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For centuries speaking about sexual harassment was taboo. The survivors expected to stay quiet and take what they received and be grateful for still being alive. When the #metoo stories started coming out, I was first shocked that nothing had been done, then I was angry that nothing had been done. I recalled the number of times I was catcalled, how many times a guy thought it was a compliment to slap my ass when I didn't even know who he was, how a girlfriend would tell me she'd take a bunch of shots so she couldn't remember what her  then boyfriend did to her that night. Anger replaced the feeling of hurt and shame.

That anger I had thinking about my experiences isn't an isolated anger. It's the anger felt by every single human who experienced harassment or abuse. When each news outlet broke for another person being accused. It was a sigh of relief, a sigh of relief for the women they assaulted in the past and a sigh of relief for the women they would not assault in the future. It was a weight being lifted off my shoulder for each one. There was this feeling of safety being reestablished. I can't speak for every survivor out there, but for myself who had her leg rubbed by too many old professors when this epidemic finally finally came to light in the way it did I felt this gush of relief. 

I know a lot of people are going to take the next side and say what about all those people who are falsely accused. And what if they didn't know it was not consensual or it's just culture to be that touchy. I'm calling BS on it. Why? Because survivors endure a lot after these experiences both mentally and physically and you don't fake that sort of trauma. With each assault a person loses a part of themselves, piece by piece until they're not whole anymore. They're broken, lost, and their self worth is contorted. Hell would have to freeze over before I accused someone for lying about being sexually assaulted.

So what can we do to help survivors? I think the most important thing to do is to believe them. Believe what they are saying. If someone is making them feel uncomfortable believe them, don't say they're overreacting.  Speak up when you see a coworker crossing the line with another fellow coworker. Speak up when you see someone clearly uncomfortable at the bar. Speak up when you see your friend feels uneasy being alone with their significant other. Offer your support. You don't have to say anything magical that'll fix everything. But just letting someone know you're there for them in any way that you can be does wonders. Be an ally with your actions, call your local, state and federal members in office voice your concerns, vote for candidates who will support survivors not shun them, push for every rape kit in police stations all over the country to be tested. 

Lastly, if you can donate and support Times Up Now . This is the legal defense fund which helps address and fight the systematic inequality women face in the workplace. This organization helps women from corporate leaders to federal employees to factory workers receive support as they battle against harassment and abuse in the workplace. Donations will be used to help victims of workplace sexual assault and harassment. 

We've only opened the box on this issue and have ways to go. But I'm hopeful and looking forward to bringing more positive change. 



Madeeha Syed