I was sexually harassed. So now what?

Time: Friday, 5/31, at approximately 11:15pm.

Wearing: slightly big leather jacket (not form-fitting), business pants and low heels. No makeup, ponytail, earrings.

I wasn’t even halfway down the block from a sports/billiards bar (had just stepped into a slightly more shadowed part of the street) when I encountered three men. One was just starting up his food cart while talking to two others who were against the wall. These two will be Guy 1 and Guy 2. Just as I passed the food cart to get to the road:

Guy 1 pushes off the wall and stands in front of me. Guy 2 stands to my left. Food cart guy is presumedly busy with his food cart.

Guy 1: Whoa whoa not so fast. It’s my birthday. Give me a hug. Holds his arms out.

Me: Sorry, no thanks. Tries to keep walking

Guy 1: Raises his arms, sidesteps and blocks me. Nah don’t be like that. Give me a hug. It’s my birthday!

Guy 2: Wow I’m so sorry haha. He’s only like that because it’s his birthday…Just give him a hug and he’ll leave you alone.

Me: Really, no. I don’t hug. I need to go. Tries to keep walking.

Guy 1: Raises arms, sidesteps and blocks me again

Guy 2: No seriously you won’t hug him? We’ll call the police if you don’t hug him.

Me: Oh okay you’ll call the police? 

Guy 2: No no no we won’t but c’mon just give him a hug and—

Me: I DON’T GIVE HUGS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. GOODBYE.

Guy 1: Oh all right all right….I bow down to you. Bends over facing away from me.

Guy 1 squeezes and feels up my calf as I walk by.

I had never felt so physically defenseless in my entire life.

This was the shortened version. What absolutely kills me is that down to the last line, I had to say this all in a somewhat friendly tone. Why? I didn’t want to sound threatening because I didn’t want to provoke them into 1. Thinking I was being “feisty” and persisting, 2. Producing a weapon, and/or 3. Exerting force to get that hug.

Do you know what else kills me?

- I wore exactly what I had worn to work that day. I was not dressed to attract guys. I was dressed to be professional.

- Both guys were in their upper 20’s or 30’s and outweighed me. They would more appropriately be described as men, but I don’t assign to them the sense of responsibility and maturity that often distinguishes men from boys/guys.

- Even when I wanted nothing more than to curb stomp them in the nuts, I couldn’t because: I was outnumbered, they were bigger, they might’ve had a weapon and I only had an umbrella.

- Food cart guy never intervened. I couldn’t tell if he was blocking the way behind me or just watching (or not paying attention at all). There were also bouncers for the bar less than halfway down the block. I’m not blaming them, but I AM wondering why no one on this street saw it happen (or if they did, said nothing).

- Due to the various reasons and potential of weapons listed above, I couldn’t even scream.

It’s taken me over a week to write about this because I found myself shaking and feeling sick to my stomach every time I thought about it. It’s sickening that sexual harassment not only has its immediate impact, but that it also imparts psychological ramifications that last well beyond the time of occurrence. 

It’s also taken me this long because I’ve been asking myself whether I’m overreacting. Praise God that he only stroked my calf. It could’ve been so much worse, and unfortunately, other girls definitely endure worse. But the fact that the norm of safety has degenerated to this level is so unbelievably wrong. 

There’s a chance that some readers, male and female alike, will ridicule me for blowing up something of such “triviality.”Call me overly cynical, but the sad reality is that the mounting conversation regarding #yesallwomen, rape culture, the Isla Vista shootings, feminism and all things related can often be dismissed as the screeching of over-sensitive women, or an unrelenting complaint that’s heard but not answered.

To me, this entire mess (and I’m not excluding the harassment and stigma against males) is a particularly dangerous and far-reaching manifestation of sin. And since sin is the ultimate root, I don’t believe this particular issue will ever be completely resolved in our lifetime—until the day Jesus comes. (Ask me if you want to know why)

However, this isn’t to say that we should resign ourselves to the unchangeable. I didn’t write this post for pity. On the contrary, I’m asking you to actively strive for change. I don’t know exactly what that looks like for you, or even for me. But please don’t just read this or the #yesallwomen account and walk away with sympathy and nothing else. 

To guys and girls alike, I urge you to pray for the victims and the perpetrators. Pray for those who are enduring worse, and pray for the safety of those who will. (If you don’t pray, feel free to ask me why I think this is something worth doing.)

