I noticed that Tim Westwood was trending on Twitter and looked into it a bit more. Numerous young black girls have spoken up about the attempted abuse, abuse and rape committed by him. I find it baffling that in 2020, people (mostly men) still say that women are making this stuff up. So I wanted to share some of my experiences as a woman and the things that have happened to me in my life. I will say, that my experiences are nowhere near as horrible as some of the experiences other #MeToo survivors have been through, but I want to share them nonetheless.
I know there will be men (and probably even some women out there) who will try to justify these experiences by saying “lighten up” “it was just a joke” or “frigid bitch” because these are all things I have heard and been told before.
It started when I was 5. I was sat on the windowsill in the chippy whilst my dad was at the counter putting our order in. A man came in and sidled up to me and smiled, saying how pretty I was and asking what my name was. I stayed silent. He asked where I lived, which is when my dad turned out and asked the man what he was doing. The man ran away. When I’ve mentioned this in this past, specifically to men, they roll their eyes and just say “he probably thought you was lost and was trying to help” If that was the case, why did he run off? It still sends shivers down my spine when I think about what might have happened had my dad not turned around.
A few years later at Primary School, me and my friends were doing handstands against the fence. An old man approached us and got his penis out and urinated in front of us. He put his finger to his lips and said shh. I screamed and ran away. It was the first time I ever saw a penis and I was in school, a place I was meant to be and feel safe.
When I was 13 and waiting for the bus to school, a group of men drove past in a van and asked me to get my tits out. I was wearing my school uniform and already so uncomfortable and aware of my developing body. I wore an oversized hoody for about 3 weeks after, despite the weather being warm because I felt so scared of it happening again. When I’ve told people about this it’s often been seen as funny, as just men being men and I’ve been told to ignore it “cos it happens all the time” For starters, it shouldn’t be happening all the time and secondly, why is it ok for men to sexualise a 13 year old girl stood on her own at a bus stop? Just sit with that for a minute. A 13 year old child should not be seen as sexually attractive by anyone, ever.
The next scary thing happened when I was about 20, I used to work at Starbucks and as a Supervisor I had to get to work for 6am to count the safe and get the shop ready for opening. I’d noticed this guy staring at me on the bus a few times, but this one morning, he not only stared at me the whole bus journey, but then proceeded to follow me to work. I practically ran the last 100 yards and opened the door to the store as quickly as I could. I locked it and watched as he took a seat on a bench outside and stared into the shop. I locked myself in the office and sat near the phone. When my male colleague arrived and the man saw I wasn’t alone. He left. Over the years, some people have said “well at least he didn’t hurt you” or “maybe he was concerned you were on your own” but those things don’t matter. If he was innocent, why didn’t he say something when I ran? Why stare at me and follow me? I felt so scared at his behaviour and felt people were disregarding what happened because he didn’t hurt me physically.
I’ve also had my arse, my vagina and my breasts groped by numerous men over the years, when I’ve been walking through a crowded bar to the toilet or waiting to be served at the bar. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been on public transport after a hard day at work, only for both sober and intoxicated men to sit next to me, force me into a conversation and make inappropriate comments. The few times I’ve felt strong enough to speak up and ask them to leave me alone, I’ve been called a frigid bitch, told to lighten up or told I’m “nothing special anyway” It happened a few months ago, not one person stepped forward and asked the man to leave me alone. It’s easier to stay quiet sometimes because if you speak up, you fear verbal or physical abuse. Again, just sit with that. As a woman, I feel the safer option is for me to allow a man to say inappropriate things about me and to me, and make me feel scared, than I do to speak up and ask him not to.
I have been spoken down to, belittled and undermined by men throughout my whole career. Some have made comments comments about my appearance that have made me feel really uncomfortable. I’ve also had women make comments about my appearance, because I have bright hair and tattoos. Tutting under their breath and shaking their heads, whispering the words “tacky” or “not suitable for work” sorry but my hair, tattoos and piercings don’t stop me from being good at my job and it doesn’t make me any less valid than you. I’ve also had people who have entered my industry at beginner level try to mansplain a job I have been doing for six years to me. I haven’t hired them again.
I’ve had friends who have been raped. Some have been to the police and some haven’t in fear of not being believed. Those who have gone to the police have been made to feel responsible for the attack with questions such as “what were you wearing?” “had you been drinking?” and “had you been flirting with them” How can people come forward when they’re instantly questioned what their role in the attack was? Making them feel like it was their fault in some way?
I know men suffer abuse from women, but I can only talk about my experience of what’s it’s been like as a woman. I still feel anxious when I’m walking home in the dark, clutching keys in my fist and hyperventilating. I still feel worried when a drunk man gets on the tram and walks towards me. I still feel conscious wearing certain clothes because I don’t want men to make inappropriate comments, grab at me or talk to my breasts and not my face.
If it was your daughter would you be so quick to dismiss these actions made against them?