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When will it end?

Multiple trigger warnings – rape, sexual assault, physical assault, verbal assault, mental health issues, abuse

The last week has been an utter shit show for women. I saw an article where someone (I can’t remember who unfortunately) said that this had been the worst week including International Women’s Day (IWD) since it began. Even worse in my mind is that in the UK it’s been the week preceding Mother’s Day.

Look at what’s happened. We started the week with Meghan Markle being hauled over the coals again. Not Meghan and Harry, it was really just about Meghan. And why? If you believe the media over the last few years, she had a dastardly plan to essentially steal Harry from the UK and get her way about everything.

I heard/saw SO many people saying they didn’t trust her, she’s an actress, this is what she wanted all along. I asked a couple of people why they felt that way and just got back the same comment that they weren’t sure, they just had a feeling. Oh really? Was that feeling somehow connected to the horrendous media coverage she’s had? Did it come from all the stories telling us what an awful person she is because she didn’t cross her legs in exactly the right way?

Come on people, she hasn’t been associated with a known paedophile (or had accusations of the same). But apparently that’s different because he took a back seat from the limelight.

She doesn’t need to take a back seat because she hasn’t actually done anything wrong!

For the sake of argument, say she did go in with a plan. She wanted to be a princess and be part of a royal family and it didn’t work out that way, so she went back home to lick her wounds. What’s the problem there?

Maybe she wanted to bring Harry over to the US all along. Again, if he agreed to it, what’s the problem? He is a grown man. No-one is forcing him to do anything.

This brought me to the bigger problem of dismissing people’s mental health issues. It is beyond time that this was no longer done. Why do people think it’s ok to call people liars when they say they contemplated suicide? That things were so bad they no longer wanted to be alive? Would people say that to a friend if they came to them? Would people say that to a colleague who broke down in front of them?

What upsets me the most about all of this is the utter lack of compassion for a human being in distress. Someone who seems to have just wanted to marry the person they love, be happy and have a family. It didn’t work out that way, so they have decided to change their circumstances. That sounds like an excellent idea to me!

Unfortunately, I think the only reason this stopped being front and centre news was because of Sarah Everard and the uprising from women. This has sent a wave of outrage through our society that is long overdue. The way women are still treated is appalling. We are fucking scared and with good reason.

I consider myself lucky, but I can remember being catcalled at 14 by men (I later found out who they were and they were in their mid-twenties at the time) who lived in the same small village as me. I was doing my fucking paper round at the time. I worked in pubs behind the bar for a few years and was constantly being told to smile (I was at work, serving pissed up twats, how happy was I going to be?), I got touched by customers while I was collecting glasses from tables and had men who tried to put their hands up my skirt or touch my boobs.

Their responses when I got annoyed? “Oh come on love, it’s only a joke.” “Ooh look at her.” “What’s your problem?” (and so many more). All whilst laughing and looking at their mates to join in the laughter, which they inevitably did. These actions taught me that my place in the world was to be available to men and that there was something wrong with me for not enjoying the attention. That I should be thankful for the attention from some foul old man with his entitlement on full display.

I got adept at stretching to get glasses and ducking out of the way when hands came anywhere near me whilst I was trying to do my job. I would laugh off the comments about any part of my body or what I was wearing. It was exhausting and I was glad when I stopped doing it.

I have also been physically abused by an ex in a busy street in my local town in the early hours of a Sunday morning. It was really busy, there were loads of people walking past but no-one did anything.

When I was 18 I went to a public toilet in a car park in Leicester where a woman was being raped. I saw a closed cubicle and assumed someone was just going to the toilet but then I heard a woman say that she was being raped. I was absolutely petrified and froze. I didn’t know what to do. I thought maybe it was someone playing but I wasn’t sure. I also didn’t want to leave in case I got attacked too. I didn’t do anything at the time (I don’t know what I could have done but I’ll always feel guilty about that), although I did report it after seeing an appeal for witnesses a couple of days later.

I have been raped in my own bed in my own house. It was someone that I knew, I had invited him into my house because I liked him and wanted to develop the relationship. Things got steamy and I realised that I didn’t want to have sex with him so I told him to stop. He didn’t. He must have known he did something wrong because he finished, got dressed quickly and left my house straight away leaving the front door wide open.

But I thought it was my fault for inviting him over. I had a certain knowledge that if I’d said anything to anyone, they would dismiss it because I liked him and let him into my bedroom. I believed the narrative that told me I’d led him on, I’d tempted him and that despite telling him to stop, it was too late and he had to carry on and finish what I’d started. Or maybe deep down I didn’t really want him to stop (absolutely not true).

So I pretended it was ok and carried on as normal. In fact I didn’t even call it rape until 3 years ago – about 20 years after it happened.

I’ve also been talked down to or completely ignored at work, I’ve been followed in the street and I’ve been out with men who call themselves “nice guys” who got huffy and offensive when I didn’t want to have sex with them. I’ve had sex with men because I don’t want to be in a position to have to say stop and they didn’t. I’ve arranged dates with men because they won’t take no for an answer and I don’t want the verbal abuse if I say I’m not interested (delightful comments like “well you’re ugly anyway” or “I was only doing it for a dare” or “you’re fat” or “fuck you, who do you think you are to say no to me”).

And yes, I still consider myself lucky because I know women who have been raped multiple times. I know women who have been in long-term, horrifically abusive relationships. I know women who are constantly harassed because of what they look like. I know women who are too scared to get into taxis on their own because of the drivers who have been convicted of assault/rape/murder. I know women who won’t go out of the house because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them. I know women who get catcalled or followed when they’re out exercising.

We all know women that these things have happened to. We personally know them – they’re our friends, our colleagues and our family. That's why we're all so sad, angry and disappointed. We know the stakes and that's why we're scared.

So why do men find it so offensive that we’re speaking up about being scared? Is it because they don’t always call out their mates who are behaving like this? Is it because there’s a bit of guilt that they’ve let things slide or they’ve done something themselves?

I get that. I’ve done things in the past that I now realise were wrong, offensive, insensitive or just horrible. That doesn’t mean I can’t now listen and learn about how to do better now.

That’s all we’re asking for – listen to us and learn how to do better.


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