April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and today I read a really great blog by Robyn Shepard on the national ACLU website.  I was not only entertained by the abundant use of vulgarities but also impressed by the well-presented reminder that "sexual assault doesn't always necessarily mean something as horrible as rape."
I encourage you to read the blog but the short version is that the author was walking down a NYC street and was slapped right on the backside by a young male passerby.  Whereas normally she might have written off the incident, she instead decided to pursue her assailant. She chased him down, confronted him and finally called the police. Again, I really encourage you to read the account in her words, because they are not only colorful but also powerful.
The narrative reminded me of my own experience with this same type of encounter years ago while I was in the Army.  I worked in a very small, intimate office that had been previously inhabited by men, exclusively. In fact, I think I was the first female soldier that had worked in that particular office in years.  The office culture until that point was one where a nonchalant, “good game” pat on the butt was completely normal – and encouraged! However, arriving to a new country (Korea) and into an office of strangers left me feeling less than comfortable with this practice.  Unfortunately, I was young and did not want to upset the equilibrium of the office environment. Being a female in the service is hard enough as it is without being the one who is stirring the pot.  So instead of standing up for myself like the woman in the ACLU blog, I just smiled anxiously and retreated after getting a “good game”.  Luckily, with the changing of the staff and an influx of female soldiers the practice eventually subsided. 
Looking back, I know that reacting differently would have certainly caused some waves at the outset but ultimately would not only have made me feel safer and more comfortable in my workspace but it also would have helped young female soldiers that arrived after me.  I could not imagine standing for that type of behavior now but I can understand the hesitancy that so many women have.  It is often hard to stand up for yourself in these situations, whether it is a stranger, a co-worker, or even a friend.

Although, as Robyn reminds us in her blog: “I know what happened to me could have been a lot, lot worse. But someone doesn't have to be raped to be humiliated, violated and hurt. Sometimes, all it takes is a smack on the ass.”