There are some things in life that everyone seems to have to go through. You have your first heartbreak, your first loss, your first love. But since when has the first time you’re catcalled or simply made to feel uncomfortable in the presence of a superior or a coworker deemed as one of these involuntary firsts?

We don’t ask for a lot of what comes to us in our lives. Some things we have to just take, like a bitter pill. In the end our first love will have made us learn what it’s like to put someone equal to ourselves in our hearts. Our first loss teaches us how to care about something so much more than we ever imagined we could before it’s gone.

However, all that sexual harassment teaches a girl is that she has no control over what is rightfully hers: her body.

In the last decade, over 17 million women have reported experiencing sexual assault.

That number may seem surprising and even difficult but the truth of the matter is that it’s the reality. But we can’t just sit on the truth for and feel sorry for ourselves, we have to do something about it, and the great thing is that we can. It all starts with you. Remembering that, whether you are a man or a woman you are the first step to stopping the unthinkable from happening to you or someone you love. What’s next?

EDUCATION

We can’t keep waiting until something bad happens to educate young people about sexual assault. The first step is making sure every young person knows the difference between “yes” and “no,” as well as the difference between being in love and being uncomfortable. Young adults are often left out of these “grown-up” discussions, but the truth of the matter is that, unless we teach young people the difference between right and wrong before they have the chance to make a mistake, a lot of future suffering could be avoided.

RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS…

…and doing something about them. The faster you get to a problem, the easier it is to solve. Whether you’re in the workplace or pursuing a relationship, you have to learn to recognize an unsavory situation in the midst of it. With change comes stigma and sometimes people are afraid to be part of a movement that they don’t understand or fully acknowledge even when they could greatly benefit from coming out and saying something. Despite how empowering the #MeToo movement has been, there are still many people out there who are scared to say something, even though they know they need help. It’s important to realize that it’s okay to be afraid, but nothing is worth staying in a situation or keeping quiet about something that truly and deeply hurts you.

USE YOUR RESOURCES AND BECOME A RESOURCE

We as a community need to stay safe and take care of each other. No matter where your political ideologies lie or what gender you identify as, we are a community and we have to take care of each other. There are plenty of resources that could help you learn more about this movement, as well as how to take preventative and disciplinary action against sexual harassment. I urge you to take the time this week and sit down with your kids and talk to them about keeping themselves safe and the importance of treating people kindly and with respect. You could also sign up for an email newsletter about things you can do to push for the better legislation needed to protect all of the women and men out there fighting their cases. No matter what you do, know that with every ounce of strength you push towards this cause, the world becomes a better place.

By Julianna Portillo