Why #MeToo matters for travelers

Why #MeToo matters for travelers

Me, too.

Unfortunately, there are too many “Me, Too” moments for me to count. Whether it’s walking down the street and enduring the lewd comments hurled at me since I was a child, or being touched without permission, the list is endless. And I’m not alone. 

What is #MeToo? 

Those are the words that blazed the internet and revolutionized how we talk about sexual assault. We are no longer statistics, we have faces and names. We are your next-door neighbor, we are your family, we are your classmate, there are countless of us. You don’t even have to try hard to find us.

We are survivors which have endured sexual assault on all levels and unfortunately numerous times. We are here to be heard. 

Now you’re wondering, why does this matters to travelers? 

Because, statistically speaking, you can probably also say #MeToo. One in five women and one in 71 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime in the United States, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. These are numbers we can’t ignore.

A large part of the movement is to show the prevalence of sexual assault by simply standing together in numbers behind the hashtag #MeToo. 

Yet, we can do more by sharing our stories

I first shared my #MeToo story when I wrote about a taxi driver and his inappropriate comments when I visited Puerto Rico. It wasn’t to scare travelers away from the destination or to laugh about the ordeal. I shared my experience again when I experienced catcalls in Belize

My experiences are relevant because many other travelers experience this. I do not rehash these situations to receive pity or attention, but to possibly offer guidance or solidarity to someone else. To simply say, I’ve been there too.

Now, more than ever, we need to talk about sexual harassment and assault. Because it’s become the norm to slut-shame victims and make inappropriate comments like, “They asked for it.” This needs to stop.

By educating ourselves and others about sexual assault is the first step.

As avid travelers, it’s important that you and I share our experience of sexual assault and harassment while abroad. It’s important so we know that we’re not alone. So if there’s only one thing you take away from this post, it’s that you aren’t alone.

Here I am saying it, me too.

“My experience wasn’t that horrible”

I took the plunge and share on my personal Facebook page #MeToo and I received overwhelming support. Yet, there were other friends of mine who remained silent.

No, I’m not here to shame them. I’m not here to scold them and ask, “Why didn’t you share your story?” I’m here to say, I’m here for you, regardless if you are ready to talk about your horrible experience or not.

I read a great article that glosses the surface of why some decided not to share #MeToo on their timelines. The writer dives into how her experience “wasn’t as bad” as being raped or assaulted. This is why she chose not to share on social media her experiences. The best nugget of the article is the last paragraphs.

Yet I found that I couldn’t say it. And at the time of this writing, I still struggle to say it. Not because it’s not true. And not even because I find these things hard to talk about. I’ll talk to anyone about any experience. I’m an open book. I just…somehow…feel like my experiences weren’t “bad enough” to say #MeToo. I’ve mostly recovered from all of this. I don’t think about any of it too often or feel too deeply affected by any of it long-term. I don’t feel like a victim. And because I don’t feel like a victim, I struggle to call my experiences what they really are: indecent exposure to a child, assault, rape, abuse.

I feel guilty using those words. I feel like I’m being dramatic. Or desperate to be part of a conversation for attention. I feel like I’m exaggerating. And I truly, in my heart, can’t figure out if I am. I can’t and don’t trust my own judgment with the severity of less-than-pleasant occurences that have happened in my life. It’s never been a matter of me thinking people wouldn’t “believe me.” It’s been an issue that I barely “believe” myself. And I don’t know what that says about me.

But I do know this: my attitude, my feelings, and my self-doubt are part of the problem. I consider myself to generally be a strong, educated, feminist woman with a decent platform where my voice can be heard. Yet I have trouble identifying these things, and further excuse them when they happen to me. That’s not good. It doesn’t have to be “bad enough” for it to count. And regardless of whether I’m comfortable or you’re comfortable saying #MeToo, we all need to admit that we have a problem.

