Why I’m Standing with #NotAllMen, As A Sexual Assault Survivor

This, really has my hackles up right now. I know, believe me I know. There are people out there, there are individuals out there who are sick or are depraved enough to commit atrocities such as rape and murder, purely for no other reason than because they can, because it was there and they could and because maybe, just maybe, they even felt that it was their God-given right to do so. It is sick tht it happens, but really, it’s #NotAllMen.

It’s a tragic state of affairs when a woman cannot surround herself with other men without being deemed as a sl*t for doing so. It is a tragic state of affairs when a young woman is told that she cannot hang out with her guy pals because they may rape her, because there aren’t enough other girls present. It is equally as tragic when she is even told that she needs more girl pals because hanging out with guys after marriage might be seen as promiscuous or leading them on.

But these are all things that have happened to me, because of the idea that men are apparently dangerous. Even though these apparently abhorrent men have always ensured my safety, even though these men were there for me when nobody else was and even though the most that any of these men have never done (okay, apart from the one that I married) was hug me, I apparently put myself at risk to these men. Even if I’ve experienced sexual assault, harassment, child abuse (not my parents or family, before anyone worries) and acid attacks at the hands of women, it is men that I am supposed to fear. Why?

I love men, I grew up around men and never in my life have I felt threatened by a vast majority of them. I can count on one hand the number of times that men bought me any friendship drama, the same which simply can’t be said for women. I vibe well with men, they’re so easy to get along with. There’s no fakery and pretending to be friends, it’s totally WYSIWYG (Yes, that was a terrible, nerdy analogy. No, I’m not sorry).

Right now, there are women crying out about violence towards women. There are women calling off all of the times they’ve been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by men. So while we’re here, here’s my full summary:

Note: I didn’t include the incident mentioned in this post because it was female-led sexual violence, not male.

