Country music star Katie Armiger was only 15 when she said she was sexually assaulted by a radio DJ while on tour.
"I was at a radio station in Texas and was taking a promo photo with one of the on-air DJs after doing my performances and he grabbed me from behind during the photo," she told Fox News. "And at the same time he was whispering in my ear, 'When are you going to be legal?'"
Armiger said she "was shocked" and "terrified" but had no one to lean on for support.
"I brought up my fears and I was told that's how it was and if I wanted to be in music, I'd have to get over it," she said.
I wish I could say I had a completely different experience while promoting my album 10 years ago, but unfortunately, the respect toward women in the entertainment industry is low.
Ten years ago, I was in Nashville, Tennessee, performing showcase after showcase, hoping to strike a deal with a major record label. I had an appointment with a prominent record executive — a lunch date, just the two of us.
I was nervous for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I was recently married and had been told prior to that meeting that it would hurt my chances of getting signed. I was instructed to take off my wedding ring and to make it clear that I was willing to fully commit to my career, above all else.
Before the lunch, I was told that under no circumstances should I divulge I had a husband. "People — especially men — like to think you're single, available," this person said. "They want to think they have a chance."
This was a harsh reality in the music business. Single women are seen as easier to market, no doubt because of this sexist mentality. When it comes right down to it, men want to think they can "get" the girl.
Well, I was already "gotten" and I felt sick taking off that wedding ring and walking into the restaurant. I shouldn't have done it, but my dreams seemed so close that I kept telling myself "once you get a record deal, things will be different. Just get the deal."
Well, the meeting didn't last too long, and toward the end, the exec looked down at my left hand and asked me, "Do you have a boyfriend?" I can still see his leering smile.
Here's what I should have done: I should have looked this pig square in the face and said, "I have a husband and there is no chance you or anyone else will come between us." Instead, I awkwardly said that technically no, I did not have a boyfriend — and then didn't elaborate. I didn't get signed. The little lie wasn't worth it. It never is.
Sometimes, when women feel threatened by men — especially if the threat is subtle, almost undetectable — we freeze. It can take hours, days, weeks, months, even years to process our emotions and speak out about our discomfort and disgust. I don't know why that is, but there have been times I have felt like it was just better to not say anything.
The attitude of shrugging it off as "boys will be boys" or "locker room talk" is what gives men the impression that it's OK to treat women poorly. I am raising four boys and I refuse to give them a free pass to walk all over women.
Just the other day I overheard one of my sons say, "Stop being such a girl," to his brother at the dinner table. Immediately, I stopped what I was doing and looked him square in the eye.
"That is an insult," I said. "But not toward your brother, it is an insult toward me. Because when you call a boy a girl in an attempt to put him down, it degrades every other girl out there, making them seem like they aren't as good as boys. And we are. Think about your mom when you say that. Think how that makes me feel. And don't say it anymore."
My son was a little taken aback, but said, "OK, I won't."
Women, we have to stand up for ourselves. I know what it feels like to be encouraged to dress immodestly, flirt shamelessly and have the pressure to sell my virtue to be successful. I know what it's like to constantly move wandering hands during photos with fans, to feel shaky and sick after a not-so-innocent comment during an interview, to hear catcalls and to be presented with vile and degrading opportunities to make more money or further my career.
I believe it was because of my faith and the prayers of friends and family pleading that I would stay safe and strong that I didn't cave under this enormous pressure. There were times I literally felt strength beyond my own to firmly say "no" or walk away time and time again under very difficult circumstances.
Men, don't think we don't care about or notice the little disrespectful comments, the jabs, the inappropriate gestures and touches. We notice, we care, we hate it, and we need you to stop it and step it up.
To all the good men out there protecting, respecting and standing up for women, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am especially thankful for my husband, who has always set an example for my boys to follow. I'm forever grateful I chose you "above all else."