It happens, apparently, to 1 in 5 of us. It’s certainly happened to me, a few times.
When I was a teenager and no one understood me, I’d get the train and tube to Camden, where I’d buy green hair dye I was too chicken to use. My friends were all confident: they kissed people and talked about it. I was a shrivelled seed; all awkwardness and ugliness. But still, we were friends.
One time I went to Camden, I got the train to London Bridge (to then get the train). As I boarded the Northern Line, I stood by the door. There are a fair few stops between London Bridge and Camden, do more people poured onto the tube. It was hot and sticky, I remember that, and there was someone behind me, tracing the lines of my adolescent hips, and cupping me. He felt my stomach and breasts and breathed into my neck as I willed myself not to cry, and wondered why I didn’t shout out to the whole train that I was being assaulted.
I remember being about 9, and reading of an Austrian student who came over, was gang-raped and tossed naked into a canal. I think I cried – I don’t really recall, it was a long time ago – partly for her, and, far more selfishly, for me. Lucky cow, I howled. It’s already happened to her. I know it’ll happen to me, and I’m just waiting! I lived life on tenterhooks, waiting for my gang-rape and subsequent toss into canal.
Thankfully, that has never happened and hopefully never will. But I have been subject to a few unwelcome sexual advances. In Italy, a man followed me home, grasping into me and saying “we do love” the whole way. And maybe this and the tube man weren’t the most serious you get. But they affected me in ways I am still coming to terms with.
As an undergrad, I went to Edinburgh with some pals and was leered over by Miley, if I remember rightly. “I’ve been face-raped!” I semi-wailed to my friends, who all laughed. It was a night club, I was without my (then) boyfriend: what did I expect?
It has happened to me. It has happened to others I know and love. And then I see this: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=746255595461059&id=374354865984469 It makes me sad. I’m not a raging feminist: I shave my legs, wear frilly knickers, have a boyfriend, and believe that bras are an excellent invention. I also have a mental illness. I, before any sexual awakening I may have gad, knew it would happen to me. Before the tube, before Edinburgh, before Italy. It would happen. I believe I was about 8 or 9 when this belief cemented itself in my psyche. I may well have accused people in another life, without evidence. But I would have needed help. False memory syndrome is real. I have met an OCD sufferer who turned himself into the police for abusing his daughters. They released him on the basis that he hadn’t done it, but his doubt persisted. And that’s it. I know these things happened, but I can’t quite shake off the feeling that I wanted them to happened. Nor can I forgive myself the relief I felt when it finally happened.
1 in 5 people will suffer sexual assault. I am one of them. Lightning never strikes twice, does it? Or thrice, or fice? I hope society can recover from this, but as long as facebook pages like that exist, expect to see more tragedy.
One thought on “1/5”
Very well put.
And I am a raging feminist, who joins feminist groups and is always ranting, and wears long skirts and pink shoes and flowery hairclips, and has a male life partner, and does not shave her legs.
But people do not have to think of themselves as ‘feminist’ to agree that sexual assault and people’s attitudes to it are problematic.
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