I once wrote an article about how travelling solo as a female isn’t inherently dangerous. There’s a narrative around female solo travel that seems to want to hold women back from stepping out into the world. But the thing is, being a woman can feel dangerous wherever you are and violence against women happens in places as close as the home.
With Trump’s infamous “pussy grabbing” comments, which encapsulate everything that is wrong with societies basic disregard for consent, and with women marching for justice today I was compelled to write about my own experiences of sexual assault.
Each one made me have that horrible sticking sick feeling in my stomach, each time I knew it wasn’t right yet I’d never really considered putting any of them under the heavy label of sexual assault. But of course that’s what it is when someone touches you in a sexual way without your consent. It happens to women everyday across the globe. It can happen at work, on public transport, in the street, at home, anywhere.
This is a global problem. And the one positive I can find from the sad fact of Trump becoming president is that women, trans people and all who have faced discrimination from all walks of life are coming together to use their voices, unite and speak up.
It is with their force behind me that I can write freely after words have so often felt trapped in my throat when I’ve tried to talk. Like the time a man in Morocco climbed into my bed and started touching me, I completely froze in fear and it was my friend lying next to me who spoke up and told him to stop. I’m so thankful she was there.
Or the time in Réunion Island when a man grabbed my wrist in the bus and refused to let go, after he had been persistently acting inappropriate and making sexual noises whilst staring at my chest. I couldn’t think fast enough in a second language to find the words to stick up for myself, so as the bus happened to be stopped I wriggled free and jumped off onto a random road in a country I’d only been in for 1 week and figured out where to go from there. There have been countless similar experiences of uninvited touch, a pinched bum at a gig, a grabbed breast in the street and slowly I started to learn to shout back.
However, there are many more times where my voice got trapped. Some have left such a deep imprint on me that I’ve been trying to find the words to explain what happened for months, years. But trust me, being grabbed or having my bed invaded by a stranger are only the tip of the ice berg. And I don’t know any woman who doesn’t have her own list of experiences like this, some lists are shockingly long. Some begin in childhood.
That’s the really sad thing, my stories are not unusual. They have become some sort of norm. Today and throughout the centuries, across cultures and worldwide, women have had to find ways to deal with their bodies being treated as the property of men.
So I will find my voice, and I will be empowered by the women speaking up all around me until it is known and understood on a global level that women’s bodies are NOT up for grabs.
Finding your voice in a pussy grabbing world - @bellejarteam