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Calling Out Sexual Harassment as a Woman With a Disability

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I am about to be honest with you. I am about to share the experiences I have had with sexual harassment. I want to share these with you to demonstrate that if you had a similar experience, you are not alone, and to encourage you to do something about it.

As a woman with a physical disability, I didn’t expect sexual harassment to be a concern in my life, but I quickly began to realize I was an easy target for men to pick on, as they’d get away with the things they did.

One time when I was in a public place, a man touched my back; another squeezed my hand and one even texted nasty comments. I also remember one saying “take off your gloves. I want to see your hands” in front of people in an education setting; I was not even in a relationship with them. I did not permit them to do or say that, they just did for some odd reason. It was sickening. These men were outwardly loved and popular, so I was afraid if I complained about them, everyone would hate me. I felt like they were controlling and manipulative at times. I remember feeling very uncomfortable. To them I was nothing more than an object of sex for them to hang on their dirty walls.

I know many women who would have done what I did — kept it a little secret, buried it in the darkest depths of their heart and slowly pushed the matter away. We just assume no one is going to listen. Even if we did complain, we thought no one would care. However, it is always there and it comes back to you now and then. If you do not confront them about it, they may do it to someone else.

I think there should be a more comfortable space to have these types of conversations without feeling judged or insecure. And action must be taken. The ugly truth is that often everyone thinks these guys are nice people. But to the victim, their behavior is distinctly dangerous to both their physical and mental health. Sexual harassment is the mean little things and big things individuals do that target others and and impose discomfort and fear on them. It often affects people’s lives to the point where they can’t sleep at night.

We are not taught how to deal with such situations in high school and university, where we are often forced to work with someone who is clearly doing the wrong thing. Moreover, we may be too scared to confront situations because if we did, we may lose our job. The predator makes us feel like the fault is ours when it is clearly not.

We need to work on strategies to develop internal strength so when we experience these situations again, we can call them out straight away. Be fearless and speak up for yourselves. If you do not act on it, these things can really get to you later in life. Fight for the freedom to express yourself.

Getty image by Zinkevych.

Originally published: February 17, 2019
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