Despite my best intentions, I have not been able to concentrate on my writing the last few days. I have been majorly distracted by the internet, and specifically by the story of Brock Turner, a rapist who got a disgustingly low sentence of just six months for violating the body of an unconscious woman.
But do you want to know what pisses me off the most about this story?
Not what he did on that night – horrific though it was.
Not the judge’s sentence – which screams of privilege.
Not Brock Turner’s family – whose pleas of leniency were heard, while the victim’s harrowing statement was ignored.
No, what has really angered me is the sheer volume of men (and even some women) who are insisting that the victim should share some of the responsibility for what happened.
This woman had her body violated while she was unconscious. She was treated like a piece of property and sadly this is something most women are familiar with.
Now, let me tell you a story and you can see if you recognise yourself in it.
I’m in my early twenties and I’m heading out for the night with a friend. We are going to have some drinks, go to a club, dance, and have a good time. I’m not the prettiest of girls, but I make an effort when I go out and I’m wearing a new skirt that hangs to mid-thigh. I’m not sure if it makes me look fat, but I liked it and I purchased it to wear on nights like this.
I meet my friend at a bar near the train station. We aren’t staying in town tonight, we’re going into the city. We’ve just enough time for a quick drink before the train comes. The place isn’t too crowded since it’s not too close to any other pubs and we sit in a booth. We’ve not been there long when two men approach us. They ask what our plans are for the evening and we say we’re going into the city on the next train.
Apparently our plans aren’t to the liking of these two men. They sit in the booth, one on either side of us, trapping us in there. They tell us we don’t want to go into the city. They ask us to stay here and hang out with them and go to one of the local clubs.
We decline, but they don’t take no for an answer.
Time is pressing on and the train is due. We ask the men to let us pass so we can get to the platform.
One of them laughs and puts his arm round me, asking me to stay here, like at this point – trapped in the booth – I even have a choice.
My friend tries to shove past the other man, but he laughs as well.
They keep us trapped until the train has gone and we’ve missed it.
We escape at the first available opportunity and head to the platform. The next train isn’t for nearly an hour, but I’d rather sit on the platform than go back to the bar.
We finally arrive in the city – an hour later than planned – and head to one of the pubs. From the minute we walk in the door I feel uncomfortable. There’s one woman in the place besides us and she is working behind the bar. The place is packed with men. They stare at us as we approach the bar and I hear a couple of men nearby make a comment about my friend and the fact she is really tall, has very long legs, and what exactly he’d like her to do with them. He never introduces himself to her – not that he’d have had a chance since she has a boyfriend – he just laughs with his friends.
We don’t stay in the bar long. A quick drink and we’re on our way. As we leave a group of half a dozen women are entering the place. Hopefully they won’t feel as on display as we did.
We walk through the city and head to another bar in the centre. The place is absolutely packed and it’s a struggle to even get to the bar. For those who don’t know the place it would have been even harder. You couldn’t even tell which side of the room it was on. But we know where it is and make a beeline for it. It takes nearly fifteen minutes just to get across the room, but finally we’re are the bar. The bartender is rushed off his feet and it isn’t easy to get his attention.
While we’re waiting the press of people behind us is almost claustrophobic. Several people brush against my back and my arse. It’s crowded and it can’t be helped.
Then I feel something else. Something that isn’t an accidental brush against me because of how crowded the place is. Fingers are brushing against the very top of my thigh, under my new skirt, right on the edge of my knickers, way too high to be anything other than deliberate.
I spin round and glare at the young man behind me. He laughs and his friends are nudging each other and grinning. I straighten my skirt and tell him to keep his hands to himself. He doesn’t apologise, he just laughs even louder.
They move on and we finally get served at the bar. I deliberately steer my friend in the opposite direction to the group who had stood behind us.
We talk about which club we’re going to head to later and another couple of men overhear us and ask what we recommend. They tell us they’re not from this city, they’re here on a conference for work. They seem nice enough so we talk to them, telling them where to avoid and which places are popular.
About ten minutes into the conversation one of them comments that he’s not exactly dressed for clubbing (he’s not) and suggests I go back to his hotel room with him to help him get changed.
I’ve known him all of ten minutes, I don’t even know his surname, he doesn’t know mine, but he seriously thinks I’m going to accept.
I shake my head and laugh, asking him if it’s first night away from home. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He honestly believes that ten minutes of polite conversation entitles him to a hell of a lot more and my refusal offends him. I don’t care.
My friend is having an equally hard time shaking off his friend and eventually tells him the name of a club we never go to and they leave, telling my friend they’ll see us there.
The next bar isn’t so crowded, but it’s busy enough that someone bangs into me and spills his drink down my shirt. I try to clean myself up, but the guy’s hands are in the way. I tell him it’s fine. I tell him to leave it. I step away, but he follows. I tell him to back off. He ignores me and carries on “cleaning me up”. By the time he’s finished I feel as if I’ve just undergone a breast examination. I’m not what you’d call blessed in the boob department, I have to wonder if he was checking to see I had some. It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last.
