The recent Harvey Weinstein scandal has resonated with women everywhere. It’s been amazing to see so many brave women come out in support of each other. It’s also amazing to see sexual assault and harassment in general being brought to light and denounced more so than ever. As an actress myself, I can put myself in their shoes. I can easily see how an unknown coming out against someone that powerful would be scary and probably ruin the chance of a career. I understand why so many remained silent until now, when there were enough others to support them. Men like Harvey have been using their power for many years to manipulate and abuse women. The “casting couch” term is one we have all heard of for a reason. But it isn’t just Weinstein-there are thousands more like him who have not been exposed. This issue stretches beyond the glitz of the movie industry. All across the world, every day, in every field of work from teaching to nursing or working at Walmart, women face sexual misconduct by men. I’m hoping the recent publicity is a huge step forward in empowering those who experience it to report it without being disregarded.
Though many of us are lucky enough to have never been raped or sexually assaulted, almost every woman I know can think of a time she has been sexually harassed. In my many years living in NYC i’ve seen it all. I have witnessed men openly masterbating while looking at women on the subway, men stopping in their paths to turn around and stare at womens asses as they walk by, boners rubbed on women during crowded rush hour trains, the annoying cat calls and more. Just trying to go about the basic daily tasks that men do with no issue can become obstacles for us. The fact that our country elected a man who openly stated he “grabs women by the pussy” shows just how complacent many are to this issue.
While watching the recent stories unfold, I thought about the many times i’ve had men grab my ass while working as a celebrity impersonator at events. I also thought about three experiences this year with sexual harassment that have left me feeling disgusted, dirty and victimized. While I understand these are minimal compared to the trauma some people have suffered, I wanted to share my stories. And FYI for those ignorant people who say women are “asking for it” by dressing provocatively, during each of these incidents I was practically in a burka. It’s sad that we even feel the need to explain what we were wearing. Clothing choice is never an excuse for sexual misconduct.
I recently stopped shopping at the deli of my local grocery store, because of an employee who made sexual remarks every time I shopped there. I would ask for a pound of turkey and he would respond with “you are so pretty, why don’t you have kids” or “why are you not on a date right now beautiful” “have a great night sexy” “you look so hot today”. Eventually I just started buying the pre packaged stuff to avoid that creep ball.
Another day, while walking to the subway a man got extremely close to me, put his hand on my arm and muttered “you are so gorgeous” in a super gross, disturbing, Hannibal Lecter way. I kept walking, pulled my arm away and said “DON’T TOUCH ME.” As I proceeded down the subway stairs he followed me and stood at the top of the steps screaming “I WILL FUCKING POUND YOU AND LAY YOU OUT, YOU STUPID WHITE BITCH.” I jumped on my train which had just pulled into the station, totally freaked out that this guy was going to follow me. It shocked me that any man would think he can sexually touch a woman on the street and think she would like or appreciate it.
My third experience this year was the one that left me feeling the most violated. One afternoon around 6PM, I was coming home from the gym and took my usual route home. As I exited the subway station I noticed a dude standing near the entrance doing what looked like pretending to be talking on a cell phone. As I passed him he took the phone away from his ear and loudly said “That was a great blow job you gave me last night.” My jaw dropped and at first I thought- he can’t possibly be talking to me. I turned my head and he turned the other direction and kept pretending to be on the phone. I got home that night and kept thinking about how gross what he had said made me feel. Although I had never seen this man in my life, his words alone made me feel violated. I felt nervous for weeks afterward thinking I would have to come into contact with him again during my commute. A couple of months passed and I eventually did see him again.
He was standing in the exact same spot as before and said the exact same thing as I walked by. “That was a great blow job you gave me last night.” Though I had tried to disregard the first incident thinking “well maybe he really wasn’t talking to me” or “maybe he was actually on the phone”, this time it was direct, loud and clear he WAS talking to me. Instead of keeping walking and ignoring him, I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around. I was not going to just walk home and feel violated for another few weeks until he did this again. At a safe distance, I grabbed my cell phone and responded “WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME? WHY DON’T YOU SAY THAT AGAIN ON CAMERA”. He looked shocked and shielded his face from me and started to run away. I think he realized he had picked the wrong banana from the bunch to mess with. I was able to snap several photos of this guy before he turned around and ran at me, trying to knock the cell phone out of my hands. I managed to hold onto it, but he had knocked my hand so hard that part of my thumb nail had ripped off and was bleeding. I bolted into the nearest store for safety as I called the police, and the pervert started running away again, up the street. A few of the drug dealers on the corner who had seen what went down started chasing him. Using my photos, the cops drove around the area to try to find him but couldn’t. They said that they got several calls about sexual harassment in the area in the following hours. I was told if I saw him again to make sure I called them back right away. I was still shaking by the time I got home that day. I felt slightly traumatized by the whole thing and my thumb was killing me. Mostly though, I felt proud of myself for standing up to this pervert and not ignoring him again. I imagine that he stood there many days saying the same thing to multiple women. I have never seen that man again in this neighborhood. I hope that by reporting him and confronting him, I possibly saved multiple other women from having to feel as violated as I did.
I hope that we are able to continue the “Me Too” movement, which is empowering so many people like myself to share their stories. We need to harness this moment to help make a stronger effort to protect and prevent all forms of sexual abuse and harassment from happening in the future.