Pretty much every woman I know has experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape.
All three. More than once.
I didn’t talk about it. We don’t do we? Sometimes, we can’t even label it. It’s too hard and it goes against the socialisation we have had since birth. It’s just part of being a girl.
I reject that.
The way I am going to reject that, is by talking about it. Openly and honestly.
As girls we are taught that we are responsible for other people. Their feelings, their needs and all too often their sexuality, is somehow our responsibility. I reject that. Men are entirely able to take responsibility for themselves. It is insulting to men to suggest otherwise.
I had a private conversation with a woman I had been at school with thirty-five years ago. She had mentioned being sexually assaulted by a sporting celebrity. The conversation tentatively moved on to the sexual assaults we had both suffered at school, and the boys who committed them. Thirty five years later we finally speak about boys who invaded our vaginas with no thought , no consequences and no conscience. They possibly don’t even remember, who knows? But we do.
We remember in slow motion, every detail, the physical reality, and the emotional reality. The total violation of our identity. And we were silenced by shame, by knowing that even if we were to be believed, it’s just boys being boys.
I worked in an environment, where I had to change my clothes. There was a private space to do this. I cannot tell you the number of times some man has walked into that space, without knocking, and always, every time, saying, “sorry love, I didn’t realise you were getting changed”. In a changing room? Really? Of course they did! And that’s why there were no locks on the doors.
Having our boundaries screwed over by society, over and over again. Male entitlement and ownership of our bodies, confirmed, over and over again.
I remember deliberately straining to see the TV over his shoulder, and saying “fucking get on with it then.” I didn’t give it its name. Its name was rape.
His weight on top of me, I couldn’t move. The determination to watch the telly was my way of telling him I wasn’t there, wasn’t engaging, would watch the telly while he used my body for his own ends. My mind was not his, it was still mine. I was still in control of that, and I wanted him to know.
I call it what it was now, but again, it took years. It took time, and it took counselling. The desperate irony that this man worked with sex offenders, just added to my grief.
It was RAPE.
These are hard words to say out loud. But, that is what I believe we must do. We must use these words. We must be matter of fact, and not feel in any way responsible, for the way other people feel about us using them.
If there is any good at all to come out of the Savile case, and the Trump case, it is that these subjects are out there. The more of us who say, that happened to me too, and take back control and ownership of our own bodies, individually and collectively, then the exposure of those men will have had a positive outcome.