My real MeToo story goes like this… “Oh, wait! Hang on, back up there, hold on a minute”, I hear you say, you think you’ve already heard it, probably because I write about this stuff all the time? Well no, no you haven’t. The story I told you before, round the time MeToo resurfaced in 2017, consisted of all the little, tiny, ‘inane’ things that I have experienced, the things that so many women go through day-to-day; the small acts of violence, sexual objectification and assault that happen so much that they are able to be shrugged off by society and become normalised. Little things like being kicked in the vagina by a boy at school, being fondled on public transport, being almost kidnapped as a child by a strange man on the beach, being catcalled hundreds of times, and sexual harrassment at work. Just those sorts of little things. MeToo. You don’t, however, actually know about the bigger things I’ve been through, and trust me, they were much, much worse that any of the little things. How do I know you don’t know? Because I haven’t told you yet, or not all of it, anyway. And why haven’t I told you? Because I haven’t even told my new therapist. Or my closest friends, or most of my lovers, or even the domestic violence helpline I call several times a week. Not even Lifeline. Hardly anyone knows the story. Oh, you might have heard me mention words like ‘rape’, or you might have heard me bang on about ‘objectification’ and ‘abuse’ (I’m prone to doing so, being one of those feminists) and you might have even read a poem I wrote about it, about that time when my psychopathic boyfriend forced himself inside my body against my will. That’s rape, isn’t it? Yes, it was rape then and it still is now. But that story was conveyed to you in poetic form, full of anger and cussing and hostility and vitriol, the kind of language and feeling you might use to discredit a woman with, because all that emotion makes her sound “crazy” (kinda like this piece, you may be thinking). But yeah, a poem certainly lacks the clear rational punch and seriousness of prose. Thing is, I chose to write about my rape in poetic form because being raped is upsetting (to put it mildly), and somehow being able to vent my spleen with the full force of my pain and anger behind it (without having to worry about sentence structure) seemed most appropriate. So yeah, I told you, but I told you covertly, and as a result, I feel some of you didn’t really hear what I had to say. I feel like some people out there are still intent on minimising not only my experience (because of discomfort or lack of knowledge, or deeply ingrained sexism), but the experiences of so many women. This is systemic, societal gaslighting: the minimisation and denial of women’s pain, suffering, well-justified anger and experiences of abuse. It is totally unacceptable and we must stop treating women as if they are insane fantasists.
So, what is the best kind of language to describe a rape, to decribe any kind of abuse? Any damn language a woman chooses to use. You just have to be able to listen and hear her experience. Don’t doubt it, if it’s not written about “properly”. Don’t doubt it if her account contains spelling mistakes or isn’t well-constructed. Don’t doubt it if it takes the form of an angry poem, a rant at the pub while pissed or if she cuts her skin to let out a bit of the pain. Listen to her. Learn her dialect. Become clued in to the language of rape, of abuse and how it inscribes itself in women’s voices and on their bodies. The scars, her illness, the lines on her face may also tell a story. Abuse is mapped in so many ways. Educate yourselves, but most importantly, listen without judgement and believe survivors. Believe women. Read More