When asked if I have ever experienced abuse or violence against women I would tell you no. I haven't. Not at all. I have been very lucky.
I mean, obviously I have had my drink spiked, been groped by men I didn't want to be grouped by and had random strangers lift up my clothing in order to get their hands on private parts of my body for their own fun and amusement (very much not for mine). I have felt threatened walking home alone, been shouted at from cars when out running or walking, had cars stop and ask me to get in, bern beeped at, had strangers comment on my clothing, hid in train station toilets from men I felt intimidated by.....
...but I am one of the lucky ones, I have never experienced voloance towards women.
And right there lies the problem. I consider myself to have been lucky in this respect, but thinking about it properly, I have, in each of the above experiences felt out of control, felt like I had no power to stop the things from happening.
The day I had my drink spiked was literally the first and only time I knowingly let a drink out of my sight when around strangers, and it was only for a few seconds. I paid for that, physically, for days. But again I was lucky and the friends I was with noticed an immediate change in my behaviour and refused to let me out of their sight despite my instance that I was going to walk back to the station alone because I didn't feel well and wanted to go home. See. Lucky. I have good friends who pay attention.
The time I had my skirt lifted up by a group of guys who had stood in a circle around me to allow one of them to 'do a trump' I was with friends, and my boyfriend at the time. He & my friends were a few paces behind me, we were going out for dinner, but those few seconds were enough for a group of unknown men to feel it was ok for them to stop me. It's likely my companions being close behind stopped anything worse happening as the group of men walked off laughing. They didn't even feel the need to run. It was all a big joke to them. We were in a busy part of town, not a solitary dark street. I cried for ages after that incident. I was wearing a knee-length, flowery, flounce skirt and a black top...
...and there it is again. Why do I feel the need to justify what I was wearing? If I was wearing a butt-length mini-skirt and a crop top would it make their behaviour ok? Of course not, and yet I show myself as part of the problem by feeling the need to justify what I was wearing that day, as if it was my fault what they did. Since that day I have insured that on a night out somewhere public, even just a quiet dinner with friends, I wear tights or shorts under a skirt or a dress, or I wear trousers. It probably happened 15 years ago, I still wear shorts under dresses. I doubt the men who did it even remember the incident.
Every female I know has stories like this. Many, too meny, have far worse stories. It's alarming the number of my friends who have similar stories. We all feel the same, we all worry about it and wonder how we could have stopped it. I knownit happens to men too, but in my experince, (& I can only speak from my experience) far less often.
When discussing running with my husband recently he was surprised that incidents of men being just a bit creepy happen more often then he realises. Cars slowing down to follow me for a bit, curbcrawling alongside me before driving off. Laughing or shouting out of car windows, men mimicking the sound of my breathing as I run past or making comments about how I look or how I sound ('she's going like a train' springs to mind). Women don't, whatever the reason, do this. I mean, ever. I like to wear bright, slightly over-the-top leggins to run in. They're fun and bright and functional, women sometimes comment 'love the leggings!' Or 'they're fun!' Sometimes men are complementary as well, but more often then not when males choose to make a comment, it's scathing, derogatory or just plain rude. 'They're a bit bright aent they?' Or 'can't miss you!' Or worse...and they comment far more regularly, as if by wearing bright clothing I am asking for an opinion. I'm not, by the way, and nor do I care that my legs are thicker then average, despite more then one male feeling the need to point that out to me. I often wonder what they want from me when they comment. Surely of they are offended by my sizeable lycra-clad behind they are not commenting because they want me to take the lycra off? Surely that would be worse for them? So why mention it at all? What do they gain?!
I don't know what will fix it. But I know fixing the little things like this will go a long way to fixing the bigger ones. I know more street lights won't work, often these instances happen in broard daylight. And more CCTV won't help as it only helps if an instance is brought to court and instances like mine just don't get reported, because average people like me think they are trivial, unimportant, and not actually illegal. What needs to change is attitudes, and as the mother of a girl and boy, I need to start there. I am also a teacher, and so I need to think about how these attitudes are addressed in my classroom. It is not ok to say or do things to other people that they don't like. I can't fix everyone, but I can start with my own little world, and we all should.
Yes, we have freedom of speech, but if it is your right to say whatever you want then it is also mine, and if what you are saying is nasty, mean, inconsiderate and sexist, I am allowed to say so (if only I had the confidence!) Braver people then me will call those people out, we all should. Just be nice to each other, ok?!