#Me Too (2015 - 2021)
According to the National Study, carried out by UN Women and the National Statistics Office of Georgia, one in five women reported having experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, 70 % of them – in public space, 10 % - at workplace.
Public awareness on sexual harassment is very low.
We do not really realize, what happens and how.
We often question ourselves: “Maybe I am mistaken, maybe this is just my fantasy?”
We are ashamed of our own thoughts even when we are victims.
Maybe this is the reason why we do not understand, how huge the problem is, how big threat we face.
When I look at the statistics, I feel scared.
I am scared because of each and every little girl and boy, who’s rights are not protected, because of every teen girl, who’s afraid and ashamed of talking about sexual harassment, because of every woman, for whom this is a tabooed topic, who tries to forget everything she has seen. And most of all, I am scared of the women, who pretend that sexual harassment does not exist, who say there is no cause for alarm, but they live with the constant feeling of insecurity, especially when they stay alone with themselves.
It’s hard and difficult to be a woman in Georgia.
Probably, it’s the same in other countries, but I can talk only about mine, Sakartvelo (Georgia) and what I see here, is the ability of women to keep collective silence, and this is the biggest crime, for me.
We have to start talking and listening to each other, we have to be more brave and we need to learn how to break silence about sexual harassment around us.
I have no idea, how come he had my phone number, but he would call every day and ask me to meet him. I stopped answering on calls and changed my mobile number later, but he got to know it as well and continued calling. At the beginning, he would call and say nothing, later he would breathe deeply to let me know that someone was there, at the other end of the line. I was in love with my classmate and hoped that it was him. When the one who used to call started talking I found out that it was not my classmate. I felt disappointment but somehow, I started liking the situation. The conversations were nice, he would tell me how he saw me in the street, how beautiful I was and how much he wanted to meet me. I seemed to be some kind of game and I was charmed. He would tell me interesting stories and I would listen attentively. Once he called me and asked, where I was and what I was wearing, told me how he would touch me, what he was doing, how he was touching his genital and what I had to do. I was a school kid and his words scared me so much, that I turned off the phone and told to my parents that I did not need a mobile any more.
The building where we live has a strange architecture. Two old style buildings are connected with a corridor. You need to know exactly where to turn, otherwise you will lose the way. That corridor always scared me, especially, at night, because of darkness.
One day when I was going to school, a man met me there. He called me by my name. I was surprised, how did he know who I was? It was the first time I saw him. “I know many things about you,” he said. “What exactly?” I laughed. I thought he had to be my father’s friend or acquaintance. “I know that you made me angry short time ago,” he answered. I was really surprised, “how did I?” “You are not answering my calls anymore.” I felt bad. Without saying a word I ran. He followed me. I was lucky that I could run quickly and in a few minutes I appeared in another building. I started screaming, asking for help. Neighbors heard my voice and came outside. He never showed up again, probably, he got lost somewhere in the corridor.
I was in a metro train, standing close to a door. I had to get off after three stations. Suddenly, at “Station Square” many people entered and I had a feeling that we were glued to each other in this limited space. It was almost impossible to move, but I could feel that the man standing behind me, could not calm down, he was disturbingly moving and touching me. I was surprised why he could not rest. I turned to him once or twice, and he apologized, saying it was happening because of the crowd. Both of us laughed. When the train stopped and people get off, he still stayed glued to my back, breathing heavily. I was afraid and on the next station, immediately left the train. I looked back from the platform. The door was closing. I saw how he zipped up his trousers.
