Personally, my life has been ripped apart by male sexual violence.
I’m on my own life long sexual trauma recovery journey. One I can't choose to opt out of and lately, I was beginning to feel a little better and empowered. That came crashing down on hearing this awful news about Sarah Everard's murder and I’m reminded of how disappointing, painful and infuriating this world can be for womxn.
Every single womxn knowing it could have been her and that most of us have had these close calls. I personally have been stalked, locked in a taxi, groped, cat called, nearly kidnapped, harassed and assaulted at work, let alone that I’ve been raped and assaulted by men on separate occasions and know I’m not alone in these experiences.
That could have been me, easily, on several occasions.
I’m no activist, but I’m a womxn who has lived the extremes of male sexual violence that have made me fear for my life and have forever left their imprint on me. The arrogance of it, the painful loss of self and silence it brings.
So I cannot be silent on it ever again.
I don’t yet feel all of the men I’ve spoken to about this really understand, the deep and life long implications sexual violence and the threat it has on womxn.
I appreciate the men who do engage and who have held a space for me over the years, to hear my stories and learn how to change their behaviour to support womxn and I hope many more decide/continue to do so.
Equally I’ve been with partners and friends who have chosen not to engage in the issue of sexual violence despite being aware of its impact on my life and that has been incredibly isolating and hurtful - ultimately leading to the ending of the relationships.
Because guess what, you don’t get to cherry pick the sides of a person you engage with, just as we don't get a choice in whether we are violated by men or not.
If you are comfortable with sexual intimacy with a womxn but are avoidant of emotional intimacy, then I implore you to take a hard look at yourself, see how you can show up as a whole person for yourself and then a partner. No one deserves to feel alone in a partnership.
My point being that...
If you can have sex with a womxn and not engage in her emotional life, you are a huge part of the problem exploiting womxn for your own pleasure
...with little respect for the fact that we are humans with important emotions that centre around this vulnerable issue (or any issue). If you’re one of those people, you have to be honest with yourself. It doesn’t matter how much of a ‘nice guy’ you think you are, if you do that. Time to reflect and sort it out. It’s not fair. The bravery it takes to come out, be vulnerable enough to share these horrific experiences, consider empathising and showing the same bravery and vulnerability back when introspecting on your own actions conscious/unconscious actions as a man too. It's the only way forward.
We clearly have such a long way to go in the world with this issue and it can only be solved with men taking a stand and getting involved too. I would like to see that as soon as possible.
Personally I’ve lost a decade of my life to the trauma of being raped and it’s a constant process to unravel and rebuild my life after it.
I’m writing this because at this point, whether you know someone who has been affected by this or not, the threat of sexual violence is unavoidable in a womxn’s life. I hope men are beginning to see that if they hadn’t already.
So I don’t want to be silent or embarrassed speaking out on this topic, facts are facts and if some men following me realise that someone they know has had their life permanently changed by male sexual violence then maybe a conversation will be started now as a result.
If you’re a person who relates to stats, then here you go: at least 97% of womxn have been sexually assaulted. That figure is too high and serious call for change and introspection on male roles in society. If you're looking for ways to learn about this topic then the BBC series 'I May Destroy You' created by the insanely talented Michaela Coel is a must watch. It bravely, intelligently explores and exposes sexual assault and rape culture today. I personally find it too triggering to watch, so if you can imagine a TV series giving a survivor PTSD then just reflect on how I and many other women feel actually being out in public surrounded by men. It can be extremely overwhelming.
These experiences are so real and so damaging and believing it is the basic start.
They happen more often than you or I realise and unless these cases happen close to home or make a high profile news story you may not ever hear about them. At 17 years old, a girl in my secondary school class was murdered and dismembered by her boyfriend - also 17 years old. The rate at which womxn are murdered and abused by partners is disgustingly high in the UK alone. Domestic abuse reports are up by 10% during the pandemic despite overall crime rates falling, which goes to show - if it's not happening in the streets, where womxn are told to cover up, protect themselves in numerous ways, call a friend walking home...then it's happening in the 'safety' of their own homes. Again, this is a male problem.
Jess Phillips, Labour MP gave a speech in parliament just 3 days after International Womxns Day 2021 naming 118 womxn who have been killed at the hands of men in the last 12 months. It took over 4 minutes to read through the list. She said: "This International Womxn's Day debate comes in the shadow of the menace of male violence against womxn."
There has been a
- 23% drop in Rape convictions last year
- Domestic Abuse prosecution fell by 24% by yearr end 2019.
- a tiny fraction less than 5% of reported child sex offences end in conviction
We are not tough on crimes against women and children perpetrated by men.
— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) March 11, 2021
Personally, I will be a womxn added into the 2021 statistics of Rape convictions that were dropped. Who knows how high those stats will be by the end of 2021. I also know many womxn personally who have been raped and are too scared to come forward because they believe the system will let them down. The system has let me down, I have to say the officers I worked with did all they could, that experience in itself being a traumatic one - but this overall is a legislation issue. That needs to change.
I think we can all agree that if you have been caught reckless driving, as a potential continual danger to society, you will attend a drivers awareness course even if you didn't get charged or end up losing your license as a result of your actions.
We currently have no such repercussion set up for those who have been accused and investigated for rape/assault/abuse/harassment etc. Whether they are charged or not, right now those who have harmed womxn are free to live their life without having to face their actions in an educated setting. We are allowing the problem to be perpetuated and this toxic narrative to live on without something as simple as an awareness course being mandatory for anyone accused of these crimes.
My rapist's life was relieved on hearing the case couldn't be moved forward due to legislation but I have still been left with the weight of it. Those who commit these crimes aren't commonly the type to seek help, self reflect or educate themselves and most likely will go onto reoffend. Therefore they still pose a risk to society and womxn, whether on the streets or as we can see, in their own homes. They're also likely to be people you know, everyone around me knows of the person who raped me.
If you are caught reckless driving you are issued fines, this sends a message out to society that it is a serious enough offence. If you are caught assaulting a womxn, harming her life and mental health - why would we not fine for that?
If you are injured in a car accident, you can claim compensation and rightly so. I have been damaged for years and have no such support or compensation for the debilitating actions inflicted onto me. I am still the one paying out of my own pocket for my years of therapy, putting off my career and life decisions because I'm suffering from PTSD but as a womxn I am currently told, this is just the way it is. Well the way it is, is unacceptable.
None of us chose to be harassed, raped, assaulted, undermined, intimidated and in Sarah’s case horrifically murdered yet it is the reality of the world, this is a male issue, we need to STOP putting the blame and responsibility on womxn.
We need you, men, to be willing to be connected to womxn’s experiences to understand what’s going on, why it’s happening and then create change in your lives and calling out those around you.
Men, it’s really time to engage in this issue if you haven’t already as it harms the people close to you whether you want to think about that or not.
If you can walk a mile in womxn’s shoes, your sister, mum, girlfriend, friend, perhaps you could begin to understand the fear that they feel and if they have experienced sexual violence, a pain that unfortunately they can never forget.
Speaking from a place of deep pain having lived these experiences I am aware that as a white cis womxn I still have it far easier than womxn of colour. If you’re willing to engage with me about my sexual violence and the womxn around you -it’s imperative to be inclusive to womxn of all colour and the trans community too. Let no one be disregarded.
I’m open to conversations with men and womxn about this if anyone wants to share their experience or ask questions to learn more. Please drop a message if you do.