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6 Online Sexual Harassment Support Groups You Can Turn To

Safe spaces for when you need to talk about what happened to you.
PHOTO: istockphoto

No matter what you’re wearing or how you look, you’ve probably experienced harassment of some sort—unwanted compliments, wolf whistles, mansplaining, among others. Maybe it was a stranger during your daily commute. Or a guy you thought was a friend. It might have been a grope. It might have been rape threats online. Maybe it was worse.

When something like that happens, you can turn to these online support groups. They’ve created safe spaces for men and women who want to talk about sex and who’ve experienced sexual harassment, assault, abuse, or more.

Women in Badassery

Admin: Sabrina Schnabel

Why did you decide to start this page/group? What’s your “mission”?
The day Trump won, I was so floored. I decided that instead of complaining, I would try and find women who inspire me, women whom I had never heard about, from everywhere. Our mission is to spread the word of these women. Make them visible—because if more people can hear these stories, maybe they’ll be inspired too.

Women in Badassery is more of a catalogue of stories of women from all over the world, all walks of life, all religions. I try and change it up as much as I can, featuring contemporary women like Carrie Fisher, but also women like Juana Inez De la Cruz, a Mexican genius from the 1600’s. I also try and feature less prominent women, like Amy Otis Earhart, who was Amelia Earhart’s mother and who bought the famous aviatrix her first plane.

How do you combat sexual harassment, sexism, sexual predators, etc.?
I fight it with examples. There are women who have stood up to true cruelty. They have stood up to their families, their friends, and everyone they know.

What advice would you give to those dealing with sexual harassment?
It is not in your head! If you are upset, you have every right to say so! You don’t have to play along so you’ll seem like one of those “cool girls” who aren’t bitchy about feminism. Ask for what you want, and get it, girl!

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Play Without Apology (formerly Girls Got Game)

Admins: Marielle Baysa, Mia Marci, Noey Pico, Pam Punzalan

Why did you decide to start this page/group? What’s your “mission”?
Girls Got Game, which has been around since 2013, dealt primarily with geek and fandom issues, but it has attracted loyal contributors and readers who enjoyed a safe space that talked about fandom that went beyond a vacuum. Play Without Apology has always been the website’s tagline, a hit at the idea that girls had to be sorry for being geeky or less girly. Play can apply to video games, tabletop, card, and board games. And we also have queer and male writers for our site, so it was fitting to drop ‘girl’ completely.

Pam: Girls Got Game started because Mia and I were upset that there didn’t seem to be a space where geek girls could be themselves about their hobbies and who they were. Our goal was to publish and provide a space where we and our contributors could talk about what they loved. We try to put our advocacies forward, framed within the context of fandom and geek stuff. Fun is never just “fun.” Everything is political, and that’s okay. This is especially relevant, we feel, to geek girls and queer geeks. The real essence of geekery, we feel, is letting everyone enjoy their hobbies. That can only happen if they feel like it’s safe for them to do so.

What kind of incidents or stories do your followers/members report or share?
Pam: Most of the stories we write about or exchange among ourselves revolve around toxic behavior in our respective geek circles. Some of our members, for example, have dealt with abuse from their former partners. Others run into all kinds of harassment, prejudice, and bullying while they’re cosplaying, or when they’re participating in community activities like e-sports tournaments or conventions.

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Are there any “rules” for being a part of your group/page?
Noey:
We don’t have hard rules per se. But we try to forward a culture of open communication among our members’ and a sense of ownership for the site within the team. We try to foster a place for them to feel safe enough to talk about issues that would otherwise be difficult to talk about is important. So: respect, compassion, and being transparent about how much you can commit to the site is key. On the readership end, we do our best to engage with our audience, so we made a set of Community Guidelines.

How do you combat sexual harassment, sexism, sexual predators, etc.?
Pam: Our primary form of engagement is providing a space for people to talk about these issues through articles, or through the comments section on our articles and on our social media feeds. We figure that by educating people on feminism and elevating the conversation, we’ll be able to tackle more focused issues like sexism and harassment.