I had just started training for the basketball team at school. In general, it was something new for our school life. I was crazy about basketball. Every single day I was waiting for the last bell to leave classroom, run downstairs, reach the sports hall, change clothes, enter trainer’s locked room and choose the best ball. After that I could go and train how to score three points. At the beginning, many girls were attending, but when winter came, we had to play with boys. One of the teachers missed the last two classes once, it meant we had an extra time for basketball. My classmate and I rushed downstairs with joy and entered the changing room. Three last grade girls were already there. They were talking to each other with very serious faces. I could hear few sentences: “Does he touch you as well? Or is it only me?” “Me too,” the other girl answered, “I do not know, we should do something.” “Maybe it’s not worth… They will expel us from the school. We have only short time left till the prom.” As soon as we entered, they went silent. We greeted them, changed the clothes and went to start training. We knew they would never join us, considering us much younger. Our trainer paid more attention to them as well: how to hold the ball, how to pass it…
I never saw that girls again, but their dialogue came back to my mind, when it was my 9th year at school and our basketball trainer Valiko asked me to enter his room and change clothes there. His offer was strangely followed by another sentence, that if I resisted I would be forced to leave the school. “You do not want to offend you parents, right?”
I did not say anything, looked at him with anger and ran directly to the headmaster’s office. Knocked on the door and entered. I told her everything. She seemed surprised, but listened to me to the very end and asked me to calm down, go home and come back with my mother next day. When my mother heard the whole story, she was so confused, I had to comfort her. First she started crying and hugging me, than she became so angry, couldn’t find a place at home. When we went to the school next morning, the whole school council was at headmaster’s office. My basketball trainer was there too. My mom is a very emotional person, so, she started shouting bad things to him. Now I understand her. If it was me and my child, I do not know, what I would have done. He was sitting there silently, with an impudent smile on his face. At the end, they told me that I misunderstood everything and the headmaster suggested us to change the school. I did not, but I never went to basketball training again.
I had been a real victim of violence, before I made a decision to leave my husband’s house. It was extremely difficult to escape with two little children. Even now, it’s hard to realize, how did I dare this, but living with him was unbearable.
I never loved my husband.
I was 14 when he kidnapped me. We did not have children for a while and I cannot explain what I went through, how humiliated I was, how my husband, my mother-in-law and relatives insulted me.
Our relationship started with violence and so did it continue.
At the beginning I thought I would get used to my condition, get along with my husband and his family. My mother used to tell me: you are a woman, you are a wife, you have to be patient, this is the way everything should be, he is a man, he is the head of the family, and you should follow his rules. Then our kids – twins were born and he became calmer. I was spending my whole time with children. I had a very difficult pregnancy, my whole body was aching, but all he wanted from me all the time, was sex. I was trying to explain to him how bad my condition was, but he did not want to listen, behaving as a beast, aiming at his own satisfaction only.
Once he came home with friends. He was very drunk. I prepared the table, with food and drinks and went back to the kitchen, wanted to make a cup of coffee for myself. Suddenly my husband’s friend came in and kissed me on the neck. “What are you doing?” – I was shocked. I still do not understand how come that he wasn’t afraid of my husband. Probably he knew that I would not scream, would not be so brave. Friends were the most important in my husband’s life, so, I am not sure if he would believe me if I told him what happened. “Shalva (the name has been changed) says about you, that you are wild in sex,” he laughed, “I have to try you once, when he is gone to Tbilisi. Let’s see how good you are.” Then he stood up and left. I did not sleep at all that night. I made my decision, I escaped.
My best friend and I used to walk in our neighborhood in the evening. It was the time of our university entry exams, both of us were very worried about the grades and to embolden ourselves, we used to say to each other that we would enter the faculties we wanted the most.
