Public space

Bella

I want to share a few incidents of sexual assault I have experienced… I was at a busy pub with my friends and walking up the stairs to the upper floor. A man, a lot older than me, coming down the stairs looked my body up and down. As I passed by him, he reached over and grabbed my breasts. His friends laughed in the background and the people I were with didn’t seem to care. I was about 17. I was in a queer nightclub with my friend in London. I am not queer myself but my friend is, and we always had a great time together with his group of friends. A girl came up to me and kept on saying how attractive I am and that she really wanted to kiss me. I said thank you but I’m not actually into women. She wouldn’t leave me alone and grabbed my breasts before leaving. I told my friend about it as I was quite shocked. His boyfriend laughed and grabbed my breasts again as if to say “what’s the problem?”. I was young at the time and laughed but it ultimately made me feel like it was ok for him to touch me like that and for other people to touch me too. I was at my brothers birthday party with my friend. He’s a bit older than me and I was about 16 at the time. I went to get some money out from a cash machine with my friend while one of his friends stood behind me in the queue. I could hear him making noises/speaking to the boys next to him about my backside and how badly he wanted me. As I was bending down to pick up by cash I felt him kick me between the crotch. Me and my friend often used to laugh at this incident, but it really hurt at the time and shocked me. I was at a festival with some friends who I knew fairly well. We were drinking in our tent and the conversation got on to the topic of bodies. They all kept on saying how jealous they were of my body and how badly they want to see my breasts. They insisted I showed them there and then. It was a new friendship group and I felt under pressure and pulled down my top. I felt really alone in that moment and really vulnerable. All these incidents sent the message to me that my body was not mine. In all cases, my friends just laughed or even encouraged this message. I am 23 now. I hope the narrative changes for girls at school growing up so we can teach each other that it is not ok to sexualise your friends or touch their bodies without consent. And to validate each others experiences of sexual assault when they occur rather than becoming an anecdote. Friendships should be a safe space where we have the potential to disrupt the discourse and narrative around sexual assault. Not another space in which sexism pervades and assault is made to same ok. It never is, and I am sorry if anyone has felt alone or let down in these ways too.

M

Okey so im 14 years old and for the ones that are interested i was wearing sweatpants and a fucking top. I was walking home alone and i was one block away home when this guy (he was maybe 26) slowed down his car and yelled at me lots of disgusting stuff about what would he do to me if i was his… I was so scared and feeling useless and helpless. I kept walking when i saw that this guy turn around his car and began to whistle at me in a seductive way. I started running while i was calling my dad crying, i told my dad to open the door so i could run inside. I was so desperate to get home and never come out again… Luckily i got home safe and sound, but what if i didnt? What about something happened to me and i could never come home again? Now i dont walk alone on the streets because im afraid that something might happen to me. That feeling is one of the worse things i ever felt. This shit has to stop

rouaa

my name is rouaa, i am 19 years old from Benghazi libya. i have been reading and learning more and more about feminism and sexism and the more I do, the clearer it is to me how unfair i have been treated in the past, because it was just what everyone thought was normal and okay. when i first started experiencing men catcalling me in the streets (i was probably 13) my mother told me i should never look at the man or respond or even defend myself if he tried to touch me because he might get angry and hurt me, i listened to her for years. another time i was in a crowded store with my mom and dad standing in line, i felt a hand brushing against my ass, i figured it was by accident because the store was crowded, but the second time i felt uncomfortable and told my mother, she told me to “be quiet” because she doesn’t want my dad to hear me and then start trouble with that man. Early on i was taught to always cover up, my dad would send me back to my room to change because my pants were “too tight” and i hated my body because i didn’t wanna be a sex object. i was furious with questions and i was always shut down from people who said it was our religion or our culture. my cousin once told me that my house would be “dirty” if i worked because i wouldn’t have time to clean. my uncle told me it was my job to sacrifice and compromise because that’s what a good mother does for her family. I saw my aunt thanking her husband for holding the baby like he was doing her a favor by taking care of his own child. in libya we have tribes and these “important” tribe meetings which women are obviously not invited to because, well, because they’re women. i have a cousin who would ignore me every time we met, he would shake hands with everyone in the room but me, i never knew why but i figured if i was a man it surely wouldn’t have happened. when you’re a girl you’re automatically less important, easy to ignore. in family dinners we have to make sure the men’s plates have more food and look more presentable because they’re more worthy of that for some reason. when my cousin was 16, she was forced to marry a man she didn’t want, and the same had happened to her sister. when anything bad happens to you youre automaticly blamed for it because men have needs, men cant control themselves, “its okay for men to catcall and hit on you because its a “phase” that they go through” a crush i had (believe it or not) once said to me, but why should i be the subject of your phase? why do you feel entiltled to my body and to talk to me or even get my number? why is all this bullshit okay and normal?. in libya youre not really suppossed to dye your hair or wear makeup until you get married. i of course didnt care for that and wore makeup to events and occasions anyway and people always judged me for it. i wasnt allowed to wear makep going out (still not allowed actually) and one time i got in trouble for wearing makeup to uni. its like everything we do is for men or for their attention. and so many more things that are happeningto me and girls in this society. but im so grateful im unlearning everything i was taught growing up. i wont be a victim of internalized misogyny anymore.

