The news of Sarah Everard’s murder has left millions of women feeling weak and exhausted.
The news of Sarah Everard’s murder has left millions of women feeling weak and exhausted. That’s why I’m not going to write a thought piece about the dark cloud that has blanketed the past week. I’m too tired to write why I’m in pain. I’m too fragile to face the inevitable comments questioning my fear. I’m too broken to provide a constructive analysis of the hurricane inside of my stomach.
Instead, I’m going to write a list of some of the times that I have been harassed, assaulted, intimidated, and blamed. My hope is that by contributing fact–not emotion–I can instill the answers, understanding, and empathy in those seeking to come to grips with why one murder is currently carrying the weight of millions of lives.
It goes without saying that this entire piece is a trigger for many women. My list of experiences is by no means unique. It is not exhaustive, but it is exhausting–and I am one of the lucky ones.
- Age 13, I would jog around my local suburb, and men would honk their horns and shout out of their cars at me. This was how I realised I was growing breasts.
- Age 15, my brother’s 19-year-old friend started sending me explicit messages I didn’t understand. He told my mum he was showing me the coffee shop he worked at. He took me to a river in the dark, pushed me into the grass behind a bush, and kissed and groped me. When I was too scared to speak to him again, he turned up outside my window at night and told me he knew that I was awake and to get in his car.
- Age 16, a friend’s much older brother used to turn up at my friends and my homes, workplaces, and parties without being invited. He’d linger in the dark outside places waiting for us. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew he was a “problem”. Later, a friend’s mother found footage of him breaking into their backyard and stealing my friend’s underwear off the washing line.
- Age 17, I told my boyfriend I didn’t feel comfortable having sex in the room next to my parents. He lectured me about how lucky I was that he wasn’t the kind of guy who would force themselves upon me.
- Age 18, I worked at a veteran’s club and an old man began to follow me around the club, bringing me gifts and getting very close. Everyone knew he was following me. One day, he cornered me in an area with no cameras and told me he knew which car was mine. I reported him and he was allowed to keep coming into work where he continued to harass me.
- Age 19, I was eating lunch in an empty train carriage on the way to university in the middle of the day. A man got on the empty carriage, sat right across from me, and masturbated at me for twenty minutes, blocking my exit. I had to look out the window until he stopped blocking the door.
- Age 20, a male friend encouraged me to get drunk with him. I blacked out and a group of female friends saw him carrying me upstairs to a bedroom and they had to physically remove me.
- Age 20, at my part-time job, a male colleague cornered me in the stock room and asked me whether I was wearing any underwear in a photo I had posted on Facebook of me jumping on a trampoline. He asked what kind of girl jumps on a trampoline in a skirt and that I “knew what I was doing”. I reported it to the owner of the business and he said he couldn’t do anything about it because the man was his nephew.
- Age 20, a male friend of mine got drunk while a group of us were on a holiday together. I refused his advances. He began to scream at me, blocking the door for me to get off the balcony we had been on. He then kicked me out of the apartment despite my not knowing where I was. I didn’t have a smartphone yet and was left to walk the streets alone in the dark to find my way home.
- Age 21, a man I was sleeping with pulled the condom off without my knowing, trying to force unprotected sex. When I realised and protested, he held me down while I physically covered my vagina and he tried to force himself inside of me. He kept ripping my hands away and trying to shove himself inside of me. It wasn’t until I screamed loud enough that he stopped, paused, looked shocked said he “hadn’t realised what he was doing” and quickly left.
- Age 23, in my first job, my boss would comment on my body, pull expressions, and make gestures about me when my back was turned. For a year, he would drunk text me after 9 pm a few times each week with inappropriate comments. He would try to convince me to take meetings at his home, miles away from the office. He then threatened to take the good projects away from me if I didn’t “stay on his side”.
- Age 24, my best friend’s brother (who is loved by everyone) approached me at a party, whispered that there was something he’d “always wanted to do”. He slapped my ass really hard while I stood there frozen. He laughed and left.
