Me too? This must stop

Please forgive this deeply personal post – it’s been fermenting a long time and now is the time to post it, if ever. It’s longer than my usual pieces – but shorter than it could have been by many miles.

I was 17 when my then boyfriend, a year older than me, went off to college in London.

As a good Catholic girl with a strict upbringing, I wasn’t allowed to visit him for fear of – well, you know what.

At Christmas, or on one of his trips home – I can’t honestly remember – he told me about some ‘friends’ who’d been refilling the condom machine in the student union.

Male friends.

They’d decided, for fun, to stick a pin through them before filling the machine.

I was horrified. And so, I like to think, was he.

We are talking about a time when to become pregnant, if unmarried, was likely to ruin a female’s life.

Just a year or two later a girl from my school, who had gone to university, became pregnant. Her father – a doctor – disowned her.

But back to me.

I had my first wolf whistle when I was 16, in Norwich, volunteering on a dig. I was walking to work, wearing a yellow vest-top and jeans. And I was shocked.

My first thought was, I’d better wear a shirt over it tomorrow.

OK, so when you’re in your forties (those were the days) and still get occasional catcalls it’s kind of reassuring, but I can’t say it’s welcome.

Moving on. Me in my early twenties. New graduate, working in a library.

I have a ‘serious’ boyfriend who thinks it’s fine to rape me as I sleep.

‘Asleep?’ you may wonder. ‘In the same bed? Is that really rape? Hmm, not sure about that. And anyway, surely because she was there it implied…’

Let us be clear. I did not give my consent.

I was not drunk, nor was I drugged. I was asleep.

He used me. Without my permission.

What about that is not rape?

There was no violence, but that’s not a prerequisite for rape.

I found out when I awoke next morning. I had to get on my bike and go to work, knowing that he had used me. Abused me.

I felt ashamed – yes, ashamed. I felt dirty, upset, disgusted. But I was supposed to be flattered. Oh, yes, I was just so irresistible he couldn’t resist pleasuring himself in my sleep.

At least I didn’t become pregnant.

I’ve tried to write about this so many times now I’ve lost count.

I’ve tried to set it in various wider contexts which outrage me.

The general shrugging off of the horrendous statistics for rape in this country, for example.

In the year to June reported rapes have gone up in England and Wales by 22% to 45,100. Bad enough – but it’s well known that rape is a hugely under-reported crime.

The annual Crime Survey of England and Wales arguably paints a more accurate picture, suggesting around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year. Figures which don’t include children.

Now, if 7000 or more armed robberies or murders were happening every month, instead of rapes, what do you suppose would happen? Outrage?

But, back to younger me. And skip forward to London. My first serious job.

Walking home one night, I stopped at a phone box in a nice neighbourhood, in the north of the city, to make a call.

There were no mobile phones. And no phone in the room I rented.

As I listened to ringing at the other end of the line the door behind me opened.

A man pushed into the box and the door swung shut.

Luckily for me a couple walking a dog came to the rescue and my attacker ran off.

Did I report it?

No. What would I report?

It was just the kind of thing that happened. A young woman out alone at night. What do you expect?

Then there was the taxi.

Leaving Ronnie Scott’s – a famous jazz club – after 2 am. No night buses, no tubes.

And cabs weren’t willing to go beyond four miles north.

One finally took me to a rank at a mainline station – where taxi after taxi left me standing. I grew colder and more desperate, turned to the rest of the queue, asked if anyone was going in my direction.

One man was.

Youngish, in a bobble hat. A bit like Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. With a frayed bandage on his arm. I can still see him now.

The next taxi took us.

As we sped north, he leapt on me. Thrust his tongue in my mouth.

I shoved him off, asked the taxi driver to stop.

He did. And after a lecture on never, ever doing such a stupid thing again, he waited as I walked to my door, put in the key and shut it behind me.

I was young. But believe me, it doesn’t stop as you get older. Just when you think your age is an armour of sorts, you find tradesmen mistaking a cheery demeanour and cups of tea for an invitation.

It’s very, very depressing.

One post I read this week pointed out that this problem is often regarded – if it is regarded at all – as a women’s problem.

Women are raped.

Women suffer domestic violence.

No.

Men – many of them – rape.

Men – many of them – are violent.

Men violate women.

Not all men – and not all women. But many.*

And often.

And they almost always get away with it.

Bear in mind we’re not just talking about ‘minor’ things such as a pat on the behind, a leering catcall or an ‘accidental’ brush of the hand on a breast.

