When I was thinking about what and if to post about this — what warrants sexual harassment vs. sexual assault — I contemplated a whole heap of incidents throughout my life. I noticed the grey areas and self doubt that I was imposing on my experiences of harassment and assault. I suppose this comes from a place of fear of being questioned or not supported, that my narrative is not as valid or important as someone else’s.
Was it just me that thought my coworker many years ago was standing or sitting too close to me too often? That their frequent comments about my dress kept mounting up? That I felt I was unable to walk away from conversations with them because they blocked my path?
Was it those moments in my uni days when you would go to clubs and men of all ages felt they had licence to grope you as you walk past them? People who you barely know that push the envelope without your consent?
Was it that time a taxi driver in Berlin started checking whether I had a boyfriend and being suggestive, when I genuinely feared that I would not get home?
Was it that time at the beach when an old man set up his deckchair directly in front of me to face the crowd instead of the water, and just stared? I stayed put on principle at first, death glaring him, and then he started saying things like “are you getting hot?” “are you getting in to get wet?”
Was it that time when a friend and I walked near Central station and a random old man yelled “yooz c**nts are gunna get raped tonight!”
Where is the line? Why have many hesitated to talk about these things until now?
It’s a spectrum of experience of harassment and assault, and none of it is acceptable.
As often as I’ve had conversations with friends and family about how pervasive these issues are and the fact that every single woman (and some men) have had experiences of sexual harassment or assault, it takes push after push after push to start bringing the truth and individual stories to light.
To really start dissecting what is wrong with our society — that there is inherent inequality in the way that men and women relate, which pervades every aspect of life.
Those close to me who know my history understand that I harbour a deep anger and frustration at these issues, and many more. If I could singlehandedly help upturn society and start healing these wounds and victims and bring about justice I would.
I hope one day soon less and less people will hesitate to vocalise their truth, because we’ve got to keep opening up a space for victims to speak out and for perpetrators to be held to account. I know this is stating the obvious but I’m sick and tired of seeing little to no progress on these issues, campaign after campaign.
While there are many beautiful things in this world, there are other parts that are rotten that we need to unearth and reforge on a more open and equal footing.
Let’s keep fighting and rebuilding and relating better together til this pestilence is ancient history.