Online Harassers Be Warned: A Facebook Support Group Is Your New Worst Enemy

Growing up as a woman has been such a blessing for me, especially when I never felt belittled by the men I know personally in my life. My classmates and org mates in college were technically my first real guy friends – and they have all been good to me. Even at work, never have I felt that my gender is an issue. Thanks to a power-woman boss, and kind office mates as well. But for the most part, I thank my strong attitude that shows in my stern demeanor, which deflects any form of harassment my way.

But not all girls have the guts (and poker- sometimes bitch-face) like I do. And not everyone is lucky to encounter “good men” in their lives. It’s a totally different story too when women go out on the streets and meet men they do not know.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

I remember when I was 16, I sat in the passenger’s seat of an FX from Sta. Lucia to Antipolo. Being that I lived at Monte Rosas along Sumulong highway that time, all the other passengers had gotten off the vehicle, leaving me alone, beside the driver, and the last to be dropped off. I felt uncomfortable so I faked my stop. But the driver did not want me to get off and offered that he drive me to my house instead. He was even asking personal questions and I was creeped out. Good thing I knew my best friend’s address so I told him that’s where I lived. He did drop me off finally, by the gate of the subdivision thank goodness – after having the guard tell him that NO ID is NO ENTRY for vehicles! But given that that was my first real “harassment” encounter, I got out off the vehicle literally shaking.

Aside from that, constant walks from points A to B on any street in Metro Manila I’ve walked on had me receiving unwanted remarks from men – also called catcalling. “Pa-sipsip naman diyan (during a time when I was casually drinking from a 7-11 Slurpee cup while about to ride a jeep), the howling whistle, to the hatid na kita” remarks. There had been worse.

One time, I got out of the gate of PhilAm village in North EDSA, when a black car drove against traffic, backward, just to talk to me. “Papunta kang Guadalupe?” he asks. I said no and continued walking to SM North. He followed and said “Sabay na kita.” and I was like.. WHAT THE HECK I am NOT interested dude!

When I was already working, but not yet married, I was waiting for a jeep from Gil Puyat bound for the office. An American approached me and casually said something to the likes of “Hi, I think you’re beautiful. Listen, I need a wife…” – and being an older girl with an impatient attitude and much more confidence I yelled “NOT INTERESTED!!!” for everyone else to hear. He shied away.

And though I am not proud of this, I have also engaged in shouting matches with perv drivers who scout my legs each time I get on the jeep. I don’t even mind if people hear me, because I will defend myself no matter what it takes. One time the erring driver even defended himself and said “Bakit ka kasi nagsuot ng palda at dito ka pa umupo?” to which I replied “Pwedeng wag ka nalang magsalita nakakahiya ka.” And he never said a word after that.

Even in the age of Uber, I always give my drivers 5 stars. But some have received 1 star from me for one reason alone, looking at the direction of my “privates” each time I get on the car. With a comment as short asmanyak, I am not afraid to report it to Uber.

You see, not all women will keep quiet when harassed. I do not want to get into fights on the streets. But when people bother me, even as I walk peacefully to wherever I need be, I will not be silent.

HARASSMENT ONLINE + NEW FB SUPPORT

And this is also becoming a trend on Facebook these days – because believe it or not, harassment doesn’t only happen on the streets now but online as well. But if in the past, not all harassment stories make it into the limelight, this time a new Facebook Group called “Catcalled in the Philippines” actively posts and exposes men who never thought they’d be found out – trying to score sex or anything equal from real women in social media.

Just one message to the group’s admin and the erring parties, Hokage Groups or individual perverts – single or married, young or old, will have their own share of the limelight.

AGREE or DISAGREE

Don’t get me wrong, I only followed Catcalled in the Philippines because I can relate to other women’s stories on catcalling and the likes, but there are some things that the group does that I do not fully support. Such as, maybe exposing the full names of young boys. I understand that the group is after “teaching them a lesson” but I believe that some boys don’t know what they’re doing yet. These are the generations that were already born with Facebook, Facetime and advanced social media offerings that use these technologies to date and meet people. I am against humiliating them for the whole world to gang on. However, I am pro exposing them to their parents, their wives, girlfriends, and friends, close community.

If it gets any worse than that, such as maybe threatening to rape someone or exposing pedophilia, I support reporting him or her to the PNP.

Just as any other network or philosophy, there are some things we agree to and some we object to. But in the case of this group, the only good thing that came out is that more women these days are not afraid to speak up. While it’s true that doing something or speaking up in real life could be intimidating, sharing one’s experiences online to a group of men and women who understand you and believes in you is quite liberating.

I have read scary stories – some from women who did not want to be named. You could just shake your head in disbelief knowing that there are experiences such as those. And if sharing it to the group would make women feel less victimized and more empowered, then it’s okay by me.

PROTECT YOURSELF FIRST

Let me just add, there had been stories recently where women complain about having their photos shared in exclusive groups or chats. It just feels ironic each time I check on the online accounts of the complaining women – especially when I find there half-naked photos of themselves, or pictures of them doing suggestive poses. All public – for the whole world to see. I am not victim-blaming, and I surely support selfies (because I do them too) but my job as an online specialist taught me that most SEO companies for instance who need to create multiple accounts online do admit to getting photos of random people worldwide to use. In short, we cannot control how people who may get access to it will use our public information. So be careful what you post online. To be more specific, always think before you post: “Can this photo be used negatively by anyone?”.

Because no matter how seemingly innocent the photo looks to you, online predators will find a way to transform it into a bad material to satisfy their personal fetishes.

CHANGE BEGINS WHILE YOUNG

So in this age, we need to be wiser. As a mom to a boy, I will do whatever it takes to teach him how to become a gentleman. Someone who respects men and women enough not to engage in lewd acts online and offline. Should I be blessed with a baby girl, I will teach her how to defend herself. Train her to be kind – and wary at the same time. I want her to not be afraid and to always realize that whatever experience she encounters, I will always always always believe in her and that she should not be afraid of telling me anything.

Let’s all come together to make this world a better place.

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