Men, talk to your mates

This isthe hardest blog post I've ever written and is definitely the hardest one to make public. I wrote most of this a week ago but have battled with a fear of sharing these personal things.

BUT I am angry and need to be heard and I also want to help other women gain their voice and I feel like I can't do that unless I share what I have been through. I have empathy for others who have experienced domestic violence, controlling behaviour, gaslighting, coercion, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and violence at the hands of men. I want you to know I hear and believe you and I hope by reading this you will understand I am an ally and have experienced some trauma myself so have a level.of understanding to what you may be going through.

I want to help bring a voice to the marginalised women, those women who are never believed, the women who come from the wrong neighborhood, the women who struggle with mental health issues, with drug addiction, the gay and trans women, the sex workers, the women of colour. 

If any women want to contact me in confidence to discuss anything my inbox is always open. If any men want to contact me my inbox is open to you too for rational conversation. I have training in councilling and psychology but I am not a professional, I'm just someone who wants to help make a change!

In the wake of the awful tragedy involving the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard there has been an outpouring of not only grief for her and her family & friends but also anger that we women still face fears caused and perpetrated by men on a daily basis.

I have never been forcibly raped by a stranger, kidnapped or murdered. These are what most women would think of as the worse case scenario, our worst fear. Stranger killings account for 8% of murdered women. We do know that women are abused by men on a daily basis. From cat calls in the street, to online stalking, to domestic abuse and everything else we know that there are many men out there who have no regard for women. Men who think we are their property, their plaything, their slave, their cleaner, child bearer, child minder, and much more.

Yes it is not all men but it is enough men to make it an issue. Yes more men get murdered than women, by other MEN! Men are responsible for most murders, (93%), and rapes, (99%). There is a massive problem in society with male violence.

It has all got me thinking what I have experienced in the past, in my 50 years on this planet, at the hands of men. 

I feel very lucky that as a child I never encountered violence or inappropriate behaviour from men. I mean I'm sure there was some times with teenage boys where they tried to get what they wanted sexually but it never resulted in anything serious that I remember now. 

My first serious relationship was at age 17-19, and it was a violent one. The man in question was manipulative and violent. One of the first times he hit me was in front of his parents who were more concerned for his welfare than mine. He tried to make me believe that he was violent because I didn't want to have sex with him, even though the real question is why the hell would any women want to have sex with a man who is violent towards her? He even told me once after he had been to the doctors that he had talked to his doctor about my problem of being frigid and the doctor had told him I would always be that way! Now either he was a liar, which he definitely was with other things anyway or his doctor was a complete moron, which is also possible.

Luckily I found the courage to leave him when I met the man who was to become the father of my son. One of the few men who despite his faults as a partner and father has always treated me with respect and as an equal. Sure we had rows but he never really frightened me or tried to manipulate, coerce or gaslight me.

I was 20 when I had my son and I remember two incidents both out in public with my son in his pushchair. The first was a man who stopped me in the street and said he was a photographer and wanted to take a picture of my tattoo. I only had one tattoo back then, a rose on the top of my arm. It was definitely not worth a photo! He wanted my address so as he could come round and take the photo. I refused and nothing happened. It wasn't until years later that I realised he was probably after far more than a photograph and that to stop me in the street like that was an unsolicited advance.

Around the same time while walking through the local park to get to the town centre, a man appeared from behind a bush with his trousers down and a kind of cropped t-shirt on. He was masturbating while I walked passed. It didn't really frighten me, and I didn't feel threatened, in fact I thought he was rather sad and a bit funny. Again it wasn't really until I was much older that I realised just how shocking this really is and how frightening it could have been.

A few years after I split up from my son's father I started a new relationship. He moved in with me after a time but it soon became physically abusive and I asked him to move out. While the physical violence was very scary and upsetting in the relationship worse was to come when he moved out. Late one night he knocked on my door, I didn't really want to let him in but he said he just wanted to talk, that he was upset we had split up so I let him in. It quickly became apparent that there was no reasonable conversation to be had with him. I tried very much to keep things pleasant, my 6 year old son was asleep upstairs after all. He ended up pulling out a knife and asking me how I would feel if he threatened me with it. I'm not sure what exactly I said but I do remember thinking that he was threatening me with it and that is was a stupid question. Thankfully he then left and I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that was the end of it.

