Why did that happen? Was it my fault? Maybe he didn’t hear me when I asked him to stop? Was that normal? If it was normal why do I feel scared? All of these questions flooded my 14 year old mind after it happened.
I’m 23 now and as I reflect on my experiences with men over the years, all of the hurt and the trauma I know it stems from this point. I also know that I'm not alone, there are so many women walking around with the weight of the experiences they have had following them as they go through life.
I feel I have neglected to fully realise the extent of the inequality and mistreatment of women for so long. I was desensitised to it, endless hours of crying with friends listening to the pain and trauma they endured too. Listening but never fully letting it into my heart, the pain of our shared experiences was too much.
However, seeing thousands of women speaking out has finally forced me to let it in. I now feel the pain of all of these women, my friends and my family. I now look back on my experiences with new eyes, I no longer accept it and I want to fight for the right for women to be safe.
Granted, not all women are saints and not all men are devils but the statistics speak for themselves. One in five women are victims of a sexual offence and one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.
Men, listen to the women in your life, listen to their stories and experiences. Speak out and support us, don’t support the use of misogynistic language even if it's a ‘joke’.
We are powerful as individuals, the women in my life inspire me every day. Together though, we are a force and have the power to make a change, to one day feel safe in this world. For us and for the future generations we need to come together to let our voices be heard.
People need to start having difficult conversations, supporting others to share their stories. Read, educate and inspire others to do the same. The small seemingly insignificant acts of disrespect towards women contribute to the wider issue. We as a society need to begin rejecting misogyny, catcalling and stereotypes. We are all important and we all have a story to share.