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An Open Letter To Anyone Who's Been Sexually Harassed, From 2 Beauty Queens

'Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.'
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(LEFT) Courtesy of Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, (RIGHT) Lightbridge Images, Courtesy of Jaime Yvonne VandenBerg

Miss Earth Canada Jaime Yvonne Vandenberg and Miss Earth England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown are two of the three women who recently called out one pageant sponsor who consistently harassed them throughout the contest. The sponsor, revealed to be Amado S. Cruz, is the president and CEO of Offshore Construction & Development Co. and transport company New Qualitrans Inc. 

Vice President of Carousel Productions, Lorraine Schuck, addressed the issue through Miss Earth's Facebook Page: "I assured them that the Miss Earth organization does not condone nor tolerate any rude or immoral behavior towards the delegates by sponsors or anybody for that matter. I IMMEDIATELY instructed our project director to ban the alleged perpetrator from all further functions and events. I reminded the team managers and police security to be more vigilant in making sure that none of the candidates experience this unfortunate incident again."

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In light of what happened, Jaime Yvonne Vandenberg and Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown each have a message for all victims of sexual harassment. 

From Jaime:

"I find it quite ridiculous that I am writing you this letter [because] it's 2018. I thought we would have worked past this by now. Although the term 'sexual harassment' is, relatively speaking, quite new, I think it is fair to say most people can understand that anything involving the word harassment is wrong. However, time and time again, sexual harassment is normalized. We hear remarks like, 'You're pretty, of course he's being forward! Take it as a compliment!' or 'If you weren't asking for it, why are you dressed so revealing?'

We are taught from a young age to accept sexual harassment as a form of flattery... 

No one is ever asking for any type of harassment. People find a stark difference between the types of harassment that make it okay. As children, we are taught that bullying is wrong, but [we also grow up thinking that when] a boy is mean to a girl, it is because he likes her. We are taught from a young age to accept sexual harassment as a form of flattery rather than for what it is: harassment.

From years of normalization comes offers to [advance] in a career in exchange for sexual favors; from this continued normalization comes the fact that the majority of women have faced sexual harassment in their lives. So, the biggest point I want to make are not alone. You are smart for recognizing that what you've faced is sexual harassment. You are worth more than what you've experienced, and no one deserves that kind of treatment.

Victims of sexual harassment shouldn't have to go public for people to believe that it happened. When you face sexual harassment, what should you do? Often followed by disbelief is the idea that you have to tell someone, but just know that it is completely up to you if you want to or not. If you do not want to tell anyone, that is okay. Sometimes, experiences can be so traumatic that telling someone about what happened can feel like you are reliving the experience. It can make you feel like a victim all over again. Please know that you do not need someone else to confirm what happened to you. Whether you speak up or not doesn't change what happened, so only you can know if it will actually help. You should do whatever is best for you. You are important, you are loved, and you are worth more than the sexual harassment you've faced.

If you choose to speak up, that's great! I hope you feel empowered because what you did was incredible. It takes a very strong person to speak up because, unfortunately, many people feel like they get a say in whether it happened or not. People often offer criticism before support, so you may hear: 'She is just doing it for attention,' or 'Why make it public instead of reporting it?,' or 'I think you're lying.' So, thank you for having the strength to come forward.

You might have felt afraid to lose your job, jeopardize your performance, or upset the wrong person, but you have taken the step forward to end sexual harassment. You are a part of the solution, not the problem. You will accomplish great things on your own, and you do not need to lower your values for an attempt to advance. Remember your value, your strength, and your morals. 

You should do whatever is best for you. You are important, you are loved, and you are worth more than the sexual harassment you've faced.

If you need to quit your job, walk away from an opportunity, or drop out of a competition halfway through, I am with you. You did not ask for it. It shouldn't have happened, but it did, and you are better than what you have experienced. I believe you. You are not alone. Be fierce, take your own path, and wear whatever you want because you are powerful.

From Abbey:

As a millennial woman, I am proud to say that I know who I am. By this, I mean, I can challenge any situation with confidence and conviction!

Your strength could be the strength to inspire others.

To anybody who is suffering a battle, my advice to you would be to never give up! Always stay true to yourself even when you feel the world is against you, look for the positives. Your strength could be the strength to inspire others.

Each time a woman stands up for herself she stands up for all women.

***Messages have been edited for clarity. 

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