To My Fellow (Teenage) Girls: Follow Your Gut
Trigger Warning: Mention of Sexual Assault
As I’m lying languidly on my bed, my mother warns me of a recently reported local sexual assault case. The perpetrator is accused of molesting two young women in 2021. She tells me that if I ever feel like I’m being molested, my instincts are probably correct.
I jump out of bed and search the internet for the article. As it appears, the victims worked with the perpetrator at the Hong Kong women’s football team, claiming in a police statement to be assaulted “many times” by the perpetrator. In a different article, a coach was found not guilty in 2017 of indecent assault under the pretence of performing a massage on a female athlete in her junior year. Junior year. I suddenly remember an incident.
After a netball game in my junior year, I enter a train car by myself, wearing a short skirt. Beside me stands a middle-aged man, and as the train moves, I feel his hand brush against my thigh. The train is packed, so I excuse the act, but I notice the increased frequencies of touches that become more obvious, and when I shuffle away from him, he follows. It should be obvious that it’s malicious, but despite my fear and embarrassment, I say nothing. “What if he didn’t mean to?” I shakily wonder.
Although I understand that men are also victims of sexual assault, it angers me to see women, especially young women, constantly objectified and exploited for our bodies by certain men. In order to satisfy their sexual desires, perpetrators heinously take advantage of our supposed naivety and reticence. In Hong Kong, about 40% of 1,044 women surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment. That’s almost half. Imagine how much higher the number could be if the entire city was surveyed. In the United Kingdom, there is a call to the police every minute about domestic violence, and a woman is raped every 6 minutes. Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment of any sort, but less than ¼ report the incident.
Chauvinists might call me sensitive for writing an article about it (heck, boys at my school labelled us oversensitive when we called them out for their sexist jokes), but sexual assault, abuse, and harassment is more than an issue about feeling “uncomfortable”. In addition to physical injuries, it evokes emotional symptoms; 90% of women who experienced sexual assault displayed acute stress. The experience can turn into PTSD, and exacerbate existing health issues.
In hindsight, I’m pointlessly furious at the man for taking advantage of me. I want to command him to stop. I want to embarrass him by calling him out, and ask him to remove his hand. A selfish part of me wonders why someone didn’t notice and stop him. I want to tell my past self to follow her instincts, rather than let that fear overtake her, and to you. If you feel uncomfortable next to someone while travelling alone, move away if you can. If you can’t, use your voice, let people around you know what is happening. In turn, if you see someone who seems uncomfortable, pretend to be their friend and lead them away from the situation. Be the first to help them out.
Written by: Claire Lee
Edited by: Peggy Chen