We are not to blame

Trigger warning: mentions of suicidal intentions, sexual assault, murder, harassment and trauma.

A few days ago was International Women’s Day, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day. We should be celebrating the women in our lives right now. But due to the recent story about a woman called Sarah Everard being murdered in the UK, there has been an uproar surrounding the frequency of these instances. Women and femme-presenting people are speaking up on behalf of themselves and each other, and although I’m proud to add my voice to that, I’m also so tired.

My mum tried to start a conversation about all this with me, showing that she stands with me and with anyone else who wants this to end. Normally, I’d be ecstatic to start this sort of conversation with those around me but I feel like I’ve been having this conversation my whole life. I’m tired and angry, and right now I don’t know how I can channel that into doing something helpful. I didn’t even plan on sitting down to write this post today, but I just had to get my feelings out somewhere. I write this as I sit and listen to an online vigil being held for Sarah Everard, with candles lit in honour of her and everyone else that we have lost.

“Not all men!”

We are not being listened to by the people that should be listening to us.

This includes the people that allow this sexist mindset to infest the minds of young boys, teaching them that some girls “deserve it”. The people that say “not all men”. The people that think because they’ve never raped a woman, that they should be treated like some kind of hero. No. You are not a hero for doing the bare minimum. I don’t care if you are my family member, my best friend, my partner. If you do not fight against the men in your life that harass, assault, degrade and objectify women, then you are just as bad as them.

To anyone who is telling people to “get over it” or “stop being so sensitive”. No. We won’t. Because we know that we are not the ones that need to change. When you see someone who is angry because of all of this, listen to them. We have every right to be angry.

Almost All Women

There is a statistic that has recently surfaced that I want to talk about:

97% of young women in the UK experience sexual assault.

I’m part of that statistic. I’ve been sexually assaulted multiple times, by multiple men, sometimes over a long period of time. These were all men that I knew and trusted at one point. Some people heard about this and probably thought I shouldn’t have trusted them. Maybe once they heard about my autism diagnosis they used it as a weapon against me, saying I was too naive and didn’t understand social cues and therefore I was more likely to be abused.

Being neurodivergent can make me easier to manipulate, and confuse, and take advantage of. But it is not my fault if someone does that to me. The problem isn’t the women being abused or assaulted, the problem is the perpetrators, the criminals, the rapists, the people who do these things to us.

Listen to us

I was in a relationship for a year and a half where I was continuously emotionally and sexually abused, and I was manipulated into believing that I deserved it. When I finally tried to end that relationship he broke into my university halls and held a knife to his own throat. In my bedroom. The next day I finally broke up with him, and emergency services were called to my halls, although thankfully no one was harmed – except for me. I’m still suffering from the trauma that this inflicted upon me. And I know I’m not alone in this experience.

Afterwards, a policewoman came to check on me. She didn’t know anything about the last year or what I was feeling. But she said something that every person in my position needs to hear:

“This is not your fault. You owe him nothing.”

I want anyone who has been in my position, no matter what your gender is, or if you are neurodivergent or not, to listen to that and to believe it. Don’t listen to the people on social media or in your lives that make you feel like you are to blame.

If you are offended by this post, you don’t belong in this conversation yet. Go and talk to people in your life, especially women and girls, and please listen to them. If you are uncomfortable, good. You should be. None of us should feel content in watching people respond to the murder of a young woman with hateful comments and victim blaming. We should protect those around us, and reclaim the streets for everyone.

We just want to feel safe. Sarah Everard should have been safe.

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