#METOO - SILENCE DOESN'T MAKE CHANGE, NOISE DOES
Sometimes we choose to keep things to ourselves. Out of shame; out of fear; out of uncertainty.
There aren’t many people I’ve told about that day on the bus in Dublin City Centre when one of the happiest days of my life was turned upside down by the vile intentions of a horrendously entitled stranger sitting beside me.
I don’t remember the date or day of the week; even the time of afternoon is hazy.
All I remember is feeling really, really good.
I was 19 years old and I’d just wrapped a promo shoot for a small project I had a tiny acting part in. As any young girl would be, I was excited to get home to tell my family about it. The bus was my mode of transport and I hopped on, arms loaded with bags of shoes and changes of clothes- our project had a tight budget and I must have taken half my wardrobe with me.
Sliding into my seat, I popped my earphones in, happily reliving the day in my head as we inched closer and closer to the West side of Dublin I called home.
At some point along the journey, I remember him sitting down beside me and me scrambling to keep my bags to my side; pushing some under the seat in front and piling others on my lap. Nothing unusual here, just common courtesy on my behalf- we’ve all had our personal space invaded on public transport.
Imagine my horror then, when a few minutes later I felt a hand move up my leg.
My heart stopped and I thought perhaps I was imagining it.
I shuffled in my seat, making a fuss to adjust the bags on my lap and to my relief the hand moved away.
That’s him told, I thought.
Until it happened again; and my body stiffened with fear and shock.
Again, I felt his fingers creeping further and further up my thigh. I was wearing a jumper dress and the flimsy barrier of my tights did little to mask the unsettling warmth of his touch.
I was so naïve to the evil in the world, I was in denial about what was happening. I remember wanting to scream, to turn to him and smack him, to shame him. But I was muted with fear. A shy, quiet teenager- I was terrified to make a scene. Instead, I shuffled in my seat again, gulping back tears. As expected, his hand retracted.
Reaching for my phone, I decided I’d make a call. I blindly scrolled to find a loved one’s number but the hand was back again and it was getting dangerously close. Bewildered, I found the courage to smack him away sending him jumping to his feet and pressing the stop button.
It’s only when he walked off the bus sideways (like a crab)- even though the space was free- and stood with his back to the bus door facing a fence upon getting off, that I understood what had really happened.
For the rest of the journey I sat shaking silently, heart and mind racing.
I wanted to vomit. I felt dirty. I felt angry and I felt very, very confused.
My Dad was waiting for me when I finally got to my own stop. He asked me how my day was. Unable to look him in the eye, I mumbled a “fine, thanks.”
That night I lay in bed and sobbed.
I felt disgusting. I felt ashamed. I felt weak. And I felt scared.
In other words, #metoo.
For 10 years I kept this incident to myself because I was too uncomfortable to talk about it. It didn’t seem important to share because after all, compared to other people’s stories, mine was “mild”. Mild, however, doesn’t mean insignificant. Ignoring a mild incident and letting a perpetrator get away with it, gives power- power to do something so much more awful and horrific in the long run.
In light of recent news and escalating conversations, I feel it’s important to share my experience. As a young woman, I feel it’s my responsibility to look out for other young women. To let them know that they are not alone and that it’s not their fault; that they shouldn’t carry a guilt, fear and shame that was so unfairly subjected onto them. It's an every day occurrence and too often we bat a blind eye.
Men aren’t monsters- gender doesn’t make someone a monster. I know so many incredible men and I feel lucky to have them in my life.
Similarly- women aren’t weak. Gender doesn’t make someone a weaker more exploitable sex- at least it shouldn’t.
Male or female; nobody has the right to violate your body. Not in the club, not in the street, not behind closed doors.
A difficult, hugely sensitive conversation has been started in light of the Weinstein allegations, but a massively important one.
Silence doesn’t make change; noise does.
So man, or woman- use your voice and power to help make a change. It's not about being a victim; it's about using personal experience to help others. It's about looking after one another in already sometimes unfairly cruel world.