As a child I lived in domestic violence. As a young woman I was punched and kicked by four of my boyfriends. As an adult woman I have also lived in domestic violence. I have walked into a police station covered in bruises. I have had a busted lip. A black eye.
At 14 on a bus trip an older man tried to put his hands in my pants. I was so scared I started crying. At 15 I was taken by three strange men to a park where one of them tried to get me to give him sexual favours. It was so distressing I still don’t remember what happened. It’s blank. I just remember them kicking me out of the car and driving off.
At 16 a new boyfriend drove me to a dirt road and raped me. I had said No repeatedly but he was 21 and wasn’t going to listen to the whingeing of a stupid ungrateful girl. After all he’d taken me out to dinner and bought me the seafood basket. To that cowboy the seafood basket was consent.
I have walked down the street and been yelled at by men in cars. Complete strangers have commented on my tits. When I’ve given them the finger they’ve called me an ugly slut or a fat bitch.
I have lain in bed at night so frightened of the noises outside I have barricaded myself in and slept with a knife beside my bed. I’ve bent over to get glasses from the bottom shelf at a restaurant where I was working and the boss has grabbed my arse and made gestures about taking me from behind. Everyone at work thought this was so funny he made a habit of doing this every time I bent over to get anything.
I soon worked out correct lifting technique did more than save your back.
When I walk to my car after a gig I carry my keys between my fingers in case someone tries to jump me. I have been aware my whole adult life that a man could kill me. It could be a stranger, someone lurking in the shadows, but more than likely it could be a partner.
My stories are unremarkable. This is the experience of most women. Many women have stories far worse than mine.
A friend of mine had a man with a knife come through her bedroom window and rape her. Another friend was so viciously beaten by her husband she regularly lost consciousness.
You don’t see this stuff on crime stoppers. Because this is our every day life. This is how we as women have been conditioned to live. And die.
Being a woman is dangerous. We have been told if we are out late in a short skirt and get raped that we are to blame. If we’re drunk it’s the same, but if he’s drunk then in some parts of Australia that’s a legitimate defence.
We are conditioned to be passive. To shut up. To acquiesce to the needs of others. We’re conditioned to put up with it. We’re conditioned to be beautiful according to socially accepted norms the mainstream decide beauty is. To achieve this we have to get breast implants, lip fillers, botox, labioplasty. We inflict a form of violence on ourselves.
We’re easy to oppress because patriarchy has waged a long campaign of ensuring we’re so full of self-loathing that we don’t have the esteem to stand up and speak out. Except for now. Something has shifted.
Women all around the world are rising up and sharing their stories. One by one they have come forward and spilled the secrets of their abuse and the sins of their abusers. There are good men out there and they stand shoulder to shoulder with us. These are the fathers of daughters, the husbands, the brothers and the sons of mothers who are willing to be part of the change.
But there is a backlash. Lately when I have spoken out against the significant and dangerous role of objectification and sexist imagery of women in the public domain continuing the narrative of violence against women, I have been surprised by the ugliness of the personal attacks by men who clearly want us back in our boxes. A violence that aims to silence.
Clearly the rising voices of women is unsettling those who aren’t prepared to lose their male privilege. Women around the world are speaking out – join our voices as we come together to bring an end to violence against women and children. This Wednesday 14 February at 6.30am we meet at Main Beach in Byron for a Billion Rising. Wear red. This is an event for women and children, but men are also invited to attend. Have courage, speak up, stand up and lets be change-makers.