“I wrote this not only because every story became a trigger, but because I don’t want to see my friends hurt anymore.”

When we created this platform, it is solely to give others a voice, for ideas to be heard, and for people to come together towards a solution. I have never once thought of using this platform to speak as myself.

However, circumstances have changed that, as I have realized that as someone that has co-founded this platform, someone that can hopefully reach people, and as a woman—I have to speak louder.

Sexual harassment or rape culture is an uncomfortable discussion. I absolutely hate that we still have to talk about this in 2020, but here we are.

#HijaAko spread like wildfire because of Kakie Pangilinan’s courage in using her own voice and platform. There are more women who have stepped forward to talk about their trauma, to call out the people responsible, and make others braver. People have spoken up in the past, and I know they are still hurting, especially that we’re still addressing this — that we still have to do this.

I wish I can say that I did not experience the trauma of harassment. I wish I can say that I know someone who is not a victim because sadly, every woman I have ever met has experienced catcalls, unwanted advances, or unwanted attention.

My experience was at work, while managing an event as part of a team in an advertising agency. I wore all black, sleeves up to my wrists. It was a year-ender event, and their entire staff, as guests, was present as they sat facing the stage.

I am part of the management of the agency that helped design and organize the event, and I walked around to make sure our team was doing alright. There were two of our client’s guests that kept staring. I was uncomfortable, but I kept working anyway.

While all the other did was stare, the other man who seemed to have a lot to drink approached me as I stepped outside to check on our supplier. He put his arms around me, as I was much shorter. He dragged me to his friends — as if introducing me as a new girlfriend. I still did not know his name.

I pulled away quickly. Our supplier asked if I was okay, I said I was. I ran to our hotel room, which was only a walk away (we had to stay overnight to set the stage and clean up), and cried.

At the time, I didn’t understand why I was upset. All he did was put his arm around me, but I felt scared and embarrassed. I hated that I felt embarrassed. I hated that I didn’t understand.

I went back after a few minutes and he wasn’t there anymore. I came to tell my friends what happened, they laughed it off — so maybe, I’ll laugh it off too, I thought. However, two years later, I still remember that fear vividly.

I know that there are others who have experienced much worse and I know that theirs is a trauma that is difficult to erase. I want to tell you my story too because I want everyone to see that even this is not okay. It is not flattering, it is disgusting.

We need safe spaces. We need people to think before they act. We need people to create more safe spaces for us, for people to be our allies. We need to shift how we build our workplaces, schools, and public areas. No one should wait for people to publicize their trauma for action to be created or for justice to be served.

We are looking for solutions to avoid any of this happening again. Teach your children consent, learn to look for signs, protect others from becoming victims themselves, speak out for others when they are silenced.

Enabling is just as terrible. Speak when a friend or a relative is in the wrong because the next time — the victim could be someone you know. Harassment comes in different forms, let’s learn about it. Let’s not make publicizing a trauma a resolution for action anymore.

Part of the solution is to learn, to understand, to listen, and act.

Right now, let’s continue to speak and hold accountability. Let’s be there for each other and be better.

I wrote this not only because every story became a trigger, but because I don’t want to see my friends hurt anymore.

There should be no more victims after this.

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Let us know the groups or individuals already working towards these, let us know existing policies if we’ve missed any, and discuss in the comments.

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