Raissa Leticia via unsplash.com

Any Lifetime Movie fans here?

I used to be a huge fan but thanks to Netflix I don’t dig it as much.

But the other day I was chilling by my parents (who still use cable) and came across a movie on Lifetime. (For the life of me I can’t recall the name of the movie).

It had a typical storyline — a young swimmer whose mother is also her coach meets the new swim coach who falls in love with the young swimmer.

After she decides she doesn’t want to jeopardize her relationship with her boyfriend and mother he stalks her and threatens to damage her reputation. She was stressed, uncomfortable and at her wits end.

Yet, she never told her mother — the one adult who probably could have brought some rationality to the saga.

And my first thought was:

this is what happens when parents don’t engender conversations and relationships with their children where they feel comfortable enough to share with them the trials and issues that affect them”.

Immediately, two instances came to mind where I had found myself in uncomfortable situations and never said anything to anyone because of fear.

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Speak up even when you’re uncomfortable. via Tasia Gonsalves-Barriero

Scenario #1

As a voracious reader, I would spend my afternoons from school at the public library devouring books. One day, a guy from the neighborhood popped in and sat beside me. I knew his face but we weren’t friendly.

Then I felt it: but my brain initially couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

This dude was rubbing on my thighs!

Talk about a strange sensation. I felt violated but refused to look at him while he did this evil act.

I was petrified, I could have said something, I should have said something, but I didn’t.

I simply got up and left.

Never told anyone but I’ve always been ashamed of myself that I never stood up to him and did something: slapped him, punched him, or done some other thing.

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Scenario #2

We had some family friends in the village who lived about 5 minutes away from us.

My grandmother had me go take something to the matriarch of the family.

When I got there, she wasn’t there, but one of her sons was. He’d always been a drinker and at this point, he was dabbling in drugs. I was about 16–17 at this point.

It’s a home I was accustomed to, so I had no problem going inside. He started talking to me and I felt uncomfortable but I didn’t know how to tell him how I felt.

He rubbed my hands while saying:

Tasia, you know you’re growing into a beautiful woman, do you know that?

He wouldn’t stop and yet I said nothing.

To this day I don’t remember if I responded to that particular comment or not, but I know what I didn’t do: I did not tell him to stop, I did not tell him I felt uncomfortable.

I eventually asked him to tell his mother I had stopped by and hightailed it out of there. I made sure to never be alone with him after that.

Too Much of a Good Upbringing

Over the years I realize that trying to be polite even in the face of discomfort is typical of many persons, especially women.

Shocked, I’m not and here’s why.

As children we are trained to be lady like and courteous and to always be polite to adults. Of course that extends to every other relationship or acquaintances.

We fear misunderstanding a simple act or we may not be sure how the abuser may react so we politely sit and allow the violation to continue.

At other times, you may not want to damage your friendship with someone. Or you don’t want to create discord or confusion.

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via Unsplash.com Ryan Moreno

Looking back, I now know that my two examples were instances of sexual harassment, but these are not topics that are not openly discussed in my local culture.

I still see the dude from scenario 1 from time to time and I always pretend like I don’t know him.

I’d like to muster up the courage to call him a coward and a pervert to his face one of these days, but I guess that will only happen when I’m daydreaming about all the things I should have said but didn’t.

The guy from scenario #2 is so hooked on drugs that he never knew who I was again.

Sadly, my fear of speaking up didn’t stop when I became an adult. I now have a voice yes, but things could have gone so differently if I had felt emboldened to speak up on various occasions.

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Eloise Ambusrely via unsplash.com

I will say this to you, if you ever find yourself in a situation that makes you worry or query or not feel safe speak up.

Make noise. Lots of it.

Let the one making you uncomfortable know that the act of encroaching on your space in not welcome.

And if you have kinds, encourage to respectfully speak up to you without fear. Don’t continue the bad tradition of children must be seen and not heard.

Although I can’t go back in time and tell those two fellas to go back where they came from, I am now more emboldened to stand up if anyone makes me uncomfortable in my own space.

Stand up and be counted ladies, don’t let fear keep you back!