We then head to the last bar for the evening before we hit one of the clubs. My friend’s ex-boyfriend’s brother works as a bouncer at this one. We nearly always stop there to say hello as my friend likes to catch up with the news about his family.
The place isn’t busy and he takes a break to sit with us and chat. I don’t have much to add to the conversation since I don’t know the people they’re talking about. My friend had split up from this guy’s brother long before I knew her.
I sip on my drink and listen to the music. It isn’t long before I sense someone watching me. A quick scan of the room reveals it to be a man at the bar. I can see he’s wearing a wedding ring as he raises his glass towards me. I turn away. A few minutes later he has left his seat at the bar and is sat on the sofa beside me. I shift away from me because he was giving me the creeps from across the room and I don’t want him near me. He ignores my attempts to move and leans in to whisper in my ear. He asks how much it is for a blonde (my friend) and a redhead (myself) at the same time.
I tell him to fuck off.
He doesn’t leave. He asks if the bouncer is our pimp.
I tell him I’m not a prostitute and to fuck off again but he ignores me.
I stand and go to the ladies room to escape him, hoping he has gone by the time I get back. I stall in there for as long as I can. Something helped on my the fact I have somehow managed to lose my brand new lipstick during the course of the evening and emptying out my entire purse onto the counter to double check if it is there is a convenient excuse to avoid going back out there.
Eventually though I can put it off no longer and I head back. My relief at finding the man gone is audible. My friend asked where I had disappeared to and what the man had said to me. I told her. She said she had suspected as much as despite my informing the man in no uncertain terms that I am not on the game, he had asked the bouncer about us as well. The bouncer had barred him from the place and escorted him from the building a few minutes before I had returned.
At this point I didn’t really feel like going clubbing and I certainly didn’t want to leave this particular bar while the latest creep might still be lingering outside. My friend understood and we stayed there until last orders were called.
We decided to go to one of the smaller clubs that was close by and by the time we arrived there I was feeling more like myself and ready to enjoy the music and dance.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Thanks to lingering at the last bar we were too late to get into the club. They had recently scrapped their “one in one out” rule for patrons and did not allow any admissions at all after 11pm.
My friend’s boyfriend was in the city with the rest of his football team that night and my friend suggested we go to the club they’re at and see if we can get a lift home in the minibus they’d hired. It sounded good to me, so off we went. It wasn’t a short walk and on the way the heavens opened. It threw it down and we were well and truly drenched. My shirt took on a vaguely transparent appearance and my friend’s was even worse.
We arrived at the club where we discovered that there was something my friend’s boyfriend had forgotten to mention about his night out. The place was holding a wet t-shirt contest. Thanks to the downpour we were both rather suitably dressed for the occasion – at least if we wanted to be objectified, ogled and leered at.
We didn’t go inside. My friend was pissed at her boyfriend for not telling her and goodness knows I’d had enough for one night.
I was drenched through, my sandals had given me blisters, and what should have been an enjoyable night out had been anything but.
During the course of the evening we’d gone to five bars (I don’t include the final one since we didn’t go in).
- In the first we’d been trapped and physically stopped from leaving.
- In the second we’d just had to put up with objectionable comments.
- In the third I’d be groped under my skirt by a stranger and propositioned by another.
- In the fourth I’d been groped again, this time my breasts.
- In the fifth I’d been mistaken for a prostitute and persistently propositioned by a creep who wouldn’t leave when I told him to.
This is a typical night out for many women. Like I said at the start, I’m not that good looking. My clothes weren’t that revealing. My shirt had short sleeves. I wore a jacket over it as well. My skirt was short, but longer than many other women wore.
Yet during the course of a this one night out there wasn’t a single pub or bar we went to where we weren’t treated like we were there purely for for men to grope, proposition, or leer at.
This is unacceptable.
The behaviour of these men and countless others is why so many are quick to try to place some or even all of the blame on the victim of Block Turner. It is because far too many men believe this sort of behaviour is appropriate.
Instead of placing the blame on the woman whose body was violated while she was unconscious, it is about time men owned up to their actions and started to treat women with respect.
No one on this earth should be treated like property, yet women are subjected to this type of behaviour over and over again. It’s something we come to expect every time we leave our house.
Is it any wonder that men like Brock Turner can sexually assault someone and be sentenced to a mere six months?
Technically speaking, the guy who shoved his hand up my skirt committed the offence of sexual assault. He walked away laughing with his friends.
I am quite sure that not a single one of those men in my story remember that night or me, because for them, and countless others, this is normal and – for them – acceptable behaviour.
If you haven’t already read Liz Ruddy’s post then I urge you to do so.
There is so much truth in her words it can’t be repeated enough and her line about clothing labels certainly rang true with me. 60% cotton, 40% asking for it. That skirt I wore that night – I never wore it again and it ended up in a charity collection bag.
I would urge everyone to look not at the behaviour of Brock Turner or his victim, but instead look at your own behaviour, because otherwise nothing will ever change.
Comments are turned off for this post.