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Ellie

I recently found this platform and cannot express the gratitude I feel to have finally found a place I can express my own experiences and thoughts as a woman. Feminism is something I have completely submerged myself in and have dedicated my life to, thus far. Reading Laura’s book has been one of the best descions I have ever made and the knowledge I now have is playing a major part in my own journey as a woman. This book has made me realise my own sexual assault story; I now feel it necessary to share with others, I know will understand and believe me. My mother gave birth to me at just 18 years old. My parents were both very young when I arrived and sadly, had a very abusive relationship. I do not recall most of the abusive instances at that time, as I was an infant. Nonetheless, their relationship was unhealthy and therefore, my mother sought peace by moving us in with my great aunt. At the time, I was maybe five years old and was living with my mother, great aunt and her two (much older) children. My aunts younger child was around 16 years old. I was very close with this person and admired my second-cousin greatly. I followed them around, striving to spend as much time with them as possible. In retrospect, I could see how this might actually be annoying to a teenager, however, this one never seemed to mind. One day I was playing in their room when they asked me if I would, “like to play boyfriend and girlfriend?”. Me, a young child, perceived this proposition to be not dissimilar to playing ‘house,’ or reanacting a platonic couple seen on TV. However, my abuser went on to describe something midly sexual. I didn’t understand what any of this meant but tentatively and naively agreed, nonetheless. This member of my family, whom I just wanted to be like, had coerced me into grinding into them and snogging them. Even pushing their hand downward and grabbing and pressing against my genitals roughly, through my trousers. I could feel everything they were doing to me and I didn’t understand this was inappropriate. I just wanted them to like me and wanted them to enjoy spending time with me, so I fulfilled their wishes. I remember feeling uncomfortable but not understanding the situation and not realising I had the power to stop it, again I was 5. I wasn’t aware of anything remotely to do with sexual misconduct, abuse or assault. I just knew my own little world and that was it. I cannot remember how long this went on for, maybe 20 to 45 minutes. I’m not sure. Afterward, I felt totally sick and uncomfortable. When we left their room, I remember my mother assuming we were playing together and making a comment about how messy my hair was. I was frightened; I almost, somehow, knew not to tell my mother what we were doing. I looked over to my abuser, who raised a finger to their lips and mouthed the word “don’t!”. I made up some excuse about us fighting and my hair getting messed in the process. Nothing more was said. I remember later getting cornered by the person and told if I said anything we would both get into trouble. Both. That I would be punished and so would they. That I needed to keep my mouth shut or I would face punishment. I kept quiet. For fear of being told off for something that I didn’t understand was wrong. For fear of losing my then, loved-one, as a friend. Years have past since then and I am no longer in contact with that person, through sheer circumstance. However, I have never told anybody about this. Not my mother, my friends, anyone! I have remained quiet. Not because I feared anything, anymore but I somehow didn’t feel as if there was anything wrong with what happened to me. I didn’t even see it. This book helped me realise that was the dangerous stage of denial. Now, I’ve accepted what happened to me, I’m struggling through the stages of, worrying about my family not believing me. Breaking up the family, as again this person is a distant family member. Or worse, getting shunned out my family by the members who will probably believe their story over mine. This hurts to think and feel but truth be told, I know it would be the reality of my coming forward. Therefore, I will not do so. I have struggled with this for many years and I do not see the benefit of sharing this information with anybody I’m personally in contact with, right this moment. Maybe I will in the future, maybe not. The truth is, I almost feel as if my soul still doesn’t understand the true severity of my violation and this is why I feel able to keep it to myself. Of course this is not the case for many others, I always encourage other victims to come forward for the help and support they may need. Maybe I have too much pride to share this and feel I can cope on my own. I’m not sure but for now it’s not a risk I’m willing to take, so private it shall stay. For me, talking about this on here is all the catharsis I need, right now. I’m aware that my being taken-advantage-of isn’t just because of my gender but also my age and the circumstance in which, my abuser had the opportunity to take advantage. Regardless, I still felt this was the appropriate platform for my voice to be heard. As many other women, I have a plethora of other stories – probably more closely related to gender discrimination – but this was the most pressing and the one I felt I needed to talk about the most. I still feel ashamed, embarrassed and a big list of other emotions, all a direct consequence of the event. I have lots of mental health issues as a result, ie, PTSD, OCD, Anxiety, Depression, etc. However, I’m learning to deal with what comes. I’m safe now and I’m trying to find solice in that. There are a multitude of other things I’m now facing mentally, like the battle of starting a relationship, questioning my identity and sexuality, etc. Nonetheless, I’m so grateful to have finally accepted this part of past and to have hopefully, been brought the tiniest bit of closure. Thank you for listening. Thank you to Laura and her book and the endless women who inspire me and motivate me to be a better person, woman and feminist. Thank you.