A young person who shouldnt have to deal with this shit

When I was younger, maybe 10 or 11, I was sitting at the only table at my kung fu school (something I love, and cherish, thats become a safe space for me) and I was drinking juice. I was drinking the juice with my mouth around the cap, incicling it. And a man who was an upper level, and fucking 30, with a kid my age and a daughter a few years younger, starts laughing. Now, I’m ten, so I dont understand, because a fucking gain, in this story, I am ten. But ive come to learn that he was laughing because it looked like i was giving the bottle a blow job, which i didnt know because im TEN YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE. His son was the one who started it, pointing and laughing, and you’d think, when your child is sexualizing another child, you’d scold them a bit, or, even, look away uncomfortably. You wouldnt, certainly, join in on the sexuilizing of an already very anxious and confused child, thus confusing her some fucking more. Its not the worst thing thats happened to me in the name of sexism, but its always stuck with me because of the sheer absurdatiy of the situation. A man in his 30’s laughing with his 11 year old son about a girl who happened to drink her bottle of tropicana in a way that vaguely resembled a blow job, then expecting her to get the joke, and when she finally understood, laughed like it was a funny little joke.

Nicola M.

My lovely 16 year old daughter has gone out to see her best friend today – on a sunny afternoon in Leeds UK. COVID meant there was no prom for my daughter and her friends. This is their first trip to a restaurant since before lockdown and they decided to dress up a bit. My d. went out in a powder blue dress she had bought for a birthday party also scuppered by lockdown, happy in her mind and body. She was meeting her friend at the bus stop which meant walking down the main road. After a couple of minutes, some blokes whistled at her from their car and shouted “you look nice!” She phoned me (I was at the supermarket) feeling scared and upset. The saddest thing was that she said “is this dress inappropriate, Mam? Should I not have worn it?” I assured her she most definitely should have worn it and felt so sad that her first call for blame was herself. We agreed that cat-callers deserve belittling by being completely ignored when you are on your own and by being given the angry finger with no coyness or giggles when with friends. 😔 Big respect also to her 14 year old sister who ran down to the main road to meet her and walk with her to meet her friend. I have also urged her to visit this website too – it is a therapeutic and empowering act to do so.

Lyds

I have taken up running since I lost my job due to Covid-19, and I run along the canal near me. As I was running under a bridge a couple of weeks ago, a young man was walking towards me and veered so close that I was almost against the wall of the bridge so that I could get past. I saw him reach his hand out ‘surreptitiously’ and try to touch me as I ran by him. His hand would have touched my groin if I didn’t notice it and dodge. It made me see red though because I was so pissed off that he felt that he had the right to touch me without permission.

Flora

I´m am 19 and writing a thesis on sexualised assault on women. I was supposed to be finished in June, but whilst writing in January i had a mental breakdown, because I realised the depth of my own experiences. Especially one incident, that occurred 2 years prior, where a friend, that I loved deeply but platonically, sexually abused me. Until January I was mostly convinced that everything was mostly my fault because my heart would break even more knowing that he could and would do such a thing to me. Since then I have begun to grasp the daily sexism and violations against me and remember my naïve conversation with a guy who repeatedly tried to force himself on me and stopping after repeatedly saying no and or running away. When he realised the vileness of his actions he sat down with me one day and told me how sorry he was and that he sees now the barbarity he had done, I responded (at the age around 16) with: don’t worry about it, I’m used to it, happens all the time.

A

Today I got dressed for a nice dinner with my family. I’m a 15 year old girl for context. I wore a nice necklace I had recently bought. I felt really good about myself and what I was wearing. At the dinner my uncle said something that really upset me. He casually said I must be wearing a necklace so boys have an excuse when they stare at my boobs for too long. He thought this was hilarious and laughed at his own joke. I myself thought it was kind of creepy. However this was not the first time my uncle had made a sexist remark. Last week I got catcalled by an old man while running. I felt really disturbed and told my family about the incident. My uncle defended the man who catcalled. He tried to justify his action by claiming he lived in a different time and was not used to how things were done these days. My uncle has also frequently made fun of my mom (his sisters) chest size. He would send her birthday cards saying “I hope your birthday was but as flat as your boobs”. Today I confronted my mom about his casual sexist comments. She told me that thing we’re down differently in his days. It really upset me that she was not standing up for herself not me. I love her so much and resent my uncle for not treating her with the respect she deserves. I believe that there is a larger issue at play here. Older people seem ignore casual sexism. I understand it may be true that things were different back then, but is this really a valid justification for sexism? The women’s rights movement has made so much progress in recent years. Why is it that middle aged men cannot acknowledge and understand progress that has been made more recently? It angers me older men do not take the time to educate themselves and learn respect for women. I hope in the future we can educate men to respect women. Do that Instead of teaching women to cover up and protect themselves against men.

Lo

I hadn’t been feeling great about my body recently so I decided to go for a bike ride and get some exercise. I’d had such a lovely time (like genuinely felt like something out of a crappy nostalgic film). I was waiting at a crossing when a man drove past me and called me a “fat cunt” I was down the street from the house I was born in. Some of my happiest memories from my childhood are cycling down this road. I tried to convince myself that it meant nothing but I can’t help but feel like he took something from me.

Yara

A few months ago I (16) was sexually assaulted while walking in a park. As a girl I was always warned for being alone in the city when it’s dark, but this wasn’t in the city, it wasn’t dark and I wasn’t even wearing tight or revealing clothes. It had just finished raining, so there were no other people when the man (40-45) approached me. First he tried to get me into his car, but i put up resistance, so he just took me to a more isolated area in the park. I didn’t try to fight or run and didn’t even try to stop him apart from pushing him away softly and turning my head when he tried to kiss me. I was scared for what would happen if he found out he already went to far. Eventually I managed to get away and immediately started crying and called my boyfriend, who I’d see later that day. When I was there I called my parents. Luckily they (and my boyfriend and his parents) were very understanding and helped me deal with it. Later I filed a report against him and the case is still going on. This wasn’t even the first time I was sexually assaulted, but it defenitely was the worst time. The other times I just dealt with it myself, not realising something had to be done.