This is not an easy subject to talk about. These are somewhat defining moments, they cause us to act and grow into the people we are. When you think about it, anything of actual importance is never that easy, so let me start from a beginning. My beginning.
I remember being introduced to things of a sexual nature when I was far too young. This part of my beginning, I shall not go into.
I remember being about 14, barely developing any physical attributes of a woman. Walking in my little village and crossing paths with a stranger I assumed was around my fathers age. He didn’t touch me, he didn’t have to. His stares did enough work. I remember picking up the pace to get away as fast as I could and praying that my breasts would not grow because of the disgust this stranger had made me feel for my own underdeveloped body.
I remember a year or two after this, on holiday with my family in a strange country. Still not even close to representing a woman's physique, and yet a gaggle of perverted old men once again stared me down and brought that all too familiar feeling of disgust to my gut. I remember I clung close to my father, but I never voiced anything about why or what I was feeling.
I remember being 18 and making the fatal mistake of eating nothing save a handful of cold chips on a night out on the town. We soon ended up in the local dive, the only place in town open till the late hours with a dance floor. I remember seeing many girls in my year, all out for a fun night. I remember a pair of men, easily twice my age. I remember being too drunk, I remember just wanting to dance… I remember his hand going down my knickers. I pushed him away, but it was too late. And the disgust for myself only grew.
I remember losing my virginity. No, it was not how I wanted it to happen, and definitely not to someone I wanted to lose it to. But it happened. I remember feeling something had been taken from me, something I’d never get back. I remember being broken. I remember my close friends at the time felt something in me had changed, but I also remember my best friend at the time unknowingly save me from heading down a very different path, and I couldn’t tell her just how she had saved my life.
I remember walking down many streets, many times. I remember the cat callers, the builders, bin men, white van men. I remember thinking “have you ever seen a female before!?” I remember swearing at them, I remember joking with them. I remember exactly how objectified each time made me feel.
I remember a gig where I had just come off stage to enjoy the next band. I remember seeing this boy acting iffy with other girls. I was standing with my parents and my boyfriend. I remember this boy trying to flirt with me, and I bantered with him- as is my way- but never gave him an invitation. I remember he grabbed my ass and telling him if he did it one more time he’d be on the floor. I remember him laughing. I remember him going for my ass again. He didn’t stay on his feet long, but the gig was ruined for me. I didn’t tell my parents or boyfriend in that moment what the boy had done, because I didn’t want to be an inconvenience… but my night had been ruined by this boy. I remember thinking to myself, why didn’t I tell anyone who worked there? Why didn’t I take this boy downstairs, tell the landlord – a close friend of mine- what he had done and have him kicked out and possibly banned?
It is not easy for a girl, lady or woman to speak up. We are taught, by the dismissive behaviour of a lot of men, that we will be laughed at, ignored or penalised if we speak up. We are objectified in music videos, songs, films.
I have read many many different responses to #metoo. Most are of a positive and supporting nature, some not so much.
To the women who are out there, do not feel pressured into sharing anything you are not ready or do not feel comfortable to. The only reason I have shared parts of my story is to make a point and hope that I can have some positive impact. That is my choice. No matter what, remember there are people here to support you and although I don’t know you, I love you. Live your moments and grow strong in yourself, you are beautiful.
To the men who empathise and realise, even some admit that they may have been cause of sexual harassment/assault, and are willing to have a conversation and have a want to change things, thank you. Admitting something like this isn’t an easy thing, and your support will move mountains.
To the men who are making it about them.. the #mentoo (much like #whitelivesmattertoo) if you will. Yes, men get sexually harassed and assaulted also, by both men and women. Yes it’s wholly damaging for those victims and it should be talked about. However, I need you to understand that socially it is not the same. Men are not regularly sexually assaulted in public and expected to take it as a joke. Sexual assault of men by other men is not constantly normalised in popular culture- through advertising, song lyrics, music videos, even birthday cards. There are specific reasons to be talking about just how common and normalised and dismissed sexual assault against women is, and if you want to bring men into that discussion, then make it about why men commit these acts. Do not make it into another version of silencing women.
Finally to my family, I am sorry I never spoke to you about the things that happened to me. I know you have always been and are always there for me with no judgement. In a way, I think I was trying to protect you, so you weren’t constantly worrying about me. And although these things are terrible, and should never have happened, they did. I am who I am now because of a lot of good and bad experiences. And now I have reached my decision to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to seeing this behaviour, whether it’s towards me, my friends or even strangers. I will endeavour to speak up, I will endeavour to act, to stop others from going through these life changing experiences. I will not be silent.