This is a difficult post to write but I feel it’s an important one. Although this issue cannot be fully explored in a single post, it’s important that the universe join hands in raising awareness in whatever capacity.
In recent times, there has been an uproar in reported cases of sexual harassment and assaults by powerful men on equally powerful women. These stories flooded our living rooms. The media coverage was relentless in its quest to expose the perpetrators, and praise the bravery of the women who came forward. We all applauded the women for their courage and willingness to come forward to protect the next generation. The women told stories of how these men blackmailed, humiliated and embarrassed them by demanding sexual favours in return for one thing or another. Mind you the women never ask for these favours, the men laid them out as a possibility only fruitful if the women degraded themselves and submitted to their sexual deviances.
The emergence of these stories has now opened a can of rotten worm – not only is the movie business awash with perverts and lowlifes, but so is sports, dance, gymnastics, politics and creative arts etc. What is evident is that sexual assault and harassment by men on women is as old as time itself, but never has it come to light in this scale. The perpetrators are people held to higher standards than most, and because of that regard, they assumed they were untouchable. They assumed just because they held high offices, owned successful production companies, held zillions of pounds in their bank accounts, they could do whatever to whomever. Unfortunately for them one person spoke up; now everyone knows. There is, however, a group of lowlifes who don’t hold high offices, don’t own anything, are ass-broke but have committed similar crimes. These are ordinary men assaulting ordinary women – these women’s stories never get told in the same scale. The non-famous side of hashtag me too is as ugly as sin too.
A few cases I’ve heard of:-
A young girl who was abused by her uncle everyday after school for years. He only stopped when she hit puberty because he was worried she might get pregnant and the truth will come out. He said to her that if she ever told of their ‘secret’, he would kill her mother. The girl is now a married woman and have recurring nightmares.
A young girl who was abused by their farm boy for years. He started off by grooming her with little treats that other children were not given. Later, he started calling her to his room. The girl is now a grown woman with emotional problems bigger than the Everest.
A grown woman who while raising money for race for life unfortunately knocked on the door of a pervert. The man offered to donate £100 if she could show him her breasts. She refused and left empty handed – the man’s eyes never left her cleavage. She left feeling violated.
The woman who was groped by an estate agent while showing her a flat. When she expressed disgust and humiliation, he told her she should be grateful that she’s so attractive that he couldn’t help himself.
The lady who was raped by who she thought was her friend because she trusted him to walk her home after a night of heavy drinking. He assumed invitation to walk her home means sex.
The lady who was groped by her brother in-law while she was driving, and he was too drunk to know his front from his back, to later claim he had an ‘attack of delayed morality…’ things I hear!
The girlfriend who decided half way through love making that she’s not interested after all, but the boyfriend decides it’s too late to stop…. this is hugely debatable – issue of self-control and respect.
Most ordinary women would think these cases are too unremarkable to tell anyone let alone report: they’ll excuse these as ‘manner and behaviours of men’ which women over centuries have come to accept as little inconveniences and nuisances. Inconveniences and nuisances brought about by women’s mere existence in the presence of men. In most cultures, older women teach younger women how to recognise these inconveniences and nuisances and how to use them to their advantage. The older women would say, e.g. “If a man complimented your cleavage, smile suggestively, you might get something out of this. You can ‘put on a display’ of what you’ve got without offering it”. However, what happens when someone takes it by force, because your ‘display’ was too irresistible? An excuse many women have heard over centuries – as if that would make it ok, or make the woman ‘feel better’ because they are too beautiful to be ignored. Luckily with the current wave of name and shame it’s unlikely future generation of women will suffer these inconveniences and nuisances, mainly because not only are women today strongly rebuking this culture, but mothers are teaching their boy children how to respect and treat women. They are also teaching their girl children how to treat themselves with respect.
Some old-school women, however, still believe incidents like wolf whistling are compliments, or that bra snapping is harmless banter. Incidents like bra snapping in recent times have warranted sexual harassment claims and a boy child entering into a sex offender’s register. Is this progress or over the top health-and-safety-gone-mad? Where do we draw a line? Is there a need for a line? Or anything from wolf whistling to rape are sexual assaults of varying degrees. Do we now have a sexual assault spectrum? Does this go both ways? Endless questions. It’s difficult to feel the wrath of someone else’s pain, so unless the ‘incident’ has happened to someone they cannot say, without prejudice, how people should react. It’s all very subjective.
On the other hand, women have used their sexuality and femininity to get or make men do things for them. Imagine a waitress who turns up for work 1 hour late and is summoned to the manager’s office. The manager can smell whisky in her breath and he knows what he needs to do: the waitress talks seductively at this man because she’s heard through the grapevine that he ‘likes’ women. She slithers in her chair as she promises not to be late again and makes ‘obvious’ suggestions that she’s open to liaisons. The manager is hopeful, so he lets her off with a verbal warning, and later asks her on a date. She promises knowing too well she has no intention of turning up because something will ‘come up’. If he insists the waitress will claim sexual harassment: the manager will feel used. In such instances who is sexually harassing who? There’s also the issue of some women crying wolf after a bad date/sex or for revenge purposes – food for thought.
Recently a top London prosecutor has urged victims of sexual assault to be very vocal [during the attack], otherwise the perpetrator could escape justice if one was quiet and the perpetrator assumed silence equals consent #thingsihear