It’s been a frightening and confronting time for us of late. There have been difficult discussions occurring daily that can be helpful but also traumatic for us to visit and can trigger the darkest memories that we are forced to ignore if only to get out of bed in the morning. I want you to know, you are loved, it was never your fault and I am by your side.
Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour as a sexual predator, as a figure of authority and as a rapist has been revealed. Allegations have been made since the 70s so it’s simultaneously marvellous that he has been ousted and devastating that 40+ years have gone by before any action taken. Women have repeatedly been threatened and paid off to be silent. When we delve into the timeline of his advances to the women who have come forward there is a clear commonality. The women are all young, they are all ambitious and they are all weaker than he is when it comes to power and money. This is no accident. Whenever a victim did attempt to speak out not only was she silenced or ignored but Weinstein would then release a critically acclaimed film, make a documentary about sexual assault (?) or donate money to our shining light that is Gloria Steinem, and so we continued to applaud him. The plethora of assaults revealed is so disturbing. While it’s wonderful that this has all been declared finally, I understand why you’re feeling overwhelmed and depressed by it.
I want you to know, you are loved, it was never your fault and I am by your side.
In the light of this news a global conversation is being had about sexual assault. It’s a difficult conversation to navigate and we need to do so with empathy and care for one another and for ourselves. My favourite way of learning is through talking, especially with you. I have recently, for the first time, thought about certain complicated angles of the sexual assault rubrics cube that hadn’t dawned on me before. Growing up the thought of rape would spark images in my mind of a stranger viciously attacking in alleyways. I now know that while this does happen the word denotes many complex actions. One can be raped by someone they have previously consented to having sex with while one can consent to having sex with someone they have previously been raped by. A person can rape without understanding that’s what they are doing when both parties are too intoxicated to consent. You know, there are so many difficult components to navigating both rape and sexual assault, I understand that. But it is absolutely abhorrent to suggest that women, or indeed anyone, would make it up. Just so you know the likelihood of a sexual assault accusation being fabricated is the same as any other crime accusation being made up, and also, as a man, you are more likely to be raped than you are to have a woman falsely accuse you of rape. So if anyone ever plays that card to you, tell them that and also to fuck off.
The only thing that can possibly beat this fearful behaviour is love.
The benefit of discussing sexual assault is that we all have the opportunity to learn. We are beginning to digest the magnitude of sexual assault’s occurrence through the #MeToo campaign. We are teaching one another how complex this topic is and that there is no simple answer to knowing where the line is. We are realising that the men we thought were ‘good ones’ have sexually attacked women too. We have acknowledged that the most powerful man in the western world sees women as less, “grabs [women] by the pussy” and promotes prejudice towards a plethora of women, which belittles our endeavours. And yet we are gathering strength to speak out as we support one another with tenacity and deep love. After all the only thing that can possibly beat this fearful behaviour is love.
Last week I reached out to my mother and asked her whether she’d been sexually assaulted. Of course the answer was affirmative, she listed the happenings and said, “what’s on your list?”, not “have you, darling?” but “what’s on your list?”.
I wrote mine out, I edited it while more memories came to light as I sieved through the years. Before I had finished it I cut and pasted it from WhatsApp to my Notes. I started typing a different reply to my mum. “It’s actually quite a lot”, I wrote, “A lot has to do with my substance abuse too. I just wrote it out but I don’t want to upset you at work. I know I’m your baby and you won’t like it”. And there in lies the shame game. I struggled with alcoholism long before I was able to identify the problem. Society has taught me that because I was inebriated I am in some way to blame for being attacked or forced to partake without consent. I’ve never told anyone because I was embarrassed. More recently, with your love and support, I’ve felt comfortable to reference what’s happened. Thank you.
If we keep talking that blurry unknown line that is hard to verbalize won’t need explicit explanation; we’ll feel it. Yesterday I discussed this with two 30 something men. They have both reflected on their actions because of this public debate. I said that of course I still want men who find me attractive to feel okay to talk to me, to flirt with me, to spark something up with me. You know, boy meets girl and all that. The difference is, if I’m not into it, if I don’t want to keep talking then you need to drop it without name calling, no bitterness, just let’s both be on our way. This blurry line that I’ve been alluding to is simply wherever the person being pursued begins to feel uncomfortable. That’s it. If your advances make someone feel uncomfortable – then it’s not okay. Whether that’s in a bar, from a building site or in the workplace, same rule applies.
There is a degree of human intuition required here, yes. So why not try and be a human as opposed to a monster like Crosby, Saville, Trump or Weinstein. I’m glad we had that conversation though. In fact it started because one of them lives in the US and I asked him what it feels like to live there under Trump’s presidency. After he answered he asked me what it feels like for me despite the fact I don’t live in America. I said it’s really fucking devastating and I explained why, but you already know why because I know you feel it too.
It needs to be instilled in all genders that it’s okay to change your mind. If you go home with someone you’ve been flirting with and kissing all night, but you get there and think, actually I don’t want to go all the way, I don’t want to have sex with this person – you can say that. You can say, “I change my mind”. You do not have to ever feel obliged to sleep with someone. I’m a pretty strong woman, hey, I have people like you around me, how could I not be? And yet I’ve also felt too shy to say “I change my mind”. Thanks to this conversation I’ve found that confidence.
Optimism doesn’t make us naïve. I am optimistic that bringing these issues out from the sordid past into the bright light of the present will cause change. I am also less naïve about what constitutes as sexual assault and also of its frequency.
Optimism doesn’t make us naïve
I am relying on the love and support of public figures, of my sisters, of my friends to navigate my way through this troubling time. I know you are too. I keep telling you to be gentle with yourself. By this I mean if you’re feeling overwhelmed or emotional about these things, that’s okay, you can take time to ride those emotions and it doesn’t make you weak. It means to keep people around you that have compassion and make you feel safe. It means to not make yourself feel shameful.
In case you had forgotten I want to remind you of your strength, your rights, your wonderful mind and soulful beauty. I want you to know and to never forget that I am with you. You are not alone. We can only get through this together.
P.S. You can write back to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on instagram @theelixirfix
Photo taken by me at the Women’s March in Sydney, Australia 2017