Writing this piece is not an easy decision to make. I have thought long and hard about what to say and how to say it. Some may think that my story is not important, or that it’s just a small problem that can easily be brushed aside. But quite a long time has passed and I still think about the “incident” whenever my mind wanders, so I think that I need to let it all out in some way.
It’s been several months since this happened, the details of that day is getting blurry but the feelings are still clear to me to this day. That day a guy touched my body without my consent. I didn’t know if it was sexual harassment or not, and I have never considered myself an attractive type either. So I wasn’t certain of the situation and I didn’t know how to react and I didn’t understand a lot of things that happened to me that day. But I did know that it shook me so much that I ended up crying in the bathroom while trying to wrap my head around the fact that a guy had just touched my thigh without my permission. Even writing about it now still seemed surreal to me.
I have always had a small issue with people getting too close to me. I don’t like people I’m not familiar with touching me, even women and girls. And to have a guy I just met that day caressing my thigh, brushing his hands “accidentally” on my breast, and touching my neck that way, left me frozen.
I regret now not lashing out at him and gave him the slap he deserved. But at that time, I could only sit there like an idiot staring at the screen of my laptop with a dead brain that could not think of a way to escape. I tried to say that I wasn’t comfortable with him touching me, but he brushed it off as a joke and even asked me if I liked it.
I didn’t dare to be more assertive, because a lot of “what ifs” popped in my head. That guy was a significant figure in the company because he had the authority to certify whether or not our products are fit to be exported. He audits our factory for international certification. I was afraid it would affect his decision if I lashed out at him. And he wasn’t even from Indonesia.
So I stayed quiet and frozen, my mind so blank I couldn’t think of a single thing. However, when his hand started to go higher up my thigh, I mustered up the courage and ran away with some sort of excuse. Even as I was fleeing him, I felt that final slap on my butt. I ran to the toilet and called my boss. I didn’t intend to cry, but when I relayed what happened to my boss, I got choked up and cried my heart out in that toilet stall.
For the rest of that day, I avoided him at all cost, hiding myself in other’s working space while trying to do my work. Some people around me told me not to make a big deal out of it and to keep it to myself.
After that, I become even more wary of guys getting to close to me, even if they’re my friends. Whenever I heard someone talking in a similar way as that guy, I automatically turned to see and make sure that it was not him. I think I’m a bit traumatized since that incident. Even writing it now depresses me. I know many people have suffered more than I did, and maybe to some this doesn’t even count as a sexual harassment, but I feel the need to write this and tell people what I feel.
After I had a chance to calm myself and think it through, I knew I should have been braver that day. I should have given him a piece of my mind. I shouldn’t have frozen on the spot and I should’ve done more. And I also don’t think that keeping it to myself is the right thing to do.
So, I decided to write this piece. I want to let my feelings out, I want to share what I have experienced no matter how insignificant it is. I want to shout it to the world that this thing can happen to me, to you, to your families, siblings, friends, acquaintance. I used to think that this would never happen to me, but it did. So let’s be more aware of the problem of sexual harassment and not be afraid to talk about it. Then we won’t regret not doing things that we should’ve done.
Eugenia Lupita is a 24-year-old (soon to be 25) who wishes to make a difference but doesn’t know how. She loves musicals, crocheting, writing random things, and singing her heart out in the bathroom.