All experiences, whether it was being catcalled in the streets or groped in a dark alley, are horrible. #MeToo aims to show, no matter how “small and insignificant” these acts are, they are wrong and need to be stopped. Society forces us to believe they are not relevant. Victims deserve justice.

Society needs to change

Though I’m advocating for society to change, I think it’s important that women know how to protect themselves. Rather than holding victims responsible for the atrocities that happened to them, society should change the violent climate that women face every day. In the meantime, it’s important that women, especially solo female travelers, know how to protect themselves. 

If you still choose to remain silent (and no you cannot shame someone for that!), please stay part of the conversation. Just like those who have not encountered sexual harassment and assault, become an advocate and ally for those who have. Be a voice for those who are struggling to tell their story.

Her Travel Therapy also reminds us not to victim blame:

[People say] none of it would have happened if they had just stayed safely at home with people they know. Nevermind that 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone who was already known to the victim

Instead of blaming those who are assaulted and abused, listen to their truth and learn how we can better society. Continue to spread the message that we all deserve better and all deserve respect. Stop sexual harassment and sexual assault. Let’s change the norm and let people know it’s no longer acceptable.

What else can we do?

#MeToo has spurred on a worldwide discussion about sexual assault and harassment, but we need to keep vigilant. I’ve continued to talk about Me, Too with other travel bloggers and I continue to hear so many heartbreaking truths. (Not stories or tales, because yes, I stand with victims and believe their truth.)

There was a piece of advice from fellow travel blogger Megan at Beat, Broke, Backpacking that I had to include:

Even just these two words are exhausting, but unfortunately, more effort is necessary to make women feel safe around the world is even more exhausting. It’s going to involve repeating, Me, Too, over and over again, until it reaches parts of the globe where women’s rights are still a laughable concept. It’s going to involve men doing a lot more of the work, because we’re talking about men attacking women. Even just framing the problem as “women being attacked” puts more effort on victims. Can we stop that? Can we let women breathe for a goddamn minute? So much work is put on victims and survivors. Dudes, it’s time to step up. Take a note from Joe Biden.

Keep victims and survivors in your mind as you vote, as you make “jokes,” as you support businesses, as you walk down the street, as you enter a bar. You have to work every single moment to make the world a safer place for women. Because women have to deal with the consequences, every single moment.

(Read her entire post about Me, Too here). 

Together we need to formulate a community where travelers can always feel safe to share their stories or both good and bad experiences abroad and at home. You can send me your personal stories anonymously or just simply comment #MeToo in the comments below.

If you are struggling or what to educate yourself more about sexual assault here are some resources for hotlines, statistics, and support groups.

27 thoughts on “Why #MeToo matters for travelers”

  • Its so important to address sexual assault – in the travel space and outside it. It’s a horrible element of modern culture and there needs to be more awareness surrounding it. #metoo

  • #MeToo is trending in my country India. I didn’t know it was internationally popular as well. As a solo male traveler I have never faced sexual harassment but I know about many female friends of mine who have had to suffer during their travels. Predators are everywhere. More power to this hashtag.

    • I especially love the hashtag #HowIWillChange which is people starting a conversation about how we can deter sexual harassment ans assault. Has this hashtag taken off in India too?

  • I’m one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been harassed on my travels, and I’ve been all over the world with my 5 year old daughter! That said, I am raising her to have a voice and say no when she feels uncomfortable in a situation. It’s never too early to empower your kids and give them a voice!

  • I think it’s high time we start talking about assaults for real and not just blindly put the blame on the victim. I was aware about the #metoo tweet, as I have been a little off social media from past 2 days but wasn’t aware that it actually became a rage and my Insta/FB/Twitter feeds are so flooding with just these 2 word hashtag. The movement just makes me feel I’m not alone and given me strength at a level yet sad that there are so many stories we haven’t heard about but they did happen and it is plain sad for me. Still I’m scared to post metoo hashtag on social media, hope I get that strength soon!!

