Last night I had the privilege of attending the YWCA‘s MeToo, But What Can We Do? event at The Golden Wattle in the Adelaide CBD.
A big part of the panel discussion was around the changes the Me Too movement has made surrounding sexual assault, and the panelists raised the way in which the stories shared within the movement and people coming forward has helped to broaden the definition of sexual assault in the public eye.
Laura Desmond, panelist, playwright and performer really struck a cord with me when she spoke about sexual assault no longer being viewed as only being pinned down and r*ped, but widening to include physical, verbal and other forms of assault.
At the start of the year, a friend facetimed me and while we were talking she brought up something that had happened to her one New Years Eve which she described as being uncomfortable.
She had been working at an event with co-worker, who all night had been telling her she needed to have a New Years kiss, which she repeatedly brushed off, but when she left to go and meet her friends he proceeded to kiss her on the mouth.
She was shocked by this, but hadn’t considered the fact that this was sexual assault until we spoke and I spent the rest of this call trying to get her to leave that work environment and him.
She was kind of embarrassed to even tell me, to give it any attention, because after it happened she mentioned that he had kissed her to a friend and felt as though it was brushed off, and she began to tell herself that while it was uncomfortable, it was nothing, she had been drinking, and that he’s gay and was just being friendly.
Being able to justify what he did in her head not only made her internalise how violated she felt, but refute the fact that what she had experienced is sexual assault and is serious.
There are so many issues with what happened to my friend, and even if he was gay, that does not change anything about this situation.
This is a man who holds a position of power over her, while she was not being paid, the events she was covering gave her experience and the chance to make connections in the media industry, and he kissed her with no consent whatsoever.
Following this, my friend decided that she should distance herself from him, avoid contact that wasn’t strictly work related, even though she was being offered other writing opportunities she wanted to continue to write for him because she felt like she owed him for the connections she had made.
But her distancing herself resulted in less and less work given to her, and eventually an Instagram DM saying she was no longer needed in his space.
There are so many stories out there like and unlike this one, sexual assault is not defined solely by r*ape and physical violence, and it is so much more common than any one of us would like to believe.
The reality is, all of my female friends, and myself fall into at least one of those statistics.
Your experiences are valid, if you’re carrying something like this with you I urge you to talk to someone, whether that is a person in your life or a professional. There is a support tab at the top of my site if you need it.
Support those around you, chances are someone needs it.