Yesterday, I got to deal with some unwanted advances and touch from a guy who’d just moved into
the neighborhood. He left when I told him to, but I’ve filed a police report about it. I wasn’t hurt, but I’m still angry, a little stomach-achy and a bit jumpier than usual.
Today, I logged on to find this article about why sexual harassment shouldn’t be reported circulating on my social media outlets. After what happened yesterday, my first reaction was utter disgust.
However, once that passed, I found out that the author has Asperger’s syndrome, and some people were attributing the piece to her being on the spectrum. For the record, I’m not pointing fingers at any of my friends, since they’re not the ones who were doing it.
The tendency to reduce a person’s opinions to their neurology is dangerous. It’s important to remember that no one lives in a vacuum. While a person’s wiring may have an impact on how they form opinions, their difficulties aren’t the sole reason for how they view the world.
People on the spectrum do tend to have a hard time reading social cues, and that may be part of why this particular author feels the degree of helplessness that she seems to, but there’s more to it. Apparently, she also grew up in an abusive household and ended up in an abusive marriage. Whatever she was taught there was probably reinforced by some of her experiences in other environments.
I guess this is turning into my mantra: Person first, label later. (I might turn that into a t-shirt or something.)
There’s also the fact our culture views sexual harassment as ‘normal’ and anyone presenting as female just has to learn how to deal with it. Many people off the spectrum feel this way simply because that’s all they were taught.
I also see a lot of parallels between views about disability and those presented in this article. Unless we’re expressly taught, preferably from a young age, that we do deserve the same respect “normal” people get, we become resigned to injustices throughout our lives.
Like most complicated issues, I wish there was a simple solution for this problem. It’s one thing to say, “We must all teach our children to respect everyone, including themselves”, but quite another to get enough people to do it to get some real change going.
Although instilling respect in future generations is a great thing, we also need to start taking more responsibility for advocating for ourselves, and standing up for others who can’t do it for themselves yet.
Part of that self advocacy is getting the authorities involved when we need to. Even if it may be unlikely that anything will happen to the offender, the facts you stepped forward, got the incident recorded and stood up for yourself are vital.
If these types of under-reported incidences build up enough, attention will be drawn to them. Hopefully, that attention will spawn some real world change for the better. At the very least, you may find some empowerment.
I’d also suggest sharing your stories. Regardless of why you were mistreated, there’s power in telling others about what you went through. Odds are, you’ll find others who went through something similar, and you can help each other heal.
None of this is easy to do. It takes courage, determination, vigilance and patience. It also causes stress, but if we can find enough common ground to stand together, no one will need to bear the load alone.