Over the past week, the hashtag #MeToo went from a movement started by activist Tarana Burke over a decade ago to a viral tweet by actress Alyssa Milano to a resounding battle cry from women around the world.
Clearly, the horror isn’t limited to the confines of Hollywood. There are Harvey Weinsteins in different industries, different cities and, sadly, in many families.
Countless people—women and men—have turned to the internet to share their stories of sexual abuse and harassment, including those who have never spoken of their experiences.
Here are some, shared on Facebook and in messages sent to Lifestyle:
When I was 14, my cousin put his hand on my leg and kept it there. He gave me a knowing smirk, as if we shared a joke between us.
When I was 15, my first boyfriend thought it would be fine to shove me forcefully inside his mom’s bedroom. I only kissed him, but he took that as a sign we should go all the way.
When I was 16, me and my friends were running from school to cut classes when a car cruising slowly along the road blocked our path. The driver was staring at us hard and we realized he was sort of shaking something. Apparently it was his penis.
Meeting the Harveys of the world didn’t end there.
When I was 24, I woke up because somebody was touching me down there. It was the man I had been calling my stepdad.
I’ve been blamed years after for not speaking up. I’ve thought twice about this social media campaign, such was the shame. Never again. #MeToo —BB
This happened more than six years ago. I attended an event in Makati for work. Being in the PR industry, I think attending these parties is a great avenue to meet people and build relationships. As a rookie, I was excited and I had all the energy.
When one of my managers said she had to leave early, I told her I’d stay for another drink or two, since I saw a friend at the venue. He was with a group, and we all got along. I noticed that every time I’d get a drink at the bar, he would accompany me. I thought he was just being nice.
My brother said he would pick me up in Tiendesitas, Pasig, at around 10 p.m. I said goodbye to the gang and lined up for a cab (there was no Uber or Grab yet then).
He followed me and said he would accompany me until I got my ride. Again, I thought he was just being nice. When a cab arrived, I said thanks and got inside. He followed me inside. I was seated behind the cab driver, my body close to the door. He moved closer and started holding my hands. I didn’t understand what was going on. He was complimenting me, and the next thing I knew, he was asking me questions that were making me uncomfortable, like if I shaved or waxed down there.
I just wanted to get to Pasig as fast as possible. Since we were coming from Makati, the cab passed by the area of motels. He asked the cab driver to go inside one of them.
This is not how the night will end, I thought. I felt paralyzed, but I gathered all the strength I had, put my hand on the shoulder of the cab driver and said firmly, “Kuya, sa Tiendesitas mo lang ako ibaba at doon lamang.” I was lucky that the cab driver listened.
There was already panic in me, but I couldn’t seem to move. I wanted to get rid of him. I got out of the cab at Tiendesitas, but he was still following me. Luckily, the place was crowded because of an event at Silver City. I saw a friend and mouthed to her, “Help me.” She didn’t leave my side, and she started talking to him.
I was scrambling for my phone to ask where my brother was. My friend got her phone and started to talk to someone; the moment she hung up, she took my hand and said, “Your brother just called me, he’s waiting for you at Starbucks. Let me bring you to him.”
She pulled me, and we started walking really fast. The moment we arrived in front of Starbucks, I saw my brother’s car. She brought me there. I sat inside, closed the door and started crying.
The next day, I messaged the friend who introduced the guy to me. The friend’s reply? “It seemed like you wanted it, too.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I was amazed that my friendliness was mistaken for something else.
The universe was on my side that night. I leave it up to the heavens, whatever karma this guy will experience or has experienced since then. —Char, 33, PR practitioner
When no means no
Back in the mid- to late ’80s, I didn’t know any better. My fiancé then would grab my breast in public places. He thought he was being funny. I told him to stop many times, but men don’t always know when no means no.
Eventually, a huge fight ensued, to the point that I told his mom about it. Sounds ridiculous, but I thought that was the only way for him to stop. And it worked.
Another time was in the late ’90s. I was with my colleagues in an office party. I just noticed they all left, except for this guy. He wanted to kiss me. I had become feistier by then and fought him hard. Maybe he panicked, but whatever it was, he didn’t succeed. Looking back, I still want to think that my friends did not purposely leave me alone with the guy. —Amy
Was it my fault?
When I woke up to the #MeToo posts, I thought I didn’t have enough to say. I’m so lucky that I’ve never been sexually assaulted, I thought. I went to work and didn’t think about it until I came home and read more of the posts.
It got me thinking and I realized I’ve forgotten a couple of things. There was this guy who got me so drunk so he could try to sleep with me. Then this guy who casually told me he looked at my picture when he masturbated. (Did he really think it would flatter me?)
And then the one that pained me the most: I had known him since I was a kid—long before he married my aunt. I adored him when I was younger, and we were close enough that I would talk to him about my crushes when I was in high school. We’d joke around when we saw each other at family occasions.
Sometime in the early 2000s, he and my aunt had some marital problems. He called me and said he wanted to talk somewhere private; he suggested we drink beer in my condo, where I lived on my own. After two beers or so, he started kissing me and touching me inappropriately. I was mortified. I shoved him away and told him to leave instantly or I would tell the whole family. He left as soon as he realized I wasn’t kidding.
I cried when he left. I couldn’t believe it. This was a person I trusted, loved even. In the days to come, I would ask myself if it was my fault. I shouldn’t have let him in the condo. Did I behave in any way that suggested it was something I wanted?
During a family event, I argued with him about something I couldn’t recall. This way, people wouldn’t wonder why we didn’t talk anymore. We remain estranged to this day.
