This blog contains experiences of violence against women. This violence is both verbal, physical, emotional and sexual. Please read at your own discretion.
About a week ago we were in town and early for our restaurant booking so I thought it would be fun to take the older kiddos on a whistle stop tour of clubs and bars we used to frequent.
I love a bit of nostalgia and they are reaching the age where they will be out frequenting bars and clubs themselves soon (if they arent already!) so it felt like a nice moment to take a trip down memory lane.
And don't misunderstand, it was. Recalling nights of dancing and laughter, friendships still going strong today 20 years later, the incidents and drunkeness of days gone by. But there was also a deep sadness too, because for every single bar and club we came to, I could also recall experiences of abuse and violence against me.
The kids were both surprised and shocked to hear about these experiences, but as with everything I do as a mother, I do my best to be honest and authentic and partner them in being a part of a generation who do not have to experience or be the perpetrators of harmful behaviour. I am HELPING to raise thoughtful, open, accepting and non violent human beings.
I feel like I need to preface this blog with some detail, almost a disclaimer. I find it sad to need to do it, but also I appreciate the reality of the qorld we currently love in too. The very fact that I start this blog with a feeling of needing to defend myself as a woman is saddening. (This has also taken a lot of emotional energy to write and speak with other women)
I'm a mother. A mother of males and females. I am happily married to my husband. And I am a white cishet slim non disabled woman. My experiences are not intersected with other marginalising factors that increase the violence against me. In this I am privileged but in this I am also a voice and this voice is pissed that women still experience violence like this against them for existing. We need to do better.
Two experiences that I share below, were within the last 8 years and are heavy contributors to why I prefer dinner with friends and an early night. I love dancing, but I value not being consistently attacked by men more. I value not having to keep an eye on my drink in case of date rape. I value not having to keep my keys in my hand ready for attackers. Or being careful about what I wear in case I'm asking for it.
Lets talk about the time I was happily dancing with a group of friends and a group of navy men, we were having a great time! Until I said the wrong thing to one of these men, resulting in a severe physical attack that took me to the floor while he put a few more boots in. Are you wondering what I said to justify such a beating? Are you presuming I did something wrong?
For the purposes of this blog I will tell you, because I you need to understand, rarely are we doing anything wrong other than existing in a world where women are here to serve mens needs in some way.
He had mentioned he was in the Navy and it just so happened a friend we were out with was in the Merchant Navy. I said "oh wow, my friend over there is in the Navy too! Well, the Mechant Navy" THAT is what I said. That is what created the right circumstances for me, a complete stranger enjoying a dance in a club to receive a violent attack.
Or the time I was out for a friends birthday. It was the first time I had ever worn a bodycon dress and I felt amazing and sexy and confident and strong. I was waiting at the bar and a man asked if he could buy me a drink. I declined. He insisted- After all, why dress like that and then decline all the drinks I was bound to be offered.
I again declined and confidently explained I'm not dressed like this for his or anyone else's pleasure and I can buy my own drinks thanks. In a split second he turned from a trier, to an attacker. Verbally attacking me, calling me a dyke, frigid, cunt and slut who clearly enjoyed stringing men along. He then did the unforgivable. He shoved his hand up my dress, grabbed my crotch and promised to turn me straight again.
This was my gift for refusing a drink and I have never worn a body con dress again.
To some reading this you might be sadly nodding along, all too familiar with the infinite experiences you have had too. I've picked just two, from the numerous experiences I have been subjected to and these arent the worst ones.
Since the age of 6 years old I have been on the receiving end of verbal, physical, emotional and sexual violence and abuse so many times, its almost an expected part of being a woman. (Can we just take a moment to appreciate how fucked up that is?)
6 years old? Yes. That was the first time a boy lifted my dress to see my pants. And the first time I was taught that fighting back was wrong. (He got a swift kick in the testicles and it was me who was sent to the head teacher for inappropriate behaviour)
8 years old was the time I was shoved against the coats because a boy decided he wanted to kiss me. He got a slap. I got sent to the head teacher for over reacting when he was clearly just trying to show me he liked me.
