It was one of those blustery, rainy days in Sydney this morning and I was lucky to get the last seat on the bus on my way to work. It was in the middle of the very back seat. The windows were fogged up and after the next 2 stops the isle was packed with passengers. I had to take a few deep breaths to ward off the impending panic attack and claustrophobia.
About 30 minutes in to my journey I noticed the male passenger beside me was sitting uncomfortably close. It’s true, the bus was packed, but there was plenty of room on the back seat and I had intentionally made sure there was no contact with the men on either side of me when I sat down. Yet, despite numerous shuffles and rearrangements, Mr Friendly was once again sitting right against me.
It’s not the first time a male passenger has tried to cop a feel on the bus. A few years ago a young man had me pinned me against the window of the bus while he groped around my legs and up my side. He then got off at my stop and started following me home. Thank goodness I ran in to one of my husband’s friends who walked me to my front door.
After both experiences I was left humiliated and angry. Humiliated that any strange man would feel the right to treat me this way and angry that I didn’t make a scene and say something at the intrusion.
I’m not a beautiful woman, I think I am attractive enough to blend in to the crowd. Not so pretty or ugly that I attract attention, just pleasant enough to forget. So it always surprises me when these things happen. “Why me?” I think. There are much prettier and skinnier girls. Plain Jane syndrome is supposed to come with benefits!
Sitting there this morning with this strange man’s hand against me I couldn’t help but think, why is it still the woman left feeling guilty after this sort of violation? With all the education around our right to speak up and demand respect, are we still programmed to believe somehow we deserve it? With all the perks of feminism and rights in our hands, are we now just “empowered” victims?
It’s a frightening statistic but 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime. Someone you know has suffered sexual assault at some point in their lives.
I know women close to me who have been raped, physically and verbally assaulted and beaten by their partners or other men in their lives. None have been reported to police and none of the men in question have ever spent one night in prison to pay for it. In fact, over 50% of sexual assaults go unreported every year. Most of these women know their attacker but will never tell.
Mr Friendly on the bus was small fries but it’s all part of the same pie. As long as men feel entitled to treat women as objects that is what we will remain. It’s no longer about empowering women but educating and holding the men in our society accountable, ALL the men, even the rich entitled ones.
Enough teaching women how to take care of themselves on the dark walk home, it’s time to teach men to KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF and stay on their side of the damn seat!
“Here’s a hot tip… Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys NOT TO F*!KING RAPE!”