I Believe Her.

#westandwithher march 31st March organised by Ruth Coppinger and Rosa.

I was saying to someone earlier that it feels like we are at a funeral. We’re all devastated. And we’ve all lost something. But we are are all together.

Dara Florence said that when she entered the room, she was 100% sure she didn’t see a rape being carried out. She was totally sure that the glimpse she got was not rape.

My question is, what does rape look like? What does abuse look like?

We all know, surely by now, that rape is not necessarily the thrashing victim we see in films?

We all know, surely by now, about trauma responses, that people can be so overwhelmed that freeze is the safest thing their bodies can do?

We all know, surely by now, that so many women are so terrified they give in, and wait for it to be over?

We all know, surely by now, that the only people who knows what rape looks like are rape victims?

I was a 16 year old virgin when a boy raped me, in a park. It was my first ever sexual encounter. I was unconscious. I woke up to the boy raping me. I was in intense pain, but I lay there and waited for it to be over. If someone had walked past I wouldn’t have called out to them, because I would have been ‘mortified’. This was not a choice I made, this was my body’s instinctive reaction. And it’s normal. And it’s valid. And it’s okay that that is what happened, that that is what I did. And it’s normal and it’s valid and it’s okay if that is what you did too.

And what does a ten second glimpse of sexual abuse look like?

In the same year as being raped, at 16 years old, I was unfortunate enough to be preyed upon by a man in his 30’s. He used me and abused me, and he paid me for it — one hundred pounds every time — a lot of money for a teenager — thereby making sure I was colluding in my own abuse, and therefore making sure I would have great difficulty in saying no to him.

He took explicit photos of me. He did not ask my permission. I had no choice. He put them on the internet. They are still somewhere on the internet.

They will come back and haunt me. I know this. I am waiting for it.

The photos don’t look like abuse. In the photos where you can see my face, I am not crying, I am blank faced. And the reason I am so afraid of these images is because I am afraid of how some men might get off on them, just as I am afraid of how so many men get off on the literal rape on tape found on Pornhub. How they will not see abuse, how they may re-abuse, how they may get off on my abuse, on my humiliation. How they will just see another explicit image to wank to and discard, just another slut, just like Dara Coney on Twitter sees the Belfast complainant as just another ‘lying tramp’, as Victor Lyndon sees her as a ‘cock gobbling slut, a cum bucket with spunk remorse’, as Kevin Kelly sees her as a ‘slut’, how Scott Nelson sees her as a ‘liar’, as Dylan Byrne sees her as a ‘liar who got 4 balled and got caught and should be locked up’, as the man who exploited me called me a ‘slut’ and a ‘whore’.

Seeing the explicit and misogynistic support for the four aqcuitted makes me feel so unsafe to be a woman. The misogynistic males of Ireland are bolstered by this verdict. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so unsafe. Yesterday I wondered about each man I passed what his thoughts were on the verdict, if he’d celibrated it with colleagues, if he had cheered when the verdict broke the news, if he joked about it, if he changed his profile picture to that of Paddy Jackson. I wondered about each one, what their attitude towards women was, if they’d raped a woman, coerced a woman, catcalled a woman, disbelieved a woman. It’s been a long time since I’ve had these thoughts. This trial has retraumatised me, and it has retraumatised so many of us, that we are now back in our unsafe worldview again, if that had ever even changed.

When is male violence against women going to be classified as a hate crime in this country?

Why is one murdered woman a month not enough?

Why is 1 in 4 women raped not enough?

Why is 1 in 5 women abused in their homes not enough?

How many more of us need to die and be raped and be beaten before we are listened to, before this is declared a national emergency?

I want to take a moment to thank the men who are here. I deeply appreciate your presence. I deeply appreciate it. Your presence is soul nourishing and hope sustaining.

Men we need you so badly to not allow male violence against women be a women’s issue anymore.

For every misogynist harassing women courageous enough to speak their own truth, we need 100 good men standing up, publically, to counter it. We need you be our buffer.

I don’t want to be called brave anymore for speaking about this. I want to live in a world in which I don’t have to be brave, because non abusive, decent men are being brave for me.

And I want you to know, in my darker moments, when the past comes and tries to bring me own for a while, like it did on Wednesday, on Thursday on Friday, and today, when I feel like I am buckling under the weight of injustice, how healing it is, how hopeful it is, how powerful it is, to know that men like you exist, that you’re here, that you are saying ‘not in my name.’

On this day last year I gave a TEDx talk and it was called “Break the Silence and Build a New World.” And I felt so weary even saying that at the time, I felt so weary writing it. I felt so weary after I gave that speech.

But I don’t feel weary anymore.

Because it is happening. We’re doing it. We are here, breaking the silence, we are here, building a new world.