Speak up, even if your voice shakes
I was finishing up my morning workout at the gym when he spotted me.
It wasn’t normal, the way his eyes lingered and gazed up and down my body. I looked at the floor and focused on my workout. He approached me and I felt panicky and breathless, trying to brush away concern. There were plenty of options for him being in my area of the gym, I reasoned.
“When will you be done?” he asked.
I exhaled relief, thinking he just wanted to use the machine I was on. Calm down, I thought. What’s gotten into you this morning?
“Oh, just one more set.” I mumbled, out of breath.
But then he continued.
“Well, I’m just going to sit right here and watch you.”
He sat about five feet from me, locked eyes on my body; the way he starred made my skin feel hot and sticky. I wanted to disappear.
Then said something that isn’t worth repeating because it doesn’t add to the point of the story. But those hate-filled words disguised as a compliment paralyzed me with fear.
I said nothing.
I ended my workout early, smiled, and told him to have a nice day. I walked calmly to the lockeroom that buzzed with chatter from the regulars. The tears didn’t come until I was safely in the shower, my crying muffled.
I wasn’t upset because he was a jerk. I wasn’t really bothered by his sexual comment.
I cried because I let him and didn’t say a word. I felt so weak. In that moment, I brushed all concern aside and let him make me afraid. It crushed me to think about how weak I was, because I’ve worked hard on becoming strong. Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I use my voice?
Why don’t we speak up in these situations?
A friend shared a similar story with me yesterday. Her boss’s boss asked her to run by his house, alone with him. Then, he offered her wine and asked her if she’d had sex before. She described the story in the details many of you can unfortunately relate to that get to the heart of the feminine response to unwanted sexual advances:
I had a bad feeling, but I didn’t want to make things awkward by speaking up.
I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I continued on as planned.
It really wasn’t a big deal, so I just ignored it.
Then, when he tried to kiss her after the inappropriate question she didn’t focus on his scumbag actions, but rather found fault with herself. See if you can relate:
It’s my fault, I shouldn’t be here.
Why didn’t I tell him upfront I wasn’t coming over?
If he really made me that uncomfortable, why didn’t I leave or run away?
I’ve read and heard hundreds of these stories over the last few years. There’s the girl who said her youth pastor gave her a very sensual massage. The woman who shared that her husband’s best friend lit candles and stood shirtless when she dropped off his kids. The friend who stood frozen when men haggled her on the street and called her dirty names.
This topic is a difficult one for me to write about because I’ve spoken up before and been told I was ‘overreacting’ only to discover I was right about him. But it’s so hard to trust ourselves, isn’t it? It’s easier to remain silent and hope we aren’t seeing that someone we’re supposed to trust is in fact dangerous.
We tend to blame ourselves, because that’s the easy road. It’s easier to say we tempted him, maybe didn’t dress modestly enough, whatever your excuse may be and find fault with ourselves. Because the alternative is acknowledging we live in a world where we do have to be on guard, where no matter how respectable he is or how modestly we dress, safety is an illusion.
Maybe you are reading this and thinking I don’t understand your exact story and believe you contributed to his actions. I can’t change your mind, but I can promise you one thing: it wasn’t your fault. You can’t control the thoughts or actions of others. And it’s time to stop believing that we can.
But what we can do is stand together and learn to trust ourselves. Give yourself grace when you remain silent, like I had to do that morning in the gym.
You aren’t crazy, nor are you imagining things. Trust yourself and speak up, even if your voice shakes.
What’s your experience? Have you found the courage to speak up or have you remained silent? I’d love to hear stories because we need to support each other.
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- Are You Ignoring God?
- The Poisonous Victim Mentality
- You’re Not Important
- Life as a MRS: Learning about Grace and the Laundromat