Monday I woke up to an onslaught of messages pasted across social media: “Me too.”
If you had taken a break from social media on Sunday like myself, you spent part of the morning googling “me too” and learning about the movement spreading across the internet. On Sunday afternoon, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
The movement is in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, a film producer who has been accused by several women for sexual misconduct. Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to speak up, joining a social media club that no one wants to be a part of but way too many people already hold a membership card.
As I read these repeated words and accompanying experiences, I recalled my own “me too” stories of being “harmlessly” catcalled on streets from New York City to Salt Lake City, being groped on the metro in Russia, and later the same thing happening at a club in Salt Lake. I pulled these experiences out of the back of mind, and I related to the victims, but I still wasn’t sure I was going to join yet another social media campaign.
Then I went running on a surprisingly warm October evening.
Running is my alone time. It’s my thinking time. And I’ve run all over Provo. On my longest runs while training for my half marathons, I’ve practically run from Springville to the mouth of Provo Canyon. Today my sanctuary — my running space — was tainted.
Running is my alone time. It’s my thinking time. And I’ve run all over Provo. Today my sanctuary — my running space — was tainted.
As I ran north up State Street in South Provo, I passed a man in his car. He was staring and called something to me, but I glared at him like I usually do to catcallers to let them know I see them and they can’t victimize me. I continued running until that car pulled in front of me on the sidewalk. I moved around the car and picked up my pace, scanning the horizon for a crowd of people, glancing over my shoulder as I retreated. Then I saw him open his car door and start running after me. Nearly 100 feet ahead was a car wash with three people washing their cars. When I turned and looked back at him, I saw him hide behind a bush, watching what I would do next.
And I was mad.
I was mad that men like him are the reason I have my head on a swivel while I run, constantly glancing over my shoulder, taking notes on license plates that slow down around me. I’m mad that in a few minutes he could make me feel like his prey. I’m mad that I can’t even run on a busy street, in the middle of broad daylight without needing to take caution.
But I also have multiple reasons to be grateful.
First, I’m safe. Second, there are still good Samaritans in the world. When the man saw I wasn’t taking a hidden path or moving away from the crowd, he slinked back to his car, drove slowly past me and took a left (down a road that rounds back to where I was — have I mentioned I’ve run these roads a lot?). At the same time my predator sulked away, a defender pulled to the side of the road and asked, “Are you OK?” With his baby seated in the back, one valiant man who had watched this interchange pulled over and stayed with me to make sure I was safe. There are good men and women in the world. I appreciate that man and others who stand to defend.
And thank you to the voices that haven’t been quiet. As I debated adding my voice earlier today, so many of you already took a stand in a simple, reverent manner with just two words. So I add my voice, because one voice does something — it makes us more aware. Maybe one day we’ll find a solution — an answer I don’t have yet — but it starts with the one, just like my defender.
So here’s my voice. Unfortunately, it happens to me too.
As an important side note, I did call the Provo Police Department to report this misconduct. I unfortunately wasn’t able to get the license plate on the car and I didn’t have many details about my attacker. However, local police departments will always look into reports on suspicious behavior, so always report harassment.