Anon

As a woman, I have been trying and failing to understand why some men want me to do certain things on command and behave in certain ways for their titillation. My boyfriend was kind and caring at first, but after a few weeks, he made it no secret that he watched porn on his devices. He would talk about porn openly with his male friends during the middle of the day and discuss the porn inspired things he wanted to do to me with his mates. I don’t have cloth ears. I told him that what he said was making me feel uncomfortable but he just laughed and said “calm down darling”. When we were alone, he would would say: “Now baby I want you to…you’ll enjoy it…” and would state explicit acts that I was not comfortable with. He would sulk when I said “No”. He suggested that I “should” perform some of these acts on his lonely male friends. I firmly said “No” and he became upset and that I should do what he said because I was his “property”. Also he said that he had promised his male friends (without consulting me first) that I was going to perform for them in certain ways. He said that he was trying to “train” me to basically give lap dances on command. His lonely male friends had requested to him that I should lap dance for them. I figured out that was why he had kept telling me to sit on his lap, sometimes tempting me with food. When I did sit on his lap out of choice, he’d pat me on the head and say “good girl” and feed me a crisp. When I wasn’t in the mood to sit on his lap he would get very angry and sulky with me saying that if I really loved him, I would try to make him happy. I would not get fed a crisp and be called “bad girl”. It seems so stupid looking back on it now but he was basically training me to be a lap dancer using circus dog training techniques. He gave me a crisp and called me “good girl” when I took my jumper off because it was hot indoors. He then said “Now take off your shirt babe”. That’s how stupid things became because he had promised his male friends (without telling me) that I would strip for them. Thankfully I never did.

Anon

When boys or men were playing video games at home, they never invited me to join in with them. Was this because I am female? A male cousin would bring his console round our house when he came to visit and would play it for hours on end, never offering any female relatives a turn. I however as a girl was expected to be polite and fetch him biscuits and orange squash. When I had a boyfriend, he never offered to have me join in two player mode on his video game console, but I was just expected to sit there and he would ask me to cheer him on. It was boring and depressing for me even though he was thoroughly enjoying himself. He didn’t really agree with women or girls playing football, so I guess that is why he didn’t let me play the opposing team on his football video game? I don’t play video games online because I am afraid of being harassed as a woman so a play games offline. Also I don’t have much time to play games because I have to be ready at a moment’s notice to help my disabled relatives. There seem to be games and pastimes that some men cordon off for their own. Football is an example of this. On the school field during playtimes, the boys would never ever invite the girls to play football with them. I had an amazing acquaintance at Primary School who loved football. While the boys were playing, she would rush into the middle of them and perform spectacular tackles and run off with the ball! The boys were so impressed with her gumption that they made her Captain of the School team. Nearly all of the goals for that season were scored by her. So basically in order to be accepted as a football player on the playground, a girl would literally have to be the best on the school team. Any boy with mediocre ability would be accepted to play football on the playground when he was invited. If you were a girl, you would literally have to fight your way onto the field and prove your abilities because no boy would ever ask if you wanted to play! If you were a boy, you were expected to play football or else you’d get called a “girl” and beaten up. So that was how a girl at my Primary School became football team Captain and the only girl on the team. There was no girls’ football team in my Primary School because the girls were taught to play netball and the boys were taught to play football in PE.

