Sydnee Smith, Reporter
Pierce College Puyallup student Alli Lee was stuck for a year and a half in what she calls a manipulative relationship with her ex-boyfriend and abuser.
“He convinced me to do a lot of things I wasn’t comfortable with and he would guilt trip me and use his friends to guilt trip me,” Lee said. “I just let it go on because I didn’t think I could ever do any better than him.”
After their break up, Lee got messages from her abuser’s previous girlfriend stating she had gone through the same manipulation.
Although it was nice to know she wasn’t alone, Lee learned her abuser had acted strange with many other girls, including girls his friends brought to his house.
Lee finds comfort knowing people might not bring girls around her abuser now because she has spoken up.
Lee cites the Time’s Up movement as an influence for her decision to come forward.
Time’s Up is a social movement fighting against sexual assault and harassment, started after the allegations made against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the birth of #MeToo.
The “silence breakers” were named the TIME magazine Person of the Year. The magazine cover features Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Isabel Pascual and an anonymous arm, which represents those who are still unable to speak out. The six women on the cover only represent a small pool of people who have spoken up against sexual assault and harassment.
Time’s Up has been gaining momentum through the use of social media and celebrities, who have been showing their support for the movement by wearing black to the Golden Globes Awards and white roses to the Grammy Awards.
The movement was put into action after an open letter was published in November 2017 on behalf of 700,000 female farmworkers who said they stood with abused Hollywood actresses, as they understand abuse all too well.
The Time’s Up movement was officially announced with a website launched on Jan. 1 2018 with the help of celebrities and activists, who addressed the issue with an open letter signed by hundreds of women in show business.
But celebrities and activists aren’t alone in the fight against sexual assault and harassment.
Jennifer Maclin, a Pierce College adjunct sociology professor, spoke about relationships while addressing the Time’s Up movement.
“Giving in is not consent, it’s a power struggle and abuse of power,” Maclin said.
After Lee decided to break up with her abuser, she faced ridicule.
Her friends treated her as though she was a terrible person for ending things with her abuser of a year and a half. In the process Lee ended up cutting ties with all the friends who were still involved with her abuser.
Lee is glad the Time’s Up movement has started. She states how she is glad people are more open about their experiences because it shows no one is alone.
“Going through that made me feel alone and embarrassed and like I didn’t really want to live with myself because I hated my life,” Lee said. “I feel like people should be able to be open.”
Lee feels as though years ago she would have been victim-blamed more and told she was lying, but movements such as Time’s Up has eased that.
She says people can now see this isn’t a small problem but a nationwide problem happening to a lot of people.
Maclin also stated how #MeToo was much more about the individual person and being able to speak up about harassment and abuse.
Time’s Up is much more about collaboration and working together. Maclin says Time’s Up is like the big brother to #MeToo by putting what #MeToo stood for into action.
After living in silence for around two years, Lee decided to come forward on her personal Twitter.
She posted the messages between her and her abuser’s previous girlfriend, whom also stated she shared similar experiences of abuse.
Lee was tired of living in silence knowing other girls had also faced forced sexual acts by the same abuser.
According to the Time’s Up website, nearly half of the working women in the U.S. say they have experienced harassment in the workplace. Emilee Brown shares that experience.
Brown is a second year Pierce student who also came forward publicly on her Twitter page after she was the victim of harassment and assault when she was 16.
Brown spoke out on the one-year anniversary of her assault.
Brown worked for a small family owned business and she and her fellow co-workers thought one of the co-owner’s sons seemed creepy.
Shortly after she began working there, the co-owner’s son messaged her on Twitter.
He was much older than Brown and married with a child on the way. He asked Brown if she wanted to meet up after work. The conversation freaked out Brown, and she declined.
One day while Brown was working, someone had hacked her Facebook page and was telling people to prank call her.
“He (the co-owner’s son) knew I was stressed out and I was just really anxious about it. I went to go check my phone in the back and he just followed me,” Brown said. “He was right up next to me like ‘Emilee, Emilee, Emilee,’ and I was like, ‘what, get off me’ and then I went up to my phone and he just put his hands down around my neck from behind and shook me and he was like ‘calm down’ so I turned around and nudged him and went straight into the bathroom.”
After that, Brown continued working. She drove home crying that day.
Immediately, her parents knew something was wrong. After telling her story, Brown’s dad called the police. It was late at night, but Brown had to go to the police station and file a report.
Brown ended up pressing charges and her abuser has now served a year of his probation, with two more to go. If someone else files a report on him he will have to plead guilty to what he did to Brown and face whatever other charges come his way.
“It was mostly forced on me that we were gonna say something but I felt so bad. Like this man has a life, he’s got a career, I don’t know if he’s going to get fired or go to jail, he has a baby on the way, what about his wife, does she know about this kind of stuff?” Brown said. “But I realized I mostly did it because I knew it would not stop if I don’t say something, it’s going to keep going with so many other girls. I was like, ‘I’m in the position to say something.’”
Unlike Brown, Lee did not go to the police because at the time she was dating her abuser, and after breaking up she just wanted to forget about everything.
“I feel like it can be stressful for victims (to come out about their situation) because they feel like they’re in the spotlight all of a sudden and a lot of people don’t want to be in the spotlight, they just want to make it aware (the abuser) is a horrible person,” Lee said.
The official Time’s Up website has now started a legal defense fund for less privileged women who want to pursue legal action against harassment and assault in the workplace.
Brown’s female coworkers started to gossip about her. Like Lee, she faced the harsh glare of outsiders looking into the situation.
“I just wondered where that stemmed from. I was like, ‘is this my fault? Did it just go on too long? Was I being too playful?’ And honestly everyone goes through the ‘this is my fault’ type thing but it’s not,” Brown said.
They both believe without the Time’s Up movement they probably wouldn’t have had a platform to talk about their situations.
When both the assaults happened, Time’s Up didn’t exist. Due to the Time’s Up movement and how it has blown up on social media, it has given a platform for people like Lee and Brown to speak up for themselves.
“I kind of felt helpless,” Lee said of her experience before Time’s Up. “I felt totally, absolutely helpless.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
With dreams of becoming an English or Journalism teacher, Smith hopes to transfer to WWU
next fall to pursue her Bachelor's and hopefully Master's degree. Her ultimate goal is to one day become a professor.
On the side, Smith enjoys writing poetry and attending concerts. She tries to play the guitar and ukulele, but ultimately can only play one song all the way through.
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