  • July 2004 – Whilst visiting my first boyfriend in hospital, he began touching my 15-year-old body and quipped “so, not long now then”. I turned sixteen (UK age of consent) the following September.
  • April 2005 – Sexually assaulted in my own home by a trusted family friend who was twenty years my senior, who performed various sex acts on me.
  • May 2005 – Forced into a 2.5-year blackmail arrangement by same family friend who told me that if I said no to him, he would tell my parents that I blackmailed him for sex.
  • March 2006 – On my way to visit Matt at his home, I was approached by an Italian man who proceeded to tell me how beautiful I am. He was at least 15 years older than myself.
  • May 2006 – Bumped into my Italian friend again, same as above, but with more conviction and insistence that he would be a better lover than my boyfriend.
  • August 2006 – Approached by a European man in central Bristol who asked for my telephone number. Not wanting to give out my details, I lied and said that I was borrowing my device. He loudly called me out, tutting me and calling me pathetic and racist for turning him away.
  • October 2007 – On my way to visit Matt, a fire truck drove past me and briefly sounded the siren, turning it off once they had passed.. There was no other traffic on the road.
  • November 2007 – Spotted in my local village by the family friend (whom I had been ignoring) who beeped his horn at me and turned the car around at a nearby junction. Seeing him do this, I quickly ducked into a shop for my safety. I received a text that read: Chicken shit lol x
  • December 2007 – Repeatedly kissed by my drunken now father-in-law (yes, Matt nearly killed him)
  • February 2008 – While waiting to receive a package for Matt, I received a text from the previously mentioned family friend that read: I want to rape your sweet pussy full of my cum mmm x.. I reported this incident to the police and, after much investigation, they refused to investigate further because I had text him back and told him to leave me alone, instead of ignoring or blocking the messages. He was cautioned by the police, whereby he proceeded to deny all knowledge of my existence.
  • April 2008 – Approached by a black man whilst doing my shopping, who claimed to have seen me before. When I asked where (because I have been on TV before) he replied with “in the shop” and pointed to the shop that I had just left. He then proceeded to take my shopping and walk home with it. When I refused to follow him into his home, he demanded that I kiss him to get my shopping back, then proceeded to walk home with me. He demanded that I kiss him again before he would leave me alone.
  • June 2008 – I made acquaintances with a young man, with Matt present. On our second meet, he suddenly and unexpectedly announced “if there were fewer people around, I would fuck you over this table right now”. Needless to say, we didn’t meet again. I did see him bad-mouth me all over Fetfife, though, to which I left my version of events on his thread, and for which he got chewed on for his bias and gross misconduct. He’s since left Fetlife.
  • July 2008 – Whilst waiting for Matt in central Bristol, I was approached by a Nigerian man who asked me to take a photograph of him by the fountains in Bristol city centre, and I happily obliged. Upon handing him back his camera, he asked me to return to Nigeria with him and marry him. I was left fearing for my safety and thinking about all kinds of horrors of being kidnapped and never seeing my family again. For refusing, he called me ugly and racist and went in search of another woman to target. I didn’t report it because I was too shaken.
  • October 2008 – I collected a dress that was offered on the Freecycle (now Freegle) network. As I returned home smiling to myself about the item, I was approached by a black man who commented on my “pretty smile” and invited me to the cinema where he worked.
  • October 2008 – Whilst on vacation, I very stupidly befriended a site representative whom I actually believed wanted to be my friend, and who, on several occasions, suggested that we sneak off onto the sand dunes to have sex in his car. When I explained that I had a boyfriend, he replied: You have a boyfriend??? I have a WIFE!!!!
  • April 2009 – Whilst on holiday with my family and Matt, I received a text from the above that read: Is that your boyfriend? I bet he don’t fuck like I do xxxx. I laughed, deleted the text and pocketed my phone. When I checked my phone after our family outing, I had another text from him that read: cocktease x
  • October 2009 – Whilst on vacation with my family and Matt, I received a text from the above that read: nice ass xx, on another evening and after the pool table malfunctioned, he came over to assist. Before leaving the table, he groped my bottom. I reported it at reception and he was subsequently fired before the end of my vacation, based on the evidence that I provided. I cannot fault Haven holiday parks for this!
  • June 2010 – I attended a launch party for a BDSM dominatrix. Whilst in attendance, I was groped by another Dominant. even in spite of being collared and in the presence of Matt, who was casually talking to the offender throughout the incident and was completely unaware of what had happened
  • December 2011 – On a night out with some friends, a man knocked on the window of the stationary bus that I was on and pointed at me then started thrusting, licking his lips and making sex gestures at me. To her credit, another woman saw it and jumped to my defence, standing between himself and myself and proceeding to hurl profanities at him.
  • June 2012 – Whilst clubbing with some friends, I had a man follow me into the ladies’ toilets. I immediately notified Matt, who came in hot pursuit with two security personnel in tow. The offender was immediately escorted out of the club, via two burly bouncers, via the rear fire exit.
  • February 2014 – Whilst home alone one evening I experienced a home intrusion by my neighbour’s son, who was intoxicated and mistook our flat for his own. Before leaving, he grabbed my breasts and my face and told me that I was an “angel”, then turned aggressive and made all kinds of threats towards any man that might ever harm me. I didn’t report it to the police as I knew that it had been a misunderstanding, though I was later told that I should have reported it as he was on an electronic tag and was not supposed to be out after 8pm, though given the size and proximity of the flats, the signal may have identified him as being at home anyway.
  • October 2017 – Whilst on vacation, I came out of some public toilets to a man who was leaning against the wall. As I walked past, he wolf-whistled and said “I’d have loved to have been that toilet, baby”.
  • May 2019 – I met a young man who offered me some time to unwind after losing Dad. Later on in the evening, he messaged me to ask if I wanted to play the rape game. When I said no, he responded with “that’s the spirit“.. I blocked all contact and deleted him with immediate effect.
  • July 2019 – Kissed by my father-in-law again, I asked Matt whether I could go elsewhere during future visits.
  • December 2019 – As above. The only reason my father-in-law still gets to visit is because Matt again had words, but I’m now sure to maintain at least a metre between us at all times.

So you see? My history of experiences is far from small, but here is the thing:

In all of these experiences, how many bad eggs are there? Thirteen, How many good guys can I count, that have never been a problem to me? Hundreds, possibly even thousands!