Do you engage with men about sexual harassment? If so, how?
Pam: Yes! We are, first and foremost, about giving voice to people—men and women, queer and straight—who feel like they cannot speak up about their hobbies, their lives, and also what bothers them. Sexual harassment and sexual violence is something that affects everyone.

What advice would you give to those dealing with sexual harassment?
Pam:
Know, no matter what, that you are loved and you are worth it: nobody can take that away from you. From that point, establish your personal boundaries about everything. People, in general, are really bad at communicating, and the language of intimacy and romance and sex is a language with few spaces to practice in safely and minimal room for “error.”  If something happened, trust your gut.

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Marielle: It's a difficult thing to process, so give yourself time. Having people you trust to support you helps as well.

Mia: Find your center, even at your weakest. Take a break and take care of yourself when you need it. But don’t give up the fight.

Noey: There is also always room for you to learn more about your personal politics—you kind of pick this up as you go along. Remember to be kind to yourself. Compassion for others and the world starts with being compassionate to you. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s worth it.

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Deus Sex Machina

Admins: Marco Sumayao, Glerren Bangalan, Denice De Guzman, Dante Gagelonia

Why did you decide to start this page/group?
Marco: Honestly, Deus Sex Machina started as a joke. We thought it would be funny to read out ridiculous original erotica before a live audience. But as time went on, and given the subject matter we handled, we realized our show could be a helpful platform for starting healthy conversations on sex and sex positivity. Humor, after all, is a great ice-breaker.

Once you get people comfortable talking about sex, you get them more open to talking about the uncomfortable stuff—and that includes harassment and gender/orientation inequality issues.

What kind of incidents or stories do your followers/members report or share?
Denice: Deus Sex Machina is not really a space where people send in grievances. We are more about how you can acknowledge sex and its part in the human experience. We always say that sex is inherently funny, because if you can’t laugh at sex, you’re probably doing it wrong. DSM just provides a space where sex is not taboo, and hopefully it helps normalize a sex positive outlook.

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Are there any “rules” for being a part of your group/page?
Glerren: Know what consent is. Respect it, and apply it in your everyday [sex] life.

Seriously, we really don’t judge people for their kinks and fetishes as long as they’re legal and done with the consent of all parties involved. The last bit is really important! You can’t just claim to know and respect the idea of it but not apply it in real life. That's not how it works.

Also, we are people who make dick jokes, not people who are dicks. We value each member’s contribution and presence, and we try our best to always uplift and support each other.

How do you combat sexual harassment, sexism, sexual predators, etc.?
Denice: Deus Sex Machina is a comedy show, yes, but we’re actually pretty serious about having our safe space. We have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment/assault in our events and among our ranks, and our stories promote healthy sexual relationships with consent as a major factor.

Do you engage with men about sexual harassment?
Marco: We do it through several avenues; primarily in the content of our stories. We make sure that the pieces we present at our shows always contain consensual sex and sex acts, and characters within those stories are always quick to shut down any harassment/abusive behavior.

We’re very aware of the fact that men enjoy a certain level of privilege in our culture. In fact, we have a musical coming up dealing with that very topic! So we try to fix that by letting women maintain their agency in our stories and in how we run the show. In nurturing an environment where people of all genders and orientations are equal, we hope to teach our audience by example on how things could be if we all just learned to respect and support one another.

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What advice would you give to those dealing with sexual harassment?
Glerren:
First, take a deep breath. If you are afraid of your harasser, that’s okay. (If you are not afraid, that’s okay, too.) Find someone who makes you feel safe—be it a friend, a family member, a colleague, anyone—and tell them. Let someone know. Then, gather your wits, your thoughts, your courage, and your strength, and confront your harasser. You can take your time, you can act right away, what matters is that it’s done and done according to your terms. Take back the control. Tell them that what he/she/they did was not okay.

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End Rape Culture PH

Admin: Jessica Udani

Why did you decide to start this page/group? What’s your “mission”?
End Rape Culture PH was put up when jokes about rape were being made in a very public space and to an audience that applauded them. Soon after, a joke was made in my previous workplace and I took it as a threat. As a person who has gone through harassment and abuse, I knew then that someone’s joke is another person’s reality, and it shouldn’t be.

