I had only planned to share a handful of #YesAllWomen stories here last week. But then I read what Bek Curtis’ wrote. This is a difficult, uncomfortable read. But it needs to be seen, and shared. I don’t ever want us to forget the reality of Bek’s story.
( content warning: descriptions of sexual assault / rape )
I don’t think I’ve ever jumped on a ‘trending’ bandwagon before, certainly none that I can recall. But #YesAllWomen has really struck a chord with me. I know it’s copping a fair amount of criticism, mainly from disgruntled men, insecure in their own identities and threatened by the thought of women who might actually be starting to learn how to use their voice.
No, I don’t think this trend is going to change the hearts of men who see women as objects for their own desire. It is only men themselves who can choose to change their hearts and thinking. What this movement is doing, is giving women a voice. And, I hope, stirring a realisation within the minds of younger women and girls, that living in fear of men does not have to be, and never should have become, ‘the norm’.
Its pretty damn tragic that at the age of thirty-three I’m still wrestling with the, “Maybe it was my fault? Maybe I led them on?” questions.
I wanted to join the twitter discussion, but as I started recalling my history with males, I sadly realised that 140 characters just wasn’t going to cut it. And anyway, which story is it that I should share….?
Perhaps the memory of being five years old, sitting in the sunshine out the front of a family friend’s house, when her teenage son asked me if I was going to sun-bake topless, because he wanted to see my ‘little titties’? I learned two things that day, the word ‘titties’, and that boys want to see them.
Or at the age of six, another friend’s teenage son, locked me in his bedroom and asked me to stand on, and repeatedly walk over his ‘dicky dock’ because it felt good?
How about when I was 12 and I learned the words ‘frigid’ and ‘virgin’ in the same day, as a neighbourhood boy made all manner of presumptions and accusations about my sexuality?
I could share about the time when I was 14 and had an appointment with a top immunology/allergy specialist, at a Children’s Hospital. He asked my mother to step out of the room then asked me to take off my top. I left my bra on. He asked me to remove it, as he needed to check my thyroid gland. Completely unaware that the thyroid gland is located in the neck, and no bra, nor a top, in any way hinders it’s viewing, I complied. I mean he was a doctor, you can trust doctors, right? Right?
Should I have tweeted about the time I was fifteen and my best friend and I were swimming at the newly built aquatic centre? We were super excited to be wearing our first bikinis. My best friend had creatively designed and sewn hers. Mine was little bike pants and a crop top. As we splashed around, we were repeatedly harassed by a group of older teenage boys. After telling them in no uncertain terms that we were seriously uninterested in their company, we thought they’d finally taken the hint. We couldn’t have been more wrong… Instead they were hiding in the whirlpool tunnel. As my friend and I headed into the tunnel, the boys trapped us, held us down and groped wildly at our bodies as we tried not to drown. Thanks to the style of my bikini bottoms, I got off rather lightly. My friend did not. As she cried, the boys taunted us saying we deserved it because we were just; “Aussie Sluts, and probably enjoyed it!”.
Oh yes, High school! I saw my first erect penis, thanks to the male classmate I was sitting next to in the science lab. I had to pretend I wasn’t shocked and truly horrified. This same boy asked me out, I declined. He kept asking. I kept declining. Eventually he just told everyone we’d gone out anyway, and that I’d slept with him. I spent my entire high school years existing under the banner of ‘slut’, despite being a virgin.
I wonder if I should have shared about the time I was coming home from a day in the city? I was alone on a late afternoon train, sitting against a window in an almost empty carriage. A man aged in his 30′s or 40′s came and sat right next to me, placed a newspaper over his lap and started masturbating. I froze in terror, completely paralysed by fear at the thought of what would happen if I tried to leave. I convinced myself that as long as he wasn’t touching me, I was safe. When he started moaning, I finally had the courage to get up and move carriages. I told no-one. Surely I must’ve imagined it, surely people don’t just do that? And what if I was wrong and I got an innocent man in trouble?
I could talk about the big one. The life changer. To this day, I still ascertain that if I hadn’t been in the situation I was in, doing what I was doing, it wouldn’t have happened. I still struggle to call it rape.
I was eighteen, though I won’t go into specific details; I will not allow my experience to become a salacious fantasy to those who my be sick enough to enjoy such tales, except to say that when he was finished, he showered! HE SHOWERED! Saying: “I’ve gotta get home to my kid and Mrs”.
When I finally got home, I begged a friend to drive me to the doctor. All my mind was capable of doing was obsessing over the risk of pregnancy to that bastard. I asked for the morning after pill and sat through a judgemental, condescending lecture from a female doctor about safe sex and promiscuity.
About a year later, I went back to that same medical centre, saw a different female doctor and asked if she could look up my file and confirm for me the date the pill had been prescribed. I needed closure. I wanted a firm date in my head, as the weeks after the rape had become a blur, all morphing into a depressive smog. With every ounce of courage I had, I explained my story to this new Doctor.
Her response? “You can’t have been raped or you would’ve said it at the time. I don’t understand why wouldn’t you have just said it?”.
Ummmmm SHAME! Fear of judgement. Fear of police involvement. I quite literally would have been killed. This was not a man who was to be messed with.
I wonder if it would help for me to talk about how it took me fifteen years to finally tell someone the words that my rapist spoke to me?
Or that even now after twelve years of marriage to a safe, secure, respectful and honourable man, I still rarely wear skirts unless I have leggings underneath. I don’t sleep naked. Ever. EVER. Even on the hottest of summer night’s, as well as pj’s I still have a sheet on; it’s an added layer of protection, more to fight though.
You know what’s sad?
The first time I ever felt like I was worthy of protection, worthy of not being used and pushed around, worthy of taking a stand, was when I was pregnant. Pregnant at nineteen, after a couple of years of drug abuse and sexual promiscuity. Promiscuity that was my way of taking back power, showing that I was in control. Ha! I’d learn that too was a lie.
It was in pregnancy that I finally found purpose; protecting the life of the life inside me. Noble. But why wasn’t I alone enough?
It’s funny, now in my 30′s, ‘past my prime’, 30kgs overweight, and I finally feel ‘safe’. I’m no longer an object of desire. I get to be the funny one, I get to have intelligent conversations. I’m not ogled and leered at…And it’s really, really nice. I wonder, did I subconsciously create this bubble of fat around me, is it my protection?
I’m not looking for sympathy, and I don’t see myself as a victim. Yes, these are all my stories, all incidents that have happened directly to me. I’d love to say that this was the end of my list, it’s not. These disgusting scenarios have plagued my life.
A family member once told me that these things don’t happen if you grow up with a dad around.
Seriously, I don’t believe that for a second, and if that’s true, what are we going to do about it?
When will you take a stand?
When will you decide that women, yes all women, all girls are worthy of respect?
Worthy of a set standard of behaviour from others and so grounded in firm identity that they’ll accept nothing less?
Please share this. Let’s keep this conversation going. And don’t be afraid to share your own stories, you never know what change you might inspire.
follow Bek Curtis on Twitter: @PerfectlyBlog
[ image: ines injers ]
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