If you’re reading this then you probably read Rebecca’s recent post ‘Let’s talk about Friday night’ and when I read that I was pretty much fist pumping that a fellow mumma stood up to another for their bad parenting moment (Seriously! Teach your sons better than that!). Some people might think a slap on the ass is expected when you go to a bar but THAT’S THE PROBLEM. It’s ‘expected’. But it’s not okay and this needs to change and it needs to start with our kids. We need to raise them to respect one another and learn about consent and how to appropriately engage with whoever! Girl boy, boy boy, girl girl – whatever, this applies to EVERY person of EVERY gender. This kind of attitude that it’s the victims fault because of where he/she was, what they were wearing, how they were dancing is messed up and I’d bet is one of the sole reasons most people don’t come forward about any sexual assault they may experience. Because it’s so prevalent I can only hope that it’s just this ingrained rape culture that we live in that makes otherwise nice guys act like this, as I refuse to believe every man is a predator.
However, every woman I have ever known has experienced unwanted sexual attention from a man to some degree.
I was once pushed up against the wall at work by my boss, alone in a back hallway, and told I was the hottest “dishie” he’d ever seen. This was while working at major national chain of family restaurants. I kept quiet.
Again, while working as a bartender, I was violently pushed up against the wall by a DJ. He got about an inch from my face and said “What are you doing after work? You need to come home with me. That’s how it works – I’m the DJ, you’re the bar girl”. He literally had the expectation that I would sleep with him because of my occupation. I didn’t know that bartender meant callgirl?! Still, I kept quiet.
We’ve all been in bars and been groped, smacked, grabbed, and kissed without consent. We’ve been followed on the street and shouted at, hurriedly trying not to appear to weak and vulnerable but not too feisty and strong; trying to be polite and nice but not too polite and nice that he ‘gets the wrong idea’. We all keep quiet.
I’ve also been raped. I was 16 years old, June 2009. I kept quiet.
People talk about losing their virginity in a myriad of ways. I think “losing” it is a weird term, like you misplaced it somewhere by accident. Regardless, everyone remembers their first time. I know many people who had great experiences with loving partners, people who had one night stands but still didn’t regret it, and then there’s people like me. People who had something sacred taken from them, something they can never get back.
The night began like any other – it was a friends’ 18th birthday party and I was hanging out with my usual best mates I saw every weekend. We were like family, and we always looked out for one another. There were a few extras this night due to it being a special occasion, and one was a boy I had a crush on from afar. We got talking, hanging out on the couch and chatting most of the night. I was so happy, and downing probably (definitely) too many drinks. When it came to the end of the night he said he had to catch the last bus home. At this point I was so drunk and high on omg-my-crush-might-like-me (you know, acting like a giddy 16-year-old) that I offered to walk him to the bus stop about 5 blocks away. I told my friends I’d be back – they tried to stop me, but figured I was with someone I knew and I’d be alright. We got about 3 minutes from the bus stop when he stopped and asked if he could kiss me. I said yes, and he kissed me under the street lights. Butterflies flipping around my tummy, I was so, so happy. This was the best night ever.
He starts pushing me into the road, walking backwards until I trip over and fall into a bush on the island in the middle of the road. He gets on top of me and starts kissing me, and feeling me over, and pulling at my tights. I’m trying to stop him, grabbing his hands, confused – what are you doing? He puts his hand down my tights and I pull it out. He starts pulling down his pants and asks if I’d ever ‘done this before’. I said no, and I didn’t think I wanted to. Still, he is insisting over and over and in my mind all I’m thinking is “I like this guy, how is this happening, what did I do, what can I do, how do I get out of this, but I like him, I don’t want to be aggressive, this is all my fault, it’s because I’m drunk, it’s because I kissed him, you have to…” and before I know it I’m going down on HIM to try and stop him, something I’d never done before, and I was trying so hard not to throw up, and I’m half crying but he thinks it’s because I’m gagging, so he pushes me over, rips down my tights and rapes me.
If you have seen 13 Reasons Why, you will have seen the scene of Hannah in the tub where she glazes over and just gives up. I sobbed. I’m sobbing now. That’s exactly what it was like. How I wish I could go back to that night and assert my consent, hurt him, make it stop. Heck, even report it. But I didn’t. I felt like I had somehow asked for it to happen, and that I just needed to get over it. I thought about reporting it for all of about 5 minutes, but the reality of a judge or jury questioning my actions, what I was wearing, the fact that I liked him, the fact that I didn’t “technically” say NO (spoiler alert – neither did Hannah. Still looked like rape though, didn’t it!?). I didn’t want to be thought of as a slut for being raped in the middle of the road. Even now, almost 25, I would love to share this with everyone I know and use my story and struggle to help others and educate others on consent, but I’m too scared of the judgement and the victim blaming and the sexism that would no doubt be fired right back in my face as it is every single day. I’m too scared because of situations just like Rebecca’s – an 18-year-old CHILD feeling entitled to a grown woman’s body, and the attitude of that mother just shrugging off the actions of her “country boy”. To many of you that may seem minor but it is all of these little things that add up and contribute to rape culture. Just like it was all of those things that added up and caused Hannah to kill herself. It was also all of those things that kept me quiet.
I woke up the next day with bruises on my body and blood in my underwear. It hurt to sit. If I had gone to the hospital and done a rape kit that day, maybe he would’ve been done. There would have been evidence. Maybe we wouldn’t still have 35 mutual friends on Facebook, maybe he wouldn’t be able to taunt me by watching my Instagram stories that I REFUSE to make private out of fear. Maybe he’d be in jail. Maybe I wouldn’t have heard that he assaulted another girl in a very similar way only a year or two after me. Maybe I would’ve had some closure. Maybe I wouldn’t have “forgotten about it” and moved on only to let it bubble away and resurface years later, because he was still in our group of friends and I didn’t feel like I could share what had happened, or like anyone would believe me.
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what happened to me simply because I did not know what actual consent or sexual assault looked like. To me, rape was something that happened when you walked through a dark park at night alone. The guy that I wanted to kiss wasn’t meant to rape me.
I’m a mother of a daughter now, and when I think of the path that night lead me down (depression, drugs, eating disorders, anxiety, being promiscuous) it makes me want to do everything in my power to prevent any of this happening to her one day. There is no way this is going to change without person to person conversations. We need to consciously analyse our beliefs and our actions on a day to day basis and put down our own egos and see where we are being led off course. My fiancé stands up to men degrading women at work daily - he’s a feminist builder so he gets a lot of shit but he’s standing up every day for women everywhere and I’m so proud of him for that. And you know what? Some of the guys are changing.
I hope whoever is reading this has a think about all the little things they just sit by and accept. We’re all observers and we all know that if we’re watching the crime and doing nothing about it we too are part of the problem. Just think about it, and talk about, and share this with your sisters and misters because maybe someone else out there thinks rape is only a guy in a park in the middle of the park or slapping a girl on the ass is ok.
It’s all of these little things that can spiral into big things that can change someone’s life.