I’M SO TIRED. Exhausted by the daily sexual harassment I’ve experienced since I was 11 years old. The beeping from cars as I walked down the road to meet friends and deflecting the interest from men at least 20 years my senior.
I’m tired of being told to smile, tired of standing in front of a man and getting the overwhelming feeling that he is thinking about having sex with me or quite blatantly checking out the shape of my body as I walk away.
It’s been almost 20 years and I am running out of energy and of ways to cope with it.
All women are suffering from PTSD
A friend said to me that all women are suffering from PTSD. I’m more convinced of this every day. I would think it likely that there are very few women alive who have not experienced sexual harassment in one form or other, on some level. Most might not even recognise it, it is so ingrained in our culture.
When I was younger I learned to accept it. It was just the way things were. Even if it made me feel uncomfortable, upset and scared.
I had a hand go up my skirt in a nightclub and ok’d it because I convinced myself that he just doesn’t know any better or he was only “joking around”. When I reflected on this later in life, I realised I had been assaulted. I was just 17. And it wouldn’t be the first or last time either.
Specifically, I have been drugged twice by men I knew.
God knows what his plans were
The first was someone who I accidentally became associated with through “friends”. When the urine sample came back it was positive for heroin, methadone and cocaine. God knows what his plans for me were. But I’m inclined to think he wanted to make me an addict and then use me as he liked.
I was blessed to have friends who were so concerned about my behaviour and actually thought I might be psychotic and contacted my mam. That episode ended with six weeks in a psychiatric facility and about two years’ recovery. I turned 19 in the hospital.
The next perpetrator was a work colleague, although I can think of other words I would use to describe him. There is no doubt in my mind it was planned and executed with precision. I was 26. The second time, I am near certain, resulted in me being raped. But because I lost/was unconscious for those 8 hours of my life I will never know for certain unless the perpetrator confesses fully to me, which is unlikely.
My body tells me and there is considerable evidence to suggest that I was raped. There was other men in the house that night too. So there is endless possibilities of terror to consider but I just have to accept that I will never know the full unabridged truth.
I can tell you, it is extremely difficult to live with. I went to the police. I went to management in our company. I said it to him and another one of the men who was there that night. But he left the company a few days later and then the country. I was advised by the Garda – rightly or wrongly – that the lack of evidence, your word against his, he would say it was consensual etc – that there was an extremely low chance that it would result in a conviction.
Men experience this, but on a smaller scale
Men experience this too, potentially on a much smaller scale but potentially not. A few have confided in me. I must be clear though that that in no way diminishes their pain and distress around it. Just because the volume of men experiencing it might be lower does not in any way mean their pain is any less valid.
I recently had an experience in which there was one man working on the team, the rest were women of varying ages. He was subject to comments every day about how he was attractive and the insinuation that “It’s hard to keep their hands off him.” This made me incredibly uncomfortable and I emailed him to let him know what they were saying was not okay and would be a lawsuit if the gender roles were reversed.
My brother also confided in me that his female boss pinched his bum while he was walking up the stairs in work, another example of how it happens to both sexes. I can imagine how many more thousands of stories of harassed men there are gone untold. I find it so difficult to understand why anyone would think this is acceptable behaviour.
So the next time you think it’s okay to tell someone to smile or authorise yourself to look down someone’s top, watch them as they walk away, ask yourself if your leering is welcome or if it makes that person’s skin crawl. If everyone, men and women, truly reflected on this before acting, the world would be a slightly better place.
The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.