This is not a pretty story with tidy ends and new beginnings. It is not a comforting story and it might not make your feel very good. But it is my story, and I need to tell my story to let my story go.
Hannah Gadsby said, “There is nothing stronger than a broken women who has put herself back together again”. I don’t want to put myself back together with the shame and guilt I’ve been carrying. Help me tell my story so I can put myself back together with the pieces of my story that are actually mine.
I don’t know yet if this is the beginning, the middle or the end of my story, but I guess we’ll find out together.
I used to hear those stories on the news, the “another girl raped and killed” stories, that would make me feel desperately sad. Sometimes they paralysed me with grief as they threw me back into my own trauma, a place I had boxed up neatly and tried my best not to visit. They made me feel absolutely terrified of the outside world and chilled by the presence of my ghosts mixed with others.
The truth is that I have been afraid of men my entire life and I had every right to be.
I was afraid of boys when one got off at my bus stop, which was not his normal stop, and cornered me behind some apartments across the road from my house. I was wearing a pink v-neck top as it was mufti day at school. He put his hand down the front of my shirt, feeling my tiny but evident breasts, and told me if I tried to go anywhere he would tell my Dad that I was a dirty slut and that I asked for it. I could almost see the driveway to my house from where I was standing. In the end I had to run home because he kept threatening to come inside and tell my Dad.
I was eleven.
I was afraid of boys when I went to the movies with my friend at the weekend and a couple of boys we met in the Timeout zone came into the same theatre as us. One sat next to me and put his arm around me. He pushed his face into mine and starting kissing me with his dirty cigarette breath. I was so mortally afraid of making a fuss in the middle of a movie theatre that I didn’t do anything about it. Someone from my school must have been there because they told my boyfriend and he broke up with me at school for ‘cheating’ on him.
I was twelve.
I was afraid of boys when a later boyfriend took me into the forest next to my school and had sex with me on a bench next to a broken concrete wall called the ‘Bombing Wall’ that kids did graffiti on when they were skipping class. I thought everyone was having sex and that we were supposed to lose our virginity. Virgin or whore; apparently I chose wrong. It was over in a few minutes, it hurt me a lot and it stung when I peed for the next two days. He never asked me if I wanted to do it and I guessed our relationship was over when he avoided me at school and refused to speak to me ever again.
I was thirteen.
I was afraid of men when a 30 year old picked me up one night when my friend and I had snuck out of the house, gave us alcohol and parked up outside a park in a suburb I didn’t know. All I remembered was how cold and foggy it was and that my bum was almost frozen when I woke up at 5am in the front seat of a stranger’s car with my pants and undies around my ankles. I had to ask nicely if he could drive us home as I was so scared of having no idea where we were and getting in trouble with my parents. We got back inside without anyone knowing.
I was fourteen.
I was afraid of men when that man got my cell phone number and texted me while I was at school telling me how sexy and beautiful I was. I was scared when he picked me up from outside my house in the middle of the night, several nights a week, for three weeks, and took me back to the house he lived in with his mother and a number of small children. He had sex with me in a room he shared with his brother whilst telling me the most disgusting words I had ever heard. I remember not being in my body but watching from the ceiling as it happened to a girl I didn’t know anymore. I thought her skin looked nice in the moonlight.
I was still fourteen.
I was afraid of men when I got into a car with two strangers who offered me a ride to the mall I was walking to one weekend. When I got in there was a scary looking dog in the backseat with me and I remember feeling frozen in panic that it would attack me at any moment. Instead of driving me to a mall, they drove me to a car park where they stole my cell phone before one raped me in the car and the other raped me by a tree nearby. When they dropped me home (to an address I made up), I hid in a driveway until I was sure they were gone and then ran to my house and told my mum I had been raped. As everything unfolded, I ended up wishing I’d never said anything. Especially when a strange forensic doctor took swabs from my vagina, seized my undies and cut pieces out of my new jeans.
I was still fourteen.
