CW: sexual assault and violence
Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
I am writing this article as a young working-class woman. Although these characteristics naturally influence the life that I am living, they should not define my character, and certainly not change the way that I am perceived through the fabricated lens of society. But, unfortunately, they do.
As a human being, I feel absolutely revolted by the rise in attacks being made nationally, particularly against women – both in the form of sexual assault and the violent conduct presently rising within nightclubs. Gender is irrelevant within the discourse surrounding sexual assault – those on all ends of the spectrum should be chilled to their core by what is going on around us.
Enough is enough. The shocking statistic showing that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually assaulted in some shape or form is widely recognised, thanks to the hard work of campaigns such as the #MeToo movement.
The outstanding commonality of this figure makes such experiences feel comparable to that of a common cold, but that certainly does not make it any more right; we should not just sit back and accept it. The impacts of sexual assault are very much real, and long-lasting in their nature – they leave internal scars that are hidden to the naked eye but very much felt by the victim.
More often than not, women choose to hide behind the shadow of their experiences: too afraid of what others might say, or choose to believe, and too unsure of the severity of what has happened to feel empowered enough to speak out. It is a very silence-inducing and lonely experience, and one that leaves tremendous, undesired weight and responsibility in the minds of those who have unfortunately had to go through it. ‘Who should I tell?’, ‘What would I say?’, ‘Will they believe me?’, we ask ourselves time and time again.
It is no wonder that we feel so helpless in such circumstances, when even police officers – the very people paid to protect us and restore justice – cannot be entrusted with protecting the public against such occurrences. The case of Sarah Everard personally shook me to my core, and left me feeling uneasy to walk home alone in the dark for several weeks. It created the impression that officers are part of the problem, not the solution – a reality that only intensified my anxieties. From the movement that was sparked following this case, I know I am not the only one who felt this way – the sad part is that it took such an event, and its consequent national outpouring, for the issue to be paid any serious level of attention.
Sexual assault can be carried out in a myriad of ways, and to varying degrees of intensity, each just as scarring to the individual. In that moment it does not matter if your body freezes, carries out a fight or flight response, or reacts in another unexpected manner in retaliation to such a violation of your being – the event was very much in the power of the abuser, and you cannot spend your life blaming your body for what needed to be done in the moment to protect you. You are certainly not to blame for the unsettling actions of others.
More often than not, we associate sexual-related crimes solely with rape or other attacks of a similar nature, but we also cannot neglect the seemingly innocent impact of sexual harassment that women also experience on a daily basis within the public vicinity. From ‘up-skirting’ to being catcalled across the street, or suffering on the receiving end of an uncomfortable innuendo at work, all these happenings still contribute to overwhelming feelings of powerlessness, and consequently reduce your self-worth going forward.
To go alongside this already alarming epidemic, we now have another on our hands, with a growing number of reports voicing the increasing number of young females drugged by injection in nightclubs up and down the country in recent weeks. Suddenly, the concern of having your drink spiked feels less weighty, with the addition of yet another danger facing innocent women. Where will the line be drawn? When will enough be enough?
The fact that individuals are being unknowingly drugged when leaving the house for the purpose of enjoying themselves is utterly horrifying.
When I first embarked on clubbing in 2019, I had fears of acid being thrown in my face. I knew the dangers of being spiked, and had been well trained in all the classic rules of prevention, with not leaving drinks unattended and keeping an eye on bar staff pouring your drink at all times being the top two pieces of advice given to me. What I had never considered, however, was the potential of being injected against my will – god forbid, another threat to consider when merely going out for a fun night with friends.
I too appreciate that all attacks discussed are not confined to merely women – men and non-binary individuals are also sexually assaulted and drugged, and it is very important to raise such a point. It is also very important to stress that it is not all men who are committing such crimes, despite how the media loves to portray things to be. But it is a well-known fact that it is far more likely for women to be the victims of such brutal crimes at the hands of men, which is why I choose to focus on this aspect so heavily.
When I was younger, I honestly never saw the point in feminism – something I have previously disclosed and discussed in a Wessex Scene article – but now I do. I am not sure if I should feel empowered to have come to this conclusion, or to be alarmed that this movement ever needed to be brought into the world, but I am glad that such negative experiences have opened my eyes to the harsh reality of what it means to be a female, and have consequently drawn me to the sense of empowerment I feel to change things today.
Life experiences have personally changed what it means psychologically to be a ‘woman’. The older I became, the less equal I began to feel within the world, and the more divided and disgruntled I appeared to be portrayed as, against a backlash of those with other more ‘desired’ characteristics. With unfortunate circumstances came the hammering of the harsh reality that I would forever be confined to labels and expectations as a woman, whether I liked it or not. Suddenly, there it was – an invisible barrier imposed against my worth, and all I originally aspired to achieve as a young girl with innocent-minded hopes and dreams.
What I feel is needed going forward is education. For the experiences and impact of others to be made widely available, and to highlight that it is a real life that will be impacted for many years to come. Of course, harsher laws and punishment against newer ‘trends’ encompassing such modes of attack, and more security and safeguarding, would too be desirable. Regardless of how it is enacted, the simple fact is that change needs to occur, and it needs to occur now.