    • You definitely are not alone. And whether you post #metoo or not, it’s empowering that you are standing with other victims and survivors. Thank you!

  • What a fantastic idea #metoo is. The fact people are using this hashtag all over the world – even none English speaking countries is incredible. Next time I experience a sticky situation I know which hashtag to use!

    • Well, #metoo is just a start. The hashtag is meant to start conversations about sexual assault and harassment. If you are ever in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, please tell authorities. Thank you for joining the conversation and keep educating others, please!

  • Glad you wrote about it. These days we tend to take so many things as a banal even when they need so much attention. I’m glad I read this post. And I’d be sharing to many out there. Its high time we stopped blaming victims for their predicaments leaving pepretators to go unpunished #metoo would share the word.

    • Thank you for joining the conversation! Yes, I hope one day we reach a place where victims and survivors are no longer afraid to speak out. (Ideally I would like sexual assault and harassment to stop, but we have a long way to go. But encouraging others to speak up is a BIG first step.) Thank you again!

  • I guess as women travelers and writers, it makes a lot of difference that we talk about sexual assault. Victim shaming should stop immediately. Here in India, sexual assault is so normalised that more and more people are talking about their experiences. And lots of guys are surprised. But it needs to stop now. #metoo

    • That’s another reason I’ve been in awe of this hashtag, it helps connects survivors and victims around the world. It makes it very evident that it’s not ONE countries problem, it’s a societal issue. Yes, part of this victim and slut shaming (a huge part, if you ask me). Educating others about sexual assault and harassment is really the first step to stopping these tragedies from happening. I’m glad that people in India are speaking out.

      I also want to point out that #metoo can also apply to men. Though the hashtag was originally started for women, men just sexually assaulted and harassed too. So if any males, or people who identify as male, are reading this, we support you too.

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • The Me Too campaign build the case that all of us have gone through this and it is time people realize that there isnt any of us who have been left out. In a way that is the awareness that it brought about. I have had my share of it too and I hope that with increasing awareness my daughter stops facing it. Well written on this.

    • Thank you for sharing your story.

      Yes, #metoo has been a great way to collect everyone’s stories and for people to see the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. (I know there have been arguments about how the two are different, but I vehemently disagree!) It’s also been a great catalyst for victims and survivors to connect and know that they are not alone.

      About your daughter, I also hope someday she doesn’t have to face this anymore. I hope we can progress enough to keep her and future generations safe and happy.

      Thank you for sharing and joining the conversation.

  • #MeToo Campaign on social media a great as many people will share their stories which they face while traveling. We can help and save many persons from personal experiences through this two words. These two words are very strong thing to do as I feel shy to share such kind of experiences with others on social media.

    • Thank you for joining the conversation. I actually read a great article about why people aren’t sharing #metoo on social media. And it was for the very reason you said, they were shy or scared about the reaction people would give them. Or, others felt that their experiences weren’t as terrible as others.

      Your experience matters.

      No matter if you were catcalled, raped or groped, ALL of these instances are horrible and worth talking about. Sexual harassment and assault are equally bad. I would never wish for anyone I know to have to endure either.

      Know that there are others out there who haven’t spoken up, but that doesn’t mean your voice isn’t important. You don’t have to share your personal story (though it’s always encouraged and helpful), but speaking up for others and standing with them as an ally is just as important. Thank you for doing that.

  • I’m happy that we as a whole are making progress towards recognizing women’s plights and rights. As female travelers, we have to be more vigilant when traveling solo compared to men… and personally I’ve also had an experience where my guide kept on giving me creepy looks, and in a province with sparse population at that. Positive that things will improve in the (near) future. Thanks for writing about this!

    • Hi Katherine! Thank you for sharing your truth. Also, thank you for standing up for women’s rights! I feel that sometimes women’s rights are overlooked or we’re often taken for granted. Thank you for being part of the good fight!

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