One evening, after leaving my best friend in her house, I continued walking. When I almost reached my home, I heard that the car was following me, very slowly. I remember myself walking with this strange feeling that someone was spying on me. I looked back and saw the guy with dark sun glasses, staring at me from the window. It was an evening and his sun glasses looked funny. I laughed quietly. “Don’t you want me to drive you home? Come with me, sit in the car!” he shouted. I looked at him so badly, if he had a bit of honor, I am sure he would drive the car very fast and disappear, but probably, he was a blockhead. “Are you untouchable or what?” I realized it would be better not to talk to him at all. I was thinking that he was a maniac. And also, not even one person was around. “You’re looking so good. Don’t be stupid, sit in the car. How many times should I repeat?” He would continue. Suddenly I saw my neighbor – a boy, who was older than me. He was coming from the neighboring house. I barely knew him, but decided to call him by name, run to him and hug. “Oh, how happy I am to see you!” Pretended that he was my boyfriend. I couldn’t find any other solution. I was hoping that the harasser would leave. My trick worked. “Sorry, bro, I had no idea she was your girl!” he shouted and drove away. Today I am laughing when I remember this accident, but I was really ashamed of the neighbor for a long time. I am sure he did not realize what was going on.
As I remember, I was 8 years old, when my mother put me in the bus and sent me alone to my grandmother’s for the first time. She couldn’t come with me, because we had no money. It was difficult times for everybody and also, we knew that grandma would be waiting for me at the last stop, which meant that I would be alone only in the bus. Also, my mother told to the driver, where I had to get off. As soon as I entered the bus, I choose a seat next to a window –looking outside and observing people, was my favorite occupation. At the beginning, nobody was sitting next to me. After three stops an old man entered the bus and took an empty seat. Old is not a right word from this point of view… Then I thought he was old, but in fact, he was 40-45 probably, not more. I had a very short haircut, like a boy and was dressed as a boy too – in shorts and T shirt, as majority of girls of my age. I was looking outside the window when I felt something warm and heavy on my knee. I turned around and saw his hand, moving on my leg, up and down. I looked at him astonished, he looked at me too, but his hand was still there, on my knee. I was confused, had no idea what to do. The only thing I wanted was him to get off the bus, but he came with me to the last stop. As soon as our bus reached the final point, I stood up and run outside. Grandma was waiting for me there, with her warmest smile, as always. I wanted to tell her everything, because I had never had any secret from my family, but I was shy, or to be more exact, I felt ashamed. When I recall that day back, I think it would have been better if I told to my mom and grandma about that man, but… When grandmother hold my hand and started telling me her usual stories, I looked back. He was standing there, staring at us. I will never forget his face.
I am not sure, if this is sexual harassment or not. He did not even touch me, but touching is not the only way of harassing someone, right?
Usually, I finish my work quite late and if it’s winter time, I walk home in complete darkness. That’s why I always take the same path. Lights come from the windows and it’s not so scary. One evening, when I was on my way, I heard somebody calling my name. First I was a bit afraid. It was dark and I couldn’t see the face. Then I recognized my neighbor. “It’s me”, he said, “why are you walking alone in this darkness, wait for me, I’ll come with you…” I stopped, but he did not change the place, standing sided to the shadows, he was looking at me and making strange moves. Then he turned, zipped up his trousers and headed towards me. I felt so stressed, as I remember, I even stepped backwards. “What’s wrong?” he laughed, “did I fuck you? No. I was just jacking off.” I ran, not looking back.
This happened when I started my first job.
I had dreamt to become a journalist since my childhood. When I was a little girl, I used to run around with a “microphone” in my hands, taking interviews from family members, neighbors and guests. When I graduated from the university I started my internship at one of the most popular TV channels. I was so happy… who would imagine that my dream would be ruined very soon. Every task, every day brought me joy, I enjoyed working with my cameraman a lot. Once my colleague came and told me that the producer wanted to see me in his office. As soon as I entered the room, he ordered me to close the door, as we had a very serious discussion ahead and he did not want anyone to interrupt us. Of course, I closed the door with pleasure, because I thought that he would give me a new, very difficult task – maybe something secret? Maybe investigation? Couldn’t wait! Suddenly he started: “you are so beautiful and clever, but you know, this is not enough for advancing your career… something else is needed, you know that, right?” I realized how naïve I was – still did not understand anything. “What else?” I asked, smiling, “I have a very good cameraman too.” He looked at me very seriously and told me, that without having sex with him I would not make a step forward in my career. I smiled, but I was feeling scared that he would not let me go. I do not know how did I manage that but I found a solution in a few seconds. I told him that I was on my period and also, I had to work, but I would see him next day for sure. He smiled, touched my head first, then my breast and finally my leaps. When I am thinking about that day, it still feels disgusting. When I left his room, I could not concentrate on the planned shooting and went home. I threw away my sim card – this was the first thing what I did. Of course, I never went back to that television.