What else? Guys, you can educate the bros who practice this behavior on why it’s wrong. You can walk a girl home even if it’s only starting to get dark and it’s inconvenient. You can change the conversational landscape in which you/other guys view, talk about, respond to or expect from girls. Thanks to those who already do these things, and there are plenty other methods out there, but we really appreciate it.

Girls: until fundamental change occurs, maybe we can be more cautious with ourselves and each other. Continue to educate those unaware on why this is an issue and why it matters. But also, act on offense using defense: walk in groups; dress modestly (not because it’s our fault, but because it could alleviate or prevent temptation—though obviously, may not work in all situations); support each other; learn karate, etc.

It feels ridiculous, but I’m buying pepper spray because the thought of walking down the street alone after 10pm makes my stomach churn. Until Jesus comes again, I hope we can make our way to a reality in which we don’t have to buy our safety just because we’re girls.

I didn’t mean for this to be so long, but thanks for reading.

Contrast

Then

Last year on graduation day, I was coming out of a two-month battle with my department, five-month stint of extreme overwork and stress (even by previous standards), year-long struggle with unwanted change and a two-year conflict that has left repercussions almost to this day. I was the one kid who didn’t want to leave school and saw graduation as the final death knell. This is an example of one of the happier photos I took that day (and fyi, that smile is completely forced).

image

My careful four-year planning had completely come undone, and I felt like an utter failure for leaving. Alongside with that, I was pretty sure I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

Now

Last week, God fulfilled a childhood dream (literally right off my bucket list if I had one) in a crazy, unbelievable way.

For our company party, I sang with a live band (2 solo songs in our 10-song set) and backup singers (backup singers!!!) for the 700+ employees that attended. We were pretty dressed up, staged in the ballroom of a swanky hotel and having the time of our lives dancing on stage. Afterwards and into the next day, we were living in this surreal celebrity-status life where people I didn’t know were approaching/emailing us about the performance. There’s been talk of requesting the band for weddings and gigs. I don’t even…

It’s a silly dream of performing live on stage and feeling famous once in my lifetime, but God made that ridiculous dream happen. And it wouldn’t have happened unless I had graduated early, right before they created this new position when they don’t usually hire new grads in this department. And this was the first time they got a band together since 25 years prior, because last week was a major anniversary for the firm. This was also the first time anyone at work has seen what I really act like, and gave exposure in a way I could never accomplish. In conclusion, I pretty much had one of the best nights of my life — and it wouldn’t have happened if I were still in school.

Everything isn’t all better now. My life is not sunshine and rainbows because I got to sing on stage. But this is God, someone who plans and knows my life to an extent that I couldn’t even imagine and loves me to the point of fulfilling this silly childhood wish. This is one of the many ways He has shown validation of the decision I made to graduate early, validation that He shouldn’t have to extend but did anyway. 

He is so good.

I want a cabin.

Someday, it’d be unbelievably nice to have my own cabin somewhere remote and a distant from everyone else. An hour or so away from people, city lights, noise and regular life. There would be no television, laptop or radio (do people even use those anymore?). Just me and my blankets, my pillows and chai tea (autumn), hot chocolate (winter), honey lemon tea (spring), milk green tea (summer), my open space and my journal. Quiet.

I’d wake up and spend hours that I currently feel like I don’t have, but would have, reading the Word and praying and trying to figure out what my faith consists of. Reading books upon books by a fire (or the open windows if it’s hot) with nature as the only music. Finally cooking on my own and being able to mull over my thoughts uninterrupted. Singing or playing violin at any time of day, because no one would be close enough to hear me (and it’d be too hard to get a piano in there). Stare at the stars trying to imagine heaven and then sleep, sleep, sleep.

After a week, I would pack everything up and return to real life—but this time, I’d be different. I’d have left the weight behind in my cabin and returned restored, ready to face the next wave with confidence. I’d do this at the start of every season and, in this rest, see the wearily scattered pieces of me coming together again.

That’d be nice.

Sometimes, the hardest part about coming back is being back.

Randomly stuck in my head at work today, and I had no clue what it was until my sister relieved my agony after I got home. Sweet bridge.

Simultaneously, also had this completely unrelated song stuck in my head and I don’t recall hearing it before ever.

Both were uploaded to youtube in February 2013. Weirddd!

Worship today.