My first goal was to stop being a part of the problem and to unlearn the sexism that I was programmed with. I used to believe that the length of your skirt was associated with your worth. I even found it endearing when our elders tell us to “change your shorts unless you want to get raped outside.” I know better now, and the page has given everyone (admins and the audience) a safe space to learn.

What kind of incidents or stories do your followers/members report or share?
We speak to survivors who share their experiences with us and who may need help or advice. We also have allies who wish to know how they can help educate people around them about rape culture, and how to support their friends who are victims of sexual crimes and are unsure how to best deal with the situation.

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There are also individuals who take their time reporting pages or posts that condone sexual crimes, and others who simply wish to know what rape culture is and how it affects them.

Are there any “rules” for being a part of your group/page?
We understand that people may have different opinions on rape culture. Some believe it doesn’t exist while some have suffered through it and are willing to do all they can to end it. We encourage discussions, but we expect everyone to be respectful of each other and to avoid abusive language or using force to drive a point home.

How do you combat sexual harassment, sexism, sexual predators, etc.?
For ERCPH, we try to educate through the materials we share. The audience is very receptive and we appreciate when they share their opinions or knowledge with us.

On a personal level, I’m raising my child as someone people around him can trust. I have a seven-year old who identifies as a boy, and I do not want to raise him believing in locker room talk. I try to teach him about his body, consent, intimacy and respect in a language he understands.

Do you engage with men about sexual harassment? If so, how?
We appreciate those who send us screenshots of pages that promote harassment or rape. They also call out other men for their unacceptable behaviors online. Many in the page’s audience understand that sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender. While we believe that the patriarchy is the root of the problem, we consider men as allies and they need to be involved in the discussion.

What advice would you give to those dealing with sexual harassment?
It is okay to feel afraid BUT there is absolutely NO reason to feel ashamed. You are not alone and the moment you feel safe to reach out, please remember that other survivors and friends are here to listen and help.

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Catcalled in the Philippines

Admins: Talia Ruiz and Kenneth Yu

Why did you decide to start this page/group? What’s your “mission”?
The mission of Catcalled in the Philippines is to be an online support system for people who have experienced catcalling and other forms of sexual harassment. We want to educate people about the problem, its root causes, and its possible solutions.

How did you become an admin for this group/page?
Kenneth: I volunteered to be the tech support and behind-the-scenes admin for the page when it was tangling with the Pastor Hokage groups. When the previous set of admins had to leave, I ended up taking over as a main admin.

Talia: I actually joined after issues arose with the previous admin. I really cared about the advocacy, and I wanted to help the page get past the old team’s reputation, because the cause is so much more than these people’s actions.

What kind of incidents or stories do your followers/members report or share?
There’s quite a variety of incidents. We get everything from street harassment and catcalling, to outright stalking, sexual assault, to cyberbullying and blackmail. We’ve even had to handle some really unfortunate domestic incidents.

In every case, we try to be as helpful and supportive as possible, with the limited resources we have. We keep all contact with our page private, unless given the permission to share or discuss stories on the page wall (in which case, we keep stories anonymous, to prevent names from being associated with stories.) We are working on building up our resources of psychologists and legal professionals to help the people who contact us.

Are there any “rules” for being a part of your group/page?
We’re a page, so we don’t really have rules for entry or following. As long as people are interested in what we talk about, they’re free (and encouraged) to like, follow, and share our posts.

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We do have rules for people who want to comment. We’ll allow disagreement and argument in our comments, but we’re very strict about people who are insulting, dismissive or aggressive to other followers. We ask people to be nice and respectful.

How do you combat sexual harassment, sexism, sexual predators, etc.?
In the past, the page was aggressive, directly naming and shaming accounts and pages engaging in sexual harassment or sexism, and encouraging followers to report these accounts. While this helped get rid of some pages, we’ve found that it isn’t sustainable, and often contributes to making situations worse. We’ve since tended to explicitly avoid this type of behavior.

Now, we focus on education, about what women and men can do when they encounter harassment and sexism. We share critiques and analyses of the problem, guides on what can be done from a legal and self-defense standpoint, resources for people who are willing to teach and learn, etc.