We’re talking about men sticking their penises in women (and men) without their consent.

Why do they get away with it?

Too many reasons to enumerate. But I can tell you the victim’s shame is one of them.

It’s time a large part of our society – men – not only took notice, but responsibility for doing something.

I saw a letter to a quality newspaper, responding to the Harvey Weinstein story, highlighting how women use flirtation to get ahead in life. As if that’s comparable.

But flirtation is not an invitation to rape or molestation.

And a man can ignore it if he chooses.

So let’s not go down that or any other diversionary route, shall we?

Rape.

It’s not a women’s problem or women’s fault.

Men who rape are criminals.

And thousands of them not only get away with it, we women shrug it off, knowing we will face at the very least disgusted looks, at worst the shame and intrusive questioning of our morals and habits.

There’s plenty more to say – about that fuzzy line between compliments and harassment, for example.

But I suggest we start with rape. And violence. That’s pretty non-controversial, isn’t it?

And as domestic-abuse statistics rise, why not consider all those domestic violence units that are having to close?*

It’s time for the world to man up, in a good way.

Men – and most especially, men in power – over to you.


* I was criticised on a previous occasion when I wrote about rape for saying ‘men rape women’ by a man who said he didn’t. I shouldn’t generalise, he implied. Well, fine, I didn’t say all men did. But it’s not women doing the raping and the statistics are horrendous.

* The police recorded 511,319 offences that were domestic abuse-related in the year ending June 2017, a 18% increase on the 431,768 offences recorded the previous year.

 

 

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41 Responses to Me too? This must stop

  1. Well said for this and sorry it needed to ferment for so long. Men rape women, as you say, simple as that. And it’s a huge problem for all men. I hate the fact that men rape women. I hate the fact that Harvey Weinstein is not the only man who is just like Harvey Weinstein. All men do or have known someone who is more than a bit like Harvey Weinstein, give or take sufficient arrogance or power. So how he and they behave, and the fact that men rape women is both a problem and a responsibility for all men.

    So yes, “Men – and most especially, men in power – over to you.” That means over to us, men.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Ronnie, for this. I am so relieved to have at least one man say what you have just said. Given my minor experience I can only imagine how hard it is for a woman who has been raped by a friend, a relative, someone she has felt unable to report for family or other reasons. My hope is that this #Metoo movement will not be decried or dismissed as just another bandwagon but reveal the reality of how men’s behaviour really needs to change. It is not just up to us as women to challenge it. Thank you, again.

      Like

  2. Christa says:

    A brave post, Mary, and your experience will resonate will almost every woman on the planet. We do need to stand up and be counted, and educate our sons and grandsons….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Christa. Given how minor my experiences were and how many times I balked at sharing I can understand how tough it is for everyone. It shouldn’t be – and what you say is why I finally did it – every woman on the planet needs to stop feeling ashamed of being mistreated and every man needs to consider his – or his friends’ as Ronnie points out – behaviour.

      Like

  3. Fiona Unwin says:

    Oh Mary. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, a very brave post. All those who rape and perpetrate domestic abuse are criminals – wether they are caught & convicted or not. No grey areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thel says:

    Mary,
    You have lifted a heavy weigh up off your shoulders and lowered it to the ground. You are very strong and I am proud to know you.
    Much love,
    Thel

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann says:

    That was a very brave thing to write about and share. It’s such a sad world where you , like others too, have to keep these memories to yourself for a long time with out others to support you apart I assume from those very close. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Ann and thank you for taking the trouble to say so. Sadly, one of the reasons I felt I had to do this in the end was that I had dinner with 2 young women in their thirties and one told me abut being raped – and experiencing domestic violence. I told her my less damaged story – she was the first person other than Larry I had told and I only told him not long ago. I didn’t realise how much effect it had had.

      Like

  7. It is a power problem.

    Men have the power in society still and can choose whether or not and how to use it.
    When it is used to abuse women the power structure provides the excuses…she led him on by the way in which she was dressed, or just by being approachable…
    It does not go so far in the Western world as to require women to wrap themselves in winding sheets before they are dead as that would prevent men having the pleasure of watching and assessing them…but the woman’s dress and conduct will always be open to blame should she complain of unwanted attentions, whether minor or major.

    It is not going to be easy for decent men to stand up to this…the power structure is such that defying the norm, making a fuss, results in isolation from the group upon which depends the job, the social connections, which in turn promote the career, pay the mortgage….but decent men will do so, I am sure.

