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#HijaAko: What I Was Wearing When I Was Sexually Harassed

#HijaAko: What I Was Wearing When I Was Sexually Harassed

It’s already 2020 and we’re still arguing about rape culture, victim-blaming, and over-all sexual harassment. With the pandemic locking people up inside, we don’t have anything to do other than go online. Of course, this includes ignorant and unfortunate rapist-minded individuals who have nothing to do but blame sexual harassment on its victims. Thank goodness for Frankie Pangilinan, #HijaAko trends online as men and well, mostly women call out victim-blaming.

#HijaAko

Apparently, sexual harassment victims were inviting the beast; inviting rapists to rape them and violate them. If that’s what Ben Tulfo is calling girls who fight for their rights as human beings then, go ahead and call us ‘hija’ for all we care. No one asked to be sexually harassed, to be catcalled, or to be groped. Let me get one thing straight: Just because someone wears something that reveals some skin, it already means inviting a stranger to harass them.

Photo from Angela Baltan

#HijaAko: What I Was Wearing When I Was Sexually Harassed

The clothes one wears don’t even matter. This is the time to stop teaching girls what to wear. Trust me, we know how to dress ourselves up. It’s time to teach people not to rape. It’s time to teach people about respecting boundaries and asking for consent. I certainly didn’t ask for some strange old men to harass me but it happened anyway. I wasn’t revealing any skin and I didn’t drink any alcoholic drinks. But, I still experienced being catcalled and groped in public places… multiple times.

Photo from Angela Baltan

Catcalled

First things first, catcalling is not a compliment. It’s harassment and it’s freaking disgusting. Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you the story of my first time getting catcalled. To be honest, I didn’t know that I was catcalled until after a few years when I finally understood what happened. As a twelve-year-old girl studying in a local Catholic school which lacked in sex education, it didn’t come as a surprise that they try to “shield” us from anything related to sex.

How old was I and what was I wearing?

I was only twelve when it happened. I was wearing a white and navy blue long-sleeved, high-collared, knee-length dress. Aside from that, I had ankle high socks and a pair of black ballet flats. To say that I was covered up would be an understatement, the only skin showing were my calves, palms, and face. A twelve-year-old girl isn’t sexy and the uniform she’s wearing doesn’t make her any more sensual.

What happened?

Apparently, that wasn’t acceptable for an old strange man at the corner of the street. It was a sunny afternoon and I was waiting for my uncle to pick me and my sisters up. To get rid of all my extra energy before we go home, I usually walk along Dos Castillas St. from the corners of Florentino and Piy Margal. I was doing my usual thing when a stranger whistled at me and infamously said, “Hi, Miss.”  

Sure, I may not know what he meant by that but it definitely freaked me out.
That was my first time getting catcalled and it certainly wasn’t the last.

#HijaAko: 12 years old; white and navy blue long-sleeved, high-collared, knee-length dress | Photo from Angela Baltan

Groped in a jeepney

After a few years, I finally understood what catcalling meant and how cluelessly young I used to be the first time I experienced it. The moment I understood what it was and how harmful it can actually be, I decided to salute every catcaller with my middle finger. After that instance, I grew aware of the factions of sexual harassment and some ways I could retaliate when something bad happens. I liked standing for myself and for others. So, it wasn’t much of a trouble to look and be as tough as I can be.

How old was I and what was I wearing?

However, looking tough remained miles apart from actually staying prepared for what happened to me when I turned sixteen. I wore yet another school uniform: a white short-sleeved top and a navy blue knee-length skirt. Again, a sixteen-year-old girl is not sexy and the uniform that she wore doesn’t make her any more suggestive. It was around five in the afternoon when I caught a packed jeepney in Lawton.

What happened?

I sat next to a pregnant lady and another man sat to my right. As we slowly ride along Quiapo, I only had half of my butt sitting down on the seat of the public vehicle when I felt a hand sneak around my back. Then, a finger wiggled itself as it felt up the side of my breast. To say that I was scared would be an understatement, I froze in a horrific state. Thankfully, the pregnant woman noticed and yelled at the man next to me.

She yelled at him, gaining the attention of everyone in the jeepney as well as the driver. That became the time when I noticed that everyone in the jeep remained mostly male who didn’t do anything but stare. The females, on the other hand, looked horrified for me. Although nothing happened to incarcerate or detain the man, I felt relieved that somebody else stood up for me. He scrambled up and out of the jeepney, running away before we even reach the tunnel going to España.

I may look tough but I still get frozen when I feel absolute fear. Unfortunately, sexual harassers
continue to roam around freely groping another clueless sixteen-year-old girl.

