Why We Need to Talk About Tiarah Poyau


We've all been there -- walking down the street, minding your own business when out of the blue you receive unwanted attention. Whether it's a catcall or blatant attempt at groping, you're suddenly faced with a decision: stand up for yourself and risk confrontation or ignore it and ... also risk confrontation. You see, there's no "easy out" for women. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't speak out against street and/or sexual harassment.

Take, for example, the story about Tiarah Payouh, the 22-year old graduate student at St. John's University who was recently slain for telling a man--who was grinding against her at a music festival without her consent--to get off her. Shot at point-blank range. For defending herself and the right to her body.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This young woman, full of so much potential whose hopes and dreams of becoming an accountant, was KILLED for saying NO. What the actual hell?!

When I first stumbled about Tiarah's story on Facebook, I gasped. My breath was taken away because just a few months ago I'd rejected a man's unwanted advances as I was walking to the bus stop and saw a man reach for my arm as he he tried to holler at me. I yanked my arm away and yelled "don't touch me."

It was a visceral reaction. I didn't think anything of it. I saw him reach for me and I was NOT having it. So I said something. It never crossed my mind that that moment, that decision could have cost me my life.

But this is a reality that women are faced with every. single. day. Say something and risk consequences or suffer in silence to increase the odds of safety. It's a lose-lose situation. A situation that wouldn't even exist if these so-called men didn't feel entitled to a woman's body and their fragile male egos didn't crumble when faced with rejection.

I'm not a psychologist or therapist or any licensed professional who can speak to people's psyches. But I do know this: we need to treat each other with respect. We need to respect one another's bodies. We need to respect a person's right to say no. We need respect. And we need to stop blaming victims and hold the aggressors accountable. Simply put, we need to do better.

Don't let Tiarah Poyau and others like her die in vain. It could have been any of us, but it should be none of us.