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June 24, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: We are coming for you

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The Mullumbimby march on the 14th. Photo by Jeff Dawson

For the first time in my lifetime I feel this growing solidarity of women who are tired of keeping secrets. They are tired of hiding their stories so as not to cause discomfort. They are tired of seeing their own experiences lived out over and over. I see women stand up and tell the story of what has happened to them. I hear them. The noise is deafening. And the story is only going to get louder.

On Monday we marched around this country to say ENOUGH. We called for an end to sexual abuse and violence against women. We called for an end to the privilege of a patriarchy that has seen our integrity questioned, and not our perpetrators. We will not let this conversation waver. We are driving them out. Every man in this country who has a history of sexually abusing a woman should be shaking in his shoes. We are coming for you. We will report you. We will action our rights.

The other night at a gig a woman came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for bringing up violence against women tonight. My sister and I lost our mother to domestic violence.’ There were tears in her eyes; I touched her hand. A stranger whom I met for two minutes, whose mother was murdered.

I grew up in domestic violence. I was a child who was locked in a room to keep her safe. Who saw the four legs of a chair come through the door. Who saw her mother humiliated and shoved. Her precious things smashed. Her shoulder broken. I was lucky – he died, not us.

I have never thought of myself as a victim.

We often think sexual abuse happens to other people. But I am starting to think it happens to all of us. I doubt there isn’t a woman on this planet who hasn’t experienced some sort of abusive behaviour. Abuse and violence towards women isn’t just a stranger abducting us from a street. It happens with boyfriends, uncles, fathers, grandfathers. Teachers, church ministers, our bosses and colleagues. It happens at the hands of people we trust, and very often the shame is so great, or the sense that our rights don’t outweigh their entitlement, we don’t acknowledge what has happened to us.

I would have said that apart from my first six years with a physically violent dad, I have lived a life fairly free of abuse and violence. But that’s not true. This is what has happened to me. Mine is a very ordinary story.

At 14 when I was catching a bus home from Brisbane, a boy stuck his hands down my pants and masturbated on me. I was so scared I just let it happen. It was dark, and none of the adults seemed to notice. Another time at about age 15 I was walking to a bus stop; some boys in a car stopped to give me a lift. The boy I knew jumped out and I was in the back of a 2-door car with two boys I didn’t know. The boy in the back tried to get me to perform fellatio. I started crying. I actually don’t remember what happened next – I have a blank.

At 16 my schoolteacher told me he loved me. He didn’t touch me or ask me to do anything sexual; instead he spent the next six months of my final year at school sulking in class, not speaking to me, turning up at my activities and watching me, and then telling my friends I was treating him badly. I told my school principal and they shrugged it off. Nothing happened. It was the same year an older boy took me out for dinner, and then on the way home drove me to a remote country road and forced me to have sex with him on the back of his car. I said No. But he was 22. It was dark. It was a country road and there was nowhere to go. So I just put up with it hoping it would be over so he could drop me home.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties I realised that was rape. When I was just 16 I was groomed by a Catholic priest who, when I was 17, got me drunk and used me as a sexual liaison with another man. The priest continued to take me away on weekends for his sexual gratification for six months. I told no-one at the time what was happening.

When I was 18 I was in a relationship with a man who punched me in the mouth and split my lip. We broke up. Just two years later my next boyfriend punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. All this before the age of 20.

This is just a little of what happened to me. In some of the cases I don’t know who the perpetrators were, some names I can’t remember. In others, like the schoolteacher and the priest, there’s possibly no law that recognises what they did as illegal, but it’s clearly wrong.

Like many women, I have got up, brushed it off and got on with life. But somewhere deep inside is a girl who was hurt. That girl is everywhere right now. That quiet, I’ll do anything to be liked, I don’t want to cause trouble girl is screaming the place down.

Patriarchy is broken. We will never be safe in a system that operates to protect perpetrators and blame us for our abuse and pain. A system that blames us for our own deaths.

So now we say no. Now we speak up. Now we report.

We are coming for you.

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  1. Yes, Mandy. We do get up because we have to. My dead mother could not, so I guess I’ll carry this
    until I’m gone. What a waste of life for so many. Maybe trust will never be a 4 letter word. Love?
    Often just a means to an end.

  2. Oh gawd, it’s true that most females have had similar experiences…I know I have, starting from early childhood, a family “friend”, through to work colleagues & acquaintances, even visiting a tradesman…we have been sitting ducks…it’s our own fault for being female. Glad the awareness is growing by this immense public action. Just hope the message gets through to future generations of boys/men/husbands/fathers/bosses etc.

  3. Great stuff, Mandy. You are brave to share your stories with us – thank you. This movement will help us all. Feel supported!

  4. it is not only women who are the victims of abuse.
    get over the feminism please.
    all people who are treated badly need a voice.
    patriarchy my ass.

