CW: Sexual harassment
We talk. We tell each other where the ‘missing stairs’ are in our communities. The men you should avoid, the ones you should be careful around. The ones who are okay until they’ve had a few and the ones you should never end up alone with.
We talk in our schools and in our workplaces, in the bars we frequent and, yes, in our political organising spaces. We talk about the inappropriate messages, the hands in our clothing and the coercive relationships.
We talk about the apologism and the complicity.
We tell each other who it is that won’t believe you, who will try and shut you up, who will make you feel like it’s your fault. In Whatsapp chats and Facebook groups, over coffee and after meetings; we warn each other. We try to arm one another against assault and harassment. We try to arm each other against the men who will never take us seriously. We don’t just talk about those who have hurt us, we talk about those who let it happen. This space isn’t safe for you. This man is not your ally. These people aren’t your friends.
This last couple of weeks, our voices have started to get louder. Slowly, bit by bit, we have started to go public with these private conversations and you can see how many men are getting nervous. As more survivors come forward and more abusers are named, talk of witch hunts abounds and our timelines are full of pleas to respect the reputations of the innocent.
“Let’s not lump in sexy banter with harassment.”
“Surely it doesn’t count if everyone’s sloshed?”
“Here we go again with the Twitter lynch mobs!”
Witch hunts. Lynch mobs. It’s funny how there isn’t the language to call upon times where white men were rounded up and attacked, isn’t it?
As a woman who’s had enough, and who is ready to do what I can to purge my community of those who would harm my sisters, let me set your mind at rest. Our dunking stools are all out of order just now and we have no desire to burn the innocent. If you’re afraid when you see the survivors of sexual violence growing in confidence and growing in strength, ask yourself why that is.
Is there a woman who avoids you at meetings or events? Does she have good reason? Have you ever used a position of power to intimidate someone vulnerable or make them fall into line? Have you always had consent? Have you defended those who didn’t? Have you put people in unsafe situations or exploited the fact that others did? Do you make excuses for violence and misogyny? Do you diminish and silence those who speak out against it? Can you truthfully say that you are on the side of survivors?
If you can, I promise, you have nothing to worry about. If, however – when you’re really honest with yourself – you stand with the abusers, if you make excuses for sexual harassment and gendered violence, or if you use your power and your platform to distance yourself from our pain, rather than help us… Well. We talk. And because we talk, we know exactly who you are.
And, yes. We are coming for you.