Everyone Has Their Shit, and This Is Mine
‘That’s practically rape’
[When I was writing, I didn’t want to over explain years-past experiences, but will explain the following wasn’t the first time I’d say my consent was simply not there. On editing this, I realised how much shame and embarrassment I clearly still feel to all of these events. The reoccurrence, I debate between a cultural problem and a personal one. Is the common factor a cause?]
I’ve been in Australia for about a year now on a working-holiday visa. To extend it you need eighty-eight days of rural work, and it was my focus for months. Through a huge relationship disaster and other odds and ends, if hadn’t of gotten the second year I think my sense of failure would have been overwhelming. I should also explain that I stayed on the farm with a ‘better the devil you know’ mentality for a month after everything happened. In the isolated sphere, it made sense to me; despite that I spent every night sleeping fully clothed, fearing I’d be raped. In summary, it was pretty fucked up.
‘I’m worried about him, he’s getting worse.’
‘I saw your boobs last night, it was dark, but I saw them.’
In May, while I was on the farm, the farmer came into my room drunk. It had been a birthday that night, and I had returned with his son (aged fourteen), his son’s friend and another girl on the farm much earlier. There was no lock on the door and I was sleeping in there alone. Coming to, I was aware of something happening, but only on waking up more, I realised he had taken the covers off me in bed and had been running his hands over and up my legs and then onwards to my vagina. While he was feeling me up I could hear him exhaling and groaning. I knew he was over me and obviously trying to sleep with me, but in pure shock I was just trying to grasp at the covers and retain some sort of dignity and to my mind, safety. (Hiding under the covers, how cliché, right?) Telling him to get the fuck off, he repeatedly stated the usual phrases of encouragement he gave me daily ‘aw come on’ etc. and trying to get the covers off me again. I remember amongst the panic, the tugging with those covers. Holding onto those sheets with all I had and kicking him away. Eventually he gave up and left. Thank God, he left.
‘Come on, you’ll enjoy it.’
‘He would never rape you.’
‘He would never go that far.’
For two months he had sexually harassed me; he asked to go down on me numerous times per day; he proposed sex with me in paddocks, in the kitchen, in the car. It was exhausting and stressful. I never initiated anything. This is a man of forty-seven; a father of four, one girl my age. I wasn’t interested, and told him so. The word ‘no’ was something of empty meaning. He was incredibly emotionally manipulative. He often aggressively called me naïve, belittled me, and began sentences with ‘If you’re going to be of any use’. He didn’t like me texting people and would try and check my phone. He had power over me with the visa. I’d come so far and he knew it. I felt powerless. Who would believe any of it, in a small country town, more significantly, who would care?
‘At least you weren’t raped’
‘I don’t even want to think about it’
The after effects of the farm were probably tenfold what I would have expected. In reality, when I got back to Adelaide, I was ‘safe’. In my reality, I’d never felt more anxious and afraid. I think (weirdly) one of the worst experiences I had, was walking home from a supermarket at around 6pm. It was dark, but only just, well lit streets and comfortably busy. I turned down a lift home, because it was a five minute walk and I wanted to force myself to do it. I didn’t want to be afraid, I wanted to feel like myself: normal. Despite everything, I had a breakdown walking back. I was cripplingly petrified; it was all irrational and I knew it. If it were as easy as just the situation in theory, you could explain it all away. After all, what was the worst that would really happen? But, it was who I had become. Watching every person around; stopping and waiting if someone was walking behind; glancing back and forth in every direction. It is exhausting to be that fully aware all the time, and to always plan a strategy out of each worst case scenario.
In regards to other things, in daily life, bars and public spaces aren’t a no-go zone but bring out fear and anxiety. Some (granted the minority) guys still feel they can ‘own’ your body, grabbing you, putting their arms around you – and you get mocked for refusal. Personal space becomes difficult, even with people you want to go out with and trust. It’s not always bad, some people you click with, but if can be frustrating to have to define and excuse your behaviour. E.g. I don’t want to go to that restaurant it’s too busy or I don’t really feel comfortable you being sat so close to me.
It will be a problem that is never solved, and some fears may last forever. Whatever happens though, I think you have to own your experiences and memories. I might not have wanted it, but the experience is mine and I can do what I want with it. Other people will never fully understand, and that’s ok, as long as I have people that try to. Personally, I see it as a sign that I need to take care of myself more because I can’t rely on others to. Debatably, a lesson of who I allow in my personal space and give my time. This, for longer than I’d like to admit, has been the wrong people. Even more controversially, I’ll be more careful as a female (yes, yes I hate that bullshit too, but it’s true). I never want anyone to remain in the sort of position I did. Focus on those who really love you, and would do anything for you.
‘Counsellor: What’s the one thing that you feel is worth living for when everything seems bad?
Me: I suppose, the hope that things will get better.’
‘Counsellor: When you feel those thoughts coming on, what can you do to distract yourself?
Me: Make a cup of tea.’
(I can’t deny I’m British)