I got groped in a bar last week, one of those 'accidental' gropes where you only realise what is going on too late, where the groper has enjoyed himself for several minutes already. I am 32 and I am so tired of this happening. I am so tired of my now routine reaction; my tired realisation, my tired turnaround to confront, my tired push, or slap, or elbow, my tired angry face. I am so tired.
Every single one of my female friends has told me these stories. It is so common that we talk about it as though we got served the wrong food in a restaurant, not as though a crime has just been perpetrated against us. It is so hard to stay caring in a world that wishes you would just shut up and accept the status quo and stop bringing attention to these things. Just let us stay comfortable.
I wrote something on Facebook. A friend told me that I am 'so pedestrian on this shit'. I had to google what 'pedestrian' meant. I considered not using social media to highlight these things as much. I considered an easier life. I briefly considered switching careers to work with puppies. I am aware that this article will likely inspire a similar reaction in many who know me - oh she's writing about that again, will she ever shut up, I'm sick of hearing about it, she's so pedestrian on this shit. Etc. People get numb to this and that is the problem. We are numb to hearing about it and we are numb to it happening.
I thought somehow my age meant that I wouldn't get groped in bars any more. I thought somehow my age meant if I did I wouldn't feel the way I felt. When I swung around to confront the groper, he disappeared into the packed crowd without looking at me. He touched me, but he wouldn't look at me. He would likely go on and grope someone else. A friend told me there are forums online where men give each other tips on how to grope and make it look like an accident. Anyone who's been felt up in a train or a tram knows what I mean. When I was 15 an old man felt me up for 20 minutes while I stressed about how old men wouldn't do that, and how he was harmless and smiling and how I couldn't cause a scene and would anyone believe me anyway? He could just say it was the movement of the train, something I had been shouting at myself in my mind to dull the sense of fear and and panic.
It had taken me at least a full minute to realise what the bar groper was doing. My fury was complete and it was solid and it was aimed wholly and directly at myself; for taking too long, for thinking the best, for assuming it was just another water seeking comrade in the bar squash. 'Not All Men' lots of men cry. Indeed, I thought this man was one of the 'not all' men. I usually do. It's usually my downfall. My fault for not stopping it. My fault for leaning over the bar like that. My fault for wearing that silky to the touch dress. My stupidity for not copping on to his lecherousness immediately. I like to think I am an extremely boundaried person. I like to think. Regardless of how well educated I am in the area of sexual violence, I still self blame. I still go inwards, because that is the nature of sexual violence. It is a private thing, carried out in private places. Although I know all about why victims blame themselves and why we all love to blame the victim, it doesn't stop me doing it to myself. Self blame still settles in, or rather, it emerges. It is almost like I have been marinating in invisible self blame my whole life, and when something like this happens it takes colour and shape, but it's always been there. It is a self blame that runs very deep and was there long before the old man touched me up on the train when I was 15. The men who sexually offend know this. They use it to their advantage. Then if we speak out about assaults, society jumps in and perpetuates the victim blaming under the guise of 'common sense' and 'lets be reasonable' and the offenders just laugh at us all and carry on offending. The status quo, that some people would love to me to accept, is a status quo that serves these people, these offenders.
I am utterly exhausted by my own and other women's experiences of sexual assault and rape. I am exhausted with my own jaded reactions, jaded expressions. I am sick of hearing about it, of talking about it, of hitting a brick wall every time I try to open a dialogue about it. I am worn out from it. I am weary from sharing my own experiences and then needing to defend myself immediately - something that would never happen in relation to another crime. I am tired of us talking about victims and assaults and not talking about the men who perpetrate these assaults. I am tired of us talking about victims and not talking about all of our unhelpful beliefs and attitudes that contribute towards her suffering, her need to be 'strong'. I am tired of calling survivors of sexual violence 'brave' when the only reason we have to be brave is because of the society we live in. I am tired of not being listened to. I am tired of feeling like I have to fight and defend and educate and be understanding all of the time. I'm tired of never being able to feel safe.
And then we hear about Brock Turner, the rapist who was also a swimmer. We hear about his six month sentence, his father's "20 minutes of action" comments, his appalling defense, his lack of remorse. I read the victim's outstanding statement with tears streaming down my face as I related and over-related, and the rage I feel now is complete, and it is solid, and it is aimed directly at every single one of us. It is not only on the judges or the police or barristers, or the victim or the rapist's father, or whoever else. It's on you and it's on me. Get involved. Ask how you can help. Do something. Support. Defend. Passivity is no longer tolerated. This is about you just as much as it is about any judge. It's on every single one of us.