I truly wish that I could say that all of the stories below were the full extent of my experiences in this subject matter. But they're not. Neither are mine the worst, by any stretch. To anyone affected - know that you are not alone.
I was told by a male friend, 'He's calling you an evil cunt. What did you do to him?'
Let me tell you what I did. I went to a man's house for dinner. He cooked an amazing meal with incredible ingredients. He served wines that matched and we had great conversation. I enjoyed the evening and was looking forward to going out to a club afterwards. As soon as dinner was finished, he sat down next to me and put his hand on my knee, leaned in and tried to kiss me. I moved away and simply said I didn't want to. He looked surprised and uttered the words: 'But you owe me'.
I owe you? I fucking owe you? You were the one lucky enough to spend an evening in my company, you giant knobweasel. And, let's clarify, probably more giant weasel than giant knob. No, I did not kiss the man. That, dear reader, is the reason that he dropped the c-bomb at the mere mention of my name.
You might be questioning what this has to do with fitness, wellness or all-round wellbeing. But (and this applies to everyone, not just women), the importance of personal physical boundaries is crucial in establishing self esteem and preventing abuse. They teach children at school now that their body is their own property, and I truly believe my generation (such is the limit of my experience!) would do well also to take that particular class. The damage that a physical violation does to a person can last not just months or years, but decades. It affects not just mood, it is not just upsetting, but it can permanently alter both our character and the way we form and view interpersonal relationships.
At school we were taught that if that boy pulls your hair or trips you up, he probably likes you. The boy gets off scot free and girls remember - if a boy hurts you or makes you feel uncomfortable, it's probably a sign he's actually grooming you for a life of wedded bliss. Therefore you should probably put up with it while you wait for the magical moment when true love results in you living happily ever after forfuckingeverandever.
Your body is yours alone. If you value your physical body, it will be harder to erode or devalue your sense of self. You do not owe anyone. 21 years ago, when I was 16, I had a job interview at a large sports shop for a sub- £2/hour position. In that interview I was asked if (1) I was sexually active and (2) if I would mind having sex with my interviewer - but to bear in mind it wouldn't affect my chances of employment. I ran out of that interview, shocked, horrified and scared, and, even if I'd got that job, I wouldn't have taken it. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't want my mum to worry about me trying to get a job; I really wanted to work. One of the biggest regrets that I live with is never having reported that little piece of shit to his head office at the very least. Douchebags like that should not be in positions of authority over mop buckets, let alone human beings. I'm confident that if I was ever asked that in an interview again, I would now be comfortable enough to perform a swift bollockectomy, but that's not to say there aren't people my age now (and I dare say older) who would still be intimidated by that kind of behaviour.
Your body owes nothing to anyone. It is not a currency. Whatever it looks like, whatever it smells like, whatever it wears, only you get to decide who touches it, and how, and most importantly, when.
I know for a fact that someone is reading this who has been raped and not reported it. I don't know who it is, but I do know serious sexual assault is more common than any of us admit. I'm not saying this to spark shame, to trigger regret or trauma; I'm saying it because it's true. Probably a lot more than one person. Rape is a bit like being stalked by your own shadow. You look the same, but there's a dark version of yourself hanging off you, following you everywhere, reminding you of things you want to forget, shaping every decision you make. Some victims become meek, afraid of a world that has let them down. Some become bold, feeling the worst has already happened. Some become risk-takers, having nothing more to lose.
I didn't report it when it happened to me at 19. I didn't tell anyone. I was convinced it was my fault. I left a nightclub with a man whose friends were all waiting around the corner. It's taken a lot of years for me to let go of the shame of it happening at all, but even longer still to forgive myself for not telling anyone. Nearly twenty years have passed, today, I see myself writing the actual words. I no longer blame myself for the actions of a group of rapists. That is what they are. They're not lads just having a laugh, they're not misunderstood opportunists, they're fucking cold, premeditated, filthy fucking rapists.
For these things to stop, we all need to talk about them. Victims should never feel so ashamed or afraid that they take 5, 10, 20 years to speak up to anyone at all. Even if you only talk to someone you know (or if you're the one who listens) - do not let someone else's arseholiness, douchebaggery or rapey behaviour eat you up inside with guilt or shame. Do not let someone else's actions destroy your mental wellbeing or chip away at your belief in humanity. Your body, your mind, your life. You do not owe them anything.
Back to the original story... at the time, I was hurt and taken aback that turning someone down could result in them calling me such awful names behind my back. Now, it is so clear to me, though: if someone acts in a way to claim ownership or control over your body (or your mind), without your consent, they are the fucking evil cunt, not you. If they do something worse, it is still their fault, not yours. If you're one of the people I hope reads this, however long it is before you find your peace, I hope you do. Talk to whoever you can. Let go of guilt and shame. Walk tall, because they will never break you.
We're all in this together. #fitMess
This blog post reflects my thoughts upon reading James Fell's post 'She Doesn't Owe You Shit'.