Fortunately, the good guys in society vastly outweigh the bad guys. The men who appreciate and respect women are far greater than the ones who disrespect, abuse and mistreat women, and nearly always, you can count on the former to to dole out their own justice to the latter because they won’t have women treated badly. Men are not the enemy!

But I fear if we tarnish all men with the same brush, we will inevitably make enemies of men, and that will make the world more dangerous for everybody.

Right now, there is a furore about the case of Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old abducted and killed by Wayne Couzens while she walking home. Women are up in arms and calling for men to be better educated, however that will be. An unhelpful and extremely unkind analogy is out there which compares men to sharks.O ther women are calling on men to cross the road so that women feel safe, or to simply to not make eye contact. A Green Party MP even went so far as to suggest that men be subjected to a 6pm curfew, later decrying backlash to her tongue-in-cheek suggestion…

But here is the thing.

Wayne Couzens is not a man, for real men don’t behave this way.

This is not even a member of the police force, I’ve befriended (and am still friends with) members of the police force, and real, honourable members of the police don’t behave this way. They’ve been victims in this, too.

If convicted, Couzens is a cold-hearted killer, through-and-through.

Reshaping History

Before I share my other experiences with women-led sexual assault and harassment, I want to touch upon another horrifying and damning experience, often (though not always) portrayed by men, to me, a woman, and that is the denial of my experiences: “It was just a comment, that’s not really harassment”, “it could have been worse, though”, “he didn’t rape you? then you are just being dramatic”. Those are just some of the comments that I have heard, and it is damning. It doesn’t matter whether it’s verbal or physical, any kind of unwanted attention, from anyone and to anyone, be them male or female, can be regarded as harassment if it makes the person feel threatened and uncomfortable. Men, I implore you, if a woman tells you about an experience she had and the way that it made her feel, please do not pass off her past experiences as anything less than an assault against her person. You do not walk in her shoes, and as such, you do not get to decide what does or does not classify as assault to her. Understand her fears and feelings, empathise with her, support her in her hour of need. Be the bigger man, and she’ll remember you later on.

The Real Victims

Back in 2005, I sat my GCSE exams. I chose sociology as one of my optional subjects, a nice little tie-in to go with my existing interest in psychology. My topic of interest for one of my courseworks was, of course, crime and justice. I was fascinated with the police and I wanted to work with the police for a time, so what else would I have chosen to study?

For my coursework, I put together a small survey which asked individuals a little about themselves, whether they had been victims of crime, the type(s) of crime they experienced and whether or not they reported it. Anticipating that the biggest victims of crime are elderly women, the results were rather surprising.

The biggest victims of crime were young men who experienced theft of handheld technical devices, who didn’t report it because they either a) feared reprisals b) feared shame and stigma for having not defended themselves. Ladies, this is our brothers, fathers and husbands – these victims are our men!

Last week, a very compelling report came in from BBC news. In it, the article contains a graph which shows that the majority of the men killed are killed by strangers, and the majority of women killed are killed by their partners and family members. In spite of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, the ones who are being portrayed so readily as perpetrators are indeed the biggest victims themselves!

Taking The Stand

I can remember hanging around with my brother and some our afterschool drama group friends. We all attended, and as such, we all sort of hung out together afterwards, too. We’d sit in the empty school corridors and wait for our lifts back home. There was always lots of laughing, lots of joking, and plenty of messing around.

Over time, messing around became horseplay and horseplay became girls against boys. What started as casual poke wars and rubber band fights would soon become something far more dangerous.

I can still remember the day that D, one of the girls in attendamce, flew across the hallway in front of me. Her bag clipped me as she passed, but moreover her foot was aimed directly for my brother’s groin. He dropped like a sack of potatoes, winded and sore from the assault. As he did, they all piled on, beating him and laughing more. It’s all just jokes, I was assured, it was all just fun.

But nothing felt fun about it to me, and given how often it happened, my brother wasn’t finding it fun anymore, either.