    • Rather than close down someone who is sharing vulnerably what is big to share… Take this opportunity to share also, if it is needed. I celebrate the courage it takes to share these stories. And yes many men are also abused in the power-over model of rule – hegemony. This model doesn’t work for anyone, time for change, and this article is part of that, as is your comment. But lets support each other in our vulnerability.

    • “get over the feminism please” – what do you mean? Feminism is about making a safer, fairer, more inclusive and respectful world and because many women speak up with a pro-women view doesn’t mean that changes sought won’t benefit all of society. Did you notice the sign @ the March 4 Justice – “men of quality don’t fear women’s equality”? Have a think about that eh!

  5. Mandy’s story and all our stories give colour to statistics that are evidence that victims of violence and sexual violence are overwhelmingly women and over 93 % perpetrators men.
    Mandy’s story is echoed in discussion about these issues in any group of friends around the country. It’s rare for someone to say they’ve never been assaulted, harassed or abused in some situation from childhood to adulthood or across their life span.

  6. Why didn’t you March when Bill Shortens accuser was dismissed ???
    Why didn’t you March in support of Margaret Court when publicly abused by Daniel Andrews ???
    Politicising it trashes the cause
    violence against anyone cannot be tolerated

  7. Yes Dinky accept it……..Patriarchy is around some innocent women’s arse. That’s where it starts……Grow up & face the FACTS. Enough is Enough is Enough.

  8. I love my sons. Am I aware that this confused one if them and is denied by another? Mama, that’s because they only see us. They don’t know these stories, not deeply. But. Both sons have daughters. Now. Now they are saying “what didn’t I see? What are they not game enough to say?” Because they have strong mothers, like you. Like me. I WANT the men to come out. To stand with us. To condemn what they know. BECAUSE THEY KNOW.

  9. There is a study linking consumption of violent, misogynistic porn with poor attitudes to women and increased gender violence. Bad porn is way too freely available now and its changing the way our young men interact with women.

    The ongoing purchase of women for sex is also linked to bad behaviour. I know in some Scandinavian countries that purchasing sex is now illegal, but prostitution itself remains decriminalised. Perhaps some changes here might help.

    Stay strong Mandy, you are amazing!

  10. I’ll say it again – people are people & equal footing should apply. Problem is, like it or not,
    the stats show women (90% plus) are beastly beaten usually by a male partner. Shorten’s
    accuser can do a re-run & sue for damages. Court, anti-equality garland, has god on her side
    & that’s okay by her & our ScoMo. Nit picking only happens when point scorings are low.
    The truth is misogynists are everywhere & so are the bruisers & killers. Think again………

  11. Incidentally Mandy
    Cant seem to recall you calling out
    Child brides as young as 12 Forced to marry have kids.. in Australia!!!
    Womens genitals forced to mutilate Thousands yes in Australia !!
    Where are the marches for these
    Young women ? ABC have they called this
    Out ? Me to movement ? Guardian ?
    Called out on Q&A ? No chance ..
    Only when its suitable.. hypocrites..

  12. Barrow – my grandmother was married at 12 & a 1/2 years old. I’ve learned how things
    were before 1901. She was the youngest of 15 kids. When the father was angry he
    stock-whipped the lot including his wife.

  13. Not relevant to me. I don’t mistreat women.
    But am sick of all the whingeing , blame and false accusations.
    Take charge of your lives people. Learn martial, arts, get educated. find a decent job.
    Stop being a victim.and a whiner. Be a winner instead.
    The government or trendy politicians wont save you.
    Just wait until the Chinese military arrives.

    • You are referring to the people on the receiving end of violence (aka victims) – what about calling on those being violent – perpetrators – to STOP. Yes the blame is correctly on the perpetrator. Mostly it’s men, and maybe not all men, but in our post-industrial western society men still have more social. economic, political, commercial etc power than women .
      YOU could start changing things by stop telling women what to do!

  14. Abandoned, by father who walked away from his marriage and 4 kids and never looked back. Cornered in a shop doorway and molested at 10 yrs old by a stranger when i was out on boxing day rollerskating on the footpath outside my house, wanked at right outside my primary and high schools by random strangers, and in the streets when walking home at night, raped by the next father figure all before 13 yrs old , have woken up when staying at a “friends” with an uninvited dick in my face. Strangled by a boyfriend when i broke up with him. An abusive and controlling husband (NOW EX) who tried multiple times to put me into sexual situations with other people when he knew I was not comfortable with it. And I thought I was strong and came out unscathed by all this. but as I get older and with a teenage daughter just starting to step out into the world the cracks are starting to show as I worry for her safety. My story is not unique, there is hardly a woman I meet that doesn’t have a story to tell. Sadly it is common. And we are ANGRY! Men need to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions, and if they don’t do it willingly ,women will need to do more than just march!

  15. When I got rid of my so called ‘pretend husband’ – he was perched on a motorbike – I managed to chuck
    a 1/2 full 40 gal. drum of petrol at him & he got the message & took off. Enough! I hoofed it to the nearest
    police station & told the on-duty cop what I’d done & why. That was around 60 years ago.


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