Time’s up.

Every time you hear “it’s political correctness gone mad” or “it never used to be like this, people are so sensitive now” when the discussion of rape, sexual assault or sexual misconduct is brought up, remember that you’re hearing people literally say is “it used to be so much easier to sexually assault people”.

It’s 2018 and I turn 25 in 3 months time and I’m bored now. I’m bored of explaining to you what consent is. I’m bored of men who think this discussion about how you conduct yourself when it comes to sex is somehow a war on masculinity. I’m bored of anyone who takes a discussion on consent as a personal attack. If someone telling you that you need to get consent for everything you do that involves another person feels like an attack on you, change your behaviour because it’s clearly wrong.

For those of you who don’t know, I had my consent taken away from me when I was a child by someone unrelated to me and thankfully someone I never have to see again. That was the first time I realised there were people in this world who will take what they want without care or concern for another person. My story is one that I’ve only ever half told and I’ll likely ever tell it in its full state, and it’s one you don’t need to know in its entirety. It should never have happened.

But then again, I should never have been dragged down an alleyway by my hair when I was 17 on my way home from a gig only for the guy to let me go and walk away laughing like it was some joke. I should never at 20 had a job interview where the interviewer kissed me and said it was “for the part” and then later call me at 3am to tell he loved me and would kill himself if I didn’t take the job and play his girlfriend. At 21 I should never have had to involve the police when a person taking my tour threatened to rape me. At 22 I should never have had the groom-to-be on a stag do taking a tour push me against a wall and have to be dragged off me by his group. At 23 I shouldn’t have needed my boss to grab a guy by his collar and throw him off me when this guy kept stroking my costume and wouldn’t stop when I told him to, several times. And last week when I was in Dublin I shouldn’t have had a semi-well known comedian send me vulgar messages repeatedly despite making it clear I wasn’t interested in him because he thought I’d sleep with him because I knew who he was. But all that happened, and the sad thing is that’s mild. There are so many people – women and men – who have much worse stories.

So when I hear of men and women taking a stand against sexual misconduct, no matter what it is. I’m incredibly in awe of the strength it takes to do that. When I hear you say “People are too sensitive” in response I hear you say that everything I’ve experienced is totally acceptable and should be allowed to continue unchecked in society.

We constantly dehumanise women when it comes to sexual assault. We say things like “This is someone’s mother, sister or daughter” as if women only exist in relation to someone else. How about don’t assault a woman because she’s a human being? How about be an adult and wait until you have the green light to go forward with anything?

How about we realise that consent means permission? When we change the word consent for permission, it’s so evident that it’s a ridiculous thing to question. Can a child give you permission to have sex with them? No. Can someone who is drunk give you permission to have sex with them? No. Can someone who is unconscious give you permission to have sex with them? No. If someone says “No” when you ask permission, does that mean anything other than no? No. If someone says “Actually, I said yes. But I’ve changed my mind” when you ask permission, does that mean continue? Funnily enough, no. Is it appropriate to just assume you have permission to touch, kiss or have sex with someone? Absolutely not.

There are likely other consent scenarios that I’ve failed to include there. So don’t assume I think that’s the definitive list of when consent – or permission – is important.

It’s 2018 and I’ve had nearly two decades of people thinking my bodily autonomy is worth less than their own wants. Time’s up.

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Giving yourself credit.

As is so often with my posts I’ve been listening to Fall Out Boy and that triggers my want to write. 

In their song ‘Champion’ they have a line that says “If I can live through this, I can do anything.” It made me think about how much I’ve done in the last 6 years. If you’re an avid reader of this blog or you know me personally you know the last 6 years or so have been rough. Leaving school with subpar qualifications and a nasty breakup seemed to be what opened the gates on what was to become one hell of a rollercoaster. 
I ended up on a handful of different medications, each one a rung on the rope ladder extending down into the pit I’d fallen into. But it wasn’t enough. I ended up in crisis counselling with a counsellor untrained to deal with my specific issues. In my sessions with her I’d learned what I’d put down to being a shy person were actually panic attacks. In those sessions I learned that the brain can suppress horrific events. Those sessions ended with her saying “I’m sorry but I’m not trained to deal with sexual abuse victims.”

That word rang in my head. Victim. It stuck in my throat, choking me when I tried to speak out. Who wants to associate with damaged goods? It was around that time my aunt Jennifer passed away and I felt the cycle starting again. 

I muddled on. I got into NHS psychiatric sessions which were starting to help. And then a family friend was arrested and jailed for over 600 counts of child pornography. At that point the rope ladder began to snag and seem to lower me again, despite the effort in climbing that far. 

I got into university and my psychiatric counselling ended and I was passed to student services. Where, in creating my personal learning plan, they detailed my sexual assault and made it a document any of my lecturers could access. A lecturer then told me I needed to fight harder as a woman with my life experiences to be taken seriously. Unprompted. At the end of semester one of my first year of university my uncle Graham died and I checked out mentally, and sometimes it still feels like I’m waiting to check back in. 
My second year came and went and everything seemed to be on an even keel. I was doing well. Life was “normal” for once. If such a term exists. 