Anytime they saw him, my brother’s groin was an open target for assault. Nothing about that was okay, just as nothing about this video is okay. There is only one time that it is okay to hit a man in the groin, as I was taught, which we will get onto a little later on.

I can remember that fateful Monday morning, the banging ang the screaming and the laughing. Unlike what the media would have you believe, the voice that was screaming was male, and the one doing the laughing was a woman.

“Who even needs an alarm clock?” I muttered sardonically to Matt. Twenty minutes in, the noise still hadn’t abated.

‘”The police are outside” he said, rolling out of bed and peering through the curtains. If someone had called the police, things must be pretty bad. I had considered it, but someone had clearly considered it before I did.

I can still remember the lies that I overheard, I can still remember the distorted facts she told about not being allowed to leave, and I can still remember hearing him scream at her at least three times, telling her to do exactly that. I can recall hearing her laugh and calling him names, telling him how he was weak and goading him on.

But when he turned up at my front door to apologise, I was livid.

He was humbled, and he had a sore, bloodied bite mark on his cheek. He walked pitifully and he grimaced with every step. It turned out, for denying him sex, she had bitten him and kicked him in the groin.

I didn’t care whether she be man, woman or beast, assault is assault, and I don’t take assault lightly. I pledged to do all that I could to support him and promised to provide a witness statement, and to attend court if I had to. It was only on the day as I stood suited and booted and ready to attend that I received a last-minute call, telling me to stand down. Given the support needs that would be needed for me to attend court, the judge had decided to go on using what I’d given in my statement alone..

We Mustn’t Forget

As tragic as the death of Sarah Everard has been for everyone, and particularly for her family and friends, there are other victims in this matter, too. The brave men and women who, right now, are tasked with breaking up lockdown breaches, tackling crimes and supervising protests. As much as the NHS have been under pressure, the workload on our officers is equally relentless.

We must not let ourselves forget that those who commit atrocities such as this are the minority, not the majority. Most police officers are kind, genuine, caring people who hold community spirit and kindness as their core values. I’ve grown up around the police (in a good way!) from a young age and I know that these men and women are nothing to fear. Most are good honest people, but there sadly is always that rogue one or two.

Right now the police, and the Metropolitan police particularly, are hurting from this. .We must not look at officers as criminals or murderers, for most would never imagine doing such a thing.. We are all hurting right now and we are all afraid, but we must unite and work together right now to make violence and harassment the common enemy.

Do Women Really “Ask For It”?

One of the most controversial points in women’s safety is the way that women dress. Women have a right to dress how they want to and to feel safe in doing so, and arguably so, and yet, fifteen years into the nightclubbing scene, I still can’t help but to be surprised by the way that some women dress.

On one recent shopping trip, I was taken aback when a young girl stepped in front of me in the store. She wore a fitted black top, a tartan mini skirt, black seamed stockings and black stiletto heels with her long, wavy blonde hair swaying freely just above her bottom, yet she couldn’t have been more than about fifteen years of age. A lot of men noticed her, even I did, as a heterosexual woman. Are they really the bad guys, or was she dressed inappropriately? For being dressed in such a provocative way, might some say that she was “asking for it”?

In my youth, we often discussed the “belts” that women wear into nightclubs. “Belts”, that was the name we gave them, a name for the miniskirts that covered, well, practically not much. Sometimes I’d watch as young women flirted, laughed and joked with the taxi drivers, usually in the hope of free or discounted rides, and the taxi drivers lapped it all up.

Who, then, is the bad guy when things go wrong?

What about myself, who wears provocative perfumes designed to seduce and entice, purely as a power move to catch my opponent offguard? As Oscar Wilde once said: “Everything is about sex, except sex, sex is about power.” You see where I’m going with this? We’re not “asking for it”, of course we’re not, and yet, sometimes that line can be very, very blurry. What then? Why should women be empowered and men’s biological desires oppressed? That’s misandry, right there.