My father’s friends used to visit us very often.
My mom was very nice and full of joy, and she really enjoyed having guests. Our door was always open and my sister and I used to joke that we were living in a dormitory, just with much better conditions.
I remember that day very well. Mom was late, she was a school teacher and that time she had to stay longer at work because of exams. My teenage sister and I were alone at home, when our father’s friend entered our room. He was slightly drunk. “Where are your parents?” he asked us. Daddy was gone to a supermarket and was supposed to come very soon. He said something, smiled and told me to bring him a glass of water. I headed towards the kitchen, but in the living room I saw a glass full of water – probably dad was going to drink it and changed his mind. So, as a lazy person, I took the glass and went back to our room. When I entered, I suddenly saw how my sister leapt up and ran outside. Our father’s friend looked crazy as well. He left immediately. “Aren’t you waiting for dad to come back?” I tried to ask him. I have something to do, will come back later, he said. When I heard that he closed the door behind him, my sister approached me, crying and shaking, and asked if he had really left of or not. I was scared, “what happened?” I asked her. It turned out that he touched my sister’s breast and told her that she was very beautiful and had to become a woman very soon. I hugged my sister and we cried together. Then tried our best to look better because we did not want our parents to notice something. Both of them came back very soon. We did not say a word. Why? Maybe we were not sure they would get it right or understand the situation at all. After that, when our parents left, we always closed the door.
I love night clubs and nobody believes that I go there just for listening music and dancing. This is the only way for me to refresh and recreate myself. For 5 days a week I work not remembering myself and on Friday evenings I go to clubs to rest. But I have experienced my cases, when I dance on my own and someone comes, embraces my waist, or kisses my neck. This is so unpleasant. I do not know, why, but in Tbilisi people have perception that if a girl goes to clubs alone, she is looking for a one night stand and this is bad. If men have a right to club alone and nobody will think something wrong of them, why can’t we? I do not understand.
I used to stay at the church to offer some help. They always had a lot of things to do. I’ve been an orthodox Christian for my whole life. Even now, I believe in God, of course, but I seldom go to church. God lives inside all of us, not in the buildings which grow in Georgia like mushrooms. But sometimes I miss the smell of the church, I simply sneak in there, stand silently at my favorite corner for a while, but I try my best not to meet the priest and leave soon. I have seen him only few times and from distance since that day.
Even now, it is quite hard for me to realize what has happened and I do my best not to talk about it, not to remember that awful day, or days, to be more exact. But do you know what is the most painful here? When I told everything to my family members, they did not believe me. „How dare you? Aren’t you ashamed? Be afraid of God for saying such a huge lie in front of him,“ my father sad. He was so angry, I almost thought, he would beat me, and what for? For admitting truth, for telling them what I had experienced, when I was 15 and that man would tell me to touch strange parts of his body. I hadn’t even kissed a boy and he knew it. I had told him everything in my confessions. When we would go to the yard of the church and seat on the bench, he would strangely put my hand on his legs and tell me, that I would become a woman soon, and even though I was beautiful, who would want me without any experience? He would say he wanted to help me as I was like a daughter to him. I really thought my mind was making up something. When I told everything to my friends, they laughed and said that maybe he was talking about my love story. I had a crush on a guy than, and used to tell to the priest about him. He reacted very badly and demonized that guy in our conversations, even forbid me to have any contact with him. And as I did exactly what he told me I am very angry with myself now.
So many years have passed but when I’m looking back to those days, I still have goosebumps. I can’t forget what has happened.
