I have gotten so much unsolicited advice and snide comments from people that I finally decided to write this. Let’s get a few things straight shall we?
One: Sexual assualt has nothing, NOTHING to do with the victim. If you seem to believe that how I dress, or what time I am out at night has anything to do with it, I think you need to not speak. At least to me.
Two: Telling me to stay at home in the night cause ‘it might happen to me’ is not an option and hardly advice even. From experiences of the women in my life, I know for a fact that we all have a self-censorship system in place and a fear button that is superior to your nagging voice. We are already probably fighting ourselves to do what we want to do. In this case it could be taking a bus at night or walking home alone. So your advice or comment about my presence outside at night is actually reinforcing my fear. I don’t need that.
Three: Most women that talk about their experiences of sexual assault have thought about it extensively before they spoke out. We have lived and been indoctrinated into a culture of silence where we learn early to ‘ignore’, ‘let it slide’ or ‘forget about it’. Speaking up is an exhausting process for one has to deal with a rigid system that is mostly insensitive. So, they are not liars.
Four: Sexual assualt jokes, rape jokes, jokes about the victim being promiscuous are not funny.
Five: I want safety. Not protection. Learn the difference. It is not a thin line; there is a world of difference.
I have had many conversations on this with the women I know and love. We agree on a lot of this and we also disagree. For the reality of the situation is that we want to be safe (yes, not protected!) and we don’t feel it. So how do we then ‘behave’ in order to not curb our mobility and still be assured of our safety? There is no simple answer.
We negotiate these spaces each day. Some of us challenge them more assertively than others. Some of us are testing our limits each day. Some of us are learning that there is life beyond sexual assualt and rape. Some of us realising that the fear governed us. Others are discovering the power of speaking out and the solidarity that follows.
Mostly, I am learning, struggling and doing the things I want to, going to places at the times I please, using the modes of transport I wish. In the process, I try to let go of this haunting fear that ruins these experiences. Like travelling alone. This is a tough battle for me. There is no right or wrong. But I am happy engaging with it.