Anon

When I was a young woman in my 20s, my boyfriend said that I “should” kiss his male friends because they lacked girlfriends and were very lonely. He also suggested that I take off my top for his male friends’ entertainment. When I firmly said: “No.” he sulked and called me unkind. He also asked if me sister was free to lend to one of his male friends who hadn’t had a girlfriend in many years and “desperately needed a kiss”. When I said “No” again because I respect my sister, he was very upset. I said firmly that I would be happy to say hello to his friends, but go no further than that. I had only ever agreed to kiss him and no one else. He was disappointed that he couldn’t share me or my sister around with his friends for free. I wouldn’t have agreed to it even if he had paid me to be their private stripper: it seemed so wrong: hadn’t agreed to be taken advantage of by being “pimped out” in this way. He was frustrated with me for several days after I refused to provide adult entertainment for his friends. I felt bad for his lonely friends but didn’t want to force myself to kiss or strip for them out of guilt.

Alex

The first person to draw attention to my developing breasts in public was my dad. He said it was to toughen me up and ready me for the outside world. I was about 11, I am now 45 and it still pisses me off

anonymous

When I started reading the book I spoke to my sister about it and we both exchanged stories of sexual assault/harrassment, and when our mum came in the room she told us of an instance of assault that we didn’t know about, as well as one her friend recently shared with her. These instances were just the ones that had stuck in our heads because they were the most disturbing/scary/memorable but I made a list on my notes on my phone later that night of all the instances I could remember and split it into sexual assault and sexual harrassment. JUST in the sexual assualt list I had over 20 instances that I could remember starting from school years, and I’m almost certain its not an exhaustive list. It was actually effortful to remember all of the instances and made me realise how I’d actually dismissed most of them and how I’d normalised them. But actually writing them out and reading them back made me extremely emotional and brought to light how utterly fucked up it was. Most of the instances I felt I couldn’t speak up because even if people believed me nothing would be done anyway. So it’s easier to stay silent.

K

I was stretching after cross country practice and a man yelled at me to “stick my booty up, stick it up.” I told my father and he said: “Well you’re a girl, get used to it.”

Anonymous

I’m not married to my partner, we have a child together. His family and some of my family refer to us as; “The *his surname*”. I get cards addressed to me with his surname on and not mine. I am my own person. Just because we have a child together does not mean my identity has been erased and I have adopted his. My mum doesn’t think I should be offended and doesn’t think it’s sexist, it’s “tradition”. Yeah, tradition from back when women were treated as objects and not people.

Aimee

Since the first day I met my creepy father-in-law he has thought it is appropriate to: pinch my ass, make sexual comments about my body, stare and ogle, grab me from behind, corner me, grope me, and make inappropriate sexual and racist jokes about me. All on front of my husband and his own wife. We live in England. I am not an educational snob but this fuck-wit has a 14 year old education and thinks it is acceptable to mansplain basic science to me (I have a PhD in Physics, MSc in Engineering and a teaching degree in Science/Maths). He is passive aggressive and abusive to his wife and his only baby grand-daughter has a developmental disability and treats her like she doesn’t exist compared to her brother, his able bodied grandson. Makes my skin crawl.

Izzy

When I was 11, I first met a much older brother of my friend (in his twenties). He would pick me up from my home and take me to his home for playdates with his sister, and so had my contact details so that we could arrange pickup times. One day he messaged me saying “You’re cute, and not in a ‘my little sister’s friend’ kind of cute.” Later, at a sleepover, he came to our room while we were sleeping and brought me to his room. He kissed me and touched me, stealing many of my ‘firsts experiences’ that should have happened later in my teens and consensually. This happened several times until I got too old. I told no one. When I was 18, I found out that I hadn’t been the only one, and there were other family friends who it had happened to as well. We told our parents, but nothing ever came of it. He still goes about his life having suffered no consequences. The part that makes me feel the worst is that I feel guilty for not saying anything at the time. Like if I had spoken up then, maybe other girls could have been spared, because there’s no reason to think he has stopped doing this with other children. And I feel ashamed that I feel guilty, because that guilt should be entirely his own. When I finally did speak up, as an adult, his mother spread the rumour that I was evil, and doing this for attention, and I was a liar. We used to be a close community of friends, all our parents were friends. Many of those people have now blocked me on social media, and don’t talk to me anymore. Somehow I became the pariah of the situation because he was a well-liked member of society. I think about it every single day.