The worship team of my current church is pretty stellar. Their voices are amazing, the blend is perfect, harmony is on point (they did “And Can It Be” a cappella today and it was incredible), and basically the sound is pristine. Today was no different, and there were some particularly high/soaring notes involved in today’s songs.

But I think what really made praise so awesome today (in addition to the One that we were praising, obviously) were the kids. The kids in our congregation all sit on one side, and there were all these tiny voices shout-singing the words to the songs. I don’t know if they believed what they were singing, or what some of the words meant. But they were singing their hearts out completely off-key and it was so perfect in its imperfection. 

I don’t think I’m doing it justice in my explanation, but hearing those kids really brought home praise for me. How we sing and live with our flaws and brokenness (not that I mean to compare their voices to the fall of man…) and it’d ordinarily be considered terrible, but how it becomes beautiful only because our song and lives are directed to God. And how this perfect and beautiful God hears our atrocious singing and not only accepts it, but loves it. Loves us. Wow.

"but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."

                                                                                           Matthew 19:14

I wrote a poem today

It was odd, since I’m usually dozing off during the morning commute. But the poem just sprang up, line by line, all on its own in my head. So I jotted it down on my phone and put it away…but kept taking it out again because my mind kept fixing lines and trying to make it better.

It’s been so long since I’ve been creative.

I can’t believe poetry used to flow so naturally all the time, and now it was absolutely befuddling as to where it had come from. It reminded me of when I used to doodle on the piano and compose songs, when I had symphonies playing in my head and bought staff paper notebooks to get it all out, when I was more…creative.

I think trying to keep up with adult life has made me forget how to be me again. Or maybe this is me now - not really musical, not really imaginative, just completing day after day. I hope not.

it’s amazing how each new stage of your life involves “discovering who you really are,” when you’d think you learned that already…

Work Milestone (slightly)

I have officially been working at [insert company name] for one month. During this month, I have learned that:

- God has been preparing me every single little step of the way, from editing my life away at The Tartan to the stress-management skills after getting an assignment dump to organizing all those things with IFA (which is 80% of what I talked about in my interviews here). He is truly amazing.

- Although my commute is long, it has only emphasized the awesomeness of my parents and has deepened my appreciation for them immensely. Seriously. Parents endure so much for their kids, even if we think they don’t/haven’t from time to time

- I’m young enough in comparison to everyone else that my co-worker actually called me “chip” on my first day. Not sure what to make of this.

- Our CEO CHEWS HIS JOLLY RANCHERS WITHOUT SUCKING ON THEM FIRST. It’s painful to hear….I can’t even imagine how his teeth feel.

- My tendency to nap anytime/anywhere is still going strong, especially on the subway.

One month down…….who knows how many more to go.

Today was my first day of work.

I am………………………exhausted.

Praise God for the job and for the fact that I didn’t get fired or make a terrible fool out of myself and that I can do this again tomorrow.

But oh, so mind-numbingly tired.

Changes

They are happening, I think. 

If you’d asked me a few months ago how I would react when a fervent prayer had been answered, I would’ve answered with “ecstatic happiness, uncontainable excitement, more e-adjectives.” But now the prayer has been answered, and all I feel is…numb. Like it doesn’t affect that much of my life, or that I’ve finally been able to realize that my life/identity/being does not exist within the context of that prayer. And after a while, when the numbness has worn away, I feel praise — but not the near-frantic joy I expected. I think this is a good thing.

If the current situation I’m in now had occurred a few months ago, or even one month ago, I think I would have been freaking out a lot more than I am now. It seems like God (for some unknown reason) has decided to drop things that I’d been praying for into my lap one after another, only they kind of canceled each other out because they’re arriving at the same time. I used to agonize over the possibility of missed chances and plot out the path I might never take. But now that stress has been contained within one day (as opposed to the previous week or so), so I think that is good too.

If conversations that I guess might happen were to occur a few months ago, I might be able to delude myself into thinking that I am capable of always being the bigger, “better” person. I think I would have actually fooled myself for a while, until my subsequent thoughts proved otherwise. But now I see that I cannot be the bigger person, because I have not reached that point of growth yet. I realize that I need to, and why it’s a good thing, but why I don’t want to. So the self revelation is good, but the reluctance is not.

Maybe I’m just not thinking hard enough about these things, or maybe I’m growing up. Maybe God is changing me.