I was walking home late, there were no people around, but cars were driving as usual. I was crossing the bridge – for my whole childhood, this bridge was horrifying for me. Suddenly I saw a shadow and realized that I wasn’t alone. In a few seconds he was ahead of me. He pinched my leg and ran away. I yelled something to him. Then I saw the second shadow. I decided to take another road, which was longer, but safer, with more lights. I realized that there were already two shadows instead of one. They were following me. I was terrified. When I turned to my street, there was a total darkness. I took my phone and pretended to be calling to my husband that I was close and it would be great if could meet me at the entrance. Speaking loud, I was trying to make the “shadows” hear me. When I reached the building, my neighbor was coming out to take his dog for a walk. I was lucky. Already at home, I started thinking if it really happened or I made up this situation in my head. I looked from the window and saw two men, standing, smoking and staring at the building.
My friend had a birthday and rented a big house outside the city. I joined the party. I was going to stay overnight, but when I entered the room and saw plenty of people I did not know, I decided to spend time there until midnight and then find someone who would drive me to the city. I had a feeling that something bad would happened and was in a hurry to get to home. I was asking everybody around, it they were going to Tbilisi that I could go with them but they were partying hard and nobody cared for me.
An unknown young guy reached me soon. I had noticed him, he was staring at me but I was trying to avoid eye contact. “I was told you want to go to Tbilisi. I’m leaving soon. Should I drive you?” I was so happy I nearly hugged him. I collected my belongings and we left. As soon as we got into the car and he locked the door, my bad feelings came back. I wanted to reach home so badly. My heart was beating loudly. I remember when he asked: “Are you afraid of me?” I knew that you should not let people when you are really afraid of them. “No, why should I?” – I laughed. “Smart girl,” he laughed too.
The road was terrible. Not a soul was around, only woods. Suddenly he turned the car from the main road. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I want to show you something, you will like it,” he responded and put his hand on my knee, trying to lift my dress up. I was terrified, had no idea what to do. It was his playground. He stopped the car and tried to kiss me. I realized it was not in my power to do anything. Even if I screamed, nobody would hear and who knows, maybe he would kill me. Maybe he was a maniac. Suddenly I decided to tell him that we could not do it there and it was a better to go to my place, as family members were not at home. Surprisingly, my plan worked. He turned the car again and we continued our ride to the main road. He told me that he felt my gaze at the party: “I knew you wanted me, that’s why you accepted my offer.” I nodded on every sentence. When we reached the city and “my house”, I told him it would be good to buy some wine or other alcohol, as I had nothing at home. He gladly agreed and stopped the car in front of a supermarket. When he was leaving he asked if I would go with him. I said I trusted his choice. “Just bring a bit more,” I added with laughter. I couldn’t believe it, but as soon as he entered the store, I freed myself, left the car, ran away and caught a cab – all of these happened in one breath time.
I live by the sea and often go to the beach for a walk, but every time I do this I have feeling of insecurity. So, I try not to go there in the evenings. But even at noon, I have met many men, who get more excited when they see you, continue to show their genitals and call you. Once I was followed by this kind of man. I thought it would be a good idea to address the police, but when I reached the police station, they laughed at me, calling each other to come and listen what I was saying. Since then I never hope for their help. I even do not know how I can prove my truth
When I was a kid, my dad always took me to watch football.
He loved football and the days, when two of us went to stadiums together, as we were alone in the world, were extremely important to me. When my dad passed away, I asked my mother to take me to football trainings. At first, my mother refused, she thought it was not something for girls, but I convinced her. There were no separate teams for girls than and the coach allowed me to play with boys, who were same age and beginners, like me. I continued my trainings till the day when my teammates lured me in to the backyard of the playground. They started to find out what was interesting for them - a difference between girls and boys. I was crying and bagging them to let me go, but they were holding me and laughing, as it was kind of a game for them. I think they even did not realize what was happening. I never went back to stadium since then.