#HijaAko: 16 years old; white short-sleeved top and a navy blue knee-length skirt | Photo from Angela Baltan

“Rubbed” in a packed MRT

After a few months of graduating, I finally got a job at nineteen. I usually have a friend who rides the MRT with me to and from work. However, he had a meeting and wasn’t able to ride the train with me. So, I went alone. It was around eight or nine in the evening when I stepped into the platform. The train already had its doors opened and I really wanted to get home. I didn’t have time to run to the female section so I just went inside the common area.

How old was I and what was I wearing?

I wasn’t the only woman there, though, which was kind of comforting. She was talking to somebody else on the phone, detailing some rumor that happened somewhere. She was probably a saleslady at a nearby mall supposing by what she was wearing. Meanwhile, I was wearing a black short-sleeved mock turtleneck, a pair of blue jeans, a tan-colored long-sleeved flannel, and a pair of white sneakers.

What happened?

I was holding onto a metal bar and facing the doors of the train while I listen to some music. Although it was comforting to have a few women there, it didn’t stop a man from rubbing his penis on my butt. The moment I felt it made my whole body stiffen and my mind shut down. I scooted away from him, walking towards the woman I saw earlier. However, he followed me and continued to rub his phallic material on me.

Some people got off at the next station and I wanted to follow them but I was scared to be left there unable to catch another train. I wasn’t fully familiar with the stations of the MRT and how to get home from there. All I knew was to get off at the Quezon Avenue station and grab either an FX or a jeep from there. That’s it. I was sweating already, weaving from one place to another and hoping to get away from the man.

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Thankfully, Cubao Station came and a lot of people got off the train. A young woman gave me her seat as she got off with her friends. The man couldn’t sit next to me since I was already in between two other women. I kept my eye on the doors, hoping to get off as soon as I can. Quezon Avenue came and I stood up with other passengers, briskly walking towards an exit. I kept my eye ahead and practically ran away from the man who followed me until he couldn’t see me anymore.

Even when people are present, an individual still pursued me. I was lucky enough
that I was able to run away. Other people didn’t have that privilege. 

#HijaAko: 19 years old; black short-sleeved mock turtleneck, a pair of blue jeans, a tan-colored long-sleeved flannel, and a pair of white sneakers | Photo from Angela Baltan

Why didn’t I tell the authorities?

The first time I got catcalled, I didn’t know what actually happened. I only found out about catcalling as a form of sexual harassment when I turned fifteen. The first time I got groped, on the other hand, I couldn’t go to the authorities because the man had already run away. However, I actually went to the authorities the time I got “rubbed” and they didn’t do anything. They passed me from one guard to another, guiding me to one office to another.

It didn’t look like it mattered to them. It didn’t look like they even cared. One guard even asked me why didn’t I shout and why didn’t I catch somebody else’s attention. I couldn’t answer. If I yelled or tried to catch somebody else’s attention, the man could retaliate. He could have been armed for all I know. Yet, they didn’t even offer to look at the freaking security cameras and identify the man. They just told me that I was “free” to leave after I wrote down a fully-detailed report.

“Why didn’t you tell the authorities?” isn’t the right question. Men and women have reported being sexually harassed and assaulted. However, many of them get ignored and even laughed at. “Why didn’t the authorities do anything?” is the right question. Why didn’t they? Why do they hire people who aren’t even willing to help? For goodness sake, why did they even applied to become a security guard or a police officer if they aren’t willing to listen to reports like this?

How #HijaAko becomes an opportunity

These instances aren’t the only harassment I have experienced in my entire life. These were the most memorable and the most disgusting I have to live through. Unfortunately, I got used to it… which just shows how common and frequent sexual harassment happens to an average woman. It’s time to fight against rapist-minded individuals and psychopaths who continue to threaten to rape women on the internet.

Gen Z kids and millennials have become vigilant, calling out victim-blaming, exposing rapists and pedophiles with the use of social media. It’s time for the other generations to do the same. You can’t just let a broken system fail another generation. It’s their futures at stake, not yours. It’s their hopes and dreams, not yours. Help us fight against this kind of mentality, raise awareness for equality, and promote respect for every single person out there.

#HijaAko is an opportunity for all of us to speak out. This fitted as the chance to finally drown out the whiny voices of those people who think that we are responsible for their arousal. We finally acquired the time, power, and awareness to shove their pathetic excuses down their throats. If ‘hija’ is what Ben Tulfo is calling girls who fight for their rights as human beings then, go ahead. We know the power behind that name and we will claim it as ours.

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