Womankind VS Predator
In the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein ‘revelations’, I’ve been surprised at the various responses of men to his being outed as a [allegedly: I don’t have enough money to buy one of his films let alone get sued] contemptible sexual predator. Upon hearing a powerful man has consistently used his power and influence for his own selfish and seedy gain does not come as much of a surprise to most women. The surprise for me has been that it seems many men are still unaware that the majority of women have at some point in their life, to some degree, experienced sexual assault.
The idea that women being assaulted, abused, attacked, made to feel intimidated and vulnerable, is reserved for those in the public eye is simply inaccurate. The idea that only conventionally ‘beautiful’ women are preyed upon is also an erroneous and perilous way of thinking. All women, of all ages, shapes, sizes, in all professions would undoubtedly be able to relay a tale of when a man has made her feel essentially lesser; at the very least.
Myself, I have been thinking about my own uncomfortable experiences a lot lately in reading the barrage of articles on Weinstein. Many of the responses to actresses speaking out on their abuse at the hands of Weinstein have been met with questioning and suspicion rather than empathy. “Why didn’t you mention this at the time?” “Why are you mentioning it now?” “What are you trying to gain?” – all of this serves as a very public neon-flashing-sign reminder of why so many women don’t talk about experiences of sexual assault. When the first reaction is one of accusation rather than compassion where is the hope that our stories will be believed?
When I was around 17, I was at a party where I was in a boy’s bedroom. I say ‘boy’ because they were boys and I was a girl; we were teenagers. I was with around 5 people, I was completely comfortable, amongst friends (male and female) and the furthest thing from my mind was sex. We all moved to another room, but as we did I found myself alone with one of the boys for a few moments, we were chatting and giggling and within seconds I was lying on a mattress on the floor with him on top of me. He’d pushed me over and pinned me down without warning or a sniff of encouragement. I was stunned and frozen and panicked – this had gone from a giggly ‘ha ha what are you doing?’ scenario to utter disgust before I’d chance to catch my breath. I called out – nothing came out. My friend came upstairs and found me and pulled this boy off me, he might have hit him I can’t recall. I spent the rest of the party avoiding him and feeling confused and embarrassed. I knew I was being talked about – I was undoubtedly ‘frigid’ or ‘a tease’ or the like. This just distracted from the reality – that someone had just tried to assault me and other than my hero friend no one seemed to give the first toss about it.
When I was 19 and worked in a pub I was walked home by a colleague. Halfway home he drunkenly pushed me into a wall and tried to kiss me. He shoved me so hard he scraped my face on the brick and cut my head. My saving grace here was his drunkenness – easier to fend off. Which I did, and ran home, not looking behind me as I did for fear he might have been chasing me. The next time I saw him (and had to work with him) he ignored me, and when forced to engage with me was mocking and rude, again leaving me feeling I’d somehow been in the wrong by not giving in to his whisky-breathed advances.
When I was 20 I was at a work’s night out, and a colleague, who for a while had been making overt verbal advances towards me on an almost laughable daily basis, slipped something into my drink which caused me to blank out the remainder of the night. My boyfriend at the time picked me up, but I have no memory of what happened prior to that. I am utterly convinced this man did it and utterly convinced he would have done more had I not been ‘rescued’. My then-boyfriend didn’t believe I was spiked though, just assumed I’d went on some sort of bender (something I never did). He didn’t push for me to tell anyone, didn’t trust me. So if he didn’t then who else would? That was the end of that.
That’s just 3 occurrences in my life which have left me feeling humiliated, afraid and so, so angry. There have been countless more, to lesser degrees, where men have touched me when I didn’t give them permission to, where men have commented on my body, talked about me as if I were a piece of prime rib, or just made me feel unworthy. Too many to list and too unpleasant and depressing to relive. So you can see why women in particular are not massively surprised to hear of a man abusing his power over women. It happens to us every day and we don’t talk about it for so many reasons, but mainly because we are doubted. So believe us – when we tell you we feel afraid believe us. When we tell you we have been made to feel less than the living, breathing, EQUALS we are; believe us. And help us.