Monday, 1 December 2014

The evolution of this post

Day 1 (17th Nov).   Sutton story breaks.  Cue triggering and wanting to speak out, not having time to coherently put thoughts together and a sneaking suspicion that posting at this point would be unhelpful.  Much victim-blaming going on, inevitably having to actively Not Think about my own experience of sexual harassment.

Day 2.  (18th Nov)  Determined to write up and post my own experience.  Just need to find the time.

Day 3.  (19th Nov)  Still no time, but I am so going to write this up.

Day 4.  (20th Nov)  Thinking about how people I knew at that time in my life might feel if they read what happened to me.  All the worms that might escape cans, all the difficult conversations to have.  Hmmmm.

Day 5 (21st Nov)  I don't want to give precise details of what happened.  Not least because I deliberately don't remember it all.  But at the same time if I don't give details no one will believe me, it'll all be hugs and jokes like Sutton was protrayed.

Day 6 (22nd Nov)  Too hard, it's just too hard.  Lots of other people have written really good stuff about Sutton and the broader issue.  What I have to say won't add anything.

Day 7 (23rd Nov)  Maybe I could write it in a different way that means I don't have to explain the awful triggering details.  Maybe that's actually quite a useful and powerful point to make, in itself.


Day 9 (25th Nov)  Okay maybe I could write about how I didn't feel I could write about this because of all these reasons.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Day 10 (26th Nov)  Creeping feeling that bringing this up will be bad for me.  Remembering the response I got at the time, at school, when the sexual harassment was raised; "you wish" from other students, "it will happen again" from teachers.  Feel sick.

Day 11 (27th Nov)  Not Thinking About This At All.

Day 12 (28th Nov)  Still Not Think About This At All.

Day 13 (29th Nov)  Maybe I should do this.  Perhaps I could write it in a manner that shows the uncertainty, the second-guessing, the triggering, the ambivalence.  Maybe.

Day 14 (30th Nov)  Yes I think I can do that.  I can always not publish it if it's too hard.

Day 15 (Today)  I think I should.  I'm just going to do it.  Just start writing and see how it comes out.

When I was in 6th Form I was sexually harassed for a period of some months by some fellow students at school.  There is a lot more I could say about that.  Maybe I will.  But for now I just want you to know how it feels, 20 years later, to still feel blame, still feel shame, and still want to stay silent and bury it all.


Deborah said...

I'm so sorry, Julie. I think that people really don't understand just how big the impact of sexual harassment can be, and how long the impact can last.

Hmmm.... might do my next Radio NZ talk on sexual harassment, and why it matters, and why it's not just a joke, just a little bit of fun.

Anonymous said...

I was sexually harassed too. Age 17, first job out of school. First female in NZ doing my job, working with 30 guys.

I got through it somehow, it eventually stopped when I got a serious boyfriend (!!!).

When I was in my early 20s I became women's advocate for our region and ensured that other women in my workplace didn't have to put up with this crap.

anarkaytie said...

Oh Julie, that explains so much .... love and solidarity from me to you.

*TW for explicit language around abuse*

And to others who don't get it:
we women (and some men) who have been sexually harrassed, or molested in childhood or early adolescence, or even raped as young people, are carrying this burden all our lives.

EVERY encounter brings up the fear, the shame, the blaming; the integrated opinion that it was somehow my (our) fault, not the person/s responsible for the abuse.

Situations that may not be fearful for others are fraught with echoes for us; we see possible harm in the shadows of the mildest unwelcome approach.

Triggering is a real and present danger for all of us, and anxiety is a constant threat/companion.
And we are so many more of the general population than you, the unharrassed, the unmolested, would believe - because the stats represent real people in your neighbourhood, not just 'somewhere else that nasty things happen'.

There is a woeful rate of clearance for sexual abuse crimes, and workplace harrassment is even more poorly addressed, even in the most unionised, white-collar workplaces like the public service - as we have seen played out in media around Sutton's actions.

Anonymous said...

I was harassed by two women at work when I was about 41. One was my boss and the other a staff member I supervised. Rejecting the advances made my work life very difficult for about a year. The young lady I supervised resigned after a little while and the boss eventually tried to apologise for being a bitch. She said she could change but I said "you are what you are" and walked away. A restructure meant I was being laid off and she was being transferred away so I didn't feel obliged to let her off the hook no matter how guilty she pretended to feel. At her new position she was just the same manipulative nasty bit of work according to both male and female friends.

Its not just men doing it.