No means no.

I feel this should come with a little bit of a warning. It’s certainly not food related and may be on the controversial side but alas, it needs to be shared so here we go. I do, also, need to quickly point out though that this is for me. It is not a cry for help, a plea for attention or anything other than a space for me to let go of something personal.

We’ve all heard, seen or read about the “me too” movement as it spanned across social media in recent years. Of course, like most, I’ve been subject to varying degrees of misogyny over the years. I am, however, somebody that prides myself on being a strong, independent woman and always stand my ground.

As a typical gemini, I make friends with anybody and everybody, sometimes to my own detriment when I’m trying to plan my social calendar! Occasionally, my friendly socialite traits are mistaken for harmless flirting and therefore, naturally, misinterpreted by those who don’t know me as well as they should. For me, if I’m called flirtatious, it’s rarely actually intentional and rather a misjudgement of my happy-go-lucky character. I’m happily with someone but that’s besides the point. If I choose to act on something, that’s on me, not you. And if I say no, I mean no.

The strong will within me puts a stop to any of this misjudgement generally in a playful way and I brush off any borderline inappropriate comments with an innocent giggle and a shrug of the shoulders.

I’m writing this now, purely to get something heavy off my chest that’s been weighing me down this past week, but also as it’s something I feel is important to share. Not to the women out there that have been put in a similar situation to myself, but to the men that think it’s acceptable to act inappropriately towards women.

It happened a week ago after a good friend of mine’s wedding. We’d all rented a house near the venue and there was a group of us staying in the house. Nine of us to be precise: two couples, four of us girls and another guy friend. We’d had a great time at the wedding and danced the night away until our taxi arrived to take us back to the house. We’d all had quite a lot to drink over the course of the day and well into the evening and some were “jollier” than others, let’s just say.

Back at the house, we all changed out of our dresses and gathered around for another drink. I’d had enough so went into the kitchen to make myself some tea – something I really shouldn’t have had to think twice about and certainly something I shouldn’t regret a week later.

I don’t need to go into detail of the events that happened subsequently in that kitchen but let me just tell you, being pinned into a corner by a drunk man that refused to let go of me despite my vulgar language, trying to wriggle myself away and, what should have been enough in the first place, a firm “no” is not okay.

It went on for probably 5 minutes before I pulled myself away, hearing the words behind me “you’re such a bitch”. Slightly shaken, I went into the room with the rest of my friends, gave them a certain look, said the words “fucking hell, that was intense” and told them I was calling it a night. Naturally, the girls wanted to know what happened so followed me upstairs and I gave a brief account of it. Next thing, we heard him coming so I hid on the balcony in my room with the friend I was sharing the room with as we watched him search our room for me. I was shaking with nervous laughter and desperately tried not to make a sound, until he went into a cupboard and shut the door behind him. My friend at this point turned to anger and stormed straight over and insisted he get out of our room. He did, but it didn’t last long.

In the minute or so he’d left the room, I jumped into bed, hid under the covers and did the best fake sleeping position I could. By now, I had all the emotions running through me but I mostly remember anger, fear and sadness. Before I knew it, he was there, sitting on my bed asking if he could get into bed with me. Saying he promised he would just lay there and sleep. It quickly turned from a query into a beg and since the word “no” wasn’t enough, I sat up and said “I strongly advise you get the fuck out of this room”.

He got up, the two other boys in the house were now angry too and were telling him to get into bed and leave me alone, the girls were all sitting on my bed to make sure I was okay and were as confused as I was at how this was all happening. We’d had such a lovely day celebrating our friend and now this.

It was about 2am before it all quietened down. The girls scattered off to bed and the friend I was sharing a room with secured our door with a large armchair that was in the corner. We didn’t have a lock, but this was the best we could get. As we tried to drown out the shouting and swearing coming from his room, I lay there wondering what I had done. Why me?

The next morning after a very sleepless night for both of us in that room, we woke to the sounds of “sorry” as if there was a chorus on repeat as everybody passed our room. I didn’t want to get up and was eventually the last one to go downstairs. I forgot something in my room so went straight back up when I got to the bottom of the stairs and before I knew it, there he was behind me, singing his apologies to me.

Later on, we found out he was claiming not to remember a thing.

I, however, haven’t forgotten a thing.

The wedding weekend, as lovely as it was, has been somewhat tainted and I have since been having the most vivid dreams of different kinds of sexual assault happening to me.

Again, I’m a relatively strong woman with a slightly feisty side and an equally sweet, innocent side. I also have a fragile heart and only pure intentions… which means that I’ve not said a word to him and don’t intend to, partly because I don’t want to make more of a scene than necessary and partly because I honestly just don’t want to talk about it. But, as I said, this is something that I needed to get off my chest but also put out into the universe so that I can start to let go of it in my own way. I’m quite sure he has no idea how he’s made me feel or how this has impacted the past week for me. Full of fear and negative thoughts, I am struggling to find my usual smile. I’ve felt lost and carried a feeling of guilt despite doing absolutely nothing out of line.

Any form of sexual assault, abuse or misogyny is unacceptable and to the men that think it’s okay to mistreat women: you’ve got absolutely no clue what you’re creating. The past is the past and it cannot be changed. The memories last and although I have tried everything to suppress the events of that early morning, the flashbacks keep happening and I question myself for a situation in which I am entirely innocent. The nights for the following week were spent next to sleepless and the dreams woke me in a panic.

As somebody that thinks of myself with inner strength, I’m struggling to handle this. Grateful it was me and not one of the other girls, yet sad and hurt that it was me and an experience I had to endure.

To the women that have experienced it, well done for being strong, brave and fierce. Men will never control us, because collectively, we cannot let these demons overcome us.

What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger, so here’s to strength.

Strong women, may we know them, may we raise them, may we BE them.

L, xo

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