To this day I dare not say anything to my family, as I don’t want to hurt my aunt or his children, whom I love very much. —Tina
Like nothing happened
Sometimes, it’s never always a yes, but he’s not the type to understand the word no. I remember saying no, and yet he did what he wanted to do to me. After that, I just ran and locked myself inside the comfort room for a few minutes and cried. I went out and I looked at him, and he acted liked nothing happened. —Denise
I was a freshman in college when I fell asleep in the jeepney on the way home and woke up to the feeling of someone stroking my inner thigh. When I looked at his face, his eyes were closed. He was pretending to be asleep. He was wearing a polo and seemed like he could be working in an office.
There were many other incidents while I was in college. Someone groping my boob and me not knowing who it was because there were too many people walking from the opposite direction along Shaw Boulevard after I got off the jeep.
Some random tambay followed me from Vicente Cruz all the way up an overpass to touch me, and then hurriedly ran all the way down to the other side when I screamed my head off.
Some total pervert thought it would be amusing to open the door of his car and show me and my friends that he was jacking off as he drove along Dapitan. And this perverted cab driver who decided to jack off while I sat beside him on the passenger seat and my classmates sat in the back.
These incidents are part of the reason I used to think all men are assholes, and why I vowed never to let a man feel he has total control over my body or that I was at his disposal.
There were other things that happened before and after. I was only 12 when someone first tried to feel me up. It was the worst feeling in the world, and I threatened to make sure he would be beaten to a pulp, but I never did. I was in my 30s when some guy pretended to be asleep while his hand slid down the side of my boob, so I pretended to be sleepy as well, fake yawned, and when I stretched, my elbow landed on his face.
I was seven months pregnant when some weirdo gave me dirty looks while waving at me when I was riding a public utility bus.
Sexual harassment and catcalling happen regardless of a girl’s age. You can be 12 or 32, single or married, and some random stranger would think it’s cool with you. But it’s not and it never will be. —Jill
All I can say is, #MeToo—and I’ve been blamed for it, victimized and abused all over again because of it. Now I can say to myself, with my chin up, that IT WASN’T MY FAULT. I will no longer be defined by my past, my looks, my gender.
Also, please stop saying that I should have done something, that I should have defended myself. You freeze. You get scared. That’s what happens. —Jenny
I was in grade school, standing in line in the cafeteria when a random busboy (man) lifted my skirt and held it there for a few seconds. I had no idea what he was doing. I was uncomfortable and knew it was wrong, but I was frozen where I was.
I was seven.
I could not have been asking for it. I could not have been dressed provocatively.
That was the first in far too many painful memories I’ve chosen to bury. #METOO. —Patricia Malay
Red flags, unusual stories
All this talk about girls getting harassed, molested or catcalled because of the clothes they wear is crap. I remember grown men taking an interest in me when I was in grade school and, mind you, I was in my shapeless school uniform most of the time.
One followed me to the comfort room when my mom asked me to wash a plate, spoon and fork; I noticed him outside only when I was about to open the door. Fearing that he would pounce on me, I waited for a few minutes, trembling and thinking if I could stab him with the fork in case we got to that scenario. I told my mom about it, and I was never allowed to walk outside the halls or stairs alone again, especially during power interruptions.
Two guys used to wait for me in the lobby of the office building and would take the elevator with me, staring like crazy the whole time. I never told anybody because, hey, people can just say, what’s wrong with taking the elevator with you every day?!
Thank God I never experienced anything worse than being stalked by a guy back in high school and catcalled and groped after college. I used to have scissors inside my bag, and I used to hold pens while walking at night for my safety.
I’ve always been paranoid; that’s why I ask my own daughter to tell me what she does in school every day and watch out for red flags and unusual stories. You can’t blame women for being paranoid, defensive and suspicious. It’s not what we wear or how we act. This is not to get on the bandwagon. This is women telling the world that we’ve been treated like objects for a long time, and we’ve had enough. —Pearl C.
By a stranger. I was walking home alone from school, carrying my backpack and this guy grabbed my breast. I told everyone I kicked him in the balls and ran—but I didn’t. I froze. I was scared. I always hated guys who stared at my breasts or checked out my “package.”
Also, by an acquaintance who had a dare and a bet with his friends, and apparently took a video of it.
By a few others. —Jessica
This must stop
I was a college student riding a bus on my way to UP. A man in a short-sleeve polo sat beside me. He was holding an envelope. He looked decent, like he was going to a job interview. He put the envelope on his lap, waited a few minutes, then started masturbating.
Sa taray kong ito, wala akong nasabi. I didn’t even think of shaming him or calling the attention of the bus conductor. Ang naisip ko lang, I had to get away from him as quickly as possible. I got off the bus, at the MRT North Avenue station. Sa Quezon Avenue pa dapat ako bababa. Nilakad ko na lang.
And that’s just one of many, many incidents. There was the man who walked up to me, just a block away from my house, to whisper a lascivious comment. The guy who touched my behind at the MRT. The yuppie who smiled at me then licked his lips maliciously.
All left me shaking in anger. At myself for not being able to do anything. At them for thinking they could do anything.
Once, I tried to trace when it all began. Was it when I was 11? (I was inside a vehicle with the windows down. A truck pulled up beside us. The guys inside yelled, “Dalaga na si Nene!” I didn’t even know what that was supposed to mean, but I remember feeling icky and I remember wishing for the traffic light to turn green.)
Then came the sad and angry realization that, no, it began much earlier.
And now, I see a flood of stories on my feed with the #MeToo hashtag. How many we are. And how many they are.
This must stop. —Cyril Bonabente
At first I didn’t think I had anything to share, and was grateful to have been spared. Then I suddenly remembered.
I buried it a long time ago and dismissed it as drunkenness, like it was something anyone could be easily excused for. But it’s not. And I remember how filthy it made me feel. And he still hung around the party afterward, like it was nothing. —Tara