Yes, a woman should be able to dress, act or behave however she wishes, but so too should men. To go back to the shark analogy here, it is not enough to say that we need to control the sharks so that people can swim in safety, if indeed some of those people are behaving in a way that encourages the sharks to attack. In a sea full of swimmers, a shark is most likely to go for the one that dresses themselves in glimmering jewellery because shimmering jewellery looks like fish scales. If you want to lessen your chances of a shark biting you, take off your jewellery before you swim. If you want to reduce your chances of attracting a bad guy, don’t do the things that will attract them, that’s just basic common sense.

Going Forward, How Can We Stay Safe?

All over the UK, women right now are crying out that we need to teach men, but do we? Or do we need to teach women, too? Whilst I absolutely believe and agree that sexual harassment and assault should carry heavier penalties than a slap on the wrists, I also believe that everyone, women and men, have a duty to protect themselves, too. Men attack women, women attack men, men attack men and women attack women. Nobody is safe, and as such, it never hurts to have some ideas to protect yourself.

One of the things that my father made me do when I was five years old was take up self-defence classes. I won’t say what in, just that I had to attend. Later on in life, I took up other arts purely on my own initiative. Even though self defence can be a useful tool, there are still other ideas that you can also implement to stay safe:

  • Learn how to SING:- It’s not just a move from Miss Congeniality, when you’re pushed, SING is actually a pretty potent self defence move!
  • Carry a gun/mace spray (if its allowed) – Here in the UK, guns and mace spray are illegal but in the US, the option is there for a reason. You might not want to use it, but in a push, it’s either their life or yours.
  • At night, as much as possible, walk with the light behind you – If someone is walking behind you, it will cast their shadow in front of you, making you more immediately aware and giving you a heads up. Keep to well illuminated areas and avoid shortcuts after dark. Never be tempted to take shortcuts through unlit or remote areas after dark, regadlss of who you are.
  • Take your earphones out/get off of the phone – If you’re listening to your conversation or your music, you’re not aware of what’s going on around you, so save the chit-chat until you arrive. Not only this, but flashing your electronics could make you a prime target for an attack.
  • Invest in a panic alarm – They cost about £17 ($24) on Amazon and they typically sound at about 120 – 140dB, more than loud enough to draw attention to what’s going on. I know men and women who carry them to feel safer, both during the day and at night.
  • Learn how to dodge out of a situation – If someone goes to touch your body, use your forearm to block them and push them away. If someone goes to kiss you and you don’t want them to, turn your face away from them. Even without full-on self-defence, you don’t have to let someone physically touch you
  • If you have the room, consider owning a dog – Nobody disturbs a dog owner in case they get bitten. Even if your dog isn’t aggressive, a simple command like “steady” can make someone think your dog might bite them, and will hopefully make them think to give you some room
  • If you can, set up an SOS signal on your phone – Find out whether your phone has this option. If you find yourself in trouble, you can double-press or hold one button for a few seconds (it’s usually the volume key) to alert emergency contacts and, sometimes, even the police.
  • Make a note to keep an eye out for CCTV cameras – Know where crimes can be recorded, and use these spots to your advantage.
  • On a night out? Order an Angel Shot – It doesn’t matter whether you’re male, female or any other gender, if you feel threatened, you have a right to safety. Order yourself an Angel Shot, With A Twist, if necessary.
  • Never leave home without telling someone where you are going, or who you are going with – Even if it’s just a friend, just one previous contact can be helpful if there is a problem.

Learn The Sign

One of the most invaluable things doing rounds on the internet is the international gesture for “Help Me”, such a small and simple gesture, but it can have such an impact on saving a life. Released by the Canadian Women’s Foundation during lockdown last year, the video has quickly gone viral:

Perhaps fortunately, most incidences of abuse against women aren’t carried out by strangers and as such, awareness of this simple gesture can help us at least dramatically reduce violence against women at work or at home, where seemingly far more women are killed. Just this gesture for a second or two can help save a life; learn it, recognise it and use it if you have to – do what you can to stay safe and look after one another.

I hope you have found this post informative and thought-provoking. Violence of all kinds is something that nobody should have to experience and yet, if we work together and look out for one another, we can make a safer planet for everyone.

Until next time,

Stay safe & have fun,

Helen xx

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