The recent attack on Adelaide Road has hit me hard. I, like many people, have walked Adelaide Road late at night. When walking anywhere late at night, the fear of attack is always in the back of your mind, but you walk on. The fear of sexual assault is a reality, but you never actually expect it to happen so close to home.
When attacks happen, the usual conversations and messages spring up: don’t walk home alone at night, don’t encourage men, don’t wear heels in case you need to run. It’s the victim’s fault and it’s our responsibility to “avoid” rape. If we actually followed all the rape “avoidance” rules, women would simply stay at home forever. Even then, we wouldn’t be safe, because most of the time you know your attacker.
Navigating the world safely as a woman can be difficult, because everything we’re taught about how to be “safe” doesn’t work. It feels blind. The world has taught us nothing about our own safety, only about threats to it.
At a recent party, a friend of mine took me home, put me to bed, and tucked me in. It was wonderful, because I wasn’t left to navigate the world alone while intoxicated. It reminded me of this time at a party when a friend of mine was so drunk she didn’t know what planet she was on. A guy I knew had his arm around her/was holding her upright, and he was being really pushy.
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I put my arm around my friend and asked her if she wanted some air. The guy protested, so I held on to my friend tighter and told him to go find someone less intoxicated. So he searched and found our equally drunk friend. I stepped in again, and with the help of other revellers, I was able to help her and tell the guy that his behaviour was not absolutely not cool.
I remember that the party went on and the guy ended his night lying in the middle of the road and crying. He shouted that I had turned everyone against him. People were mildly concerned that he was going to be run over by a rubbish truck, but were more concerned that he had gotten himself into the situation. They told him that he should know better, before they scraped him off the road.
Whenever you are out, your number one priority is yourself. I was having a good time and I could see that my friends were going to have an awful time if someone didn’t step in. I guess that’s also how my friend felt when he took me home and tucked me in a few weekends ago. It’s better for everyone when we help each other out. Parties are wonderful and exciting, but they can be terrifying if you’re left at the mercy of icky boys and aggressive men.
People have told me that the fear of being a fun-sponge has stopped them from intervening at parties. In my experience, rapists are massive fun-sponges. One in four women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, and the risk of sexual violence is high for women in their teens and 20s. When you step in, you’re preventing rape, and you’re teaching someone how to be a better person.
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