And there will be those reading this that might be feeling that there must have been more to these stories or that its just boys being boys. Or that I am in fact overreacting and clearly a man hater. To those people, I want you to know that you are the problem and there is a possibility that you are raising/will raise or have raised the kinds of people who commit these violent acts. I dont say this flippantly. Its genuinely a thing. We need to teach people that womens bodies belong to them. No one else, no matter how they express that body. Full. Stop.
If you take a woman out for dinner, she doesn't owe you affection.
Spending time with women is not transactional and does not assume that you are entitled to any form of 'service'.
A fantastic blog I read on medium a long time ago, written by a man, reminds that women are not vending machines. You dont put money in and get treats out.
Why Im writing this blog
I decided to write this blog after a conversation with a close friend about this. She had shared that she had been physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, by gay men, on multilple occasions.
The first time she had her ass grabbed she was 14. She was a waitress in a cafe and a guy thought it was ok. It was the 90’s and everyone else did too. (The job of girls was to be quicker than the mens hands).
She worked in a shop when she was 17 and was relentlessly bullied by her supervisor, he would think nothing of slapping her ass and holding his hands up, “I’m gay darling, it means nothing”.
The first time she had her tits grabbed by a gay guy she was 18, in a gay club, and he came up to her, grabbed a tit in each hand and shouted in her ear that they didn't make up for her fat ass. My friend doesn't know what she did that compelled him to take that action but she learnt early, that men feel totally entitled to lay their hands on her body, no matter their sexual orientation.
In the 25 years between then and now, many, many, many men have laid their hands on her, un wanted, unasked for, without permission.
Her reactions are now proportional. The last guy to stick his hands inbetween her legs, up next to her vagina, shoved so she could feel it, got a BIG reaction, a long stream of abuse from her, security removing him from the venue, his friends begging her to stop, using the term, but he’s gay, it didn't mean anything.
Men lay their hands on women all the time, and it doesn't mean anything. To them.
I decided to ask if anyone else wanted to share their own experiences too. The response was overwhelming.
Like the woman who went out for drinks with a corporate client. She only had 3 drinks but has no recollection of the evening. The next morning she woke up at home, apparently her partner had said she was legless, some man had put her in a taxi and called said partner from their phone at 2am. Some weeks afterwards she had small glimmers of where she had been, the face of a man, being pulled into an alley but nothing else. Her client had assumed she'd gone home and never looked for her. It wasn’t until years later that she was walking around the same town and recognised the alley. She still can’t remember what happened to her and that was 18yrs ago.
Or the woman who had abuse happen so many times that she stopped going out so much, preferring gay clubs. But that had its own issues, with gay men feeling it was okay to squeeze her boobs or bum as a stress toy, because there's "nothing sexual" in it for them.
Or the woman working at a club for many years with comments like ‘you are in there mate' because she said hello to a customer. Or being told she was stuck up and no one would want to shag her, because she wouldn't laugh at a sexist joke.
Or the woman working in a bar when she was at uni. She was the only blonde haired bar staff and had big boobs. She would often have blokes trying to smack her bum as she collected glasses around the bar, or making comments about her boobs whilst she pulled a pint.
Or the day it got too much for for this woman, who experiencing a similar scenario, got on the pub floor on her knees and spoke to the mans penis instead of his face. She also groped a man back very publicly and word quickly got out that she takes no shit.
Or this ladies traumatic experience from when I she was 14/15 on her way to KFC. A group of girls who didn’t like her were calling her a slut - which she did her best to ignore. When she got into KFC an older man (c.30-35) started to talking to her & her friend, basically calling those girls idiots. She thought he was a very nice man, until he said “sorry I just have to do this”, grabbed her face and shoved his tongue into her mouth. He then left to “meet his Mrs”.
