Trigger Warning: Sexualized violence & rape
For me, as probably for many of you as well, the past week was a very exhausting week to be on social media. Not only were the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance and murder devastating. But the constant accounts of the omnipresent sexualized violence and the reaction of misogynist men’s rights activists were sapping my energy to a degree that I decided to remove myself from social media this weekend.
I was surprised to notice how much the news about Sarah affected me. After all, I know that these things happen — just like every other woman I was raised in constant awareness of the dangers and risks we’re taught to avoid. I know how many women have experienced sexualized violence in their lives. I know how common femicides are. So why did this trigger me so much?
It took a while until it dawned on me that this hurt and affected me to such a degree not because of data and statistics but because of the realization that I could’ve easily been Sarah. That this could’ve happened to me. That I was lucky to have survived and be alive today.
After exam season of my first semester I spent an evening with my first uni friend. We drank some cocktails to celebrate surviving our first uni exams and it was already quite late when I left my friend’s place. On my way home I realized that someone was following me. Of course I was worried but I didn’t think much about it. After all, wasn’t I always worried when there was someone walking behind me in the street at night? So I stopped and waited for him to pass. But he didn’t.
Instead he grabbed me tightly from behind and started touching me. I was so shocked that my legs simply collapsed. Thoughts and panic were rushing through my brain while I realized that I needed to do something, right now, or otherwise… So I got up, turned around, pushed him away with all the strength I could muster up and screamed at him “Verpiss dich, du Arschloch!” (Piss off, you asshole!).
Luckily he did what I told him to. He ran off, stumbled fell and, after what felt like ages, got up again and ran away. Soon after that I heard people coming down the street, I called my best friend and kept crying in shock while I finally went home to my apartment.
I got lucky. If he would’ve been serious about hurting me, I would’ve been an easy victim. I wasn’t strong, I was drunk and there was no one waiting for me at home. I got lucky because while Sarah was murdered I only broke a finger.
So if you were wondering why I’m showing you my ring finger, that’s the reason. I broke it either when I fell or when I pushed him away. I only know it started hurting like hell as soon as the adrenaline wore off.
I broke my finger and it never looked the same again. It’s not visible to others but I notice it. It sounds like a banality compared to the possibility of murder, of rape, of some “serious” form of sexualized violence. But it shows and it will always remind me that someone else had the audacity to attack me and want to do something to me just because of my gender.
But what is even worse than that is that this event took the little sense of security I had walking home at night. I never really felt safe again. I turn around at every noise, I get anxiety and I have to call friends just to make it home.
The next day all these stupid misogynist questions started to appear in my head and showed me how well I internalized patriarchal ideologies: What if I didn’t wear a short skirt? What if I didn’t drink that many cocktails? What if I went along the main street instead of the small alleyways? — The truth is: It doesn’t matter. It’s not my fault. None of these behaviours are justified reasons to assault me. There are zero justified reasons to do this to another person.
And still almost all of us have experienced sexualized violence. Only last week a YouGov study showed that 86% of young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment. In Germany every day a man tries to kill his (ex-)partner in a femicide, every third day he succeeds. The first time I was sexually harassed in public was when I was twelve. I could fill whole evenings telling stories about sexualized violence that either I or the women I love experienced (which I won’t do because this post is already way too long).
But — Nevertheless, besides all the negative stuff of the past week, the devastating news and triggering posts, it is good to see women speak out, to share those stories, the statistics and the frustration about the sexualized violence we experience on a daily basis. While it hurts to see how many share this pain, seeing that I am not alone, that we are not alone, also helps me. It gives me strength and hope that maybe at some point something will change and that our daughters will have a safer future.
Thank you for reading.
Another version of this text was published on Instagram in March 2021. Click here to see the original post.