A Georgia waitress became something of a feminist hero last week when footage of her taking down a male customer who inappropriately touched her butt went viral online. Now, Emelia Holden, the waitress in the video, is speaking out about the incident and encouraging others to stand up for themselves if faced with similar instances of sexual harassment.
"You have every right to stand up for yourself no matter who it is," Holden said in an interview with local CBS affiliate WTOC. "No one has the right to put their hands on you. No, means no. You have to have consent."
It was near the end of her shift serving up slices at VinnieVanGoGo's pizzeria in Savannah, Georgia, when security cameras captured 21-year-old Holden throwing a 31-year-old male customer to the ground after he'd reached out and touched her butt as he passed by. Holden told WTOC that, when she first felt the hand on her rear, she initially thought a female co-worker was trying to play a joke on her. But then she turned and saw it was a male customer.
"I was like nope, that's not going to happen," she said in an interview with WTOC. "You're not going anywhere, you're going to face the consequences."
In the video, Holden can be seen quickly yanking the man backward by his t-shirt as he starts to walk away before wrapping one arm around his neck and throwing him to the ground. She told the New York Times she'd yelled "You don't touch me" at him as he sat stunned on the floor after the takedown.
Holden's coworkers reportedly kept the man from leaving as she called the police, who, upon seeing footage of the incident that had been captured by the restaurant's security cameras, arrested the man and charged him with sexual battery.
"I was really satisfied when he was arrested," Holden told WTOC. "It not only felt like justice for me but justice for the other women who have had that happen."
According to the New York Times, the pizzeria had only recently installed the security cameras that captured Holden's assailant. The restaurant had reportedly been spurred to put them up after other servers were assaulted by a man in an earlier incident but unable to press charges due to "insufficient evidence."
The waitress told WTOC that she's received nothing but support from both the owner and manager of VinnieVanGoGo's. "I'm also very fortunate to work at a restaurant where I get a phone call like, 'oh, that was awesome' from the owner instead of being [told], 'oh, well he's the customer. Don't put your hands on people like that,'" she said.
Overall, Holden said she's received mostly positive responses and comments since the video of her takedown went viral. A few people, however, have attempted to victim blame her by arguing that she somehow brought the groping on herself by wearing shorts. "That shouldn't matter," Holden said in regards to her clothing. "It's hot out. I can wear whatever I want. Don't touch me."