A strong grab up the back of my dress from a stranger in a crowded bar, who left so quickly I never even got to see his face. Just the back of his head as he pushed through the crowd, followed by a group of men in crisp button downs and jeans. I spun around and shouted after him - some sort of expletive I can’t remember. My words wilted in the heat of my anger and the blur of so many voices and the booms of loud music. He was feet away from me, but moving fast, and as I took a step after him, with anger flooded across my face, one of the men following him turned to me. He pressed his arm against my chest, backing me up, and blurted “woah woah woah, let it go, we’re leaving.”
In an instant, his defender turned, and they were gone.
Gone to enjoy their night. Gone to grab another piece of flesh in another bar. Gone to prop each other up or ignore each other’s shortcomings or pretend they didn’t see it happen, even though they’d probably destroy the guy who grabbed their sister or disrespected their mom. Gone to move on with their lives, probably to get married and make babies and say things like, “My daughter deserves respect.”
Sadly, having my underwear and bare skin grabbed by a stranger falls into the “not the worst of it” category in the countless “me, toos” you’ve been seeing across social media. So many people get it so much worse. So much so, that we fear speaking out when it’s a “minor offense”. Catcalls, sneaky touches, accidental brushing against our bodies. We stay silent, because we are trained to tell ourselves, “so many people get it so much worse.” We don’t want to complain. We are strong. We are resilient. We don’t want to diminish the struggles of women who have hit rock bottom at the hands of their abusers. We don’t want to call out our friends for committing “minor offenses”, because hey, they’re “not the worst of it.”
But they are the beginning of it.
Five years later, I still look back at that moment and cringe. A stranger’s dirty, bare hand grabbing at my skin, clutching at my underwear. Me, fumbling with my frustration, rolling my eyes with my friends, trying to “let it go”, fighting back tears of anger, confusion, and embarrassment. Me thinking, “I should’ve worn jeans” - on a 90 degree night in Texas. Me, taking blame in my own mind. And no, this wasn’t the only time.
Your body is yours. It is no one else’s to claim, to touch, to make you feel powerless within. You are not to be blamed for the ignorance and disrespect of others. Let’s rise above it. Let’s NOT “let it go”. Let’s end it where it begins, speak up for the abused, and speak out against the abuser across the full spectrum of disrespect and ignorance. Support people and businesses who see that sexuality is not a bargaining chip, a power play, or a mechanism for control. Find your voice, and use it.
COO & Executive Brand Curator