What he did was obviously disgusting but what haunts her most was that nobody tried to help or even asked if she was ok. She was screaming with her mouth closed and trying to push / kick him away. The restaurant was full, there were at least 10 people in the queue and there’s no way they didn’t hear or notice.
These attacks don't only happen on drunken nights out or after dark in the shadows and middle class dinner parties aren’t safe either.
One lady went to one such dinner party with her husband last year that his boss hosted. There were caterers, a posh house in the country, most of the guests were in their mid fifties. She was in the kitchen to make a cup of tea (she wasn’t drinking) and was making small talk with another guest, who suddenly for no reason launched his face at hers with his tongue out. His reason? Because she was “so delicious”. She pushed him away forcefully, he had to catch himself. Then her husband walked in and asked what had happened. Husband was drunk, it was his bosses house and senior colleagues were there too. In a split second she had to decide on “nothing happened" because the hassle if she told him would be too much. He would probably have punched him, then it would have been he said /she said. He is their friend. She was no one to them. She's danced this dance before after all.
It was in that monent that she realised it really doesn’t matter how old or how fat or how married she is. Men take whatever they want.
We aren't okay, this isn't okay.
These women are all different ages, body shapes, some have disabilities, some were children. Not one of them was asking to have their body commented on, touched, abused or have violence against them.
As one lady validly pointed out to me, it’s not just the perpetrators. It’s everyone who turns away and pretends they haven’t noticed.
For me, I feel that is where change needs to happen.
How might the outcome have changed if the friends of that man who grabbed my friends inner leg had called him out and condemned his behaviour?
What might have happened if those customers in KFC had got themselves involved in a horrendous situation for that child?
Because It's the friends who laugh and join in. It's the seeing of violence against a woman and presuming its not for you to call out. It's the silence and inaction from society that allow this to continue unchecked.
I'm calling you in as co-conspirators
If you are one of the good guys, I ask you to check yourself on that.
Have you been around friends who spoke inappropriately to a woman and stayed quiet?
Have you witnessed a man verbally, physically or sexually assault a woman and walked on by?
Have you seen situations that seem off and just presumed the woman can handle it?
Have you ever presumed you are owed something like a smile, a hug, a service of some kind for being so good and nice?
Men, I need you. I need you as co-conspirators. Women don't need saviours, we need witnesses. We need partners in crime who are willing to call out violence when they see it. We need you to be comfortable with making yourself uncomfortable when friends, colleagues, family are inappropriate. I am calling you in to the fold to be the ears and eyes and voices that can help to heal this crap.
And ladies I need you too. I need you to stop judging our fellow women. Some of the worst comments relating to reports of violence against women, come from women.
Check on your sisters.
No matter what she's wearing.
No matter how much she's had to drink.
No matter whether she was fine a moment ago with that man
The perpetrators of these behaviours aren't the biggest problem. Its society allowing them to continue. As social creatures we have the power to collectively call each other in to conspire against violence towards women.
Because its our turning away, lowering our eyes, shrugging it off, staying silent and walking on by that allows the structure to remain in place.
Are you in?
Because I want our daughters, sisters, aunts, girlfriends, niece's, mothers, grandmothers to feel safe in the knowledge that although we can't eradicate these behaviours, we can, as a society make them socially unacceptable and when we are all as disgusted with this type of treatment, those doing it realise there are consequences to their actions.
I want to say a massive thankyou to the wonderful, courageous women who felt able to come forward and share your experiences for this blog. Your story changes the world for others. If one woman reads this and feels less alone, we've done our job. If one man reads this and recognises how they can do better, amazing.
To that person reading this who feels brave enough to share what they've been through with someone else instead of holding the trauma inside, deep bow.
To those thinking, yeah but this happens to men too, what about men? Or women are also violent against others. I agree! But this blog is about womens experiences with violence specifically.
If you feel angry about my non inclusive blog, or feel moved to be annoyed about it, maybe there is a blog within YOU that needs writing. That is for you to write. Not me.
I'm calling you in to call it out. We need you.
Nici- Dare To Be