Then third year happened and all my exam provisions were removed. I almost failed because I had my arrangements changed and was not told until walking into the room and had no time to prepare. Then I was diagnosed with endometriosis and PCOS. Both conditions that limit your fertility significantly. Mid 2nd semester my dog died and then within a matter of weeks my uncle Chris died.

The rope ladder seemed not to be getting any shorter. It would sway and seem unstable. It would get caught and twist. It made it feel like I wasn’t meant to be climbing it.

The last few weeks before I enter my final year have been weird. I’ve had my diagnosis removed and left with chronic pain and no answer. I’ve been anxious. I’ve cried for no reason more times than I can count.

But in all this time, on the ladder, I never dared look down. For what reason, I’m not sure. But when I did, I noticed that I’d been focussing on not being out of the pit yet. When I looked I noticed that the bed of pity and despair and depression and self hatred that I lived in is nothing but a tiny dot, almost undetectable. I haven’t resorted to self harm in nearly 5 of the last 6 years, despite wanting to on countless occasions.

So what I’m saying is give yourself credit. Any small accomplishment is a win. So take it as one. Recovery isn’t a magic “Boom, you’re cured.” It’s tiny little steps that seem insignificant. But when you look back on 6 years of them, it’s a huge distance covered.

And if I can live through this? Well I can do anything. 

Rapist Brock Turner, Sexual Assault and Consent.

Rapist Brock Turner has been released from jail, after three months. Although it’s technically not legally correct to call him “Rapist Brock Turner” since he was never convicted of rape. He was convicted of “intent to rape” and “penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object” and “penetration of an intoxicated person with a foreign object”. However, this pos is a rapist and we have folk defending him. We have folk claiming that his victim was at fault. We have people claiming that what he did wasn’t that bad. His father claimed that his life should not be defined by “20 minutes of action”. We have folk mourning his swimming career because he was such a young hopeful.

Can we dial this back a second? What we have here is a man who saw a young lady unconscious and his first thought was “Well, it’s not like she can say no.” and proceeded to rape her. What he has done is take away any control that young woman had over her body. He saw something and took it, regardless of any thought for another human being. But oh he could have represented the USA in the Olympics at swimming so it’s such a shame.

Why are women still second class citizens in their own sexual assaults?

Rapist Brock Turner – and yes I will continue to refer to him as that – served 3 months of a 6 month sentence for ‘good behaviour’. And the scary thing is that this happens more often than people want to believe.

Rapist Brock Turner could be your next door neighbour, your teacher, your dog walker. He is a face to a crime that happens all too often because we can’t officially decide on what rape is and for some reason there are those who believe consent to be a gray area and there are some who believe rape to only be carried out by men. Consent is not to be assumed, especially not in a situation where someone cannot say no. Children cannot consent. Someone who is asleep or unconscious cannot consent. Someone who is not sober – from drugs or alcohol – cannot consent. Someone who ‘eventually gives in’ is not consenting, they’re admitting defeat. Consent is not automatic and is not something that needs to be withdrawn, it’s something that needs to be given in the first place. Given consent can however be retracted at any point during and must be respected. The only person at fault for a rape or a sexual assault is the person who carried out the crime. Victims are never ‘asking for it’ regardless of how they are dressed, how much they’ve had to drink or how much they may have flirted with the perpetrator. Notice there is no gendering in there, these rules on consent apply to you whatever gender you are.

And whenever we have reports on rapes the one comment I always see is “What about those men who are wrongfully accused of rape?! HUH?! WHAT ABOUT THEM?!”. It’s not something I see on murder reports. It’s not something I see on reports on theft or vandalism. The false accusation of rape rate is around 2%. Murder is about 10%. You should be much more concerned about that. Whenever I hear someone being concerned they’ll be falsely accused of rape I have to wonder what they’re doing that causes that to be a concern to them.

Rapist Brock Turner is a sex offender, he is a rapist. He will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life if he remains in California… unless he applies for a Governor’s Pardon so that he no longer has to register. Rapist Brock Turner served 3 months in a county jail for a violent sex crime and may never have to register as a sex offender if the pardon is granted. Since he wasn’t convicted of penetration by his penis, if he successfully completes his probation he also may never need to register as a sex offender. The victim of this heinous crime will however live with what he has done for the rest of her life.

Now every survivor of a sex crime will experience different things in regards to their mental scars. For me it takes an incredibly long time to trust men, any man, who is new in my life. I’ll be incredibly quiet and nervous around them, especially if left alone with them for any reason. Learning to drive has been an entire learning experience – and my driving instructor is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met! Now, my experience happened 16 years ago and every day I still battle with the repercussions of what happened to me and how it continues to affect me.  The 3 months that rapist Brock Turner has been behind bars will be of little – if any – comfort to the victim. I refuse to call her ‘his’ victim because that would imply he has some ownership over her, which he does not. He does however have entire ownership of that entire abhorrent crime which I hope rapist Brock Turner remembers for the rest of his life.