*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Rape, Self Harm*
The fact that I’m typing this makes me feel strong. For so many years I’ve been made to feel like I shouldn’t say anything, I shouldn’t speak out about the multiple times I’ve been harassed or sexually assaulted. I’ve been made to feel like a liar, an embellisher, someone who can’t remember the full truth and someone who doesn’t understand what she really wanted and what she didn’t. I’ve been made to feel like rape isn’t rape unless it’s violent. And a bit of groping is harmless. Well, it’s not harmless, and I’m so relieved that we’re finally talking about this.
#MeToo shows how powerful strength in numbers is, so today, I’m bearing all and telling you everything, every little detail, of my own #MeToo story. Strap in, because it’s a long one, and it spans over many years (nearly a decade, actually) And please, if you have something you need to say, to get off your chest, the comment section below is all yours, as are my Twitter mentions and DMs.
I know what I’ve experienced, I know it’s not right, it never was, but unfortunately I was made to believe that it was.
I was so naive when I was 16. I trusted everyone, and I thought I had control over what did or didn’t happen to me. I was wrong. I was at a house party with a boy I had just started dating, we had been on one date, we had kissed. We were drinking vodka from a smashed bottle, people around us were doing Ketamine. I felt ok. We went into the bathroom and started having sex, I quickly realised this was not something I wanted to do. I started to cry, and he asked if I was ok. But he tried to continue. This went on for a while, but eventually I got him to stop. I said I wanted everything to stop, it didn’t feel right. “Well, if you’re not going to have sex with me, can you give me a blowjob so I can finish?” No. “Come on…” I knelt down, his fingers locked behind my head and although I said I didn’t want to he pushed down. I pushed back, my head was straining against his hands as he tried to force me to give him oral sex. Luckily, I didn’t give in and eventually he let go. I was mortified by what had just happened. And I knew because I was with him willingly people wouldn’t believe me when I said I didn’t want to, that it didn’t feel right. When he realised I was getting dressed, I was leaving, he got angry. Really angry. I don’t remember what he said, but I know the implication was that I was worthless. Nothing. A whore. At 16.
New Years Eve – 17, 22
New Years Eve seems to bring out the worst in people. I’ve been sexually assaulted twice on New Years Eves. With a five year gap between each incident. The first was when I was 17. My first proper New Years Eve house party. It was so exciting. I had so much fun, dancing with my friends, and kissing boys. I decided to stay over, like many of the other people at the party. I put on my baby blue onesie and settled on the floor with my head against a chair. I was comfortable. I was ready to go to sleep. There were six other people in the room. One of the boys kept coming into the room, apparently checking that I was ‘ok’. He kept lifting me up, putting his hands under my arms and placing me on the chair I was leaning on, and eventually on his lap. “You’ll be more comfortable on the chair” No, I’m fine right here. “Let me lift you onto it” No, I’m fine. “Why don’t you sit on my lap?” I’m ok here. Eventually, I stopped resisting. There were other people in the room, I didn’t want to raise my voice or cause a fuss. I thought if I did people would think I was overreacting. He started kissing my cheek, my neck, I leaned away. He used his hands to move my face, trying to push my mouth onto his. I kept turning away, but he kept persisting. And eventually I just let it happen. It’s a very weird feeling, having someone kiss you, on the mouth, with absolutely no reciprocation from yourself. He took this as an invitation to continue. My silence, my lack of a reaction, was a yes. My onesie was repeatedly unzipped. The first three or four times he did it I zipped it back up. But eventually, again, I realised resistance was futile and I just let it happen. I became inanimate as he touched my body, eventually forcing his fingers inside of me while I sat there motionless, terrified of making a sound. I knew at this point if I said no, if I forced him off of me, it would wake the other people in the room, and they wouldn’t believe me. They wouldn’t believe that I didn’t want it. So I sat there and waited for him to stop. When he did, I zipped the onesie back up and I tried to sleep.
At 22 I was at another New Years Eve party with a small group of friends, about eight of us. I stayed over, it was over an hour back to mine and I didn’t fancy the journey at 1am with all of the other drunk revellers. I felt safer staying over, which was unfortunately incorrect. Three of us were sat on the sofa, watching a film. I had my arm over the shoulders of my male friend. I was comfortable. He began to grope me. No, I said. Sorry, he said. But he kept doing it, like maybe the third, fourth, fifth, sixth time I would magically change my mind and no would become yes. Or at least silence, that he could take as a yes. But I stood firm. No was no. Until I was asleep. As I drifted off I felt him touching me again and I froze. As far as he was aware I was asleep, and he was groping me again. In the ways I had said no to when I was conscious, awake. I moved my body away as much as I could. At 4am I called an Uber, I went home. I slept restlessly. Confused as to why a good friend, someone I had known since the age of 15, would do that. He apologised in February, two months later, after being confronted by a mutual female friend about it. I accepted the apology, but I didn’t forget. I never will.