Do you engage with men about sexual harassment? If so, how?
We do! Right now a lot of the work is sharing articles and perspectives about how men can be better about their relationships with women.

That’s the overall message we’re trying to convey: We’re not about attacking men for being men. It’s about helping men understand what may be wrong with their behavior, and encouraging them to rise above. Feminism is not just something for women to think about; it’s something for human beings to think about.

What advice would you give to those dealing with sexual harassment?
Remember that you deserve to feel safe wherever you are. Speaking up is hard, but it’s the only way we can start the conversation and hope to change the offenders.

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Grrrl Gang Manila

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Admins: Marla Darwin and Aissa Ereñeta

Why did you decide to start this page/group? What’s your “mission”?
Aissa: Mich Dulce first had the idea for Grrrl Gang Manila, and she brought together a diverse group. Grrrl Gang Manila’s mission is to provide an accessible and approachable intergenerational safe space for girls and women to discuss issues that affect them on a personal level. It is a safe space where no one is judged and where differences of opinion and diversities in social, cultural and political backgrounds add flair to an intergenerational group that continues to evolve, one meet after another. We encourage critical thinking and learning from each other. We educate each other about pressing issues that concern women and girls. We undertake collaborative projects that challenge oppressive gender norms in Philippine society.

What kind of incidents or stories do your followers/members report or share?
Aissa: We cover a wide range of topics on the page, and people share their opinions and personal experiences in the discussion threads. We talk about everything, from the trending feminist stories of the day, dating and relationships, sexual and reproductive health, fertility and motherhood (or non-motherhood), body positivity, everyday micro-aggressions we experience as women, sexual harassment in public spaces, sexual violence including intimate partner violence, and rape. These discussions help a lot of our members clarify how they think and feel about certain issues, and their opinions and feelings are enriched by the exchange.

Are there any “rules” for being a part of your group/page?
Aissa: We encourage a respectful exchange of views; we don’t tolerate harassment in any form. Harassment includes: offensive comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neuro(a)typicality, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion; threats of violence; incitement of violence towards any individual; deliberate intimidation; sustained disruption of discussion; and unwelcome sexual attention.

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How do you combat sexual harassment, sexism, sexual predators, etc.?
Marla: We had one post that went viral and attracted sexism and harassment. For that instance, we just stopped engaging, and let the issue blow over. Apart from that, we’ve been able to steer clear of incidents like this. We also have private groups—an internal volunteer group, a moms group, a book club—so we have safe spaces for discussions that often involve highly charged issues.

Aissa: When someone crosses the line, they get banned from the page. We haven’t had to take any further action than that so far.

Do you engage with men about sexual harassment?
Marla: If they demonstrate a willingness to be civil and are truly open to discourse, we do reply to their messages. We’ve been planning to hold an event in real life that’s open to everyone, not just women, in the future so that we hear from different perspectives and backgrounds.

Aissa: We engage them in dialogue on the page, and we’ve given several talks on the topic to an audience of men and women. Right now, Grrrl Meets are women-only, but we’re exploring the possibility of engaging men in a similar way in the future.

What advice would you give to those dealing with sexual harassment?
Marla:
It’s important to know the extent of your boundaries, and to know what your options are when you are put in positions that are becoming uncomfortable or dangerous. Learn to put words to your experiences. Grrrl Gang Manila is one of many organizations you can tap into, but on a micro level, seek the “ate” figures in your life as well (in work, families, barkada, etc.). The most pervasive kinds of harassment happen on this level, and it’s hard to deal with sexual harassment without your allies.

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Aissa: There are many different forms of sexual harassment. I’ve heard some women and girls say they’ve been in uncomfortable situations where they felt violated, but they weren’t sure if it “counts.” I think the first step would be to familiarize yourself with the different forms. Know your rights, and know what rules and policies are in place to protect you. There are still some gaps in the law, but there are legal protections in place, and workplaces and schools have their own policies on top of those. But beyond legal remedies, we all need to work together to change the social norms that perpetuate rape culture. We need to reexamine our beliefs about women’s rights and women’s bodies, and that’s a continuing conversation.