Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
(MASSIVE Trigger warnings for sexual violence)
Yes, it’s been a really long time. As some of you have gleefully pointed out. And frankly, it’s not us, it’s you. Not you, individual readers, you, citizens of the world. It’s exhausting, and frankly, we don’t always have the energy to keep being angry and feisty and clever. Sometimes, we just want to lie down and be bad feminists.
But, sometimes there’s important work to be done. And this is one of those moments. Because, there’s this. That we even have to have a select committee into funding for sexual violence services is one of the reasons the Lady Gardeners would prefer to curl up under a tree with a good novel and a teapot full of bourbon. But here we are, nonetheless.
If you would like to make a submission, the details are in Coley’s post, and some information on how to do it is here. (FOTLG Oliver points out that evidence can be heard in private.) And a workshop for submissions is being held, if you want to go along to that.
For the very remote chance that you don’t know why funding for these agencies is important, and the statistics aren’t enough to convince you, we have a story from a (obviously anonymous) friend of the blog. It’s…not fun, and there’s about a million trigger warnings and we’ll be wielding a very heavy hand in the comments. But this is why rape crisis and the agencies like it are necessary. This story is horrifyingly common amongst all genders and ethnicities and orientations. And it’s why you should go ahead and make a submission.
It’s a Saturday night, which is a terrible way to start a story. I’m sure I was meant to be somewhere, but I don’t remember. My house is empty, of people and stuff, which my erstrwhile flatmate has taken with her. It feels like she took all the joy from the house too but again, I’m probably misremembering.
I’m wearing flannel pyjama bottoms and a singlet top. Later, I’ll fixate on that top. It’ll stand for things I can’t stand. And one day it will bring me to my knees, when I find it unexpectedly in the back of a drawer. But for now, all of that is ahead of me. For now, for the last time for a very long time, I’m safe.
There’s a knock at the door. It’s an odd time on a Saturday night, but I don’t think much of it. I open the door. It’s heavy in my hand, and the first thing I notice is the smell. Whoever is at the door has been drinking. And they’ve been drinking sweet dark rum.
I realise who it is and time slows down. All I can think is “don’t let him in the house. Don’t let him inside. There’s no good reason he’s here.”
This man has already hurt me. He has already made me scared. He’s already shown he doesn’t listen to me, and doesn’t care that I’ve asked him to leave me alone.
I try to slam the door, but he’s bigger and stronger and is already in the door. The door bounces off his leg, his elbow, and he’s inside, slamming it shut behind him.
He’s talking, but I don’t remember the words now. In my head it’s incoherent babbling, but I’m sure it’s not. It can’t have been, and I have a vague sense of apology. A feeling that he wanted me to forgive him for being an asshole.
But I don’t know. Because what happened next is so unforgivable.
I’ve been backing away from him, and suddenly my back presses against a wall. I turn to head up the hallway, but as I do, he’s standing in front of me. He grabs my shoulder and pushes me hard against the wall. Once, twice, he shoves me back against the wall. It’s like he’s shaking me, and my head cracks against the wall, and I feel my shoulder blades bang against it, and wonder if that will bruise. (It does, badly and it’s so ugly that for weeks I can’t look at my back, even clothed.)
He leans against me, and when I struggle, he takes a hand and wraps it in my hair, pulling my head back, holding me there. With my head bent back, I gasp for breath.With his hand in my hair, I can’t pull away from him, and I am sandwiched between him and the wall. He brings his lips to mine, and when I try to pull away he yanks me back to facing him. I gasp in pain, and i see him grin. I try to push him away again, and he slams me back against the wall, knocking the breath out of me. My knees buckle, and I’d fall down in pain, but he holds me up.
His teeth scrape along my neck, and his knee slips between my legs, pushing them apart. I feel him biting down on my collarbone, and the hand that’s not holding my hair squeezes my breast. Even as terrified as I am, I wonder if the bite will leave a mark, if it was hard enough to break skin. Even as terrified as I am, there’s a voice in the back of my head berating myself for caring about bruises at a time like this.
I shove back against him and he slaps me, letting go of my hair, and I scream, telling him to get off me, to fuck off, to leave me alone, until he clamps his hand over my mouth, and presses against me. He pulls at my top, snapping one of the straps, dragging it down over my breast which he claws at, squeezing and pulling and pinching. One of my hands is caught behind me, and with the other, I try to push him, but he’s too close, and too strong, and he swats my hand away.
I bite down on his hand, doing all the things I was taught in primary school, fighting and screaming and struggling. He brings his hands around my throat, squeezing until I can’t breathe, until I stop struggling, and I realise he’s talking to me, calling me a stupid bitch, a whore, a slut, all because I didn’t give it up when he wanted it.
Holding me by the throat (and this is the moment I realise how tall he is, that he can hold me there, like that, by one hand), his knee hard up against my pelvis. He’s muttering that I like this, that this is how I want it, and then his hand is inside my pants, and his fingers are inside me, and I’m shaking my head, but I can’t move, and he’s pressing his thumb against the side of my throat, and I am scared that if I move I won’t be able to breathe. And all I can think is that I’ve been here before, in this exact situation, almost, and if once is unlucky, what is twice?
I try to twist away from him, but I can’t, and I struggle and slap at him and his fingers are inside me and it hurts and he looks down at me and tells me to stop pretending I don’t like it, that I basically begged for this, and what a slut I am.
He pulls his hand away from me, and takes a step back, like he’s going to say something, and he grabs my wrist, and twists it, and all of a sudden I realise there’s a gap between us, and I bring my knee up, as hard as I can, between his legs. He doubles over, and I push at him, and he falls, crouched on the ground. In a much calmer voice than I can imagine having, a voice that doesn’t sound like mine, I tell him to get the fuck out or I am calling the police, and miraculously, he does.
All of that plays in my memory, on repeat, either in slow motion, or in rapid bursts, his hand on my breast, cut to his mouth on my neck, cut to his fingers trailing over my hip. All of it, often, for months. But I don’t really remember what happened next. I know I sat on the floor and cried, for what felt like hours. I know I said something glib on twitter, and then changed my clothes, burying my ripped top in the back of a drawer and throwing out my pyjamas. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say, so the next day I avoided people, curled up on the couch in my empty house, watching bad movies and crying. And drinking all the tea.
It wasn’t until the day after that that I thought maybe there was something I should do. Something other than catch myself standing in the mirror looking at the bruises on my collarbone, my thigh, the scrape along my neck, the brusies on my back, realising I’d been standing there for ten minutes. Something other than tell myself over and over and over again how lucky I am, how much worse it could have been. All I wanted to do was stop crying. And to do that, I’d have to tell someone. And if I told someone, it would be real. It’d be a thing that had happened, not a dream, not something I could wish away.
I’ve told this whole story to three people before now. My counsellor, the police, and someone on the phone at rape crisis. And I’d never have got to the first two without the last one. And that should be all you need to know.
If you need help, there are support services available. Feel free to share in the comments. Kindly, preferably.