When I turned 18 I couldn’t wait to drink. I wanted to get drunk, I wanted to party. I went to two 18ths in the same night. I was incoherent, I could barely stand. I fell down a flight of stairs in the club, the bouncer (standing at the top of the stairs) just looked at me, I got up and continued on. I was on the dance floor, it was flashing multiple colours. The room was spinning and a man had his hand up my skirt. I was disorientated, he led me outside. He bent me over and he had sex with me. I was too drunk to consent. I was too drunk to resist. But it happened. And it made me feel like dirt, I feel inanimate, once again, like an object that’s only purpose was to be used. Nobody saw us leave the club, so nobody needed to know what happened. And at 18 I knew for a fact I wouldn’t be believed so I kept it secret.
University – 18,19,20
A night out wasn’t a night out unless I was groped, at least twice. There was the guy who shoved his hands down my friend’s shorts and then repeatedly tried to talk to us and ‘say sorry’ for the rest of the night. He couldn’t seem to get it through his thick head that groping a woman wasn’t an appropriate thing to do, or that they have every right to ignore you, to not want to talk to you after you’ve done that. It’s not fun and games, no matter how much they try to insist it is. There were the many faceless men who put their hands on my body, in particular my ass. It was pinched, grabbed, slapped, all without my permission, but with this sick understanding that I apparently was ok with it, or that I should be. It made me feel inanimate, once again, I was an object to be touched and used and my consent and permission was not necessary for that to happen. The one guy I did confront (he was one of the rare ones that I actually managed to identify after he had done it) told me I was overreacting, it was just a bit of fun, it wasn’t a big deal, his female friend was also pinching people’s bums, they were seeing who could do it the most amount of times that night, it was a game, why was I shouting at him? Why couldn’t I just let it go? Everyone did it! This repeated groping had a profound effect on my mental health. I didn’t feel human, I didn’t feel worthy of respect. I was a body, that was it, that was all people seemed to be able to see. I would tuck myself under my bed, pulling my knees to my chest, holding my breath, with my eyes wide open. Inanimate. A doll. I started drinking heavily before each night, half a bottle of vodka, if not more. When I got back I selected my favourite kitchen knife from the drawer and I went to town on my arms. I hurt my physical self, in the way that my mental self was hurting. I cut away at the flesh that gained attention I didn’t want, and didn’t invite. Sexual assault and harassment was rife at uni, a Russell Group university that had an active anti-sexual assault campaign, #NeverOk. A campaign we openly mocked, a campaign that felt almost like an insult, patronising. I hollowly laughed, because I felt overwhelmed, I felt helpless against the tide of hands that were constantly groping, touching, feeling without permission.
Commuting – 22, 23
Nothing says 9am more like a man subtly forcing physical contact between you and his groin. There was the man who, at 6pm, stood facing me, close enough for me to smell the alcohol on his breath and gripped the bar right above my head, forcing himself into my personal space, close enough to brush against my body. His friend had that look on his face that most friends of these people do, the helpless ‘I know this is wrong but I’m not strong enough to confront him’ look. Luckily, it didn’t escalate past this, I got of the tube, raging. Frustrated, angry that this was still happening. That my body was still an invitation for unwanted attention and physical contact. There was the man who sat next to me, locked his eyes onto my breasts, and tried to subtly lean onto me, I shifted in my seat so he wasn’t touching me, he leant further over. I shifted again, and he lolled his head over, practically touching my shoulder. I sat forwards in my chair, trying everything I could to prevent this unwanted physical contact. Finally there was the man who sat down next to me and decided to prod me on the shoulder, start up a conversation. I blankly looked on, at 23 I’ve learnt I have to pretend they’re invisible or run the risk of being assaulted, groped, touched again. He got off at the same stop as me. Looking back to check where I was. I made sure I was behind him, I needed to keep an eye on him. My keys were gripped in my fist, I was ready to fight. Luckily, I managed to use another exit and avoid him, but I had to go out of my way to avoid potentially being assaulted, by a man who had just seen me on the tube and decided to attempt to intimidate me. I had no say in that, he decided it for me.
I would like to hope that I won’t ever be sexually assaulted again, but I’m not the naive 16 year old I used to be. But I know I probably will, it could be tomorrow, it could next week, it could be next month, next year. There’s been so many times I can say #MeToo it’s sickening. It’s fucked me up. And the responsibility has always sat firmly on my shoulders. It was always my fault, I did something wrong. Well, actually, no. I did nothing wrong, the only crime I committed was being a woman, having breasts and hips, a curvy figure. And as far as I am concerned, that isn’t a crime, I’ve been made to feel like my existence is the problem. It’s not, it’s the men that think my existence is an invitation to assault, harass and rape that are.