Harvey Weinstein's predatory pursuits have been all over my Facebook newsfeed of late. The victims - famous faces like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan and Cara Delevingne - have both been praised and lambasted for stepping forward to share their stories.
My humble opinion: They have every right to speak, because doing so helps them to be a witness to others who've suffered similar treatment. They have relinquished shame and reclaimed their voices, their dignity, their self-respect.
That takes courage, and I applaud them for it.
But on a deeper level, the Weinstein case is symptomatic of a larger societal disease where men think they can get away with it, and women are either too ashamed or fearful to incriminate the culprit.
The horrid truth is that sexual harassment is happening everywhere. Plainly speaking, there are Harvey Weinsteins everywhere. In countries, like India, rape is reportedly the fourth most common crime against women. A study by Singapore advocacy group AWARE revealed that 54% of its pool of 500 respondents had received some form of workplace sexual harassment.
And a recent op-ed in The Guardian details how the Weinsteins of the world are enabled because pointing the finger can actually get the accuser - who is, more often than not, female - in trouble.
Real-life examples in Singapore, ranging from molest to situations that might not be overtly sexual but still created some degree of discomfort, abound:
"I was taking the train and felt someone's hand on my butt, literally just resting there for more than a few minutes. It felt really weird and uncomfortable, and I got off at the next station immediately because I felt afraid. When I looked back, I saw a man in grey worker's overalls standing there just looking at me. There were many other people on the train but not a single one alerted me or stood up for me."
"I was a few months into my new job when a superior called me into his office once and after some small talk, asked if I would go jogging with him at Bedok Reservoir. I was shocked but covered it up by suggesting he could ask other people instead. Oh, and he's married with kids."
"I was on the crowded dance floor at Zouk with my friends, and it was so packed that we could barely move. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my butt giving it a hard squeeze. By the time I managed to turn around, I only saw the back of the guy's head and there was no way I could reach out to him to stop him from moving off."
"A taxi uncle actually had the cheek to ask me to show him my legs and made a really disrespectful remark about them, right before I alighted."
"I was eating lunch with my husband at a coffeeshop when a drunk guy kicked the chair I was sitting on and told me not to talk so much. In broad daylight. Before that, he had been mouthing off and cursing women, which I could hear faintly from where I was seated. My hands started shaking (out of fear, adrenaline and shock I guess). My husband called the police immediately, but the drunk guy got away before they arrived, although he did apologise."
Do these accounts shock you? Well, they shouldn't. They all happened in our "safe little country". And they all happened to one woman: me.
When I think back to these incidents, I can't help but feel a ton of things all at once. Most of it is anger, not just at the perpetrator, but at myself for letting it happen.
A lot of it is also regret, that I didn't manage to catch them/stop them/report them - why on earth did I let it go?! Why didn't I say something?
Naturally, there is also self-directed blame - why did I wear that dress? Why did I stand/sit at that particular spot? That feeling of powerlessness all the famous actresses described? Exactly how I felt too.
But I have resolved now that if ever something like this were to happen to me - or someone around me - again in future, I will NOT let it pass. These sorry excuses for men need to know it is NOT okay, and it is NOT right.
I am not suggesting this as a way to mete out justice, but by doing or saying something instead of brushing it aside, I might just be able to prevent this man from committing any craven acts on another woman in future.
Who's with me?