The entire situation of being sexually assaulted abroad was very uncomfortable, and I honestly didn't know what to do.
CN: Sexual Assault
Women are speaking out about sexual assault in Hollywood, and people are finally listening instead of the usual victim blaming and shaming. It seems like the majority of support is being given to the survivors — and it’s about damn time!
From the "Me Too" campaign to offending politicians and celebrities being called out and punished, it feels like society's views on rape culture are shifting in a positive way.
The latest A-lister to be called out is comic Louis C.K., who admits to masturbating in front of unwilling women. In his public statement, he reveals, “I learned later in life, too late, that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”
According to RAINN, 29% of sexual assault survivors were traveling to and from work, school, or the store when they were assaulted. 15% of sexual assaults happen in a public place.
When I was recently sexually assaulted, I was traveling abroad — visiting Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Malaysia is a conservative, Muslim state. Most of the women I saw were fully covered, if not wearing a hijab. To show respect, I dressed modestly while visiting this beautiful country — but that didn’t deter my assailant.
I'd been wandering the city looking for a highly recommended restaurant when a homeless man approached me asking for money. I said no, apologized, and tried to keep moving. Then he asked me for a kiss.
One thing I learned about Southeast Asia is that there is currently an influx of African sex workers. So, this wasn't my first time a man propositioned me. I replied "no" very sternly, but before I could get away, he pulled out his penis. I started walking away, but I could hear him following me, making kissy noises. When I stopped at a red light, he was still behind me.
I got my pepper spray ready and told myself that if he approached me again, I was gonna spray his ass.
The light turned green, and he proceeded to walk in front of me. Before I knew it, he was gone.
The entire situation was very uncomfortable, and I honestly didn't know what to do. I was stunned, relieved, and confused — so many emotions were running through me. More than anything, I was glad the situation didn’t escalate. In the end, I was happy that I not only had the confidence but the tools to defend myself.
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Now, I tell solo female travelers to invest in some pepper spray. I’d also say take a self-defense class. I’ve taken multiple self-defense classes, and I’m confident if put in a physical situation that I’d be able to defend myself. Additionally, when traveling abroad, it’s important to keep in mind that the laws are different and could work against you.
In this situation, I was able to keep my cool. I took a few deep breaths and decided that if things escalated, I’d defend myself. I am in no way excusing what this man did to me, nor do I wish to downplay the situation. It was traumatic. It left me feeling weak and victimized.
The decision to share my sexual assault story publically was a difficult one. I’m a strong, Black, independent woman with an opinion on almost everything.
But after being victimized, I was scared and speechless.
In the weeks following my assault, I heard allegation after allegation of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and the political world. The more I heard these women tell their stories, the more confident I became about sharing mine. I share my story to encourage others to break the code of silence, as well as to shed some light on different types of sexual assault and how this behavior can leave survivors feeling ashamed and victimized.
It’s important to look at why it's been acceptable in the past to excuse these inexcusable acts of violence. Like most things, education begins at home, with our children. We need to reprogram ourselves so that we teach our children it's not okay to exhibit aggressive behavior. We need to teach them to feel empowered enough to say "no" when given a choice to hug people. No one should be forced to do anything with their body that makes them uncomfortable. We have to teach kids at an early age that consent matters.
More than anything, I want to start a dialogue about rape culture — but one that doesn’t just involve celebrities or politicians. Everyday stories of harassment and assault are just as important and deserve the same amount of attention and investigation.