I was afraid of men when the police interrogated me and I lied about some situational details and my story fell apart. I had felt stupid for getting into the car in the first place and was trying to protect both myself and the man who had been grooming me into an illegal night-time relationship over the previous few weeks. The (male) detective became evidently frustrated with me and although he did find the “boys” (aged 18) in the end, I was told the case would “never stand up in a trial” because I had lied about getting into the car. I knew that if I had told them I had gotten into the car off my own free will, they would never believe I had been raped. That was exactly what happened. Despite the forensic evidence, the “boys” they arrested said that I had consented to sex with both of them and that they thought I was sixteen. The age for consent, how convenient. The police believed them, released the “boys” and no one ever spoke to me about the incident again.
I was still fourteen and I would spend the next twelve years suffering from undiagnosed PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and one very close call with death after a suicide attempt.
Every single scenario had by-standers. All of them. And I assumed that because those by-standers said and did nothing, and that for some reason (trauma) I said and did nothing, I must have misinterpreted the abuse for something normal, something to be expected in my life as a woman.
I internalised that deep fear and searing pain and it poisoned me. I need to tell my story because I need a cure.
Since the age of fourteen, I have been more than a little afraid of men and more than a little berated for this fear. I have been told to change the way I dress so as to not invite “unwanted attention”, not to walk on my own, to harden up, grow thicker skin and to “deal with it”.
I have been told that it’s simply not possible that one in five women have reported being raped and that the statistics must have been falsified.
I have been told to be quiet and to keep my story to myself.
I have also consistently been told through the media and public response that being raped and sexually assaulted was my fault. The social cost of which I have been forced to bear because when men rape and kill women, it has always been a woman’s duty to restrict her life and freedom, to learn some “situational awareness” (cheers Victoria Police), and to bear the burden on her own back. Women have been soaked in shame while their perpetrators have stayed cosy and dry under the patriarchal raincoat they were given at birth.
When men rape and kill women, it has always been the charge of women to take responsibility for these actions, to clean up the mess like we have been doing our whole damned lives. This is the history of what it is to be a woman. It is invalidating, dismissive and oppressive. It is unequivocally unhuman and I will not stand for it any longer.
We will not let this happen anymore.
It seems only now that we are even becoming fully aware ourselves of how afraid we actually are and the measures we take to protect ourselves in our everyday lives. These actions have become automated and normalised in our existence. And as we watch our sisters suffer, our grief turns to fury. We are sick and tired of losing ourselves, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our friends. We are sick of standing up to fight and we are tired of feeling terrified of being killed.
But no matter the army, grief and rage won’t prevent the next death. As a society, we must absolutely demand respect for all humans. Enough is enough. We need men’s violence to become a men’s issue. We can help you, but we can’t fix this on our own.
We need men to stop running in circles, chasing their tails, deflecting blame and proclaiming innocence. We were innocent too but it didn’t stop the rape and murder. We need men to stop acting so defensive and threatened. Yes! It is traumatising to hear about women you know and love being raped and killed – IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO ACTUALLY LIVE THAT!
Have you ever thought about how exhausting that must be?
Men are fed up with being lumped in with the rapists and murderers but we are fed up with being on guard 24/7 and watching our sisters getting struck down like flies. The time for #metoo has stood still, now we need #mentoo to push forwards.
This is not a persecution, this is a call to arms. This is an education. This is me, standing alone at the top of the highest metaphorical mountain, screaming for someone to bloody hear me.
Women and children must have the same rights and access to safety that men do and we need men to help us change this. We need to connect with one another, to see and hear one another, to change this god damned world together. Because if we are not changing together, then we are drifting apart. And in that divide, the tension of our trauma will find a home and feed off of our indifference, driving us further and further apart until we are more different than we are the same.
This is not just my story, this is our story. I need you to listen. I need you to act. I need you to walk up that mountain with me, take my hand and tell me that we can fix this together.
My story is sadly not unique and I’m not lucky that I’m not dead. I’m just a favourable statistic, the one in whatever that was repeatedly raped but not killed. There are plenty more voices up on this mountain with me, if you choose to see and hear them.
Please tell our story with me.