This is rather impromptu. Unlike my other posts it hasn’t been as thought out or listened over for lurking grammatical mistakes that I didn’t pick up on. This is writing from the heart after listening to a song that made me think.
Pretty much every day in a year is dedicated to something or other somewhere, but today it is International Womens day. I know I have been lucky, most of the challenges I have faced have had nothing to do with my gender. I seldom felt discriminated against because I am female. But it happens, sadly, to almost every woman at some point in her life.
Now the tagline /hashtag, whatever its called, is beboldforchange. So I’m going to tell you about something that I still struggle to talk about 7 years on.
I was the only girl in my design and technology class at school. I was me with 19 of the someone of the worst behaved boys in my year group. Back then I was rather timid. I had yet to find out I am autistic and was scared of most things, including some of the boys in my class. I worked in the far corner nearest the teachers desk and along side the few boy I got one with and felt safe working next too.
By the time we had got half way through the year I was more comfortable with being the only girl and dealing with the boys, it seemed that consistently being in the top 2 of the class had earned me some respect, or so I thought.
There was group of boys that where often in trouble and they had the benches next to the tool cupboard. They normally just let me get on with what I was doing but that day I had notices that they kept looking at me. It made me a bit uncomfortable but I didn’t think anything of it.
I had to go and change my tool, so I went over to the cupboard passed the group of boys. When I turned to return to my desk they had blocked 2 of the ways out meaning I had to walk through the group of them. As I made my way through one them ‘spanked’ me.
I felt my body go cold. Nobody had ever touched me in that way before. I felt more vulnerable then I had ever thought possible simply because a boy had touched me. I went back to my desk, shaken. My one friend in the class, asked if I was ok but I was too embarrassed to say anything so I just nodded. I felt dirty, like I was party to some dark secrete.
I didn’t let myself cry. I knew I would never be able to find the words if someone asked me what happened. I could heard the boys talking. They were starting to panic. They thought I was going to tell someone. When I heard them say ” I only spanked her” and “We are going to get in so much trouble for this, it’s sexual assault.” I felt angry burn through me. I wanted them to get in trouble but I was too ashamed to say anything.
It took months for me to feel comfortable going over to the tool cupboard again. I was wary every time one of them walked passed me, thinking they were going to do it again. It had been one of my favourite classes but now I was afraid I was going to be inappropriately touched every time I went to their side of the class room. I didn’t say a word and as a result it happened again a year later and I was still too ashamed to tell anyone.
I know compared to what a lot of people have experience it is almost nothing. I know so much worse happens to women all around the world everyday. But it shook me.
And this happens in schools everywhere. Young girls experience their first taste of casual sexism and most of them, like I was will be too scared and embarrassed to say anything about it.
The fact teenage boys think that is behaviour can be gotten away with scares me. No one should be touched in this manner with out agreeing to it. But as a young woman its so hard to talk about and unless we speak out nothing is going to change.
PS. If you want to listen to the song that got me thinking this is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0esbbnY5Xvw
Its from my favourite band First Aid Kit but not like their normal stuff.