Michele Howley went viral this week after she took to Facebook to detail the groping incident she experienced on October 6.
Howley wrote on Facebook that she, her mom, and her grandmother had all went to a Chris Stapleton concert that night.
After the concert ended, Howley, her family, and the rest of the concert goers began filtering out of the theater. She described the area as “crowded, but not packed.”
As Howley moved with the crowd, she felt something behind her, more specifically she felt something hit her on the right side of her behind:
I turned around, a group of guys were walking behind me. They snickered. I thought, “It was probably an accident. People bump into each other all the time at concerts.” I thought I heard someone say, “Do it again.” But I dismissed it, thinking I probably misheard.
Less than a minute later, I felt someone slowly run their fingers over my right butt cheek from the bottom & squeeze. I was wearing a long, velvet skirt – I could feel it all – and the heat of his hand.
Howley made sure to let the man who had just allegedly groped her know his actions were not okay:
I whipped around, I pushed him backward and I screamed “Don’t you ever f***ing touch a [woman] like that. That man just grabbed my ass!” He gave me a dopey face and put his hands up in the air, as if pleading innocence. Two security [personnel] who happened to be standing by grabbed him and motioned for me to follow. I was hot with anger.
As Howley and her family made their way toward security, the alleged harasser’s friend tried to convince Howley that what his “friend” did wasn’t “a big deal” and that she was “overreacting.”
The friend reportedly said:
“Come on, it’s a compliment. How can you blame him? It’s not his fault you have a nice ass.” When I wasn’t having that, he said: “It’s not a big deal, this stuff happens all the time. You’re overreacting.”
Howley continued by writing on Facebook:
We walked together into the security office and immediately the conversation switched to: “My friend would never to do that. He/I didn’t touch her.” And a familiar chorus of “she’s a liar.”
The police came and wrote my account of what happened. They asked me if I’d like to press charges. I never even considered I could. Stunned, I said, “I didn’t know.” They told me that I’d have to stay for a lot longer while they did the [paperwork,] that I’d have to show at not one, but probably multiple court dates. They said it would be hard to prove.
After listening to what the police had to say, Howley admitted that her anger began to “falter” and she began to question if what had just happened to her was “really that big of a deal?”
“He just grabbed my butt,” she said to herself. Maybe his friend was right, “stuff like this does happen all the time.”
Howley then started worrying about holding everyone she was with, including the police, up. And at first, she told the responding officers that she would have to think about pressing charges. She watched as they walked over the man’s table and began questioning him.
It was their word against Howley’s:
I sat down at the table that my mom, grandma and Kevin, the head of security, were sitting at. He looked at me and said immediately, “you need to press charges, he shouldn’t get away with it. I have a daughter.” My mom and Grandma obviously agreed and that small voice faded as livid anger took the [driver’s] seat once again.
Why WASN’T it a big deal that [the] man felt entitled to not only touch my butt once, but confidently and invasively grab it for a second time?
Why was I expected to take it as a compliment?
Why was I worried about burdening the police officers with [paperwork?] Why was I worried about being believed?
Why was my first reaction anger, quickly followed by [self-doubt?]
Why was it “just an ass grab”?
It was in that moment Howley went back to a conversation she had with her mom and grandmother just hours earlier as they made her way to the Stapleton concert.
The conversation centered around newest Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh:
It was hard for all of us – all having had experiences with men that made the process emotional to watch unfold. We spoke passionately of a day where men didn’t feel entitled to take advantage. We spoke passionately about change.
As we waited, I thought to myself that maybe it had to start with not dismissing the small things. To stop saying, “it’s just an ass grab.” To stop dismissing what we’ve been taught as women to withstand and tolerate.
The police came back after awhile and asked if I’d decided to press charges. In Cook County, there has to be penetration or contact with genitalia to be considered sexual assault, so it would be for battery. I gave my answer with the same confidence that he grabbed my ass with.
A minute later, the man was handcuffed and led outside where the police car waited. He would have to post bail, hire an attorney and see me in court.
She has since promised to take her case as far as it could go, not only for herself, but for “all women (and men) who know this same experience far too well, and who experience far, far worse.”
Howley has made the choice to “silence the small voice that dismisses experiences like this one – that makes us feel like an inconvenience for speaking up.”
Most importantly, Howley is using her story and her experience to say “goodbye to the temptation to believe ‘it’s just an ass grab.'”
She told Dearly:
“I guess that I have to start with acknowledging my privilege – the color of my skin and my specific circumstances. A lot of women have posted or direct messaged me their stories about how they wished they had been brave enough to do what I had done.
The stars were absolutely aligned for me – security happened to be standing right there to witness my reaction and grab him immediately, my incredibly supportive mom, grandmother, and a male ally, Kevin, were there to support me and my decision. All I had to do was answer “yes” to pressing charges. It’s hardly ever this straightforward.
Howley also told Dearly that her story was in no way meant to “criticize how any woman has chosen to come forward or not to come forward,” but rather her story is meant “to inspire and motivate future action – to set bold boundaries around our bodies, hearts, and worth”:
“Women who’ve experienced any form of sexual assault are brave for just surviving beyond their experience. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t speak up right away, or didn’t take action at all.”
As RAINN reports, one out of every six women in America has been a victim of sexual assault. That equates to roughly 321,500 victims, aged 12 or older of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.
A sexual assault takes place every 98 seconds in America.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault and needs someone to talk to, please call the RAINN’s hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
Editor’s Note: This article was updated for clarity after publication.