When I was thirteen years old the two boys who sat either side of me in tech and music lessons began to sexually assault me. Every lesson they would touch me up against my will, gaining in confidence until it went further than I could have imagined.
I didn’t fight, I didn’t scream, I didn’t cry- when I told my Dad he told me off for not fighting back, insinuating that there was something wrong with me- when I told my head of year he laughed in my face and told me that I was stupid.
I’m bringing this up now because I’ve been forced to confront the memories a few times this month, and I want to put it all into perspective.
I’ve spent the last five years since it happened imagining similar scenarios and what I would do, how I would respond to make the outcome different.
About a year ago I ended up sitting next to a (there’s no mature way to put this) complete knob in my history lessons- he spent every lesson trying to slide onto my chair behind me and get me between his thighs.
In retrospect I’m horrified that I just sat there- I think it was a combination of the fact that the person on the other side of me was completely lovely and just pulled me onto his lap whenever this boy started to do what he did and that we were trapped in the back corner of a tiny, overcrowded classroom that stopped me from getting up and walking out.
Then, around a month ago I found myself sat in a bar (for the Brits: my local ‘Spoons) with a guy who I’ve known for about five years. Everyone else had either gone to the loos or to get drinks and he started flirting- he then put his arm around me and kissed my cheek. I laughed nervously and tried to move away- only to find that he had no intention of letting me go.
When I tried to verbally explain that I wasn’t interested in him in that way he responded by saying that he’d ‘seen me on stage- if I could do that then I could do him’ (I’m an actress, I was in a ‘mature’ production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ earlier on this year which he saw.)
I remember staring up as the ceiling as he groped me, feeling nothing but cold fear and wondering why the hell I hadn’t grown up from that thirteen year old girl who sat in motionless horror as those boys did what they did.
I’m not a victim- I have perfectly normal sexual relationships, I enjoy sex, I can communicate well with men and tell them what I don’t like and when to stop- I trust men.
But these things keep happening- and I keep on responding in the same way… which has lead me to realise that I’m not the problem in these scenarios. I never even flirt with a man I wouldn’t be happy to go the full distance with, I’m too aware of how these situations can escalate.
I think the only point I’m trying to get at here is to highlight how common these situations are, and how much they can just slip under the radar. Rapists and the like don’t generally leap out of bushes, they’re not usually total strangers. It frustrates me that a lot of women feel constricted and like this behaviour is acceptable because ‘it’s not rape/assault’ because it doesn’t fit the ‘stranger leaping from the bushes in a dark alley’ stereotype… I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen, I’m just saying that it’s not the only form sexual assault can take.
To my mind if someone touches you in a way that makes you feel frightened and continues to behave in this manner even when you ask them to stop they are assaulting you. This is wrong. You don’t have to endure this.
’til next time,