    A major problem is the hold of the media on the image of women. While it presents women as tarted up dolls, while female nudity seems almost compulsory in films and sexual abuse is presented in finger licking detail the image of the powerless woman is perpetuated.

    Society needs to change, not only in this respect, but in respect of the current ambience of general exploitation and the only way I can think of it being changed is for people to gogether, have confidence in each other, decide what it is that they want and refuse to accept party hacks as their representatives.

    Or we could reintroduce lamp posts and start manufacturing rope…

    Like

    • Yes! Thank you for such an excellent summary, Helen. So much of what you say I might have written too if I had given myself a limitless remit! Maybe pitchforks not ropes and lamp posts…
      Power is of course the key, but we know that women’s own perceptions of what they are and ‘should’ be have been well and truly warped by the things you describe. Women have to abide by so many rules, written and unwritten. Grayson Perry has interesting things to say that relate – Default Male etc. He was part of one of the many posts I tried to write over the last year or so.
      Forgive me for not devoting more words to your thoughtful response – I have had a long day and am about to celebrate my submission for a novel writing award being longlisted by Mslexia magazine … my first such longlisting. I am tired – but what with this and that, it’s not a bad tired.Thanks, again, Helen.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. jilldennison says:

    It took great courage to write and publish this post, my friend, and I only wish you had been able to do it sooner. You have written it well, pulled no punches, and this should be required reading for every male age 15 and up. I am so sorry for everything you have gone through.

    Our culture … every culture on earth, I believe, has at some point promoted the idea that male is stronger and somehow superior to female. On one level, in this, the 21st century, we all know better, but on a deeper level, I think some men, especially those with large egos or who have been told how wonderful they are, still believe they are stronger and somehow superior.

    I said a few weeks ago that if there is anything positive to come of the Weinstein revelations, it would be that finally women might feel freer, safer, to come forward with their own stories. What has happened has surpassed what I even envisioned. You are part of that huge effort to shine a spotlight on this … and you are right … it is not a women’s problem, it is the man who has the problem, and then it becomes everyone’s problem.

    Thank you again for sharing this and know that I am proud to call you my friend. Hugs ‘n love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jill. And I am proud to be your friend, you are doing a tremendous and selfless job holding the overmighty to account and keeping us informed and involved.
      The spotlight is an uncomfortable place to be. Many will not like it and many will squirm, I have done my share of squirming these last few days as I hesitated. But that is a big part of what must change.
      Thanks, again, Jill, hugs and love to you too. M

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        Yes, squirming is a part of life … should I? shouldn’t I? is it the right thing? the wrong thing? Sometimes the ‘thing’ is neither necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ … it simply is. Is what we must do. Rape, sexual abuse & harassment … they are crimes against humanity as surely as any others. The difference between rape and some others is that it leaves behind a victim scarred for life. Until men are held to account for their actions, it is like giving them a blank check to do as they will with women. People who are standing up now, like yourself, are saying, “we are sick of it … we are sick and tired of being silent victims … it stops NOW!” I applaud you and all the others.

        And thank you for your kind words. We all fight for causes, just different ones sometimes. I hope that at the end of the day I have accomplished something, helped somebody see more clearly and make better decisions. Time will tell.

        Now you, my friend, relax and enjoy the weekend!!! Take the prof and go off somewhere fun and relaxing!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Well done for writing and calling this out. The anti-culture of sexual violence and attitudes has gone on far too long, among too many other unacceptable behaviours & attitudes because silence is treated as accord. But having no words does not denite9

    Like

    • Apologies, please excuse my typo…
      Having no words does not denote agreement. Often words are a casualty of anger, grief, utter disbelief evidenced by ability to respond. The Me Too campaign is of its social media time. It’s been too long coming. Oh, and it’s not Man Shaming. It’s about people claiming their voice and power. Of course, that will not go down well with some, who prefer the unequal status quo… Would they be honest enough to call themselves out publically with the words Let It Be? Those of us on the sidelines, supporters could say Not Me, meaning it never happened by me or to me, and I don’t support it. Others, perpetrators who perhaps take/took perceived cultural norms rather than personal integrity as their guide, could start at least with accepting culpability, the words I’m Sorry, and participate in the process of re-education of social norms. You’re right. Let’s all make it ok to find our voices, and really listen-hear-see our society for what it is, and what it could be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Dale. You’re right, it’s not Man Shaming. As you and Helen have both pointed out, this is about power. And there will always be those who want to hold onto that power and will try to mask doing so in many ways, including the denigration of the less empowered. I was surprised and pleased to see a male columnist in today’s Times (which I read only on Saturdays) tell a story about an email he was sending to a female journalist who had asked him to write a piece for the paper. He was about to send it with ‘xx Giles’ at the bottom but hesitated. And thought through – who am I? An ageing male who thinks it ok to metaphorically plant two kisses on the lips of someone I have never met? It was an interesting and seemingly light piece which was actually very thoughtful and would not have been written two weeks ago. Let’s hope the wave is growing.