Sadly not, about a week later he again turned up late at night. This time I did not let him in, he kept knocking and shouting so I opened my upstairs bedroom window and asked him to leave. He then pulled out a gun. A neighbour passed who was walking home and words were spoken, I cannot remember what. At the same time I was calling the police. My ex left before the police arrived. The police were pretty good, they searched my garden, the local area and spoke to the neighbour who had witnessed the incident. A female officer stayed with me until I was happy for her to go. The next day I heard he had been picked up a few hours later by the police, they didn't find the gun.

Luckily he never harassed me again. A few months later I had to go to court to be a witness in the case against him. My neighbour was also there as a witness. My ex denied having a gun and said it was a torch he was carrying that night. My neighbour, a man originally from Albania told the magistrate that there was no doubt it was a gun and that he was familiar with guns from his home country. I also stood up and said it was definitely a gun. Despite that and despite the fact he had already been in prison a few years previously for a violent offence and despite the fact I and my young son were threatened in our own home he got sentenced to 6 weeks in prison. He did 3 weeks and was out, luckily I didn't see him again until many years later.

My next serious relationship also ended in violence. The relationship itself was not violent, the man was never violent towards me although a few glasses got chucked across the room at times but never at me. I never felt scared around him and I never felt manipulated or abused by him. When the relationship ended he heard I was helping a male friend out who had been in hospital for a long period and had lost his accommodation. The friend was waiting to be rehoused and so stayed in my spare room for a few weeks. My ex thought I was in a relationship with this person, I was not although even if I had been it would have been none of his business. He came to the house of my son's grandparents while I was there and asked to see me. I went outside to talk to him and before I knew it he had his hands around my throat and I really thought he was going to kill me. My son's grandfather came out and pulled him off and that was the last I heard of him. The police got called by someone else but I didn't pursue any kind of prosecution.

After that I spent quite a long period of time single. I had a few short relationships but nothing serious. The one incident that sticks out from this time is when I went to see an ex from a short relationship who played in a band. We were still friends so it was perfectly normal to go and watch them play. I got on very well with another band member and that night we all went back to the house of the manager to sleep as the rest of us didn't live in the same town as the gig had been. Myself and the other band member we're getting on very well and we were all sleeping in one room together with my ex and a girl friend I had brought along. When the others in our group had left or gone to bed the four of us bedded down for the night. There were two big sofas, my friend and my ex were on one, myself and the other band member we're on the other. 

I snuggled down with the man, we kissed and cuddled. I didn't really think it was going to go any further as there was two other people in the room, one of them my ex! Even though we had only had a brief relationship of a couple of months and not serious I still didn't feel it very appropriate. Also I was by this time 33 years old, a bit old for sex in the same room as my mates, it seemed more like the sort of thing teenagers did. Anyway things got heated to the point where he was ready to have sex with me and was in position to do so. I said no, he carried on. It was not violent, no force was used and for a long time it just annoyed me that he did that. I was angry at myself that I let him do that. I never really thought of it as rape until much later. I never saw him again.

What is also important to acknowledge is emotional violence. My next long term relationship was not at all physically violent at any time. There was however numerous incidences of manipulation and gaslighting. The worst time was when we got pregnant, neither of us wanted children together. When I told him I was pregnant his reaction was to say "how could that happen when we don't have sex?" This was a man who was certain that everyone in heathy relationships has sex every day! On the evening of me having been in the hospital under aesthetic for a termination he lost the plot after I said something that he thought was wrong or offensive or nagging, I can't even remember what it was now. He had a total tantrum, said he was going to kill himself and disappeared for a couple of hours. He like quite a few other men I have met hated it if the focus was on someone else. He also played up when it was my sons birthday for example.

I remember the last few cases of inappropriate touching I experienced, two were in 2019. The first was a man in a shop who thought it was fine to touch my hair. When I and my partner challenged him he got verbally abusive. Then there was a man in a bar who touched the side of my breast from behind as he was passing. A few weeks ago a man in a shop touched the small of my back to move me out of the way. These are such normal every day occurrences that I think even we women, or at least some of us, have kind of normalised them and do not speak out when they happen.

These things happen all the time, these things that happened to me will not shock or surprise a lot of women. But these incidents are the big things, the things that have shaped me, the things I remember. I cannot count or remember all the cat calls, wolf whistles and inappropriate touching. I cannot count or remember the sheer volume of misogynistic shit some of my past male friends spout off.

It's really important for me to say that I am an ally to other more marginalised groups and understand that my experiences are from my white privileged middle class background. I stand in total support with all women of colour, trans women, women with disabilities and gay women.

Every women has a story and yet men don't seem to know any predators. Men, you need to talk to your mates.

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