By now, I’m sure most of you have seen the #MeToo movement going viral all over social media.
What is #MeToo
(CNN) Two simple words became a rallying cry on Twitter to stand against sexual harassment and assault. “Me too.” Social media was flooded with messages Sunday, mostly from women, who tagged their profiles to indicate that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted
When the hashtag first started trending, I was relieved, believing I was one of the very rare few who didn’t have a story to share, who wasn’t able to tag herself as #MeToo….. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, that I did, in fact, have a story to share, a voice to be heard. But because of the blurred lines created by victim blaming and rape culture, I’d packed it away inside my head for the longest time because it was shameful and I thought I was to blame.
#MeToo… I have been a victim to and this is my story…..
I graduated from college at the end of 1992, with a British Confederation Of Health & Skin Care Therapy diploma and a Cidesco diploma in Somatology, as well as a bunch of other diplomas, including certification in sports massage, personal training and exercise teacher trainer. I landed a job almost immediately, at a prominent hotel in Cape Town, working as a personal trainer and therapist in their Health And Wellness Center.
I was 20 years old.
Young, naive and with stars in my eyes. The year was 1993, South Africa was just coming out of sanctions and the hotel I was working at was a destination for international sport stars, performing artists and business men. It was incredibly exciting as far as first jobs went. I got exposed to so many incredible people, sport stars, performing artists & so many more.
But, there was a dark side….
So many of these rich, relatively famous and powerful men, thought they had the right to have all access to me. On work premises. I saw more penises in the 8 months that I worked there than I’d ever seen in my life before. Men who got some cheap thrill out of flashing their junk at me, even when I’d explained to keep their underwear or swim shorts on for the sports massage. Men who got a thrill out of shoving their hands up my skirt, as I stood at the head of the therapy bed, during a treatment. Men who thought it was ok to try and grab my boobs or coerce me into giving them a “happy ending”, even after I’d repeatedly explained that this wasn’t that sort of establishment.
I was more than just ashamed, I was scared.
I had a client, who returned three times in the space of a week, for treatments with me, each time, leaving me a large tip. On his last appointment, alone with the client, in the health center, he tried to coerce me into giving him oral sex. I got scared. When I asked him to leave, he screamed at me that I was unprofessional and that he was going to report me.
I did complain.
To the management of the health center, which was privately owned, by a woman, and not owned by the hotel. They just laughed at me and said something along the lines of men being men and I was young and blonde and it was to be expected and I should just enjoy the tips.
I can’t tell you how many times I had to clean semen of the therapy bed after a treatment, when I’d leave a client alone to change and come back to tidy up, only to discover he’d masturbated on the bed. It was humiliating and it made me feel dirty.
I only lasted 8 months.
I couldn’t handle it, it made me feel sick, dirty and ashamed and for a very long time after I left, I avoided working in environments were I’d have male colleagues or clients, something about working with men after that, made me extremely uncomfortable, it made me feel threatened and insecure.
I was a trained professional but I felt like I was being treated as a rent-by-the-hour whore.
Sharing this was hard. I’m still not sure if I’ll even post it. I still feel hugely ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated by the months that I was exposed to that.
Sharing this feels somehow scary…. Like I’m afraid of some kind of backlash. I have to keep reminding myself, I did nothing wrong. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t like it. I set boundaries and they were ignored. I reported the behavior and was made to feel ridiculous, like I was overreacting.
Join the movement….
Share your #MeToo story, or just comment below with the #MeToo so that I know I’m not so alone, I’m not overreacting and this is a big deal.
I wrote this for me. I wrote this to be validated by you, to know that I’m not alone, to remind myself, I did nothing wrong, I wan’t asking for it and I’m not to blame. Please receive this post in with the intention it was intended.
My parents will probably read this….
And I’m sorry. I’m not even sure what I’m sorry for, for sharing this? For bringing shame? The secret shame? But I have to keep telling myself, I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t to blame, it’s not my fault.
We need to stop looking to victims to find a solution to these problems, we need to start holding the perpetrators accountable.
I’m also a mother now, a mother of two little girls, who will grow up to be women and who will face the same situations and I don’t want them to feel this shame, this secret shame!