Not All Men, But All Women.
Trigger Warning: Sexual harassment and assault.
I was thirteen years old. Walking home after school on a hot summer day. I remember wearing these maroon coloured Harry Potter volleyball shorts - it was over 35 degrees Celsius. I had to wear shorts.
I was halfway home, turning a corner, and two guys in a parked car, probably aged seventeen/nineteen, started to holler at me. I just looked down, pretended I didn't hear them throwing different words in Spanish at me. I kept walking.
Then I heard the engine; a low roar; a warning. I picked up the pace, my forehead sweaty from heat and fear. The car trickled behind me, their clammy words still leaving the open windows.
I looked around me — where could I go? A guy from my class lived down a road close by. But what if no one is home? There — across the street. A dusty park; they wouldn't be able to drive through.
And so I ran.
I kept running, despite not being very fit, till I was home. I didn't tell anyone; I was too scared and a part of me was somehow ashamed.
After that day, I always carried a hot thermos cup of tea with me if I ever needed something to defend myself with.
Now, six years later, I keep my keys as claws. I text my partner when I will be home, tell him to check up on me in x amount of time. If I am on the bus and a creep is breathing down my neck, I text him what stop I am at, again giving him the amount of time I should be home in. I pretend to call someone, stating loudly when I will be home and where I am so that anyone who might be luring knows that someone is expecting me.
But the thing is, that this won't prevent the harasser, the assaulter, the rapist from doing what they have set out to do. It might only prevent them from doing it to me.
Statistically speaking, either me or one of the four women closest to me - my mother, sisters, and best friend - will at some point in life be raped. Do you know how that feels? To be so powerless? To be told to expect sexual trauma? And to know that most likely, you will not receive any sort of justice for the violation you have been exposed to?
The precautions women are taught — keys between the fingers, faking calls, sitting at the back of the bus so that you can see everyone in front of you, not waiting in your car alone in a car park, not getting too drunk, never leaving a drink out of sight for even a second, never accepting a drink that doesn't come directly from the bar, not wearing skirts or dresses on public transport, and countless of other things — are not to prevent assault overall, but simply to make sure that the assaulter moves on to someone else. If we actually want change to happen, the work has to happen on the other side.
5.7% of reported (only 15% of sexual assault is reported to the police) cases of sexual assault end with a convicted perpetrator.
If you have ever been sexually harassed or assaulted — it is not your fault. No matter if you were drunk, if it was past eight at night and you were walking outside, if you were wearing headphones, or if you weren't wearing conservative clothes; it is not your fault.
It is never your fault. It doesn't matter if you have been flirting with the person. It doesn't even matter if you married the person. It is not your fault. Being violated was not your choice, it was the choice of others.
And if you are a man who wants to protect women and make them feel safe, read this article from The Guardian on things you can do to make yourself less of a threat to women in public spaces.
If you have experienced sexual trauma, find help and support here:
My heart goes out to Sarah Everard's loved ones and everyone who has faced similar grief and trauma.