Getting oneself hurt

The omnipresent harassment of women. An idiotic and right wing Twit wants to know why women do not constantly call it out. Because we could end it. Plainly. The answer is that very occasionally, and for particularly egregious examples, we do. I myself go to court later this month to witness to one (alleged, it is sub judice) attack. But we do not do it because it is so constant.

 

Call out every drunken bloke who leers and calls us hen and is over-familiar? How? Who would come to our aid if he got nasty? We are all skilled at wriggling out of the situation without causing annoyance, or getting ourselves hurt. Because that is how subtly the blame comes home to roost on us. ‘Getting ourselves hurt’. Not ‘Being the subject of an unprovoked attack.’

 

It is the man in the street, the bloke in the coffee bar, the one in the book shop, the poor soul we meet when we are working. Most of it is low level. Mostly we can see an easy way to steer ourselves out of it with no more than social tact, and prudent behavior, and kind inoffensive words, and a sigh and exasperation we never show.

 

For all that, totting up my closest female friends, 75% of them have been raped. I do not have a single female friend who has not at some time been in some way sexually assaulted, and touched in ways they tried hard to prevent, and, although I had the good luck to avoid rape, that certainly includes me.

 

I could detail the times I was most scared. Walking down a road, in a busy area, but for the moment, in the early morning, deserted, there was the stranger who unzipped his flies and began jerking himself off. The conference for church lay readers, many years ago now, and not in my current denomination, when one of my fellows began to waylay me at intervals during the day. Again and again, I slipped out under his arms and again and again they enfolded me. I ensured visits to the ladies happened when he was engaged in some activity (if they see you go in, they know you need to come out and they will be ready). I walked corridors in company. It never occurred to me to report him, for you can be quite sure he would have put the blame on me. He would have been in trouble, but some mud would have stuck to me.

 

Have things improved? A little. Both the above I would now report. I might even be believed. And a good deal of my life has been lived in the company of men who just never behave like this, who admire and respect (and detest and squabble with) women whom they see as people in their own right. But despite being a pensioner, despite the lovely blokes I know, the fact is that every year and most months I will practise the skills of guarding my eyes, giving soft answers, and keeping my fear to myself.

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