As early as I remember I was expected to defer to the males in my life. My older brother was treated differently, provided with amazing opportunities and allowed more freedoms. Boys groups went sailing and camping, girls groups learnt sewing and cooking. I wanted to go camping and sailing. But boys got to do what they want and girls did what they were told.
My brother did what he wanted to me. He hit me, I had bruises. I showed and told. I was told not to play boys games. My brother held me down for his friends to hit me. I had a bleeding nose. I showed and told. I was told to stop provoking them. My brother did what he wanted to me, he violated me with his fingers, made me suck his penis and later, as things progressed he had sex with me. I learnt not to tell. He took me places for his friends to do what they wanted to me. And they did. I didn’t tell anyone. I learnt. Boys did what they wanted. To me! And I did what I was told. Shut up!
I was a very quiet sullen child, I didn’t trust people, I didn’t talk to people, there was no point, no one listened to me and I didn’t make friends easily. I also developed bladder problems, so had trouble holding on and often had wet pants, this didn’t help. I was ignored more often than not. I was badly bullied at school. Once I was chased out the school gates & ran away. I had to return the next day and was threatened with the strap. My mother said the boy chased me and picked on me was because he ‘liked’ me. That made sense, because brothers are supposed to like their sisters too, right?
An older male cousin took me to play hide and seek in the cupboard under the stairs. He violated my vagina with his fingers. Another time he took several of us girl cousins into the cupboard. We never talked about it. I realise now they were subjected to a similar culture of silence.
When I was 13, I’d had a few drinks and told an older female (she was 17) about what my brother had done to me. She went and told my father who told her I was lying, then told me I was lying. I wasn’t lying. I never told anyone ever again. When my father’s flatmate took me for a ride to feed his parents cat and had sex with me, I was 13 he was 32, he did it several more times. I told no one. No one believed anything anyway and by now I’d realised that was what I was there for.
My mother had boyfriends and they liked her pretty blond daughter, too much. I asked for a lock on my door but was told she didn’t want to live in a house with locks on the door. She’s told me stories on how she and her older sister had kept their younger sister safe from a predatory man in their neighbourhood, it was the girls’ fault if they were caught, but she continued the silent culture. My mother’s boyfriends would grope, slap and prod and say things. I didn’t spend very much time at home.
It seemed my body existed for everyone else to touch, comment on and use. I remember walking past a house on my way to primary school where a group of men looked over the fence and made comments that they could teach me more than school. Relations couldn’t just say “hi”, the female ones were obsessed with my weight, commenting if I’d gained or lost, the male ones on my developing body. Lewd comments, over-friendly hugs & kisses where tongues were slipped into my mouth, I had to endure and their behaviour was dismissed. By now everywhere I went I was cat-called & propositioned. Even now, as I think back I am surprised by how many men think a 13 year old girl in school uniform wants to see their penis.
In every aspect, everything was disbelieved. One male teacher would rub himself against us girls in the hallways as he walked past and there was always a lot of talk about this teacher and how he interacted with the girls. While the hallways were crowded, in all my time at school(s) I’d never had a teacher so much as brush past me let alone rub against me and I can not recall ‘these’ types of stories ever being told about any of the other teachers (male or female). Something further must have been said because during assembly we were lectured on being ‘silly girls’ and that ‘stories could ruin a man’s career’.
By the time I was 14, school was over for me. My attendance had been sporadic and I was very behind. When I had gone to school teachers would ridicule me for not knowing where we were up to, so I didn’t want to return. I got a job, lying about my age, and a little flat alone. One of my brother’s friend’s brother came into my flat in the middle of the night and told me I wanted it, held me down and raped me (I did fight back, he hit me), stayed the night and did it again in the morning. I had a shower and went to work. I didn’t return to my flat. I hitchhiked out of town. I stayed in a small town with anyone who would have me, I didn’t have anywhere to go and no money. I returned to the city where when walking down the street I was offered money.
This was a new revelation. While my first experience of prostitution wasn’t pleasant, the client was very rough and I was bruised and torn, it was an empowering experience. I could get paid for what was normally just taken. So I went back to the same place the next night and I learnt and yes it was empowering, now I was using them and I did. I set myself up in a flat with a car and worked.
I was now in control of sex for the first time in my life, at work. Outside of this, I made the mistake of believing a man’s bullshit and my son was born when I was 19 and I was a single mother. Needing to work and of course childcare isn’t available for ‘nightshift’ my son stayed with my mother and her latest partner of 3 years, this one had actually taken “no” for an answer from me on several occasions. To shorten a very long story, by now I had a home and mortgage, another ex-partner and two little boys. I found out when my son was seven my mother’s partner had been abusing him (the way things played out there was no doubt).
I did everything the ‘proper’ way, because I wasn’t going to ignore like had been done to me. I contacted the authorities, police and CYFS etc. I told everyone. I was ostracised by my family. Told I was being vindictive, that I’d never liked him and that I shouldn’t make this shit up. My mother told me not to tell anyone to protect my son, as if he had something to be ashamed of. To this day I will never be convinced she didn’t know. CYFS became involved, targeting me! They told the court I was a danger to my kids. Thankfully I had a good paper trail of my activities and parenting, notifying as soon as I found out and the judge didn’t believe CYFS and gave my kids back. My mother remained with my son’s abuser for another 4 years.
This person (now dead and never brought to trial) had a distinctive name and over the past 15 years since I found out what he did to my son I have heard many other things about him. He preyed on single parents, gaining trust and helping them out with their kids, taking their kids out alone. Even last week I overheard someone use the name and I questioned to be told of an incidence 13 years ago when he exposed himself to the 18 year old daughter while her parents were out of the room. This man was enabled to continue because everything he did to people was dismissed and disbelieved.
But it just doesn’t stop. I’ve been raped by a man with a knife. I did report it to police and the Detective who was assigned my case was excellent and a credit to the force. I couldn’t go through with the prosecution, I was in fear of what media would do if they got a hooker rape story. I went back to work the next day, there was no way I was letting that loser win and I had a mortgage to pay. The man that raped me was jailed for rape and gbh – the next girl fought back, because ‘nice girls do’ so we’re told!
I started study and gained a degree. I got a ‘real job’. I was propositioned by my manager three times (I turned him down), he then spread nasty stories about me. Sadly, it was some of the women I worked with who were the worst in believing and spreading the lies, (no one knew about my past and the stories weren’t about that anyway), my supervisor called me a slut in front of the whole office. When I complained about the harassment and bullying (it was ongoing, documented and sustained) it was me who was offered an exit package.
There is not really enough time or space to write fully of all the experiences and quite frankly they don’t deserve to be dwelt upon. These things are not who I am they don’t define me, they are things that have happened to me and these things should not have happened to me or to my son. They shouldn’t have happened and if they did I should have been listened to they should have been stopped. My sons have been raised with awareness of what rape culture is, how to avoid contributing to it and what consent is, real consent – not just the absence of no.
In my opinion the outrage over the so called ‘roastbusters’ group should not be about their activities, but about consent. If consent is freely given by all involved then let them do whatever they want to whomever they want, no one can hold any moral high ground on their activities. In the absence of consent (including underage of consent), it is rape and should be dealt with the full force of the law. Focus on what they were doing to cause outrage rather the lack of consent claimed in the complaints, in my opinion, contributes to rape culture. I’m also amazed at how many people comment ‘how bad things are these days’. I doubt that. In the ‘good old days’ it just wasn’t spoken about.
It is good we’re speaking out and challenging the hierarchy silencing abuse. Keep speaking out. The silence enables them.