In the era of #MeToo, speaking up is crucial. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment, assault or threats, contact the EMU Title IX office at 734.487.3617 or visit their website, .
This article is not an attack, complaint or anything of the like against Eastern Michigan’s Department of Housing and Residence Life. Any mention of them is merely a relaying of the fact that I was a resident assistant in 2016 when the harassment occurred.
Two years ago this semester, I was sexually harassed in my role as resident assistant and I didn't speak up until the winter semester because I was afraid.
I know that I am not the only college girl to have realized that she was sexually harassed, to have had to come to grips with it. I'm also not the first girl to have remained silent about it.
There are so many reasons to possibly remain silent after a jarring experience like that. For me, I was silent because, as a RA, I thought that it meant I was bad at my job. I was trained to help others in my situation, but not to help myself, and so I thought that I had done everything wrong.
When I was sexually harassed, I was just trying to be the best resident adviser that I could be. I went into the situation thinking about what my training taught me in terms of helping my resident with his problems. I wasn't thinking about my discomfort over the fact that the male resident wanted to meet privately in his room, that he tried to insist that I sit on the bed, that the room was dark, that he was trying to make me vulnerable.
When I was sexually harassed, I was only trying to help. Knowing that, and knowing that my resident took advantage of my job description, that he took advantage of my kindness and willingness to help and accommodate his wants and needs still makes my stomach clench and my head ache.
When I was sexually harassed, my mind blanked as to what I should do, what I could do. While he was telling me how he liked my butt, that I should let him touch it, all while he sat way too close with his hand on my knee, despite never asking for my permission to touch me, despite me moving his hand, my mind was blank of any RA training that might apply to this situation.
I was only thinking about how afraid I was, how much bigger than me he was, how he was blocking the door. In those moments, I was only thinking about how afraid I was.
I know that I'm not the only one who has felt that way, and I will definitely not be the last girl who feels that way. So to the girls who have been sexually harassed or more: I see you. You did nothing wrong, and you didn't deserve that treatment. You deserve to feel safe and comfortable. You deserve to have your boundaries respected, and I am so sorry that they weren't. That being said, also please know:
You don't have to be afraid to speak up.
I know that being told to speak up is maybe the least helpful thing right now. I know it's one of those "easier said than done" things. So take your time. I told my supervisor the day after my situation happened, but I didn't actually speak up until four months later, when I realized that I could do something about it, when I realized that no one would help me like I could help myself, when I realized that I wasn't alone--both in terms of support and with being sexually harassed.
It can be daunting, but you do have resources. If you were sexually harassed, especially on campus, you have options. You can visit the Title IX office, or file a report online. You can talk to your RA or dorm staff, and they can either help you file an incident report, or they can alert their higher ups to handle it. There are so many routes that you can take to reclaiming your comfort, and there are so many people who can help you in your pursuit of that.
I know that in the moment, and even for a while afterwards, you can feel powerless and hopeless. I know that there will be people asking you why you didn't walk away, or why you didn't speak up sooner. I know that there will be moments where you will doubt your own experience. And I know that there will be frustration over it all, be it because you thought you could handle this alone, or because whatever steps you take to reclaim yourself seem like they're in vain.
Just know, from one person to another: you're not alone. I want to hear your voice, because you are worth so much more than your harasser treated you. You don't deserve to look at your feet if you cross paths with them.
While speaking up may be the hardest thing you do in the aftermath of sexual harassment or more, I can tell you that it is worthwhile. It will help you keep your head high, and even if you can't look your harasser in the eyes, having your head high and your gaze ahead is just as brave and as valid.
We are not what our harassers have reduced us to. We are more, and don't forget it.