories of catcalling, harassment, assault and rape, often in the workplace. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

Actresses such as Patricia Arquette, Viola Davis, Debra Messing and many more shared the tweet and hashtag. The movement also prompted men to share their own stories of assault, with actor Javier Muñoz’s tweet going viral.

The online campaign has amassed thousands of tweets and stories and has now expanded to various other countries and languages. French women have started tweeting with the hashtag #balancetonporc — literally meaning “snitch out your pig”, with journalist Sandra Muller asking French women to tell their stories of sexual harassment or assault at the workplace.This campaign has had such an effect that France is considering putting fines on catcalling.

Sandra Muller’s tweet:

The Italian actress Asia Argento launched the Italian equivalent of #MeToo: #QuellaVoltaChe, meaning “that time when…”. She posted a tweet explaining how a director exposed himself when she was only sixteen years old. The tweet has since motivated Italian women to share their stories as well.

Women in Italy have been sharing tweets about issues they have had to deal with when reporting sexual assault to the police, such as this woman: “#thattimewhen I reported it and they told me: ‘Madam, are you sure? You know that reporting it makes it a big deal?’ and afterwards nothing happened.”

Finally, the latest version of #MeToo is a direct translation in Spanish: #YoTambien. Lawyer Estefanía Palomino‏ shared the spanish version of Alyssa Milano’s tweet: “#yotambien Si todas las mujeres que han sido sexualmente acosadas escribieran “yo también”, podríamos dar una idea del problema.”

This Spanish professor sums up the overall feeling being shared by women all over the world: “#MeToo #YoTambien I have been harassed many times. I didn’t know what to do. It became normal. I stayed silent. Not anymore. We are many. We are strong.”

Harassment is one of many factors that contribute to a gender gap in the workplace. The economic gap between men and women won’t close for another 170 years, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report.


Originally published at www.weforum.org.