- Age 26, I went on a date with a guy in daylight who insisted he forgot something at home and just needed to grab it on his way to the date. I said no but he was incredibly insistent. Once I was inside his door, he stripped naked and jumped on the bed. I told him no and he started yelling at me and asking me why I even stepped inside if I didn’t want to fuck him. I ran out the door and down the street.
- Age 26, one of my bosses was known for giving massages to the girls when we presented our work. We just had to go along with it because his fiance was also our boss.
- Age 26, I went on a date with a man who kept buying more and more beers for me when I couldn’t finish the one I already had. I only drank two. He was persistent in sticking his hands up my skirt when I pushed them away. When we got outside, he grabbed me by the hair, pushed my head into a wall, and asked if I like it rough. He kept pushing me back into the wall when I said wanted to go.
- Age 26, I went on holidays solo and found a group of girls to hang out with. We went for drinks and a local man told them I knew him and followed me home in the dark, trying to get into my hotel again and again. He did not succeed.
- Age 26, I went on a date with a man who tried to not use a condom during sex. I told him we could not have unprotected sex. He then held me down and tried to force himself inside of me while I screamed and he told me to shut up and continued to force himself upon me. I physically covered my vagina while he pushed my arms away (deja vu), telling me to calm down and pinning me back to the bed when I freed myself. He told me to stop screaming or his flatmates would come in. He said he was a ‘good guy’ because only an asshole would “carry condoms just expecting something to happen.”
- Age 27, I was at work drinks at a new place of employment, and one of the most senior men at the company (whose name I didn’t even know) reached across the table and groped my breast hard in front of my colleagues. I quietly asked him to stop. He then egged on my other male colleagues to join in and began shouting at me and calling me names. He did the same to the male colleague who defended me. He got the bartender to also join in shouting at me. It was all caught on CCTV. My work said I was trying to “take away men’s fun” and for six months they lectured me about what I was doing to this man by reporting and they said I must have “given him the wrong idea”. Over a series of months, he called several colleagues, telling them I was a “cunt”. He turned up to work drinks after he was fired and called me the same thing to anyone who would listen. The man in question then turned up at a pub near my house, intimidating me and touching me until a male friend had to stand between us. I had to go home early. I had to stop going to the pub I like.
- Age 27, a founding partner of my office made a date rape joke about drugging young girls. I asked him not to make those jokes and he said that I just didn’t “get” the joke, so he broke down exactly how he’d hide “the powder” in his ring and put it in a girl’s drink.
- Age 28, I was walking the street during daylight and it started raining so a complete stranger in a car started yelled at me to get in. I ignored him and started to walk faster and he started shouting at me out the window asking why I was so stuck up and to just get in the car.
- Age 28, a housemate’s friend got drunk and began to shout at me and the other women present that the term “femicide” is political “bullshit” and that we’re lying about our experiences of assault.
- Age 28, I have to close my blinds every day because a middle-aged man watches me and my housemate all the time. One time we asked him to stop, and he waved at us and continued watching. He saw my flatmate leaving and tried to meet her downstairs.
- Age 28, I can no longer go to my favourite grocery store because the elderly man who works there grabbed me twice (during COVID times), claiming he was hugging me as he pressed his body into mine and whispered in my ear that I am beautiful.
That’s what I can remember off of the top of my head. If you feel exhausted, well, I suppose that’s the point. Thank you to everyone who has been going to vigils, calling their vulnerable friends, and taking the time to listen to women’s stories so that we can make policy changes, educate those responsible and shift the toxic culture.
But for now, instead of telling our female friends to “stay safe”, let’s start telling our male friends to “stay responsible”.
Note: Please think before commenting on this article to tell me that I’m lying. It’s damaging not just to my mental health, but it fuels womankind’s belief that we’re better off not reporting. I wrote this to try and help. Thank you.
Previously Published on Medium