If the number of missing women isn’t scaring the shit out of you at the moment I don’t know what will.
I’m not sure if we’re just more aware of it or if there’s a definite increase but the statistics of women being raped and murdered has me losing much needed beauty sleep.
What frightens me beyond belief is that you no longer have to look out for boogie men or not talk to strangers, because for me, and countless other women and girls, it wasn’t a creepy guy in a trench coat frothing at the mouth with a sign reading “predator”. My abusers were all known to me. Except for two occasions – one in a public bathroom at Eastgate shopping centre while my then boyfriend waited in the queue to buy movie tickets and another time in my house.
I speak freely about the abuse nowadays. It was a liberating experience mentioning it to a friend the first time. And you want to know what made it easier after that? The fact that almost every girl I told had been through something similar, something far worse or not as bad (as if there’s such a thing as ‘not as bad’ abuse).
And so I now tell my story. Openly. Freely. I’m not the one that should be ashamed and I refuse to walk with that label around my neck any longer.
A friend approached me recently and asked if I would tell her story. She liked my style of writing, my honesty and my ability to talk to people, even on a rather formal platform like a blog.
This is her story. Names, dates and places have been altered slightly to protect her identity (for now) and I might add a little of my character to keep the story interesting, although I’m not sure it’s necessary.
At seven or eight I remember my cousin groping me in the swimming pool while the adults sat sipping on tea and scones, a couple of feet away from us. Everytime he dived under he would grab either my breasts or my crotch area. When I mentioned it to my mom she told me that it’s harmless fun and ‘all boys do that’. I soon stopped swimming at my aunt’s house.
During primary school I was one of the first girls to wear a bra and everyday I had boys pulling at my bra straps. In class. In line. On the playground. When I did raise it with one of the teachers I was told to cover the bra straps up by wearing a vest or a spencer because ‘boys will be boys’ .
In standard five (or grade 7 as it’s called today) my Afrikaans teacher accused me of cheating in a test. Apparently my final mark was much higher than it should have been and the only way it could have happened was because I had crib notes with me. He made me rewrite the test during break time, in a locked classroom with him. There was no test. Instead I was fondled by this man and told how special I was. He didn’t do that kind of thing with just anyone. He then deducted 20% off my test mark and submitted it as ‘final’.
Oddly enough even with my cousin and the pool incident I was a really good swimmer and went for coaching 5 days a week. During school holidays the coach ran an academy which started at 7am in the morning and finished round about 5pm. During rest time he would kindly smother me with suntan cream, in front of the others, always pulling my costume line higher because ‘those were the areas the sun burnt when your costume crept up while you stretched your arms doing crawl or butterfly’. Strangely it was only me he was concerned about.
By around 10 I was abused on a regular basis by an uncle. And on different occasions, his son. A friend’s dad owned a cinema complex and I was allowed to watch movies all day with my friend. As long as I was sitting next to him in the dark, so he could fiddle and fondle to his hard-on’s content. By 15 I was involved with a married man who was 35. His daughter was two years younger than me.
In standard 7 I attended Star Schools for extra math lessons and I remember walking from the class to my mom’s car but before I got to her I heard a “psssst” behind me. I turned to look and there was a youngish guy, looking directly at me. As I made eye contact he looked down and my eyes followed his. He was masturbating and after ejaculating he picked up his pace, rushing past me and wiping his hand on my blazer.
In standard 8 I changed schools. I was tired of the constant harassment from older boys about my ample bosom and figured an all-girls school would be better. It was. But everyday I waited at the bus stop in town with a man sititng next to me, wearing shorts with a newspaper strategically placed over his crotch. And he would be playing with himself. Everyone knew he did this but no one ever confronted him. I, along with other girls, were always told to stand away from him. It was our fault because we aroused him.
My first job I was sexually harassed by male colleagues all the time. I was promised promotions and increases if I would ‘just’ let them feel me up, or ‘just’ suck them off. Men would look at me and tell me I looked ‘filthy’ and up for a good time.
Years later I was sexually harassed to the point where I mentioned it to a manager, almost half joking about it because at this point I figured it happened to everyone, all the time. But he took the complaint very seriously and reported it to the MD. By this time I was apologizing for causing a ruckus, for putting people in uncomfortable situations. The harasser responded as follows:
Nothing like that happened
What? She wishes. Have you seen her?
I would never do something like that unless I knew she was up for it
She came onto me. She knows I’m happily married
And the matter was laid to rest.
I was married for a couple of years to a good man. A man too good for me. Every day thoughts of me not being good enough plagued me. Sex and love to me were two very different things but completely interchangeable. Looking for love, in all its wrong forms, I would have sex with whoever, whenever but my husband and I were hardly ever intimate.
To sabotage it all, because why would trash like me deserve someone like him, I had affairs. Loads. All with men who treated me like an object. All with men who held me in the same regard I held myself.
Needless to say my husband found out and he left. I knew he would. I didn’t deserve someone like that.
I remarried. Have two perfect children but my experiences still affect me. I abuse over the counter medicines, don’t consider myself worth very much and battle with depression and thoughts of suicide.
I am not a woman. I am a statistic. One of many whose life has, and always will be, affected by men.
I am that girl. Too scared to walk alone. Too scared to wear clothes that are sexy or provocative. I am that girl that blames herself for acting trashy, for being too available, for being in the wrong places at the wrong times. Again and again and again. I am always aware of my surroundings, never letting my guard down.
I am that girl. The woman next to you in the mall, she’s probably that girl too. As is the lady who packs your groceries at your local store.
But we’re the lucky ones because we’re here to tell the tale unlike those women found in ditches, burned beyond recognition, murdered in their homes, gang raped and shamed…
We all have the potential to be THAT girl.