Disclaimer: This post is about the #UnsafeAtUni thread I found on Twitter. I mention sexual assault and some of my personal experiences. For this reason, some people may want to skip this post.
I woke up at 5am this morning
(thanks cat) and I found that I couldn’t get back to sleep, despite my best efforts. So, what did I do?
I turned to the internet, like 90% of the world does when they can’t sleep. I found myself scrolling through Twitter when a group of similar sounding tweets were being retweeted by people I follow. It only took a few clicks and I had stumbled upon #UnsafeAtUni.
#UnsafeAtUni is a hashtag started by Everyday Sexism to share students’ experiences of sexual harassment, sexual violence or hate crime on campus. The hashtag has only been used for a few hours, but it has already raked up a large amount of tweets from females sharing their experience of harassment and assault at university.
I read through the tweets. I couldn’t stop.
Part of me was shocked and saddened at the amount of women that were speaking up. Part of me was disappointed because it happens far too often. Majority of the stories came from women who had been in a party situation or had been in town with friends. It is not uncommon. It is not unheard of. I’m at university myself, and being groped or gawked at whilst in town became the ‘expected thing’.
It shouldn’t be the expected thing. Ever.
I remember studying in the library for an exam. It was an hour before the library closed and I was getting tired. 10pm. I decided to call it a night and gathered my stuff to leave the library. A few people did the same and we all left. Some branched off and went to different parking lots, whilst one headed in the same direction as me. I didn’t think too much of it until I got the ‘too close!’ feeling. I turned around and he was right behind me. I got to my car and locked the doors as soon as I got inside. He stood on the curb and watched me leave.
When I glanced in my rearview mirror, I swear I saw him turn around and walk back towards the university grounds. I couldn’t tell if he was going back to the library or if he was walking towards the housing space on campus. All I know is that he wasn’t going to his car. He didn’t say or do anything, but he was just threatening.
Unfortunately, other things have happened.
I was known as ‘the good time girl’.
I was the single one.
I was the sexually liberal one.
I did what I wanted and I liked what I liked.
I embraced it. Being ashamed of it definitely wasn’t going to help, so I embraced every single part of my identity.
Unfortunately, people – acquaintances, strangers and partners – took advantage of that fact.
It was orientation week. A group of friends and I had been drinking before we went to the clubs. Pre-gaming was an essential part of clubbing. Everyone did it. We got to the clubs and we were all dancing. I happen to have a tiny bladder, so I have to pee, oh, every .5 seconds when I drink alcohol. I went to the bathroom and I got separated from my friends. In those few minutes I was separated, I was groped, spanked, pinched and generally ‘felt up’ by a group of university boys. I was rescued by my friends, but that is almost beyond the point.
I wasn’t asking for it. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t know these boys, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have liked it. I simply don’t like being touched like that. Ever.
I don’t know if I would ever share my stories, but, after reading all those tweets, I have found strength from those people. This #UnsafeAtUni thread is eye-opening.
Another incident occurred when I was seeing someone. It was casual, but we had ‘been together’ for three months. He came over to my house and we were relaxing. I was on my period, so I wasn’t in the mood, so to speak. He said that he understood and he started giving me a massage ‘to make me feel better’. I could feel this ‘massage’ was taking a turn for the sexual, so I made it clear that I wasn’t in the mood and I wasn’t comfortable with having sex. Or so I thought. I thought saying ‘no’ and ‘stop it’ (albeit playfully) was enough to make a man realise I wasn’t happy.
Let’s just say that he made his desires clearer.
Before I could react, I was having sex. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel anything. Afterwards, I made him leave. I never spoke to him or thought about it again. Until now. No, I wasn’t at university, but I was a university student. I was at my own house where I was supposed to be safe, and with a person who was supposed to care about me.
I wasn’t asking for it. I didn’t deserve it. I told him I wasn’t interested.
I did what you were supposed to do, and it still happened.
We don’t talk about it.
That doesn’t mean it stops happening.
That doesn’t mean that we should ignore it.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth talking about.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.