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Sexual harassment: public education needed

Dear Mr Editor,

I am in love with my country. I have been living abroad to study for a few years now and my love for Bermuda grows every day. I like to brag to everyone I meet while travelling about how great my country is.

It is undeniably beautiful. It never gets too hot, compared with many countries, or too cold, people are so friendly and polite, and there is a familial feel to the whole Island. I miss Bermuda every day and cannot wait to return after I graduate to once again live there full time. But, then again, I can wait.

One thing that I noticed every time I return to Bermuda for the holidays is how prevalent sexual harassment is.

On my most recent visit home for the holidays, I was sexually harassed to the point that I felt unsafe. I was walking my friend’s dog on Somerset Road one morning when a man shouted from across the street, “Ey. Am I getting my walk tomorrow?”

People may laugh at this story, but what was most unsettling was that this man was at least in his fifties, my parents’ age, and saying this to a young woman who was walking alone. I made no indication that such a comment was welcome, and that he didn’t care whether or not I wanted to hear this scared me.

I feared walking the dogs every morning after that because I knew he would be there and that previous experience has shown that, even if I expressed my discomfort with his harassment, he would still do it.

He appeared to feel entitled to behave the way he did and I knew from the past that men did not respond very well if you called them out on their harassment. I was scared in my own beautiful Island, where I usually feel so safe.

I originally thought that maybe it’s because I am older now that I have witnessed sexual harassment more, but I realised that it occurred even when I was younger. I just did not realise when I was 14 years old that when an older man that I do not know stops his bike right in front of you while you are trying to walk to your friend’s house and insists on talking to you, that it is sexual harassment.

Now that I have lived in other countries, I realise how bad the sexual harassment situation is in Bermuda. The difference between Bermuda and the other countries that I have lived in is that in Bermuda sexual harassment is acceptable. Men in Bermuda catcall, wolf-whistle, objectify and, in general, openly disrespect women and their bodies all the time without a second thought and witnesses just accept or ignore it.

Men feel insulted if you call them out on their sexual harassment to the point that they would even call the woman stuck-up or rude for rejecting their advances.

They would even get aggressive and angry, and it’s frightening to know that they actually believe that they are doing nothing wrong.

Especially since Bermuda is so small, it’s likely that you would see this person in public again. This is something that I am nervous about returning home to - and no one should feel this way.

It is particularly disturbing when I realised that while sharing this story of being harassed as I was walking to my friend’s house when I was 14, people told me I shouldn’t have worn shorts.

This is ridiculous. I think that it has been very much ingrained in our culture and a product of our patriarchal society: women are out there for male consumption and must be compliant - if you don’t want to be harassed, don’t wear “revealing” clothing.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Women should be able to wear what they want without fearing being harassed by strange men.

The women of Bermuda shouldn’t have to change their ways just because men are being disrespectful and barbaric.

Sexual harassment just shouldn’t happen. I do not believe that there is enough public education on what sexual harassment is and why it is wrong. I think it would be a great feature for The Royal Gazette: what is sexual harassment and how not to do it.

I love Bermuda, but I feel things need to change because I am sure that I do not speak for myself when I say that I don’t ever want to feel vulnerable and unsafe again as a woman walking in public.



Stop right there: women shouldn't have to change their ways because men are disrespectful