Taylor Swift just won a court case against a DJ for groping her. She sued him for a symbolic $1 to show girls that they can stand up for themselves and it makes me feel regretful that a few years ago I didn’t.
I’m sharing my own story, not because it will fill words but to let other woman know they should speak up and it can happen to you too.
A few years ago on a flight, I sat next to what seemed like a nice guy, a father from Canada and we got talking as the plane took off. After a few hours I tried to get some sleep only to be woken up a while later to the loud voices of men standing in the galley near me (I was sitting in a bulkhead seat). It was my ‘friend’ that was sitting next to me (he was sitting on the window and I on the aisle) and the guy from across the aisle. They were clearly drunk and later told me had taken some sort of pill to help them relax or sleep. I use the word ‘friend’ cause that’s what I thought he was. What started off as a friendly guy who I spoke with on the plane turned into one that was very inappropriate with me. Harassment and assault doesn’t always have to come from people you don’t know.
I politely asked my ‘friend’ and the other guy if they could be a bit quieter as they were very loud and this was in the middle of the night. I’m not sure why an airline staff member didn’t tell them either. My friend drunkenly made his way to me laughing and then put his arm around me and said “I told him (referring to the other guy) what you did for a living, but don’t worry I’m not going to hit on you“ as he slipped his arm down my chest. I tried to remain firm but still polite (I don’t know why) and removed his arm and told him he was crossing a line. When your job is a Sexologist, sometimes you feel as though you can handle these situations better. As though because of the job we get this type of situation more, so we should be able to deal with it. Just because I talk about sex for a living does not mean that unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact or approaches should be accepted, something it took me a while to stand up against.
But things didn’t stop there. During the night both men either side of me, still drinking proceeded to harass me. My ‘friend’ next to me would put his arm around me and try and snuggle me into him which would result in me pushing him off me. He would also continually try to touch my chest. I woke up at one stage to the other guy standing over me, legs either side of my seat. I got more aggressive this time but then started to feel trapped and overwhelmed.
It was a full flight and there was not one seat available on the entire plane. A female flight attendant came over to me and asked if I was ok. Whilst this sounds like a sweet and responsible gesture, this was in front of the two men and I felt awkward to say no and was scared for them to hear me complain in case they got aggressive or defensive. It’s not like there are so many places to go on a full plane. I said yes through gritted teeth but tried to give her that look of, “No I’m not ok.”
I put my eye shades on and cried. I was confused. I am this confident Sexologist, right? I can take two drunk men? But I felt so overwhelmed.
In the morning when I woke up, both men were passed to the point that I thought my ‘friend’ next to me wasn’t breathing due to his head position. Probably goes to show exactly the cocktail of what they were taking the night before. I snapped. I opened my eyes and realised that what had happened was wrong. I wish this Nikki was the Nikki that was around the night before. I got out of my seat, found the nearest flight attendant and asked to speak to them up the front of the plane and away from these men in case they woke up.
I was annoyed that they could see what was going on but did nothing. I was annoyed that a flight attendant asked me if I was ok but should have removed me from being 5 cm from both men before she asked me that question. I was annoyed that they had left out bottles of hard booze and hadn’t cut off these clearly drunk men off earlier. I was pissed off. But I think I was more pissed off at myself for not having had spoken up about it when it was happening. I realised how hard it can be sometimes to speak up because at the moment thoughts went through my head of “I don’t want to be trouble, I don’t want to make a scene, I don’t’ want to be that girl”. I hated that I felt that way but at the same it also gave me empathy for other women who also had felt the same. And it’s why I feel the Taylor Swift case it so important and I’m so happy she saw this through. It’s not about the money but standing up for women’s rights to protect themselves and to live their lives these days without being sexually harassed. We need to learn that situations like this are not ok no matter what your job is or where you are.
What made the situation worse for me was that nothing was done by the airline but give me a bottle of champagne in my seat when back sitting next to both men who had woken up. This only made things more awkward as they started to realise I was upset. They tried to talk to me but I felt to angry. You can’t assault someone the night before and then just apologise for it later. It doesn’t take away what happened and I’m not going to use their alcohol abuse as an excuse.
I later rang and complained to the airline. I was first pissed off that I had paid for that horrid flight which felt like torture, but also felt that they needed to review their policies around situation like this. I even offered my service free of charge to help look over sexual harassment procedures in their training manual. I was offered points and that was it and even got attitude from the person I was complaining too. It just made things worse. It also made me start to question if I had been over reacting and if I should have been complaining at all.
I was told by someone in the aviation industry that I could have had both men arrested upon landing. I felt silly again reverting back to that feeling of ‘not wanting to be that girl’ but why not? If they had continued to touch and harass me throughout the flight, why was I the one that felt guilty? I was also annoyed this option wasn’t given to me by airline staff when I did complain.
This is not a pity party blog post but a plea to women out there to stand up for themselves no matter how silly they might feel. No one should touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable or harassed and you should speak up.
Strong confident woman get harassed too and just because you might feel like you can take it does not mean you have to.
I now stand up for myself that much more. Last year I put some posts out on my Facebook page telling people to be respectful as I was getting sexually explicit messages from me. I could have excused their behaviours as a side effect of my profession, but why should I be harassed like this just because I educate people about sex? Recently after receiving numerous messages from a guy that were telling me exactly what he wanted to do to me sexually, I decided to tell him off. My friend’s thought I was wasting my time in my pursuit for him to be more respectful for woman, but I was pleasantly surprised when he messaged me back apologises and telling me I was right. His actions were disrespectful.
Respect for woman is two fold. First of all it’s women standing up for themselves and second of all it’s teaching this generation of men what it is to be respectful to women. And as a woman, you can do both.