Writing by Various Contributors // Illustration by Helena Ravenne
Damn right me too.
And I’m so fucking angry at how normal I thought it all was. It’s not normal to get off a tram three stops early because this guy came and sat next to me because he just thought that I looked lonely. Or that I would move seats next to another girl so another guy couldn’t sit next to her. I am always watching what’s going on around me on public transport. I’ve rehearsed so many times in my head what I’m going to do next time, I’m harassed or see another woman harassed in from of me.
‘Locker room talk’ and jokes about the girls in the cast while I’m trying to paint theatre sets, and that it’s ok to say that around me because I’m not like those other girls. Sexual comments and jokes made through the headsets so that me and the other girls backstage would have to hear them. This was at a theatre company created to get teens into theatre and half of the comments were coming from adult men. Likewise making jokes when we are trying film in uni. Commenting on the looks of the women in your class shouldn’t be normal. Making jokes that the best way to learn how to work in the film industry is to intern on porn films shouldn’t be normal, but it was. Comments that female staff’s uniform at a fitness equipment store should be crop tops and mini skirts, from the owners of the franchise shouldn’t be normal. It shouldn’t be normal for martial arts instructors to offer, even jokingly, ‘private instruction’. Especially after they come up to me at a tournament or workshop and put their arm around me and whisper in my ear about it. Or continuing to offer to buy me drinks at a dinner afterwards, even though I’ve said no. It is certainly not normal for a Grandmaster to force a whiskey bottle to my mouth while asking me what I was doing the next day and if I had a boyfriend. It shouldn’t be normal that I feel grateful and relieved that I never experienced anything worse than that. And that I know there is so much more, but because of how normal I thought it was, I didn’t even take note of it.
Having your body commented on by strangers from 12 years old can take a lot out of you as you try to understand your own self worth outside of societies expectations of your value based on your physical appearance. Feeling scared by men more than twice your age as they ask you to drinks or for your number and the courage it takes to say no when you’re standing all alone on a desserted street. The common experience of the annoyance that flashes over a milk-hands face as he realised you just said no to having sex with him on the couch at the party.
Woman have this regretfully common experience of sexual harassent starting at an extremely young age. I want my children and nieces and sisters and all woman to not be scared to own their bodies with full authority. To know that ‘no’ won’t get them hurt. To not be scared to refuse the elderly man following them down the road on an empty street. I want men to be taught to just fuck right off and for their fathers and brothers and uncles to lead by example. Girls shouldn’t have reason to be afraid of their right to refuse, afraid to.exercise their right to walk down a street alone without being yelled at by boys and men in cars speeding away so they won’t ever be held accountable for their words.
-Isa Denney Strother
He made me a statistic. After that night he put me in a category that I did not anticipate being in. Now whenever I see stories in the news, or hear other women sharing their experiences and talking about how many girls it happens to, I am reminded that they are talking about me too. I am forced to include myself in the one in ten, or the one in five, or the one in three— however many it is now, who have been sexually assaulted. And when it came time, this week, to raise my hand and speak up online I knew that whether I made Facebook post or an Instagram post, or just stayed silent, I would still have to include myself in #metoo, regardless.
Some of the people closest to me won’t have known this happened to me until this is published. To them I say, I’m sorry – it’s not that I don’t love or trust you. And to some of them I say, I know you know what it’s like. I know you know that this is hard. And I have tried to talk about it in other ways, but at the end of the day I always wind up listening to the voice in my head that tells me it doesn’t really matter because nothing really happened. But that voice is wrong. And I would be lying to myself if I said my own experience of sexual assault hasn’t affected me and stayed with me every single day of my life since that night. I want to end this piece on an optimistic or uplifting note, but the truth is: seeing the number of people who have included themselves in #metoo and knowing that there are yet more who have opted not to include themselves publicly, it’s just upsetting. And quite frankly, I’m going to allow myself to be upset about this. And angry. And sad. And I am going to feel these things passionately. Because something needs to change.
I was sixteen and he was a family friend. He forced my hand, and completely violated me for his own selfish pleasure. I come home in sobs, and showered for hours on end to fulfill the idea that I could somehow wash away the disgusting feeling that was now left on me. My mum asked what was the reason behind my sobs and I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud. Instead, I wrote on a piece of paper five words. “he made me touch him.”