        Like

      • Just to add, I have just dipped into Twitter and the court of the short commentator is outraged by Giles Coren’s piece. Perhaps my perceptions were warped, what with it being Saturday and all. Sigh.

        Like

  10. While it might not be all men, enough men have done it that that it’s a problem. This article from the Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that 20 percent of men admit to having perpetrated sexual assault: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-1/43-51.htm

    20 percent.

    That doesn’t include men who perpetrated assault but wouldn’t admit it. That doesn’t include men who catcalled, verbally harassed, made rape jokes, or have done other things.

    It also doesn’t include people like me, who may’ve never done those horrible things, but through not always listening or not stopping horrible jokes have been complicit in this culture.

    Yes, not all men. But too many men, as you basically said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Brendan. I feared that no men would comment or take notice of this – or worse, would say awful things. You and the others here have restored a little of my faith! Yes, 20 per cent is bad as it probably is in reality a far greater figure. I am harbouring a faint hope that this is the beginning of a new attitude awakening – and as others have said, it only changes if we all change our attitudes, men and women. Thank you for stopping by and speaking up.

      Like

  11. speak766 says:

    This is such a powerful post. I am so sorry for what you went through. You’re right – all of these things have just become expected, and that shows just how drastic the problem really is. I don’t think there’s a single woman out there who doesn’t have a story of harassment, assault, or abuse. Things need to change, and it starts with breaking this silence. Thank you for doing this by sharing your experiences. Wish you all the best – speak766

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, speak766, for responding and for following. The longer it is since I posted this the more relieved I feel, partly because of the kind and encouraging comments. I realise too that it is the spekaking out that is important – if we continue to allow shame – undeserved shame – to hamper us – we are doing all women a a disservice. This attitude must change. I just hope this #metoo wave is the start of that change.

      Like

  12. Jess says:

    It was upsetting to hear these stories, Mary. I can imagine it took great strength to write about this. Thank you for sharing them. Lots of love. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jess – and for taking the time to comment. I felt I had to do it in the current circumstances. Minor by comparison with what’s happening or has happened to others – and as you know technology can make it all much worse these days. Mxx

      Like

  13. Ed Gilchrist says:

    Thank you Mary.
    Other than to agree with everything you’ve said, I am finding it hard to say anything that would make sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. John Kemp says:

    i can only add another well and bravely done Mary. The Wienstein affair has raised a wave of similar accusations here in France.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. shoutyourrapist says:

    Thank you for this. We are strangers but I’m always an open ear. Check out my page sometime if you desire. I pray for your healing

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My assaulter, who i thought was a friend, groped me while hanging out in walmart. Later in messanger he claimed that i liked it and he believed he could eaily get me to sleep with him. I remember very clearly pushing and pushing trying to get him off of me there. He was holding very tight trying to not let go. I messaged him back tellong him he was full of crap, that i had to push him away. What it is with guys/people who thing they can juat do what they want? Its sick!! I was so brainwashed and manipukated by this sick individual that i remained friends with him through facebook for a few more months, but i never hung out with him after that. That wasn’t the only touching he Had done on me. It took me over a year to fully come to grips that he was slowly trying to brainwash and manipulate me into doing what he wanted. I thought, am i nuts, to not realize for over a year that he infact was sexually assaulting me? Thank God he never got far enough to force himself farther then the sick touching. I do believe seeing or hearing women’s stories is really helping others to wake up to what is being done to them and take a stand against it. Enough is enough. Thank you for your story.😞

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Heidi, what a sorry and sad story, but we know yours and mien are just two of so many, don’t we? And added together they surely must be making at least some men realise this is a huge issue that is not going to go away for wishing. I think we have many of us done what you did, carried on thinking it was just an aberration, a male being a male, so don’t beat yourself up about that. I am so glad you finally realised the reality of the man’s ‘relationship’ with you, though. I am also glad you think telling the stories is ding some good, it really came home to me when I finally put this up just how strong this wave of admissions is. We cannot go back, we must go forward. Men need to reassess their expectations and behaviour. Thank you for reading my post and commenting. I wish you a happy and harassment-free future.

      Like

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