Lovin Malta recently asked readers to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment in Malta. The below is a selection of responses that highlights the harsh reality behind it and the lasting affect that it can have on a person.
“It makes me feel unsafe and dirty”
Sexual harassment is definitely a problem. It is something I have personally experienced from a very young age and it seems to only get worse. From what seem like “harmless” catcalls to men following me around and strangers touching me inappropriately on buses and in clubs… it makes me feel unsafe and dirty. When I was younger I was taught to perceive it as something positive, but how it makes me feel taught me otherwise. It is not okay for anyone to sexualise a 12 year old nor is it okay to think one has to touch me just because I’m dancing in a club.
I have shared my experiences with several friends who have shared theirs. Most of us have shared similar experiences or even been together when they happened. It gives me reassurance that I’m not the only one, and I’m not the bad guy either.
Yes, the #MeToo movement has impacted me. I am glad people are speaking up and calling out sexual haressers and harassment. The more people are vocal about the issue , the better chance we have of putting an end to these painful experiences.
“He took me to the back room and ripped off my shirt”
When I was fifteen years old, my male hairdresser sexually assaulted me in his salon after a haircut. Prior to this assault he made me watch porn and asked me if I liked it. I was embarrassed, young, naive and didn’t know what to reply, so I didn’t. This is when he took me to the back room and ripped off my shirt and bent me over a counter, lifting up my skirt and taking my virginity. I didn’t tell a soul until I was 22 years old. I always blamed myself for it. Maybe my shirt was too low cut (I have big breasts), maybe I should have said no more clearly, maybe I wanted it. Sometimes I still question myself and if the fault was his or if I had something to do with it too.
I have spoken about it a little, but probably not enough. I haven’t healed and I’m sure it affects my life and relationships and my sexuality. A lot of cases related to sexual harassment unfortunately are kept hidden, and victims are often told it’s not a big deal and not to blow things out of proportion.
“She kept pressuring me to have sex, as if I owed her something”
I think a minute minority of men actively harass women – but a more specific definition of harassment would be useful considering not every individual considers the same things to constitute harassment.
By the 2018 definition I definitely have on more than one occasion, but whilst I think the solution is to educate on both fronts, I feel like the emphasis should be on teaching people to grow from their experiences not dwell on them. And that’s what any competent therapist does when faced with a patient with trauma.
Going into more detail, probably the most ironic occasion (because the girl constantly posts online about men being pigs etc etc) was in Paceville. I knew shes was interested in me, and one time she was drunk and greeted me with a hug around my neck, pressing herself against me, but wouldn’t let go and trying to kiss me even though I was trying to get her off me (I was in a relationship at the time). I obviously wasn’t going to use force because I’d instantly get messed up being seen acting aggressively towards a woman, even if she was technically harassing me.
Another time I went over to a girls’ house after Paceville, we were both intoxicated but I was definitely worse off on that particular night (not that it makes any difference). We had not been intimate at any point in the night as she was simply a friend, and I simply ended up there because I didn’t want her to go home alone at 5am. Long story short we got into bed and she kept pressuring me to have sex, as if I owed her something for her allowing me to sleep at her place and I just allowed her to do whatever while I lay there.
Those are the occassions I can think of from the top of my head, but I think the most important take away is that I was uncomfortable for a few moments then moved on. If everything that made me uncomfortable lead me to derail my whole life then I’d never get anywhere.
Off topic but with regards to catcalling – I was brought up with the mantra of “sticks and stones” and was bullied all through primary and secondary in spite of me achieving quite a lot for myself.
“I felt like I had brought it on myself”
I do believe that sexual harassment is a problem here in Malta, because I know too many people who have experienced it in some form or other.
I was taken advantage of in a car by a friend. I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone about it. I felt I needed to keep silent because I felt ashamed, and I felt like I had brought it on myself.
“Unfortunately, this is a problem most women face”
Every woman I know has experienced harassment at some point.
From catcalling to groping, forcing themselves on me and online harassment. It made me feel humiliated, angry, confused and for a long time, bitter towards men in general even I though I know now that not all men are like that. I never discussed my experiences in great detail, but when I mentioned some experiences to close male friends, I’ve realised how they do not think that this is a big deal because they’ve never gone through it so they can’t understand what a victim of harassment goes through.
Through the #MeToo movement, I realised that unfortunately this is a problem most women face. It also made me aware that harassment is not something that women should put up with, like I used to think when I was younger, but that it is wrong and we need to educate society that harassment should not be tolerable in any way or form.
“I have too many of these stories to count”
At age 12, a taxi driver offered me cash to go for a ride to ‘see St. Paul’s Bay’. When I was around 18, I was followed, then chased by a guy who grabbed my shoulder with one hand while holding his privates with the other. I screamed and the policeman guarding the house of a minister just walked in the other direction (he was only 15 metres away). Fortunately, the guy ran off but not before telling me to eff off. I have too many of these stories to count.
I don’t feel uncomfortable talking about it but was frequently not believed, even by family and closest girlfriends (and I’m not known to make up stories or exaggerate). The weirdest conversation I’ve ever had was with one French woman of a similar age who claimed she’d never suffered any harassment whatsoever. I was incredulous.
I don’t know much about the #MeToo movement, but it’s about bloody time that something like this exists.